It’s one of the worst things you can say to a woman
“Smile.” It’s one of the most demeaning catcalls a woman can hear while walking down the street, simply trying to go about her day.
Recently, this catcall wasn’t delivered on the street to an unassuming stranger, but directed at Hillary Clinton via a tweet by Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee. In the tweet, Priebus accuses Clinton of being “angry and defensive” during the Commander-in-Chief Forum held on NBC News Wednesday night. Apparently, Clinton’s proposed strategies for defeating ISIS didn’t matter as much as the fact that she wasn’t smiling while addressing them.
On the other side of the spectrum, Donald Trump has used expletives while outlining his plan for defeating ISIS, saying at one rally in Iowa, “I would bomb the shit out of ‘em.” Somehow, shouting aggressive and unintelligible slurs counts as respectable presidential behavior, but having a stern expression while discussing terrorism does not.
While it’s certainly problematic to expect a presidential candidate to discuss ISIS with gleeful enthusiasm, the bigger issue is that Priebus expects Clinton to smile but does not expect the same of her male counterparts. Unfortunately, this would not be the first time Clinton has faced this sexist double standard. A video posted last month rounded up the countless sexist comments lobbed at Clinton, exposing 40 years of sexism in just three minutes.
In a time when women are earning more college degrees than men and dominating in just about every professional field, it’s disheartening that we still expect women in power to exude strength and exercise a firm command while simultaneously embodying a non-threatening, feminine exterior. Illustrator Sarah Cooper recently published a satirical comic series to her blog called “9 Non-Threatening Leadership Strategies for Women” that pokes fun at the impossible balance women are expected to strike in the workplace.
Which begs the question: If we held male leaders to the same standards as powerful women, how many men would be left in positions of power?