So today I thought I’d offer a quick riff about double standards.
Case number one, the most obvious: Rep. John Boehner’s weepathon on “60 Minutes.” The prospective Speaker of the House cries. Don’t know why. But as USC Professor Kathleen Reardon points out on HuffPo, it’s perfectly fine — if somewhat creepy — if a Republican male cries on TV, but can you imagine the outcry if Nancy Pelosi had done the same? From Reardon’s post (Note: videos from “60 Minutes” are embedded here):
Men get to cry with impunity lately, especially those considered tough, stiff, distant, difficult, demanding or dispassionate. The context matters; nowadays in politics talking about old friends, soldiers, children, harm done to one’s family, or personal challenges provide opportunities when a tear or two can do more good than harm.
Republican crying is more acceptable than Democratic crying because liberals are expected to be softer – “bleeding hearts.” Republicans are perceived as tougher, less sensitive, often more concerned with business priorities. So, crying works well for them. It’s the violation of expectations that makes conservative crying persuasive. It’s the beauty of not being predictable.
Women, whether in business or politics, are in a more difficult position with regard to any sort of emoting. Since it is expected of them, crying doesn’t serve as a balancing technique. It merely confirms that they are soft. Of course, if a woman like Margaret Thatcher were to shed a tear, it would violate expectations and in the right context might serve her well — once or twice.
Yet the tough Nancy Pelosi won’t take that risk. When asked about John Boehner’s tendency to cry, Pelosi responded:
“You know what? He is known to cry. He cries sometimes when we’re having a debate on bills. If I cry, it’s about the personal loss of a friend or something like that. But when it comes to politics — no, I don’t cry. I would never think of crying about any loss of an office, because that’s always a possibility, and if you’re professional, then you deal with it professionally.”
You can’t blame Pelosi. She remembers what happened to Hillary Clinton.
So do we. She cried on the campaign trail. And was roundly castigated for it: How, you know, like a woman to be so emotional. And so it goes. Need we say more?
Case in point number two: While reading the paper on Sunday, I came across a curious, dated expression not once but twice. Family Man. As an accolade. Really, hadn’t that phrase had gone the way of the beehive hairdo? Apparently not. The first reference came via a column about our newly elected District Attorney and his newly appointed chief deputy, his best friend. The columnist took pains to note that both were “dedicated family men”, each with two kids. The subtext? Well, it might have been to note that though the two men are close, they are decidedly hetero. But that’s beside the point. The implication is that, because they are fathers, well, you can trust them to get the job done. More in a minute.
The second reference was to some movie star or other. I think it was Matt Damon. But again — and I’m embarrassed to admit that I read such stuff, but what the hell, it gave me meat for a riff — shortly after the nutgraf, he was described as a “family man.” As in, what a guy!
Now, I like families as much as the next girl. I have one of my own, which I guess means you could call my husband a dedicated family man. But have you ever heard of a “family woman”? Yeah, thought not. And here’s where that double standard comes in. As we discuss (okay, at length) in our book, studies have shown that women are held back in their careers because they have families, which is bad enough, but also because they might have families. It’s called the maternal wall, and there’s an impenetrable bias there. As one of our sources, University of Illinois business professor Jenny Hoobler, told us: “ If a man has a picture of a child in the office, it makes them look like they’re stable, like a good, solid trustworthy employee, but if a woman has pictures in the office, it looks like, uh-oh, she’s not really dedicated to the career. Will she leave the workplace early to pick up her kids? Will she take an extended maternity leave? Will she even come back after the birth of her next child?”
Ugh, right? Right?
And then, there’s this: A study on fathers out of the Boston College Center for Work and Family found that the dads confirmed that having a baby enhanced their self-image at work, in terms of reputation, credibility and even career options.
I’m sure there are a plenty more examples, but, frankly, I’m off to find my Kleenex. And so, I leave the cries and whispers to you. Anything to add?