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When Cynthia Nixon officially announced yesterday that she was running for governor of New York, Twitter lit up with (some admittedly fantastic) Sex and the City jokes. Over and over, Nixon was described firstly as an actress on the iconic show (which ended its TV run 14 years ago). And, inevitably, people questioned her qualifications—an angle best summed up by a columnist who asked: “I know Cynthia Nixon played a New York lawyer on TV. Does she have any other relevant experience to be governor of New York?”
Good question—why don’t we refer to the veritable parade of male celebrities who have crossed over into politics (including Ronald Reagan, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Al Franken, and the current president of the United States, previously best known for firing aging rock stars on an NBC reality show) for starters? Yes, Donald Trump’s disastrous presidency proves that hosting The Apprentice and previously owning the Miss Universe Pageant definitely doesn’t bode well for governmental success (and can lead to hazards such as getting into nuclear pissing contests with Kim Jong-un on Twitter), and there’s certainly a valid argument to be made that Americans should never, ever so much as consider a Hollywood candidate ever again. And, sure, there’s something to be said for such candidates starting in a smaller race than that for governor of a state as complicated as New York (or as president of the United States)—but if history has shown us anything, it’s that just because the American voters should do something doesn’t mean that they will. Trump’s lack of experience didn’t stop him or voters either. Does anyone really think it would stop Kanye West if he wanted to run?
Which brings us to the fact that it seems it’s more than okay for male celebrities to run for office, but when women—like Nixon or Oprah Winfrey—do it (or at least, in Winfrey’s case, flirt with the idea), they’re instantly dismissed as unqualified overreachers. It’s a problem that journalist Rosamund Urwin highlighted in her recent story for >The Sunday Times about why men are more likely to be promoted than women at work: “Women are promoted based on performance, while men are promoted based on potential.” For women running for office, roles that frequently rely heavily on campaign promises, that creates a deeply unequal playing field, one that means being penalized for what they have or haven’t already done, while men are gauged on what they say they might be able to do.
The irony is that these female celebrities may face more questions but, in fact, frequently have far more relevant experience for holding political office than many of their male counterparts. Trump, for one, had little to no background of public service or even a substantial record of philanthropy that would befit his supposed level of wealth before ascending to the highest office in the nation. Franken was an Air America Radio host. Schwarzenegger’s pre-gubernatorial experience was, roughly, being married to a member of the Kennedy family. Nixon, by contrast, has been a political activist advocating for causes including marriage equality and public school funding for more than a decade. She lobbied for same-sex marriage in New York in 2011 and worked with the Fight Back New York PAC to vote out politicians who didn’t support marriage equality. She is a spokesperson for the Alliance for Quality Education, and was arrested in 2002 while protesting proposed school budget cuts. If a guy best known for acting opposite a chimpanzee can become president (for the kids: Reagan in Bedtime for Bonzo), it’s not so crazy for Nixon to run for governor of New York. The only difference, of course, is that Nixon is a woman.
What a coincidence that women candidates—even Winfrey, who, let’s be honest, is more than capable of running the free world—are relentlessly dismissed and eye-rolled away. It extends to the way that they’re described in the media. It’s accurate to cite Nixon as a Sex and the City star, which many headlines did. But it’s also accurate to call her an activist, which plenty did not. For fun, I looked up CNN’s write-up from the fateful day in June 2015 when Trump declared his candidacy. His lack of experience was characterized as a burden he’d have to “shake off”—but not necessarily a barrier to entry. It was noted that Trump saw his wealth and celebrity as markers of success—“that’s the kind of thinking our country needs,” he flaunted. One can only imagine the outcry if Nixon were to boast about her personal wealth—she’d be labeled out of touch, elitist, and bitchy. I didn’t see anyone noting publicly yesterday that Nixon was brave or bold and clearly determined to be running despite the inevitable attack ads that will surface about her particular strand of fame, centered largely on a show that freely discussed fellatio and occasionally featured her partially nude. But back in 2015, Trump got props.
“He has the guts and the balls,” said Roberto Bezjon, a Trump Organization board member, as quoted by CNN. Three years later, with Nixon running, maybe people will wake up and realize: So does she.
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Source : https://www.vogue.com/article/cynthia-nixon-not-another-celebrity-for-office