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“Be likable”: How female candidates are navigating sexism and racism in 2018

From come-ons to racist comments, these four women face myriad double-standards.

Throughout their campaigns Deidre DeJear, Pearl Kim, Anna Eskamani, and Morgan Zegers have had to carefully craft the image they present to the world.

For these four first-time candidates, that means creating ads and dealing with reporters. It means politely fending off sexist come-ons and racist comments shouted on street corners. And, in this second installment of the four-part web series “She’s Running,” it means turning their personal, painful stories into triumphs.


“Initially, I’d be hesitant to talk about being a sexual assault survivor, cancer survivor. Then as I kept going, I recognized, This is part of my story,” explained Kim, a Republican running for Congress in Pennsylvania. “I was so private with my life prior to running for office. It’s my responsibility now to share my life with people.”

But these very different women use very different tactics when it comes to handling tricky conversations. While Zegers believes that “women have to balance that act of not upsetting people in a professional setting,” Eskamani opts for a more upfront approach.

“Isn’t there so much power to a woman who is open about sexuality and issues that are so taboo?” Eskamani asked VICE News. “And when I’m on the House floor, I want to be able to say what needs to be said without fear of repercussion.”

Each woman could make history in this year’s midterm elections on Nov. 6.

  • Democrat DeJear, who’s running for Iowa secretary of state, could be the first African-American to be elected statewide in Iowa.
  • Republican Kim could become the first Korean-American woman in Congress, if she wins her race for Pennsylvania’s 5th Congressional District.
  • Democrat Eskamani could be the first Iranian-American elected to the Florida Legislature.
  • Republican Zegers could become the youngest-ever member of the New York state Assembly.

Watch Part 1 and Part 3 of the “She’s Running” web series here. Then, watch VICE News Tonight on HBO’s “She’s Running” series, following Democrat Katie Hill’s campaign for California’s 25th Congressional District, and sign up for VICE News’ weekly “She’s Running” newsletter, tracking all things women in politics.