House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told CNN's Candy Crowley on Sunday that she agreed with Hillary Clinton's statement that the media's double standard for women is "alive and well." She added that "from my own standpoint, I never expected anything but a double standard." Which is a sad, true way to talk about the challenges female leaders continue to face.
Clinton spoke on the subject last week during a panel kicking off Tina Brown's Women in the World summit. Clinton, who has been targeted by various outlets for her sartorial choices, focused on the media's role in propagating a double standard.
If Pelosi seems dismissive of Clinton's critique, it might be because Clinton didn't go far enough in her discussion of double standards. The media is often just a symptom of the deeper problem — which is that what women wear and how they look is a factor in how they are perceived within the world of politics, not just outside it. "I don't know if its the media or people say things, it's news that you have cover," she says to Crowley.
The topic is always relevant, it is especially poignant following recent uses of misogynistic tropes by male leaders. On Sunday, former NSA and CIA director Michael Hayden warned that an important report on the CIA's detention and interrogation programs could be compromised because of Sen. Dianne Feinstein's delicate disposition on Fox News Sunday. Fox reports:
Hayden zeroed in on Feinstein recently saying that declassifying the report would "ensure that an un-American, brutal program of detention and interrogation will never again be considered or permitted." Hayden told “Fox News Sunday”: “That sentence, that motivation for the report, may show deep, emotional feeling on the part of the senator. But I don't think it leads you to an objective report."
He added, shamelessly, that any doubt of Feinstein's objectivity was purely speculative, telling host Chris Wallace, "you’re asking me about a report that I have no idea of its content. No one responsible for that report has spoken a word… so it’s very hard for me to make a judgment." Well, not that hard to make a judgment, apparently.
And last month, an investigation paid for by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's office explained that that whole Bridgegate thing was prompted by deputy chief of staff Bridget Anne Kelly's emotional state after she was abandoned by a man. The New York Times editorial board noted last month that inquiry into Bridgegate was essentially an inquiry into the fragile female mind:
The inquiry delves deeply into the personal relationship between Ms. Kelly and Bill Stepien, a former campaign manager also expelled by Mr. Christie. The report says that Ms. Kelly wrote the now-famous email calling for “traffic problems in Fort Lee” at a time when their relationship “had cooled, apparently at Stepien’s behest.” It makes the absurd assertion that “events in Kelly’s personal life may have had some bearing on her subjective motivations and state of mind."
In order to cope with the retrograde standards, both Clinton and Pelosi said they had to develop a thick skin. According to Clinton, young women seeking public office should “grow a skin as thick as the hide of a rhinoceros." ABC reports that she recommended listeners "should take criticism seriously.... but you can't let it crush you," adding that it "takes a sense of humor about yourself and others. Believe me, this is hard-won advice that I am now putting forth here." And Pelosi told Crowley that "as one who has been the speaker of the House, I've had to have a very thick skin about every kind of thing that was thrown at me."
Don't worry, ladies, we're sure your male counterparts have some advice that will help you soften that skin right up. Nobody likes a cracked complexion.