Hillary Clinton is officially running not just to be President, but to become the first woman President.  It was a key theme of her announcement and will be of her campaign.  And underlying much of the conversation is the expectation that her gender will matter to voters – and will likely be a handicap.

This is a pretty radical theory – and presumes that the American voter is tremendously shallow and remains backwardly sexist. But it also comes as no surprise. The progressive women’s movement has been laser-focused on the issue of gender bias in politics for years and working to increase the number of women running for public office. In their view more female leaders means more attention to “women’s issues,” like pay equity and paid leave policies, and more women will force a change in the culture of politics, creating more congeniality and “progress.”

Groups like Name It Change It, She Should Run, and Political Parity all have missions of eliminating sexism from political campaigns and putting female candidates on more equal footing. Central to all these groups is the idea that gender bias is a significant barrier to women’s entry, involvement, and success in the political sphere. In fact, this is the justification for Hillary Clinton’s “super volunteers,” whose mission is to respond aggressively to the media’s sexist mistreatment of Clinton.

In the days following Mrs. Clinton’s presidential announcement, the left framed the conversation as one in which Clinton will be swimming against a sexist current. Articles referred to the “gender-based criticism” she’s endured for decades. Terry O’Neill, president of the National Organization for Women, said in a statement that her “candidacy is a powerful message to girls that they can aspire to the highest office, and an equally powerful message to boys that women can be leaders on an equal footing with men” – as if we didn’t think so already. And liberal-commentator Leslie Marshall wrote in US News the 2016 campaign will be a “War on One Woman.”

For years political science researchers have given credence to this narrative by suggesting that there are fewer women in public office because no one asks them, the political establishment and purse strings are dominated by an old boys network, and pervasive sexism in the media makes running for office more difficult. In effect, it’s given the progressive women’s movement a Maypole to dance around.

But are that many Americans really so sexist that they simply wouldn’t vote for a woman?  Increasingly social science research is suggesting that gender bias is overstated.  A new paper published in Perspectives on Politics reveals, “candidate sex does not affect journalists’ coverage of, or voters’ attitudes toward, the women and men running for office.” In fact, as many of us might expect, portrayals and opinions about candidates were the result of ideology, partisanship, and incumbency. A candidate’s gender just wasn’t a factor.

This robust investigation not only examined the print media coverage of 350 congressional campaigns, but also survey data from the Cooperative Congressional Election Study (CCES) to see the impact this media coverage then had on voter opinion. And even across these hundreds of races, they found no indication of gender bias.

This was certainly encouraging to read, and in some ways it aligned with internal research the Independent Women’s Forum recently conducted. Our initial work showed that the gender of a generic lawmaker made no difference to male respondents.

What stood out, however, was that with our sample of younger, more left-leaning women we found that female respondents were 9-points less likely to favor a male lawmaker than a female one, even controlling for a variety of different policy positions and party.  Men might not penalize women, but women penalize men.

In other words, all the inflammatory rhetoric about gender bias and Mrs. Clinton is grossly overstated. The progressive women’s movement appears to have been dangerously effective not only in making gender a priority for many female voters, but also in possibly poisoning the well for male candidates.

Some might be tempted to celebrate this as great progress.  After all, it is exciting to see how far women have come in recent decades: the educational accomplishments, the professional successes, and the political strides. That’s why in many ways, Hillary Clinton on the top of the ticket should come as no surprise – it seems appropriate that America soon ought to welcome our first female President.

Yet we should also want our first female President to be elected because of her experience, accomplishments, and vision for the nation – not simply because voters, particularly women voters, want a woman in the Oval Office.

A national campaign is different from a congressional election. There will be mudslinging – that’s the nature of a presidential campaign. And this will make it easy for the Clinton campaign – and her allies in the feminist movement – to continue the sexist narrative, in which Clinton is fighting a misogynist society and media. But perhaps it’s time we give voters – especially men – a little more credit and realize the country is ready to judge Mrs. Clinton on her policy platform and record – not her gender.

But I guess the question is: does she want us to?

Sabrina L. Schaeffer is executive director of the Independent Women’s Forum.