Friday, February 29, 2008

Paging Women's Leadership Gurus!

Following on the heels of oppression olympics comes a spin with far more freshness--and potential gender bendery? I'm talking, of course, about the way that Obama is now being tongue-in-cheek referred to as a female candidate for president in the same way that Bill Clinton was talked about as the first black president. Check out Newsweek's piece, "The First Woman President?" for the latest iteration, by Martin Linsky, co-founder of Cambridge Leadership Associates and a faculty member at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. As Linsky notes:
[Obama] is pushing against conventional—and political party nominating convention—wisdom in five important ways, with approaches that are usually thought of as qualities and values that women bring to organizational life: a commitment to inclusiveness in problem solving, deep optimism, modesty about knowing all the answers, the courage to deliver uncomfortable news, not taking on all the work alone, and a willingness to air dirty linen. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, is taking a more traditional (and male?) authoritarian approach.

...As a woman, Clinton feels constrained to portray herself as tough, competitive, willing to take on the bad guys. She has to be more male than men, in the same way that women are reluctant to leave the office early to pick up their children at day care because they fear they will not be thought of as serious about their careers, while men are applauded for doing so.

Obama can raise possibilities that are off the table for Clinton. She needs to tell us that she can solve our problems. Obama seems comfortable in what we think of as a female role: not overpromising what he can accomplish, and telling us that the work of change is ours as much as it is his.

What do the women's leadership research gurus out there think of the way all this is being framed? (Paging my girls at Catalyst! See also comments by rhetoric scholar J.K. Gayle on previous posts.)

Again, kudos to feministingfor the heads up. Image cred.


J. K. Gayle said...

Other Voices on Obama:

Rachel's Tavern - "Serious Question…for Everyone About Racial Double Standards"

Dr. Helen (Smith) - " Is Obama Feminized?"

Phyllis Chesler - "Obama Is Our First Muslim Presidential Contender"

Catherine Morgan said...

I wanted you to know, that I nominated you for Women's Voices Making History. Your blog is on my list of over 300 women blogging about politics, and I am currently going through it, and nominating blogs that I think are most worthy. Anyone can nominate a blogger, so if you have others you would like to nominate, all you have to do is go to the site at Women's Voices, Women Vote. :-)



Deborah Siegel said...

Thank you JK! And Catherine, I can't tell you how much you made my day. Thank you for the nomination, and for your sweet props. I'm off to check out your list of 300 -- and will link to it soon!

B. Gutsch said...

Obama the female candidate? Clinton the male candidate? This is insulting to women. Also, I know all these manly men love Hillary (sarcastic pause) but she is a woman so they need to stop trying to claim her. ;) More seriously, I think we need to drop these labels completely. This is turning into a Chapelle-style "gender draft."