Americans’ Fear of Strong Women in Politics

Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi — and Louise Slaughter — have all been reviled as cold, emasculating bitches. Irrational hatred for Hillary Clinton surely helped sink her presidential run, and even now, every time she speaks out, pundits and people in Congress — including other women — tell her to move on. Nancy Pelosi is regularly demonized by Republicans, and it works in turning out their voters.

Maybe they’ll let up on Louise now that she has died.

How to explain the visceral hatred of talented, competent women in positions of power? Hillary has had a storied career, and in my book, she gets to say whatever she wants. She’s absolutely right that the more progressive, productive parts of the country voted for her. The parts that want to go back to the 1950’s where white men reigned supreme voted for Don the Con. Sorry, Heidi Heitkamp, if you think that reality demeans your voters. Nancy Pelosi is a prodigious fund raiser who knows how to whip votes and hold her caucus together. Louise consistently delivered for her district, without kowtowing to men in power one iota, ever.

Turns out the irrational hatred of competent women in positions of power — by men and women alike — isn’t a surprise to people who study these things:

“As the management professors Ekaterina Netchaeva, Maryam Kouchaki, and Leah Sheppard noted in a 2015 paper, Americans generally believe “that leaders must necessarily possess attributes such as competitiveness, self-confidence, objectiveness, aggressiveness, and ambitiousness.” But “these leader attributes, though welcomed in a male, are inconsistent with prescriptive female stereotypes of warmth and communality.” In fact, “the mere indication that a female leader is successful in her position leads to increased ratings of her selfishness, deceitfulness, and coldness.”

I’m too old and have lived with this too long to have any patience with it. Get over it, is my mantra. But soon the Democrats will have to decide whether to keep Nancy Pelosi as their leader if Democrats prevail in the November election. I hope they do. But if management psychology prevails, they’ll look for a male whose competence and ambition are inexplicably less threatening.

2 thoughts on “Americans’ Fear of Strong Women in Politics

  1. ‘It is tragic the Many Americans have failed to value the leadership of women. It’s certainly true in my work. I often reflect on the role of women in America. Sometimes I think we’ve come a long way, except in limpoetant leadership positions. What a loss for America.

  2. for Katie: We’ve both worked in predominately male leadership circles. It’s never been easy, and was not up until the time I retired.

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