Political Animals: Why Aren’t More Women in Power?

New series from USA Network looks at the difficulties of being a woman seeking power in America

by Imran Siddiquee

Yesterday Ezra Klein at the Washington Post laid out 14 reasons why this might just be the worst session of Congress in U.S. history. From an inability to pass bills to an increasing unpopularity amongst the American public, Klein lays out some convincing arguments for why our political representation needs to shape up – and shape up fast.

Yet there was one fact that was clearly missing from his list: currently only 17% of Congress is female. And 2010 was the first time in 30 years that the numbers didn’t increase for women.

One can’t help but wonder how the effectiveness of Congress might change with more women in office.

Not to say that all female politicians are the same or automatically great, but for a country that is 51% female, it’s frustrating how severely we are limiting our potential. For hundreds of years we have been choosing our leadership – in politics and beyond – from a very narrow pool of candidates.

It might be time to try something new.

Which begs the question: what’s holding women back? Studies have shown that when women run, they win. So why aren’t more women going for it?

From media bias to societal stereotypes about women seeking office, a new show on USA hopes to expand this conversation around women and power in America. Political Animals premieres on Sunday, July 15th at 10 pm and features a main character who may or may not be based on the real life Hillary Clinton.

As the website describes it:

“Sigourney Weaver stars as former first lady and current Secretary of State Elaine Barrish Hammond who is attempting to keep her family together while simultaneously dealing with crises of the State Department and fending off the hungry DC journalist (Carla Gugino) who is bent on destroying her career.”

We’ll be watching on Sunday to see how the network balances depicting the female characters three-dimensionally with the potential pitfalls of traditional portrayals of powerful women. Will Weaver’s character be caring and decisive? Or will she be portrayed as a cold distanced leader? How will the journalist’s reporting of her, impact how the country actually sees her? And will the show avoid needlessly hyper-sexualizing the women as so often happens on TV?

There are so few opportunities to see women in these types of roles in major television productions, that it’s essential we take the time to watch and critique those that do make it on screen. The more young women who see TV about women in power, the more likely we are to see the gender ratios in Congress change.

You can join us online at 10 pm PT as we use hashtag #PAChat on Twitter to live-discuss our take on the premiere!