They Even Tell Hillary: You Don't Have Authority, You’re a Woman

This time Clinton will be elected, albeit not before the media address that female weak spot — credibility. It's no different in Israel.

Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, speaks during a campaign rally at The Fillmore, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S., April 20, 2016.
Andrew Harrer, Bloomberg

In an episode of the hilarious American comedy “Veep,” in a fit of impotent rage, Selina Meyers’ campaign manager tells her boss that because of her spectacularly bad performance as president, "The fact that you are a woman means we will have no more women presidents.” Meyers’ gender appears to supply the main comedy, as a result of which no one, including Meyers herself, is capable of taking her seriously.

That feeling spurred me to write in 2008, in the run-up to the Democratic National Convention, that Hillary Clinton wouldn't win her party’s nomination. I was in New York at the time and was happy to peddle that slice of absurdity anywhere I could. A young Jewish-American man explained to me as he gave me a patient smile and patted my arm with a gesture generally reserved for the simpleminded that America would never elect a president whose surname rhymed with Osama.

On the flight home I read a fascinating article written from the Obama campaign trail that more or less repeated his argument, but I didn't waver in the face of that prestigious magazine's authority. I knew that America was less ready for a female president than even for a black man with a dubious name.

The rest is history, with the exception of the unchanged present. What the fictitious Meyers and the flesh-and-blood Clinton lack is that elusive quality known as authority — the final unconquered fortress for women who operate in politics, whether as commentators, politicians or other people of influence.

This time Clinton will be elected, albeit not before the media address that female weak spot — credibility. Clinton’s email scandal replaced the question that hovered over her in the 2008 Democratic primaries: Who do you want answering the red phone at 3 A.M.?

Israel is having its own quasi-election campaign. The government’s dysfunction inspires analysts and columnists to propose utopian or realistic alternatives; someone who could take the helm and keep the ship of state from smashing into the iceberg.

And who are the suggested saviors? Surprise, surprise, men. I wouldn’t whine about it if not for the fact that male columnists are taken much more seriously than their female counterparts, for the reason I've already mentioned. Authority is a synonym for masculinity: You see it in the television studios, you hear it on the radio and you share it on social media. The voice of authority ranges from baritone to bass. Women who adopt it still sound aggressive or didactic to the average ear.

It’s a hidden assumption, but it validates itself in a hermetic circle. If the biology of authority is male, the female organ is the heart. And since gender identity still outweighs original thought in political discourse, we're fated to years of symbiosis between mediocre leadership and stagnant political and ideological discussion.

Every week a beam of light is shined on the political establishment, and the luminary of the moment — Moshe Ya’alon or Gabi Ashkenazi or Benny Gantz — bathes in it. But it also illuminates whoever is holding the floodlight; the elector is no less important than the elected. It's perfect reciprocity that leaves good female politicians, commentators and people of influence in the arena's shadier edges.