By lauracohn
August 1, 2016

Hillary Clinton set off a Twitterstorm after her historic acceptance speech to the DNC last week. But it had nothing to do with her proposal to create higher-paying jobs—or any other policy for that matter. Instead, Clinton was criticized for not smiling.

The criticism, made in large part by male pundits such as Atlantic editor Steve Clemons, who later apologized, was just the latest in a series of such comments about the Democratic presidential candidate, Fortune‘s Valentina Zarya reports in this smart piece.

Sadly, this is not the first time a powerful woman has had her facial expression remarked upon. Female world leaders have had their body language scrutinized for years, at a level unheard of for male heads of state. When Angela Merkel became chancellor of Germany in 2005, the BBC reported she “gave the briefest flicker of a smile” upon hearing she’d won. More recently, the Telegraph snarkily reported on the incoming British prime minister with the headline: “Yet another political shock: Theresa May is actually smiling.”

For me, telling a woman to smile is insulting. As Fortune‘s Kristen Bellstrom put it in this story, it is condescending to be told “the correct way to feel.” But there are practical considerations, too. Some body language experts say for a politician, too much smiling can be interpreted as submission. And that’s the last thing we want in a world leader.

Laura Cohn


Check out Fortune‘s Broad Strokes, a new Friday video show that highlights the week’s top stories that matter to women, featuring Fortune’s Kristen Bellstrom of our sister publication, The Broadsheet, as well as Fortune‘s Valentina Zarya.


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