The Daily Beast’s Megan McArdle makes a good point here about the different way people respond to men and women in the political sphere:
When Stephanie Cutter does her job right, she wins the news cycle–and the people who have lost take a double blow. They were beaten, and they were beaten by a woman. It’s galling.
Which is why Rush Limbaugh garners outrage and fear, while Michelle Malkin garners a sort of hysterical contempt, incredulity mixed with horror mixed with “How dare that uppity [expletive deleted] state her stupid opinions!” And why the reaction to both Hilary Clinton and Sarah Palin was somewhat out of proportion to their actual faults.
The worst part is that no one can see themselves doing it. It seems to me objectively true that female commentators and political operatives on both sides of the aisle get disproportionate censure–and moreover, that there is a distinctly sexist undertone to a lot of the criticism.
I think part of this is we’re still learning what female leadership looks and sounds like. (I thought one of the most fascinating scenes in The Iron Lady was seeing the effort Margaret Thatcher made — to the point of taking lessons! — to make her voice less shrill when talking.) A woman is not exactly commanding in the same way a man is. During the convention, I was struck by how Condoleeza Rice was a powerful speaker, but also in a very feminine way: she wasn’t just imitating the way men talk.
Now, of course, there’s plenty of completely non-sexist criticism of Stephanie Cutter and Hillary Clinton (and of Bachmann and Palin). But as someone who was appalled by the hysteria Palin — a smart, attractive, pro-life woman who juggled being a governor with raising five kids — generated, and also upset over how many on the right seem to think an anti-Hillary piece isn’t complete without attaching a photo of her looking as tired and old as possible, I think McArdle’s argument deserves discussion.