Wednesday, January 30, 2013

One Woman’s ‘emotional’ is another Man’s ‘passionate’.

If ever you need to see sexism in the way the media report on leaders who are women, keep an eye on Hillary Clinton’s activity in any news article around the world. Currently the Secretary of State is being questioned in the congressional hearings about the attacks on the USA diplomatic compound in Benghazi  September 2012.

Here are some terms used to describe her tone, actions and behavior. I have pulled these from a variety of news outlets over the last week or so.


Descriptors used for Senator Rodham-Clinton

Heated voice

choked up



Described her “Chopping arms”


Strong emotional toll

Emotional and fierce

Frigid veneer



The men mentioned

Tough questions



Dogged  and successful


When they spoke the word “said” was the describer.


So when they were described as “calm”, she had a “frigid veneer”.

When they were tough, she had a “heated voice”

When they were passionate, she had “chopping arms”

When they were dogged and successful, she screeched.


Let me clarify. This write up is irrelevant to how I feel about Senator Clinton. (Honestly – I have mixed feelings about her.) It’s about how I see powerful women portrayed in the media.

How their ideas are represented. Opinions slanted and demeanor reported for the sake of “humanizing” the person. How often do we bother to “humanize” male leaders by reporting on whether they are tired or not, what they are wearing and describing their tone?

Not often, which makes me think that “humanizing” someone is just a charming phrasing for “dragging them down to our level”.

So next time you see one of our leaders described in the government house, take a look at the language used.

It’s a powerful tool, to humanise, dehumanise, or just plain undermine someone’s statement.