Cultures all over the world have embraced the idea that women and men are different. Men are often praised for being “passionate” when they show emotion. Women, on the other had are regularly criticized for being “weak.” Even respected female political leaders can not escape this stereotype. The Washington Post reports that Israel’s prime minister hopeful, Tzipi Livni has previously avoided playing the “gender card” for fear of appearing weak.
Unfortunately, Livni’s concerns are valid. The stereotype that women are overly emotional and weak recently made itself evident during the United States election. At a New Hampshire campaign stop, Hillary Clinton was asked, “How do you do it?” Clinton’s response began “It’s not easy, and I couldn’t do it if I didn’t passionately believe it was the right thing to do. You know I have (had) so many opportunities from this country (I) just don’t want to see us fall backwards.” Then, her voice began to break and her eyes became moist as she continued to say, “It’s about our country, it’s about our kids’ futures, and it’s really about all of us together.” (Clinton) The Washington Post responded with a headline: “An Emotional Clinton Reflects on How She Does It,” which is mild criticism compared to The Hollywood Gossip’s headline “Hillary Clinton Cries, Breaks Down on Campaign Trail.” There were possibly hundreds of similar headlines. When I saw the video clip of the actual incident, I was shocked by the extreme exaggeration. The fabrication was of gender roles had been preserved. The female candidate was portrayed as weak, instead of passionate.
Despite Livni’s concern of appearing weak, her party is encouraging Israelis to vote for her to become the first female prime minister in three decades. The Washington Post did not criticize Livni as harshly as they had Clinton, but the report contained negative undertones. However, a formal opinion was never stated.
In the study, Confirming gender stereotypes: A social role perspective, the goal was to “examine whether emotional vulnerability leads women and men to confirm gender stereotypes.” The results indicated that men exhibit fewer emotionally expressive behaviors, more emotionally restrictive behaviors, and more withdrawal behaviors when they discuss an emotionally difficult topic with their partner. Women, on the other hand, remain relatively stable whether they are discussing an emotionally difficult topic or an emotionally easy topic. Thus, the stereotype that women are overly emotional is preserved, but is false.
Personally, I applaud Livni’s decision to appeal to female voters. After all, she is a strong candidate and should not be kept in fear of being considered weak. I support any effort to overcome the false, but widely accepted gender stereotypes.