SPRINGFIELD — When it comes to running for office, women just have to put up with a lot more crap than men do.
This week, Republican congressional candidate Jeanne Ives had three signs in Naperville defaced with a slur often used to describe a private portion of women’s anatomy.
Four years ago, someone took a picture of state Rep. Avery Bourne’s face and photo-shopped it on to the naked body of another woman and mailed the phony image to people throughout her legislative district.
Vice Presidential candidate Kamala Harris has been publicly called a “prostitute” on various social media forums.
Let’s face it, these are things male candidates don’t have to deal with.
In the case of Harris, much attention has been paid to her past relationship with former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, who is 23 years her senior.
It is interesting that her once dating someone 23 years her senior is considered a blotch on her record. But Donald Trump marrying someone 23 years his junior is just a mild curiosity for most folks.
By the way, both Brown and Trump were married but estranged from their wives at the inception of these relationships.
Actress Robbin Young tweeted, “Kamala doesn’t care if Willie was good...women who prostitute themselves only care about money and prestige.”
In my 33 years in journalism, I’ve never heard an allegation like that made against a man holding public office.
But over and over I’ve heard that assertion made against women running for offices as low as county coroner and as high as vice president.
“There is a real double standard here. A man who dated a lot of women is called a ‘stud’ but a woman who dated a lot of men is called something else,” said Denny Jacobs, a former long-time state senator from East Moline.
“It shouldn’t make any difference who someone used to date. But for women seeking office it does matter,” he said. “But it goes beyond that. A woman doesn’t have to be beautiful, but she has to be presentable. For us men, that is not an issue. (U.S. Senate Majority Leader) Mitch McConnell can win office even though he’s not particularly good looking. Could a woman that bad looking win? No.”
When Ives first contemplated a run for the Illinois House, she hired a consultant.
“He told me, ‘You can’t just go to the grocery store wearing sweats anymore. People expect women running for office to look good all of the time.’ I just looked at him and said, ‘I had five kids at home; if I need to go to the store, I’ll wear sweats if I need to.’ I still go to the store wearing sweats.”
In the case of Rep. Bourne, R-Raymond, the doctored photos appeared to be an effort to denigrate an accomplished woman. She is the youngest person to serve in the General Assembly in Illinois’ 202 years.
Imagine someone pasting Mike Madigan’s face onto a photo of a naked man and mailing it out.
It just wouldn’t be an effective smear campaign. But, unfortunately, women in public life are held to a different standard. Rumors are spread, lies are told and usually it pertains to their personal lives.
Sadly, an undercurrent of misogyny remains a constant in American politics.
Ives noted Trump’s 2016 comment to “Rolling Stone” about his female primary opponent, Carly Fiorina, “Look at that face. Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?”
To be sure, both male and female candidates have signs vandalized. But the attack against Ives was far more personal.
“Someone used spray paint to write that horrible word on the sign,” she told me during a telephone interview. “We took the signs down right away so children wouldn’t see them. … Only female candidates have to deal with this sort of thing.”
Scott Reeder is a veteran statehouse journalist and a freelance reporter. ScottReeder1965@gmail.com.