[article] Ambition has always been 'ladylike' (repost from NY Times)

August 24, 2020

 

"No one, it is safe to assume, told J.F.K. he was too ambitious.

In 1956, at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, he campaigned aggressively to be vice president, said Keneshia Grant, an associate professor of political science at Howard University. His father, she noted, had even offered to pay for Lyndon B. Johnson’s run if he promised to choose his son as a running mate."

So why do we punish women for openly campaigning or gunning for a job? Why is their pursuit overly ambitious while a male peer is simply "confident"?

Stacey Abrams learned the hard way that being vocal about wanting to be Biden's VP was not palatable for anyone. But seriously, why?

Before being named as Biden's pick, Kamala Harris "had not actually said publicly that she wanted the position. But she did of course run for president — causing at least one Democratic donor to remark that she has too much 'ambition.'” But even not openly seeking a position couldn't protect her from the dreaded label of being an "ambitious woman". 

"Immodest. Ambitious. Unlikable. These are the strangely enduring criticisms that travel with women in politics, no matter how many firsts keep adding up or how numerous their congressional numbers become."

But please, name a SINGLE politician that is not ambitious. Forget about someone who made a run at the presidency, forget all of the other men who were Vice President's before, just think about a single politician who is not ambitious. It is ridiculous. 

"[Valerie] Jarrett is among a group of prominent women who sent a letter to news media leaders last week reminding them of the persistence of double standards in coverage of women in politics. One key bullet point: 'Reporting on a woman’s ambition as though the very nature of seeking political office, or any higher job for that matter is not a mission of ambition.'"

Have we come "a long way" since Geraldine Ferraro was asked if she could bake a blueberry muffin? Sure, but clearly we haven't come far enough if we are still demonizing ambitious women. 

"If you are a Black woman, and you show up in a space with new ideas, asking people to be different than they have before, then you are subject to this criticism about not knowing your place, being too ambitious, wanting too much.”

So what to do?

"Joan C. Williams, who runs the Center for WorkLife Law at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law, and is an author of 'What Works for Women at Work,' has called this 'gender judo': The idea that women can counter the bias to those stereotypically 'masculine' behaviors, like ambition, by exhibiting stereotypically 'feminine' behaviors, like warmth or friendliness."

Basically, taking the advice to "smile more" to a whole new level. The problem is, while that works for White women, Black women can't save themselves with a smile. 

"Black women may in fact be more ambitious than white women in the corporate world — as shown in some recent studies — but they still face unequal challenges once there, including, in some cases, disproportionate sanctions for on-the-job mistakes."

Thankfully, one "study found that 48 percent of Black girls surveyed identified as leaders — the highest of all ethnic groups. One key factor that seemed to contribute to that result: having role models." 

Now they have Kamala. 

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