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The Uncool Thing About Women Candidates

The Uncool Thing About Women Candidates

Not sure about you, but — with six women now running for president — I’ve been reading a lot about sexism on the campaign trail (among them, last weekend’s article in The Washington Post titled “How sexist will the media’s treatment of female candidates be? Rule out ‘not at all.’”)

At this point, we know the drill: Women candidates’ voices are “shrill,” their laughs aren’t right, they aren’t smiling enough.

More broadly, this leads to the “likability question”: The research tells us that “likability” is necessary for the success of women candidates, but not for men.

OK …

But one of the qualities that make women unlikable is ambition. And running for president is about the most ambitious thing a person can do.

Hoo boy.

The problem is that this catch-22 can be so ingrained by our society that we don’t even see it: I’ll never forget my mother — my aging hippie mother — telling me that she wouldn’t vote for Hillary Clinton because Clinton was too ambitious. No other reason not to vote for her, in my mom’s opinion. She was just too ambitious.

(After I picked my jaw up off the floor, I pointed out to her that I had built a career on Wall Street, and so her own daughter might also be considered … you know … ambitious; but she reassured me that I hid it better.)

As I ponder how we break through the way we’ve been socialized to assess women candidates differently, I can’t help but think about other — arguably historically well-meaning — messages society sends us that we don’t particularly question … but that can end up hurting us:

That we women are not that good with money.

After all, Carrie Bradshaw — who was, without a doubt, a very competent individual — bought so many shoes that she couldn’t afford to buy an apartment.

That women should focus on saving rather than building wealth, while men should focus on building wealth.

New research tells us that we receive this message from childhood from our parents (at the same time that we’re getting lower allowances for the same chores).

That a woman making more money than her partner somehow reflects poorly on that partner.

This is particularly true in relationships between women and men.

I could go on and on, but you get the point.

The most important takeaway is that all of these do real damage, not just to us women, but to the world around us.

In politics, these differing standards hurt us because the research tells us that having more women in elected office — regardless of their political party — moderates a country. (That sounds pretty good these days, doesn’t it?)

In “real life,” it’s hard to think of anything bad that happens when women have more money. Because who benefits when women have more money? In addition to themselves — their families, the businesses at which they shop, the non-profits that they donate to. In other words, everyone.

Read more here.


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