With the polls tightening between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton a mere 49 days before the election and six days before the first presidential debate, the media are growing increasingly desperate to give Clinton a boost and, of course, an online Washington Post article on Tuesday played the gender card in arguing Clinton’s struggles has to do with sexism.
The post by The Fix blog writer Janell Ross centered around an interview with George Mason University professor and behavioral scientist Mandy O’Neill and fairly broad questions about women in the workplace that were then extrapolated to the reception Clinton has faced regarding voters.
Following an opening question featuring the pair ruling that women are “penalize[d]” by society “more [than men] for not being warm” in their professional relationships, O’Neill and Ross used it as a springboard to tout President Obama arguing the race is close due to pervasive sexism:
THE FIX: What do you make of President Obama's comments about the reason that the election is likely to be close?
O'NEILL: It is well-known and well-documented that women have a narrower band of acceptable behavior in leadership roles, particularly ones that are usually occupied by men. The finding is so well-supported in the literature and has been replicated across so many different settings that it’s hard to publish any more findings making the point.
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Digging deeper, Ross wondered if there were any specific examples of Clinton facing the brunt of this supposed sexism and “gender-related expectations” by voters (and the media) and O’Neill cited two examples in her “basket of deplorables” comment and even the e-mail scandal (somehow that’s sexist).
Taking the first instance, the college professor opined that “[w]e can debate the polling statistics regarding whether there is any truth to the claim...but one thing is true” in that Clinton’s comment made her “look contemptuous (disdainful, hateful, "cold") of many, many American voters.”
“What makes this issue a gender story is that Clinton took a lot of heat for that one comment while Trump says countless contemptuous comments and receives much less criticism from mainstream media and the American public,” she added.
Ross then lead O’Neill toward the e-mail attack with this softball from the left:
People who follow politics closely have very likely heard that men running against women have to take particular care not to appear as if they are bullying women in competitive settings such as political debates. But, I wonder if there are ways in which men who find themselves in competition with women for leadership roles are able to use what our society expects of women — warmth — to their advantage?
O’Neill responded by invoking the disastrous e-mail scandal as having a hint of sexism due to the spin that women are “naturally more reserved and private” (so therefore Clinton evading government e-mail to shield her communications was perfectly fine somehow):
The coverage of Hillary Clinton’s State Department private email server controversy is one that comes to mind in this year’s general election. Media coverage, rivals’ rhetoric, and Clinton’s own media responses propagate an image of someone who is the opposite of "warm," particularly when it comes to defending herself in this situation.
This is particularly problematic for a woman who by all accounts is naturally more reserved and private.