Double standards in journalism, politics


Annie Cohen, Deputy Opinion Editor

As the 2016 presidential race draws closer, candidates have been emerging to voice their views, and when they do their implicit biases and beliefs become apparent. One of the more high-profile examples of this trend is Rand Paul, the Republican senator from Kentucky who announced his presidential bid last week. In a matter of days, he has already managed to display a patronizing attitude toward the media in a Today Show interview, spotlighting the double standards female journalists and other professionals face on a daily basis.

Paul’s rude tendencies were evident during his interview with Savannah Guthrie, in which he lectured her on interviewing techniques and complained about her “editorializing.” The exchange was a textbook definition of the phenomenon known as mansplaining, where a man explains something in an overtly condescending manner. Just earlier this year, Paul discounted CNBC host Kelly Evans in the same way, putting his finger to his lips to visibly shush her and brashly telling her to “calm down a bit.” Paul’s actions serve to completely delegitimize female reporters and their viewpoints or lines of questioning. Interactions like these are all too common among male politicians and completely unacceptable.

The notion of mansplaining is nothing new. Studies confirm that men have a tendency to dominate conversations in every setting, from classrooms to professional meetings. It has also been proven that women are more likely than men to be interrupted during a communication, from both men and women alike — the result of skewed power dynamics. Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant addressed the problem of women keeping quiet in a recent New York Times op-ed, in which they advocated for businesses to more actively encourage the inclusion of female voice and increase the number of women in leadership roles. They cited the media attention given to a 2014 presidential news conference during which President Obama called on only female reporters, saying it would have been considered standard rather than remarkable if he called on only men.

More than ever before, we need to make sure that women’s voices are being heard and not overshadowed by men. The negative response to Paul’s recent conduct is encouraging, since it proves that the general public is aware and critical of mansplaining and other sexist behaviors. As the nation continues to prepare for the 2016 election, a critical eye must be kept on candidates and their treatment of women and women’s issues, and voters must hold them accountable for what they do and say on the topic. It is important to be respectful and treat women in any role fairly and equally in interviews, press conferences, and beyond. After yesterday’s announcement, one may be president someday.

Opinions expressed on the editorial pages are not necessarily those of WSN, and our publication of opinions is not an endorsement of them.

A version of this article appeared in the April 13 print edition. Email Annie Cohen at