Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is struggling with poll ratings in the low single digits and may not make the cut for the first Democratic primary debate. So, naturally, she’s blaming sexism.
“I think it’s just gender bias,” she said in a CNN interview, as reported by the Washington Free Beacon. “I think people are generally biased against women.”
“I think also biased against young women,” she continued. “There’s just bias, and it’s real and it exists, but you have to overcome it.”
Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I definitely fall into the “I Don’t Like Gillibrand for President” camp. The thing is, though, that’s actually not because I am sexist against myself. It’s because the truth is that there are plenty of reasons that have nothing to do with her gender for people — even Democrats — not to like her.
First of all, it’s absolutely true that the candidate who is comfortably at the top of the polls — Joe Biden — is in fact a man. I would argue, however, that this has less to do with his gender and more to do with the fact that he has approximately 9,000,700 (my calculation) times more name recognition than any of the other candidates, male or female. Name recognition matters, particularly early on in the race, where it usually counts more than anything else. (Remember Jeb Bush, everyone?)
Second, let’s take a look at some of the things that Gillibrand has made headlines for. Now, keep in mind, there haven’t been very many, because — I have to say it — this woman is a snooze-fest. Seriously. She’d probably be doing better if she weren’t so soul-crushingly boring; I’d rather have a beer with my ex-boyfriend’s entire family than with her, a person who apparently doesn’t even know that you’re supposed to play beer pong with beer and not water. Clearly, other voters agree with me — I mean, remember when someone walked past her to get ranch dressing? A simple rule of thumb: If your candidate isn’t more enthralling than a condiment, then chances are, she (or he!) is probably not enthralling enough to win a presidential election. If, like Gillibrand, the only headlines a candidate is really making during his or her campaign are ones highlighting what an absolute square and a yawn she is, then she or he is probably not going to do so well.
There’s also, of course, her pro–Second Amendment record, which is something that she used to be proud of. Back during her 2008 campaign, she actually ran on her “A” rating from the NRA. Although she has since tried to walk this back, it’s not going to be something that Democratic voters will easily forget. To many of them, after all, the NRA is literally (and unfortunately, they do mean this literally) just a bunch of child-slaughtering murderers. Her record on this issue could easily be one of the things that might make Democratic voters think twice about choosing her — and, for what it’s worth, her current flip to embrace gun control would make voters like me think twice about it. Truly, she’s caught in a lose–lose on one of the most hot-button issues of our time, which wouldn’t really help anyone.
Another problem? She just seems too much like Hillary Clinton, and voters who want Trump to lose are probably not going to pick someone who reminds them of the person to whom Trump did not lose. Let me be clear: I do not mean that they are alike simply because they are both women. No: As a piece in The Federalist pointed out, there was literally a 2010 Vanity Fair profile titled “In Hillary’s Footsteps: Kirsten Gillibrand,” and the same cannot be said for other female candidates — such as Kamala Harris or Elizabeth Warren, both of whom are doing fairly well, especially compared with Gillibrand. Something that Gillibrand is also doing (that Clinton also did, but that Warren and Harris are not doing) is making her campaign too focused on her gender. She won’t stop reminding voters that she’s a mom, the same way Clinton wouldn’t stop reminding voters that she was a grandmother. In either case, it should be obvious by now that no one cares.
Also like Clinton, she’s been trying really hard to make herself seem like a relatable, regular person. As that same piece in The Federalist points out, she even, to try and convey this, had The Associated Press come to her house for dinner — only to wear an apron that had “creases so sharp it’s clearly been sitting folded in a drawer for a while.” Like Clinton, Gillibrand seems to be falling into the trap of trying so desperately to seem “normal” that she comes off as so obviously fake . . . and voters can spot a fake, regardless of your gender.
Sexism and bias are very real things for women, both young and old. In fact, I’ve been known to say that when you’re a young woman, you’re critiqued for being inexperienced, but once you do become experienced, you’re critiqued for being old.
So I’m not denying the fact that sexism exists in my pushing back on her statement. In fact, it’s quite the opposite: It is because sexism is real that her comments offend me so much. After all, using “sexism” as an explanation every time something goes wrong for you is an excellent way to make people stop listening to accusations of sexism at all — and this issue is one that is simply too important to be trivialized.