Society Magazine

Why Do We Still Belittle Female Leaders?

Posted on the 09 October 2015 by Juliez
Why Do We Still Belittle Female Leaders?

The Dalai Lama

If a woman were to take over his role, the Dalai Lama said in September, she “must be attractive, otherwise it is not much use.”

The self-proclaimed feminist’s comment predictably and justifiably spurred anger and disapproval. While the sexist statement is certainly upsetting in and of itself, it also indicates an even bigger problem: Women in leadership positions — even, in this case, a hypothetical one — are derided in a way that men are not. Women leaders are often evaluated in terms of an impossible double standard based on a feminine, maternal stereotype. Take female political candidates, for example: They are frequently judged as to whether or not they are adequately loving and devoted mothers while simultaneously discredited for the same role. Just last month, for example, Senator Richard Black referred to his opponent, Jill McCabe, who proudly identifies as a devoted mother and advocate for equal pay for women, as only being a “mother” and a doctor in a tweet. Male candidates’ parenting ability and roles in their families are rarely questioned at all. In addition to facing this dichotomy, female leaders often face straight-forward sexist belittlement. One need look no further than the way Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards was treated during a recent House Oversight Committee hearing. Richards was interrogated by Committee chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who pompously dismissed the leader of the organization by interrupting and cutting her off multiple times. The Dalai Lama’s comment was sexist, inappropriate and disappointing. But that a religious leader revered by millions of people feels comfortable going on national TV and making this comment reveals that there is a much bigger issue at hand. While the Dalai Lama should be held accountable for these comments, so should the broader society that created the context for him to make them in the first place.

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