What is it with women like Sheila Bair, former head of the FDIC, who is just soooo difficult, and Elizabeth Warren, creator and designer of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, who is just soooo controversial and now U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D, FL-20) who is just soooo not acting like a lady?
I mean, really. Who do we think we are when we use our voice – a voice that was selected and in many cases, elected, from among many others to be heard and to give voice to people and issues that matter? To actually be heard, only to then fall below the expectations of acting like a lady! of always being non-controversial! of being…EASY (as opposed to difficult)! Come on – aren’t elected women supposed to be easy?!
Sigh – As so many tweets that are hashtagged with #actlikealady demonstrate (thank you to EMILY’s List), it is positively absurd to suggest that because a woman stands her ground on an issue, she is therefore in violation of a gender-based stereotyped expectation, placed on her by men who are similarly situated but who are expected to act similarly. Anyone remember U.S. Rep. Joe “You lie!” Wilson (R, TX) being told that he’s not acting like a lady? No – because the standard isn’t whether, once you are an elected official or a public servant, you must behave according to a gender stereotype at all times – or any time. The standard for an elected or public official’s behavior is that you behave like the public servant you are: advocating for, you know – the public. Are there behavioral expectations? You bet. Should they be based on gender – in such a way as to suggest that women are otherwise hysterical or out of order because they are not conforming to that gender stereotype?
Do not even answer that question unless you are going to give an unequivocal, unambiguous, “Hell no.”
Over and over again I have said, since early on after I was elected, that an undercurrent expectation of civility is used to suggest that we (electeds and public figures) should not voice disagreements or even strong sentiments in open Council meetings. In the case of Bair, Warren and DSW, this expectation is extended to suggest that they damage all members of their gender for failing to conform to others’ gendered expectations (of what a lady acts like, of not being controversial, of not being difficult).
I firmly disagree with that expectation. Rather, I believe that at all times, we are to remain respectful of colleagues. But that should never be wielded as a way to intimidate anyone out of voicing an opinion (simply because someone has an expectation that voicing a differing opinion is somehow uncivil). That possession and voicing of a differing opinion, in and of itself, is not uncivil – or unladylike. But trying to intimidate an elected or public official into thinking that doing so is uncivil or unladylike? Now that, to me, is what is uncivil – and extraordinarily undemocratic.
If you want to learn how to be an elected or public official who must manage low-throw highly personal lobs, watch these two clips – the first is Wasserman Schultz today with Andrea Mitchell and the second is Elizabeth Warren from Monday:
Hattip on the DWS situation to Brian Hester of Plunderbund.
Many thanks to U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand who has started this petition where you can indicate that you stand with DWS and the imperative that we stand firm when it comes to protecting what we believe in. She has been positively unflinching in her adamant support for her beliefs in as strong language and action as anyone but no more so than when it comes to showing her support for other elected women and women interested in public service work.
And by the way – when then U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter – a Democrat in 2010 – disparaged Republican presidential candidate but then just U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann for not acting like a lady, don’t you know that conservatives lambasted Specter? Read more here. Now with the Tea Party’s Allen West – not so much.
Finally – if you really are not convinced that we should all just move along and there’s nothing to this gendered stereotyping thing intended to put women in their place, all you need to do is look at the flipside.
What is that flipside? The attacks being lobbed at Michele Bachmann regarding her health and headaches. The unnamed sources pressing a narrative intended to make people buy into yet another gender stereotype of weak, incapacitated menopausal-aged women who certainly cannot manage their “condition” in order to get through a day let alone a presidency are having a blast I’m sure watching the media go all over this one. And it’s just as wrong as the three examples which started this post.
This gender-based crap has got to stop. The most telling, instructive thing about it? It tells you who really are the weak ones.