Damned If You Do (Cry), Damned If You Don’t

By Sallie Krawcheck

Well, that didn’t take long, did it?

In politics, you expect the other side to go on attack. It’s how the game is played. Fair enough.

It’s the friendly fire — or, more accurately, the supposedly neutral fire — that hurts.

It’s the patronizing, condescending stuff. The stuff you read that you don’t quite register at first as being patronizing and condescending — because we’re so used to it — that low-grade eats away at how we think about a woman in power.

It’s a few days into the announcement that Kamala Harris will be the candidate for vice president of the United States, and opinion columnist Frank Bruni at the New York Times has noted that she’s not showing enough emotion for his taste. And then de facto advised her on how much emotion is the right amount of emotion for him to be won over by her.

She’s a Black, Indian American woman; a senator; a former attorney general of California; the second Black woman senator; the first South Asian American senator; the presumptive Democratic vice presidential nominee. She is the first Black woman to run for that office on a major party ticket and just the third woman to do so. She’s run for president. Regardless of your politics, there’s no getting away from the fact that she is one helluva force of nature.

But, hey, Frank Bruni sits down at his computer — having never won an elected office in his life, having never been a woman, having never been a Black or brown person — to advise her of his opinion on the right amount of emotion for her to show.

It’s the journalistic equivalent of “Give us a smile.” Except that it’s in the pages of a global newspaper, not a construction site on the corner.

Now, just to be clear, this is the same Frank Bruni who proclaimed in a headline back in February that “‘Nobody Likes’ Bernie Sanders. It Doesn’t Matter.” And then went on to say in the subheadline: “In American politics now, ideas are more important than charm.”

“It doesn’t matter” — unless, I guess, you’re Senator Harris. Then Bruni’s subheadline instead asks whether “she can make you cry.”

I’ll tell you what makes me cry: the higher standard that women politicians (and, OK, women in business) are held to.

Even in 2020. Even after all we’ve been through.

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Sallie Krawcheck

Sallie Krawcheck is the Founder & CEO of Ellevest.