It was inevitable that someone would suggest that Carly Fiorina should try to exhibit a warmer personality on the debate stage. The comment was made on one of the news channels, I don’t recall which. Later on, a young man in the Fox News focus group said that he had seen her in a public gathering and she was quite friendly.
Regardless of whether more people think Fiorina is warm or not, women know that they must first convince the world that they are to be taken seriously before exhibiting normal human emotions. Strangely, in our “advanced” society, the male candidates are given much more leeway to show the full range of human emotions. A sentimental Gov. Chris Christie used stories of his 9/11 experience to appeal to the emotions of the audience. He didn’t have to deal with headlines like:
“’Emotional,’ ‘implusive’ Bachmann erred on vaccine issue, ex-aides say”1
… ironically, Donald Trump addressed the effects of a specific vaccine anecdotally during the CNN debate, but was not judged in the same way in the media.
Christie and his fellow male candidates on both sides of the aisle don’t plan their next speech with this hanging over them:
“It’s very hard to find the balance between appearing strong and tough and caring and engaged and then crossing your line to where you’ll be labeled shrill and bitchy…”2
Carly Fiorina’s strategy is smart. In the initial “second tier” Republican debate (August 6 on Fox News), she knew she had to be informed and forceful in order to stand out. She accomplished this in a group of seven candidates. Improving poll numbers had her placed in the “prime time debate” on September 16 hosted by CNN. Same strategy with the same result, only this time in a crowd of eleven. In addition, she became the first of the Republican hopefuls to put Donald Trump in his rightful place.
I am confident that the time will soon come where she will be able to show her non-competitive side without being penalized. Still, she will keep this in mind, for a recent study showed:
“If males show emotion they are not deemed unstable, but are instead patriotic. These double standards set an uneven playing field for female candidates. The media coverage of male candidates historically focuses on their character and key issues in the campaign. Female candidates must deal with those issues in addition to many more which creates a burden upon female candidates.”3
In the end, it won’t matter. Carly Fiorina is up to any challenge.
1 – (LA Times typo, must have intended “impulsive”) article by James Oliphant, Los Angeles Times, http://articles.latimes.com/2011/sep/15/news/la-pn-bachmann-vaccine-20110915, 9/15/2011
2 – from Diana Owen, an associate professor of political science and the chair of American studies at Georgetown University, as quoted in “Can Clinton’s Emotions Get the Best of Her?”, by Emily Friedman, ABC News, http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/Vote2008/story?id=4097786&page=1, 1/8/2008
3 – “Media Gender Bias in the 1984 and 2008 Vice Presidential Elections,” Undergraduate Honors Thesis at Utah State University by Katherine Shaunesi Reeves, http://digitalcommons.usu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1031&context=honors, 12/1/2009