As 2018 drew to a close, Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren announced that she would be running for president in 2020. The news sparked excitement among many on the left, but it wasn’t long before many began wondering if Warren would fall victim to the same sexist double standards that Hillary Clinton did in 2016. Specifically, would critics claim Warren isn’t “likable” enough to win the presidency. In a recent speech, Clinton herself called out this line of thinking.
According to Politico, Clinton spoke at an event for Governor Andrew Cuomo at New York City’s all-women’s Barnard College on January 7th. In her address, the former presidential candidate praised New York’s female legislators for their work protecting reproductive rights.
While Clinton’s remarks were met with laughter and applause, during her 2016 campaign, she faced countless sexist attacks and persistent questioning about her “likability.” After she became the first female presidential nominee to represent a major political party, newspaper headlines wondered if she was “likable enough,” and outlets like The Washington Post reported that her favorability ratings had taken a nose dive. Conversely, male candidates like Bernie Sanders didn’t face the same scrutiny. One New York Magazine headline about Sanders even argued that he had turned “grumpiness into charm.”
As Clinton alluded to in her speech, Warren’s “likability” has already become an issue to watch. A December 31st Politico article, for example, fretted that she might be “written off as too unlikable before her campaign gets off the ground.”
Questioning a female politician’s likability ignores the question we should be asking: What are the candidate’s qualifications? Hopefully, the years to come will see many female presidential candidates—all of whom will be judged on their merits, and their merits alone.