Confessions of a Slow Learner: American Politics Really Is Sexist

American politics, especially at the presidential level, remains shaped by sexist double standards. These are amplified by the prism through which much of journalism covers politics.

…She had twice won big in statewide races for attorney general. In 1993, she started her race for governor as an early and commanding favorite. She had a solid record, a conscientious work ethic, an impressive fundraising network and the backing of all manner of respectable establishment figures.

Her biggest obstacle, it seemed to me and many others, was her public persona—painfully cautious, almost purposefully dull. This was not how I experienced her in private settings, in which she was interesting and engaging.

I once asked her what explained the gulf—why was she so restrained and opaque and downright uncomfortable in public? She looked at me incredulously and asked me to put down my notebook. A quarter-century later I will paraphrase but not quote: ‘Do you honestly have no idea how difficult it is for a woman in public life?’

…Here’s a test. Imagine that “The Portable Bloomberg“ had contained equivalent lines resting on racial stereotypes or religion. Then ask yourself whether a candidate could successfully brush aside controversy by saying, as Bloomberg did last week, “maybe they didn’t like a joke I told.”

…One reason gender prejudice in politics is hard to grapple with is that the insidious nature of double standards can never be isolated as the sole factor, or even the primary factor, behind a candidate’s success or failure.

…Warren’s decline in the polls in late summer and fall of last year coincided with media coverage designating her a frontrunner. Much of the coverage of her debate performances (including some of my own, in a fashion not too different from my old stories on Terry) puzzled on the variance between moments when she seemed “commanding” or seemed to recede and saw her percentage of speaking time diminish.

…Jennifer Palmieri, an adviser to Hillary Clinton in 2016, wrote in her post-campaign book “Dear Madam President” about how the Clinton team grappled with the way some voters are turned off by ambitious women.

Confessions of a Slow Learner: American Politics Really Is Sexist – POLITICO



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