Ladies Too Emotional for Politics, Tennis

by new hystericisms

omg-nfw_lIn breaking news yesterday, Hillary Clinton showed emotion. Perhaps not quite up there with the headline “Hillary Clinton staff send her a message: lose the scrunchie,” but at least as important as “Hillary Clinton goes without makeup in Bangledesh,” right? This is of course not the first time the media has jumped at the chance to portray Hillary as a harpie on her rag or a teary-eyed ball of mush who just can’t keep it together, and, okay, GOP Senators being generally annoying is nothing new but, whatever, I’ve still got something to say about it. (Or maybe I’m just another of the overly emotional womenfolk, ammiright)

News articles yesterday pointed out The Secretary of State’s voice “cracking” and “rising” as she spoke with Senator Ron Johnson, whose voice has yet to be analysed, regarding the Benghazi attack. She ended her discussion with him with this statement: “The fact is we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest? Or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided they’d go kill some Americans? What difference, at this point, does it make?” (watch the video here). Exasperated? Who wouldn’t be? But this is the story being told about that exchange:


“Hillary’s emotional outburst

“Emotional Hillary Angrily Denies…”

And even as I search the term now, so many more ridiculous descriptions come up, but you get the point. None of those headlines describe the footage I watched. I saw Clinton respond firmly, stand her ground. She was badass, and knew how to handle irrelevant heckling. But what do I know? Senator Rand Paul would’ve fired her, he said, if he could’ve. (Haha poor guy, it must be killing him) Because that’s what this ploy to generalize women as not in control of their emotion boils down to. Control. Men controlling women. When women in positions of power are portrayed as overly emotional, they are being presented as (the) weak(er sex), as not capable. And let me tell you, Madame Secretary is more than fucking capable.

On ThinkProgress right now there are three articles I can click on. On the left, a GOP rep (male) “flips on” support for Libya. On the right, an Obama official (also male) “calls for” drone transparency  In the middle, Hillary Clinton “scolds” GOP Senator Ron Johnson. Presented are two rational, objective men and a frazzled mother raising her voice (although, in this scenario RJ is a delinquent child, so there is a bright side). The use of this verb for Hillary, especially compared to the completely neutral verbs used for the two men, takes her out of the workplace, out of politics, and attempts to shove her back into an outdated stereotype. As my cowriter described it, women: narrow-minded kitchen things.

Using headlines like these influences the way women are viewed publicly. As Barrett and Bliss-Moreau write,

“women continue to be under-represented in positions of economic and political power that require a level head and a steady hand. Jobs that require rational decision-making and high levels of performance in demanding circumstances would presumably be unsuitable for those who cannot keep their head under pressure.”

And economic and political positions are not the only positions in which women must overcome these overly-emotional-by-nature stereotypes. Today the Pentagon lifts the ban on women in combat. Until today, until 2013, women were still considered too emotional for combat (Rick Santorum, presidential candidate and sulky star of, on the issue: “not in the best interest of men”) And, really: politics, combat, why stop there? In the Australian Open quarter finals yesterday, female tennis players were referred to as too “emotionally unstable” compared to men. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, tennis star and acclaimed scientist, explains: “It’s just about hormones and all this stuff.”  Men, on the other hand, don’t have “all these bad things,” he says. Also, he lost his match.

With these myths and exaggerations functioning as news, the media has an unfortunate influence. Sharon Begley from The Daily Beast describes a study published in Psychological Science that found that subjects attribute women’s angry facial expressions to an emotional nature but the same facial expressions on men to external circumstances. As Begley states, this study demonstrates that “this belief stems not from what men and women actually do but from the explanations given for their behaviors. What we believe determines what we see.” And this is it. We are warned women are too emotional to handle high pressure jobs and so we make it breaking news when a female politician shows emotion in order to undermine her abilities. Or, when that doesn’t work, there is always the manipulative she-devil ploy. Because after all the OMG OUTBURST headlines, the truth came out. Or Senator Paul’s version of it: Clinton planned the emotional outburst because she is a diabolical siren.

In just one day, there were three “news” stories relating to women’s emotions and their abilities in three different fields. This is ridiculous. This is a joke. This needs to change.  HilClint for president of the world.

(Also, for more laughs on the outrageousness of all of this: Feministing’s “How to deal with a mansplainer starring Hillary Clinton in gifs“)

Photo credit: numlok™ / / CC BY-NC-ND