We are in the midst of a long, long election cycle. Candidates have already come and gone, and there are many more debates, policy statements, and gaffes left to go.
As each of us is forming our opinions and figuring out which candidate we feel might best lead the country, there’s a lot we need to consider. Where do they stand on the issues we care about? How do they fare in off-the-cuff, revealing moments? Do they seem trustworthy, strong, and competent? How easily do they adapt as new events and movements require responses?
Our female candidates – Carly Fiorina and Hillary Clinton – face a whole other set of questions and standards. In a recent New Yorker article, Allyson Hobbs examines why people just don’t seem to be getting excited about these women. She discusses the sexist and misogyny-laced critiques of Hillary Clinton in particular, ones that Carly Fiorina has also been subject to.
“Clinton must tread lightly: she cannot appear too strong without risking her likability ratings; she cannot appear too vulnerable without her credibility suffering.”
One of the most insidious impacts of structural ISMs – sexism, abelism, racism, heteronormativism, etc. – is the way we each internalize negative beliefs about our identities and about those who share those identities. While understanding that politics is a tricky game and any one of us may not fully agree with, identify with, or want to elect these particular candidates, it’s important that we strive for self-awareness and ensure that we are not allowing internalized sexism to impact our view.
“Perhaps the sexism—in both overtly hostile and less visible but still insidious ways—has helped stoke the fires of animosity towards Clinton while, at the same time, creating an almost impossible standard for her. Unlike her male opponents, Clinton has to be far more careful and measured in what she says and does. To be free from a strict choreography of words and actions is a form of male privilege that Hillary Clinton cannot access.”
The question becomes less about whether Carly Fiorina or Hillary Clinton are the best candidates for the job, and more about whether they will even have a fair chance to compete and make their case on equal footing with their male counterparts. If the structure itself is working against them and holding them to different standards, how can we begin to fairly assess them? How can we get a true sense of what type of leaders they would be? When the glass ceiling reaches as high as the highest office in the country, it becomes difficult to tease out the truth.
It’s still a worthy endeavor though – no matter who you end up voting for – as many of us will face similar challenges as we step up and lead our communities.
What do you think? Do you agree or disagree with the article? Do you think our female candidates are getting a fair shot?
Adeline & NYCCEP