Women in Politics – Niki Wagner



The way that men and women are perceived in politics is very different. I currently work on a political campaign and I’ve found that the way that I dress and that men dress is interpreted differently. Men can come into the office dressed sloppy and that is perceived as casual but women often feel the need to come to work more dressed up  and put together(even when this is not required.) I have never been told that I need to dress a certain way but it has always been implied.

Recently, a high profile U.S Senator came to a benefit that was honoring our local candidate. We were told that we could dress casual and that this wasn’t a formal affair but I still felt that need to dress up because I was getting the chance to meet a high profile U.S Senator. I straightened my hair(which I hadn’t done in almost a year), put on tons of make up, found an old skirt, and matched it with a blouse. I was so stressed out about looking nice and presentable that it took me almost two hours to get ready. I was also stressed because I knew that there would be lots of pictures taken and that they would be posted on the campaign Facebook Page. I noticed that when I got the event that most women were dressed the same. They were all dressed nice in skirts, dresses, or pant suits. No jeans. Most of the professional aged men were dressed in nice suits or or khakis but most of the younger, college ages boys were dressed far too casual to be acceptable for a professional meet and greet with a U.S Senator. I’m not sure why this is. It could have to do with that women are just expected to look nice all the time or if there really is a double standard.


Something else I noticed while working in politics and in my brief visits to Capitol hill is that Republicans dress very differently than Democrats and this is true of both men and women. I’ve noticed that republican men staffers often wear Sperrys, Plaid button downs, and tweed a lot. Democrat men dress more modern with clean cut suits and ties. If you are a Republican women, you may be required to wear a dress and shorter heals to work. Republican women also sport pearl necklaces more often than Democrat staffers. Female Democrats are more likely wear pant suits paired with flats or stilettos. In this case, I don’t necessarily think that it is culture that is influencing the portrayal of masculinity vs femininity but instead it is the varrying degrees of conservatism.

Nancy Pelosi

I suppose this is still culture influencing the portrayal of masculinity vs femininity but I do not think that it is culture as a whole but rather subsets of culture. I see the way that men and women choose to dress as a choice as to which culture they want to be a part of. In my opinion men and women who choose to dress more old fashioned and fall into the stereotypes of men and women are supposed to dress are part of the conservative culture. I consider this to be a culture because they have a specific way of life. They dress in a traditional, modest way. They often have a specific morals and beliefs that bleed into how they think men and women should be represented. The same goes for democrats. They have a more modern culture that allows for a different view on the roles of men and women and how they are represented. Democratic women are allowed to wear pant suits as well as high heels, which could be seen as scandalous to some. It is their own cultures that define their views on the portrayal of masculinity vs. femininity.


I work for a democratic campaign and so my experience with expectations about how I should dress has not been a huge deal to thing. I haven’t specifically ever been told that I need to dress a certain way but to me it is just implied that I need to dress professional while at work events. I think that women feel pressure to look nice and put together so that they can make good impressions and that is related to culture. We see other women on televsision and in movies that we want to look like and that often bleeds into our social lives as wells as out professional lives.





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