It's impossible to deny that women in business and politics still face a certain level of sexism. They're often subjected to heavy scrutiny about their appearances and temperaments in a way that men simply aren't. Much of the longstanding sexist narrative about women in power often revolves around criticism of their voices, and the only female presidential candidate still left in the primary race is well familiar with this. Many political commentators seem to have an unhealthy obsession with dishing out sexist criticisms of Hillary Clinton's voice.
A lot of women can likely relate to the kinds of criticism Clinton has faced. How many women haven't, at some point in their lives, been told by a man to smile, just as MSNBC's Joe Scarborough advised Clinton? And if it's not Clinton's voice, it's her facial expression, her age, her pantsuit, the way she eats, etc.
But nothing seems to ignite as much sexist commentary as Clinton's voice. The stereotype of the "shrill female" is at this point so cliché that I can't help but roll my eyes at the mere suggestion that a woman would benefit if she just "toned it down." All too often, women find their vocal patterns and/or tone of voice used against them, especially when they're vying for positions of power like Clinton.
Here are eight of the most sexist things ever uttered about Clinton's voice during this election.
Bob Woodward Warns Clinton To "Get Off This Screaming Stuff"
During a February 3 appearance on Morning Joe, Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward seemed unable to talk about anything other than Clinton's tone of voice. Talking about Clinton's likability (or lack thereof), he said, "I think a lot of it ... has to do with style and delivery, oddly enough. He went on to do all but call her the dreaded S-word — shrill. "She shouts. There is something unrelaxed about the way she is communicating ... She could make a case for herself if she would just kind of lower the temperature ... get off this screaming stuff."
Male candidates have rarely, if ever, been called out for shouting at campaign rallies. In fact, when Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders shouts (which, let's be real, is basically all the time), he's called passionate.
Geraldo Rivera Claims That The Way Clinton "Shrieks" Is "Unpleasant"
Clinton's tone during her victory speech in Iowa and at a New Hampshire campaign rally the day after seemed a favorite target of critics. Geraldo Rivera railed against the Democratic candidate for her "shrieking" during a February 3 appearance on Fox News' Hannity.
"Why are you screaming? You have a microphone, it's amplified and when you shriek that way, it's such an unpleasant ..." Rivera never got to finish his line of commentary, as host Sean Hannity cut him off to call him on the blatant sexism. Unfortunately, Hannity seemed almost inspired by Rivera's remarks while speaking on his radio program that same day ...
Sean Hannity Characterizes Clinton's Voice As "Angry, Bitter"
While discussing Clinton's speech on his Premiere Radio Network program The Sean Hannity Show, Hannity zeroed in on her tone, calling it "angry, bitter, screaming." Another example of the double standard that exists for women in public positions. Yelling if you're a woman automatically makes you angry. "What is likable about that?" Hannity later asked.
Katie Pavlich Says Clinton's Voice Is "Grating"
Not to harp on Hannity, but the show seems to be a treasure trove of sexist commentary about Clinton. While Hannity's panel of guests discussed why such criticism supposedly isn't sexist, Katie Pavlich bemoaned Clinton's voice as "grating," and seemed to imply it would hinder her in foreign relations:
If Hillary Clinton can't handle some criticism about her voice maybe being a little too grating, I'm not sure she can handle being president of the United States. I guarantee you that Vladimir Putin and the Saudis and everyone else also think that her voice is grating.
Michael Steele Says People Try To Get Away From Clinton's Voice
Former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele attacked Clinton over the pitch of her voice — something few women have control over — while discussing a speech she gave in Detroit on MSNBC's Hardball in early March.
"When you're going up every octave with every word, people are like, 'I have to get some popcorn and get away from this.' You'd think after all the years she would figure that out," Steele said. It was unclear if Steele was referring to the absurd number of years conservatives have been harping on Clinton's voice, or simply her time in the political spotlight.
Howard Kurtz Advises Clinton To Adopt A "More Conversational Tone"
Fox News Host Howard Kurtz live-tweeted his reaction (with a small side of sexism) to a speech Clinton gave before a large, cheering crowd March 15 after winning Democratic primaries in Florida, North Carolina, and Ohio. "Hillary shouting her speech," he tweeted, before going on to offer the politician a bit of unsolicited advice. "A more conversational tone might be better for connecting with folks at home." Because it's OK for men to shout and yell at excited volumes during campaign rallies, but women need to take a softer tone? I hope my intentional, empowered sarcasm is clear right now.
Michelle Malkin Sums Up A Clinton Victory Rally As A "Screech Speech"
Conservative pundit Michelle Malkin, whom you may recall criticized Clinton for looking "haggard" and "like 92 years old" during the 2008 election, used Clinton's March 15 victory speech to levy another sexist attack against the Democratic candidate. "Oh. No. Hillary screech speech ends with 'Fight Song' blaring," she tweeted.
Brit Hume Assumes Clinton Is Mad Because She Speaks Loudly
Fox News political analyst Brit Hume also chimed in on Twitter about Clinton's Ohio victory speech, tweeting that she looked "stern, angry, joyless." "Hillary having a big night in the primaries. So she's shouting angrily in her victory speech," he said in a separate tweet. "Supporters loving it. What's she mad at?" Uh, perhaps she's mad she's still the target of such cliché attacks, Brit.
Even though these sexist criticisms of Clinton's voice happen far too frequently, I'm never any less surprised to hear a man (or a woman!) attacking her for the way her speeches sound, rather than what they contain. Here's hoping we reach a point where women can be treated with the same respect as men. What a novel idea.