Get ready. The tirade against Biden’s woman vice presidential nominee—whoever she is—is about to begin. Just wait. Already we’ve heard, “Kamala Harris is too ambitious.” “She’s also too tough,” “not feminine enough,” “too big for her britches,” “disrespectful to men.” Stacey Abrams “is overtly campaigning for the job.” “It’s singularly unattractive.” Susan Rice “has no warmth,” “no charisma.” “She’s never run for office.” Val Demmings “is too short.” “She doesn’t look presidential.” Elizabeth Warren “looks like a school marm.” Amy Klobuchar, although no longer in the running, “is mean to her staff.” “She’s too demanding.”
When Hillary was running, such comments ran rampant. I heard things like, “I can’t stand her laugh.” “She cackles.” “She has chompers.” “What’s with her hair today?” “She’d be nowhere without Bill.” “She doesn’t seem sincere.” “I don’t respect her because she didn’t dump Bill.” We all remember Obama’s famous quote during one debate when he said, “You’re likeable enough, Hillary.” (That was before the New Hampshire primary which she proceeded to win—perhaps because of that remark.)
When Michelle Obama was first lady, there were comments like, “She wears too many sleeveless dresses.” “Her hair’s too big.” “She’s taller than he is.” “She doesn’t defer enough to her husband.”
This is depressing. It’s 2020 and still the most sexist, misogynistic rhetoric is in play. I could go on for pages—as long as War and Peace—about the crazy looking, weird voices, bad dressers, bizarre hair of many male politicians—but it just doesn’t seem to make a difference for men. Somehow for men those things aren’t that important. What’s important, are their policy positions, their grasps of the bigger picture, their ability to make appropriate decisions on the spot. Somehow no one seems to question that they will step up to the plate when necessary and rise to the occasion.
The irony is that so many of those men have made so many bad decisions. So many of them were not right for the job. So many of them left havoc in their wake. Yet still, we Americans, keep electing men and are reluctant to elect a woman president. Many are shaking in their boots at the thought of a female vice president.
Electing a woman leader seems to have worked out pretty well for Great Britain, New Zealand, Australia, Germany, India, Israel, the Philippines, China, Iceland, Norway, Ireland, Canada, Argentina, the list goes on. Sure, many of those women leaders have made their share of mistakes, but I would argue, far fewer than their male counterparts for the most part.
How long will it take until we truly judge a woman on her ability to get the job done? Studies have shown that most women “make it about the work.” They are collaborative, do their homework, come prepared—perhaps overprepared, meet deadlines, are great listeners, handle crises well, are empathetic, check their egos, lead by example, have high emotional intelligence, are flexible, defer to experts (there’s a concept), hire the most qualified applicants, multi-task effectively, and are superior to men at achieving work-life balance.
We elected a corrupt real estate magnate reality star who had no political experience and said the most outrageous misogynistic things about women. We elected him even though we knew, before the election, how he felt about women. Think Megan Kelly, Rosie O’Donnell, Hillary Clinton, Carly Fiorina, Heidi Cruz, Elizabeth Warren, Mika Brzezinski, Katy Tur, Maureen Dowd, the list goes on. “ Horse face, lowlife, fat, ugly, no longer a 10, a dog, fat pig, slob, bimbo, Pocahontas, highly overrated, Miss Piggy,” are only a few of his names for these women. What kind of example is that? How far are we from judging women on their ability and experience when the President of the United States speaks in those terms?
I often say to my male friends and colleagues, “Many of you have wives, daughters, granddaughters, nieces, friends whom you have helped along the way. You want these women to rise to their potential. To make a difference. To be given every opportunity to succeed. You root for them. You would be appalled if any male spoke in those terms to the females in your life.”
And then there’s this. Still, close to 40 percent of the American populous support such degrading and humiliating rhetoric from the leader of the free world. Some of those same 40 percent profess to be extremely religious and continue to support a man who says cruel, hurtful, crude, comments daily. I’ve also seen those same religious supporters post cruel and mocking pictures of female candidates with bodies of animals and worse. The hypocrisy of those supporters continues to stun me.
I, for one, am rooting for Kamala Harris. Studies have shown that the traits that most people associate with politicians are competence, ambition, aggressiveness, confidence and toughness. Harris has all those qualities. She’s been in the arena and she’s a survivor. She’s resilient. She can hold her own against Mike Pence any day. I would relish that debate.
I also relish the day when we truly focus on the individual—their experience and “rightness” for the job—not their gender or the color of their skin or whom they choose to love. Maya Angelou said, “…in diversity there is beauty and there is strength.”
Maria Grant served as Principal-in-Charge of the Federal Human Capital practice of Deloitte Consulting. Since her retirement, she has focused on writing, music, reading, travel, gardening, and nature.