Activist Monday: Yes, Bernie, Unqualified is a Sexist Smear
Posted April 11, 2016on:
Well well well, it looks like Bernie Sanders has had a belated realization that it’s really not okay to call Hillary Clinton “unqualified.”
Bernie Sanders reversed himself Friday, tempering his vicious two-day attack line that Hillary Clinton is not “qualified” for the presidency.
“Of course” the former secretary of state is qualified for the White House, Sanders said during a town hall on NBC’s “Today.”
“On her worst day she would be an infinitely better president than either of the Republican candidates,” he said, heaping praise on his opponent in a similar fashion to what Clinton said the prior day in response to the Vermont senator doubling down on his sharp rhetoric.
I personally had a very strong reaction to Bernie’s unwarranted attacks on Our Girl’s qualifications. I said on Facebook on Friday,
This is what Bernie would be like as President…first make an unfounded accusation, then double down on it when proven wrong. Sorry…who is the unqualified one here?! Good luck winning New York after this BS, Senator Sanders.
I felt compelled to post about this kerfuffle, because instinctually, I “heard” Bernie’s words as a gendered attack. Turns out there are a couple of reasons why.
In a memo out this month from Lake Research Partners, Chesapeake Beach Consulting and the Barbara Lee Family Foundation, entitled “Politics is Personal: Keys to Likeability and Electability for Women,” suggestions such as “Voters like informal photos of women candidates engaging with children” and “Voters like women officeholders who share credit with their teams, in addition to taking credit as an individual leader,” were on offer.
The memo, of the brass tacks strategy variety, says quite a bit about the line that female candidates must walk. “Women face a litmus test that men do not have to pass,” reads a passage in the document. “Women have to prove they are qualified. For men, their qualification is assumed.”
That’s why Sanders’ statement about Clinton’s qualifications cuts so deep — it seemed to send a volley at the fortress of qualification female candidates build up as proof of their worthiness to the public at large.
Yes…the idea that anyone could look at Hillary’s resume and, with a straight face, claim she is unqualified for office…well, that not only beggars belief, but it says something about the mindset of the person saying it, doesn’t it?
In another twist, it seems like women who are strong and assertive are automatically viewed as less qualified for whatever job they’re doing…significantly so.
A new study by New York Times bestselling authors, Joseph Grenny and David Maxfield revealed that gender bias in the workplace is real, finding that women’s perceived competency drops by 35% and their perceived worth falls by $15,088 when they are judged as being “forceful” or “assertive.” Compare this with the drops in competency and worth that men experience when being judged as forceful: their competency drops by 22% and their worth falls by $6,547. This significant difference reveals a true gender bias that prohibits women from succeeding fully in leadership and management roles where assertiveness is, of course, a crucial behavior.
I have personally experienced this when working with a man in my office, who told me I was “pushy” during a conversation in which we were disagreeing about something. I’m sure the women on this blog could give a lot of examples from their own professional lives. I don’t think it’s a huge stretch to apply this bias to female politicians, do you?
My husband recently said to me that he wishes there were more of a forum for socialist ideas in this country. He said that we need a “Bull Moose”/Progressive Party again, like we had in the days of Theodore Roosevelt. My response was, “I don’t think so.” Why? Because I, too, used to think that, back in the days when I was a regular at Talk Left and Eschaton. I used to think that being a “progressive” meant that I was in the company of people who cared about women’s equality as much as I did. As we all found out in 2007-2008, that idea is nothing but a naive fantasy. “Progressives” are, more often than not, a boys’ club that is not only indifferent to women’s equality, but is actively hostile to prioritizing that goal over other policy goals. I won’t ever support a generic “lefty” organization or political party, unless it puts women’s equality first and foremost. And I won’t apologize for that position, either, no matter how “unqualified” or”incompetent” people think it makes me.
I remain mystified by Sanders’ persistence in the face of an obvious inability to gain the nomination. His idea of winning New York, or even coming close, is clearly based on nothing. Hillary is projected to win by a very large margin. Other hopes he has of beating her in large states like Pennsylvania and California, seem to be similarly fantastical. Maybe part of the reason he feels that he can still change the minds of the Party delegates and superdelegates, and overturn the will of the voters, is because Hillary is only a woman…an incompetent, unqualified woman. That’s the ugly truth I fear is hiding behind Sanders’ two days of obstinacy on this topic.
This is an open thread.
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