As with any successful, high-profile woman, Stacey Abrams knows what it can feel like to have people nitpick every little part of (what should be) your private life. A year ago, while preparing to run for her home state's highest office, she really began to feel the pressure to conform to expectations about her personal life, including others' opinions about her appearance, weight, and yes, relationships. Yet unfortunately, while Stacey Abrams being pressured to “fake” a boyfriend during her gubernatorial campaign is ridiculous, it’s also sadly far from surprising or uncommon.
Apparently, while campaigning for governor of Georgia in 2018, Abrams' advisers had a whole list of things she could do to be more appealing: change her hair, lose some weight and, yes, get a boyfriend. In an Aug. 27 interview, she told Bustle that she had been pressured to adjust, and even maybe fib a little. She decided not to take heed of the suggestions.
“I was not going to fake a boyfriend,” Abrams told the publication for its Rule Breakers series. “If I find him, great, but I wasn't going to pretend that he existed or create some notion of relationship.”
Rather, she decided to do her best with what she has. Instead of denying the reality of public expectations, she chose to "give people some space to accept me," she told Bustle. For instance, she chose to keep her natural hair during the campaign but regularly asked her stylist to make sure it looked great while staying comfortable, and herself.
It may be a little ridiculous that her relationship status was even an issue, but it's sadly not out of the norm. According to a September 2018 study in the Columbia Journalism Review, media coverage of female politicians includes more questions about family roles and work-family life balance. Even the most seemingly harmless word choices can lead respondents to see male candidates as up to 15% more qualified than female candidates.
Regardless of her relationship status, Abrams believes it should be irrelevant to the media. In an interview with Vox Recode in November 2017, she asked people to more closely consider what they're covering about her: "Are you pushing out bad information about my politics? Or worse, are you demeaning the people who should be invested? Those are the things that we should be talking about, and those are the ways you should use social media."
In November 2018, Abrams lost her bid to be Georgia's governor after a politically fraught, neck-to-neck race against Republican Brian Kemp, which was marred by allegations of voter suppression. The tight race, and the possibility of Abrams becoming the state's first black governor, drew national attention. Abrams lost by less than 2 percentage points, and waited over a week to concede the election due to questions about the alleged voter suppression. Kemp has denied voter suppression and suggested the allegations were politically motivated, per The New York Times.
Despite her loss, Abrams has continued her upward trajectory as a player on the national political field. In January 2019, she was selected to give the Democratic Party rebuttal to the State of the Union, the first black woman and the first person to not be a sitting office-holder to do so. Running for president or the Senate is not at all off the table, and she thankfully doesn’t experience too much self-doubt when it comes to work, per The New York Times Magazine. "It’s not that I doubt my capacity, but I need to make certain I’m doing it for the right reasons," she told the publication.
For now, Abrams doesn’t seem too concerned about finding a boyfriend. She’s too busy fighting voter suppression and preparing for whatever's next on her political bucket list. The right guy just hasn’t presented himself, she told Recode, and “as an introvert, I’ve been inside my house.” I can’t blame her. Politicians, they’re just like us.