So, How'd the Female Candidates Do?

Nikki Haley Makes History; the California Girls Don't
What women really think about news, politics, and culture.
Nov. 3 2010 12:26 AM

So, How'd the Female Candidates Do?


Nikki Haley
Gov.-elect Nikki Haley

It's not a big surprise that Nikki Haley will be the new Republican governor of South Carolina; she's led the polls for months. But it's still meaningful. Haley had a tough primary, where she was accused of lying on her taxes and cheating on her husband. She could have easily gone down in history as the first person to force Americans to deal with a cheating scandal involving a major female politician. (How French!) Instead she is the first female Indian-American governor, and the first female governor of South Carolina.

On the campaign trail, Haley never missed an opportunity to say that she was not running as a woman and that her gender didn't matter. But that doesn't change the fact that she just won the governor's race in the state that has the worst record in the entire country for women in elected office (Oklahoma is second-worst). One of the big questions in this election, across the country, was whether voters would hold inexperience against women more than they did against men. In South Carolina they didn't. Haley's rise is most parallel to Marco Rubio's; he won his Senate race in Florida. They are both 38-year-old newcomers to politics with compelling immigrant stories. She may be anti-feminist, pro-life, and want to destroy any government-subsidized child care, but still, her victory has symbolic meaning for women just as his does for Cuban-Americans.

Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina, not so much. Those two Republican CEOs, running for governor and Senate respectively, were really supposed to carve out a new path for women in politics. They were supposed to show that women could behave exactly like men—move freely from corporate power to political power, buy their way into office. But at the moment of this posting, both of them are headed for losses. Whitman turned out to be a real dud of a candidate, as our own Libby Copeland explains. She failed to come up with a convincing story or connect with the voters, and the personality void got filled with mini scandals about her maid and her frat boy son. If Fiorina loses to Democratic veteran Barbara Boxer, it will be a testament to the staying power of the old feminist establishment. (That said, in Washington state, Patty Murray is not looking like a sure bet at the moment.) 

By tomorrow, we will have a better sense of which new models for female candidates got traction and which did not. But in the meantime, let's pause to show some sisterly support for Nancy Pelosi, the historic first female speaker of the House no longer. Throughout this campaign Pelosi, as much as Obama, served as resident demon. At one point, conservatives Photoshopped her into the pit of hell. I have no doubt that if this were the 17th century she would have been burned at the stake, and not just in effigy. Who will they burn now? Barbara Boxer? Michelle Obama?

Hanna Rosin is the founder of DoubleX and a writer for the Atlantic. She is also the author of The End of Men. Follow her on Twitter.


Sports Nut

Grandmaster Clash

One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.

The Extraordinary Amicus Brief That Attempts to Explain the Wu-Tang Clan to the Supreme Court Justices

Amazon Is Officially a Gadget Company. Here Are Its Six New Devices.

Do the Celebrities Whose Nude Photos Were Stolen Have a Case Against Apple?

The NFL Explains How It Sees “the Role of the Female”

Future Tense

Amazon Is Now a Gadget Company


How to Order Chinese Food

First, stop thinking of it as “Chinese food.”

Scotland Is Inspiring Secessionists Across America

The Country Where Women Aren’t Allowed to Work Once They’re 36 Weeks’ Pregnant

The XX Factor
Sept. 18 2014 11:40 AM The Country Where Women Aren’t Allowed to Work Once They’re 36 Weeks’ Pregnant
Sept. 17 2014 5:10 PM The Most Awkward Scenario in Which a Man Can Hold a Door for a Woman
  News & Politics
Sept. 18 2014 3:19 PM In Defense of Congress Leaving Town Without a New War Vote
Business Insider
Sept. 18 2014 3:31 PM What Europe Would Look Like If All the Separatist Movements Got Their Way
Sept. 18 2014 4:15 PM Reactions to a Sketch of Chelsea Manning Reveal Transmisogyny
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 18 2014 3:30 PM How Crisis Pregnancy Centers Trick Women
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 18 2014 1:23 PM “It’s Not Every Day That You Can Beat the World Champion” An exclusive interview with chess grandmaster Fabiano Caruana.
Brow Beat
Sept. 18 2014 4:33 PM The Top 5 Dadsplaining Moments From The Cosby Show
Future Tense
Sept. 18 2014 4:26 PM Global Oceans Break All-Time Heat Record; World on Pace for Warmest Year Ever
  Health & Science
Sept. 18 2014 3:35 PM Do People Still Die of Rabies? And how do you know if an animal is rabid?
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.