Likability Redux

As the Veepstakes tick down to a real running mate, political journalists can't stop being snide about female politicians wanting to succeed

It’s fascinating to me how many articles comment on the negative and condescending way female candidates are spoken about in the media without anyone in the press dealing with the fact that journalists are disseminating these statements and attitudes in the first place. Isn’t this the kind of thing that could be discussed at the editorial meetings of major newspapers and cable news shows and then conveyed to reporters, opinion writers, and anchors?

On the evening she conceded defeat in 2016, Hillary Clinton is said to have to an aide: “I knew they would never let me have it.” Image credit: GrAl/

Today’s contribution is from Jessica Bennett at The New York Times, and it’s focused on why signs of ambition in a woman pull our national chain. In contrast, a sense of destiny is a baseline quality for men in politics, so understood as to be unremarkable. “No one, it is safe to assume,” Bennett writes, “told J.F.K. he was too ambitious.” Yet as the Democratic “veepstakes” continue to roll out, Bennett notes, Kamala Harris and Stacy Abrams have both been scolded for being too eager to succeed. Which would mean I suppose, that in order to be chosen they would have to pretend not to want to be vice-president, or — heaven forfend — be positioning themselves as a potential successor to Biden. And since Harris actually was a presidential candidate, this clearly puts her at a disadvantage.

What unbelievable horsepucky that in 2020 intelligent women are supposed to play this game. It’s particularly vile since the group of twelve (really, a group of three or four now) women who are being considered collectively have more public accomplishments than the entire male G.O.P. House caucus. Talk about a group of (mostly) undistinguished men who should just step the heck back.

Please note that if you click over to Bennett’s article the word “sexism” is in the link—but not in the title of the article. A feminist social media editor? Perhaps.

And you might want to review this opinion piece I wrote for the New York Times over a year ago when we still had six women competing for the presidential nomination, and I mulled the question of why women are never “likable” enough to be president.

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