It’s seriously amazing to me to watch how, in real time, unconscious sexism is forcing its way out of the shadows onto the national stage during this campaign season.
We’re all, aren’t we, good liberals? None of us thinks that women are inferior, should earn less than men, belong barefoot and in the kitchen? Of course not; it’s 2016. And we’re all enlightened people, good Pagans, real progressives — aren’t we?
Put your money where your mouth is and take the quiz. The first time that I took it, I came out “slightly biased” and we all know that I’m a foaming-at-the-mouth-feminist virago.
When you get ready to criticize a female candidate, stop and consider:
First, it is impossible to analyze Clinton—her policies, her career path, her hair—without understanding how gender bias operates. Bias plays a role in all of our reactions, no matter how feminist we are. As progressives, it is our duty to resist these stereotypes, and, if we are journalists, to help our readers understand how gender bias operates at an unconscious level.
When you hear that Hillary Clinton is unlikable, be aware of the study that shows competent women are generally seen as unlikable; when you hear that Hillary Clinton is dishonest, know that this same study shows women in power are generally seen as dishonest. And know that when the same imaginary job candidate is presented to two groups, with the only difference being a male or female name at the top of the résumé, the female candidate is seen as less trustworthy than the man. In each study, these biased reactions were found in both women and men.
And realize that when women seek power—for example, by running for the nation’s highest office—a Yale study reports that “participants experienced feelings of moral outrage (i.e. contempt, anger, and/or disgust) towards them” and that “women were just as likely as men to have negative reactions.” In the very same Yale study, when “participants saw male politicians as power-seeking, they also saw them as having greater agency (e.g. being more assertive, stronger and tougher) and greater competence.”
I’ll have more to say about this tomorrow.