Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Gina Haspel has a year of navigating the CIA-Trump relationship behind her, 23andMe’s BRCA test isn’t always right, and too many Americans still think women are “emotionally” unfit for politics. Have a wonderful Wednesday.
• Emotional baggage. Is 2019 a good year to be a woman in politics? It seems like a simple question. After all, there are currently a record six women running for the Democratic presidential nomination, while the 116th Congress includes more female lawmakers than ever before.
Yet a new analysis from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce (CEW) suggests that, despite the undeniable progress, female candidates continue to face a significant headwind that has absolutely nothing to do with their abilities or qualifications: 13% of Americans—or roughly one in 10—still believe men are better “emotionally suited” for politics than women.
That’s a question researchers have been asking via the General Social Survey since the 1970s (which explains the dated-sounding turn of phrase). And although it doesn’t specify what, exactly, the respondents believe women’s emotional shortcomings to be, Nicole Smith, chief economist at CEW and co-author of the report, says the “subtext” of the question is clear.
“When you use the word ’emotion’ and you put it in the same sentence as ‘women,’ it’s playing to the stereotype that when it comes to very important decisions… women might be more likely to make an emotional determination with their heart, rather than with their head,” Smith told me. “Part of the concern here plays to the stereotype that women can be hysterical, that women can fly off the handle—that women shouldn’t have their finger on the button.”
While it’s depressing to see the tired old trope of the “hysterical woman” persist, the analysis also indicates that the stereotype is on the wane. The share of Americans who said men were better suited to politics peaked at about 50% in 1975 and has been trending downward ever since. The researchers found that many of the distinctions about who is mostly likely to buy into the idea that women are less suited are fading. For instance, the gap between younger and older respondents has narrowed dramatically over the past decades.
There are, however, still two factors that have significant influence on how one views the issue: political affiliation and education. The analysis shows that “strong Republicans” of both genders are almost three times as likely as “strong Democrats” to show bias against women in politics. On the education side, Americans with less than a high school diploma are almost twice as likely as those with a bachelor’s degree to say men were more emotionally suited for the political arena.
For female candidates, the implications are clear. Thirteen percent could easily be, as Smith puts it, “the difference between winning and losing”—especially when women face an uphill battle on “likability” and superficial judgements on everything from their facial expressions to their clothing.
“Women are not starting at the starting line,” says Smith. “Women are starting four or five paces behind.”
ALSO IN THE HEADLINES
• A year of Haspel. In her first year on the job, CIA Director Gina Haspel has kept the peace with President Trump by drawing on her spycraft skills—listening, empathy, and an ability to connect—while directing her agency to address Trump’s priorities in addition to their own.
New York Times
• BRCA misses. At Anne Wojcicki’s 23andMe, customers testing their risk for breast cancer have been told they didn’t carry any of three variants of the BRCA gene—only to find out after developing breast cancer or trying another test that they carried a form of the mutation that 23andMe didn’t test for. The genetic testing company only tests for three genetic variants usually carried by Ashkenazi Jews, missing the breast cancer genetic risk factors among other groups of women.
New York Times
• Inside FB, again. A new Wired story documents “15 months of fresh hell inside Facebook”—including VP of global public policy Joel Kaplan’s public support for Brett Kavanaugh. Sheryl Sandberg and Mark Zuckerberg didn’t know he was going to be at the hearings; “That way, Joel gets to go. Facebook gets to remind people that it employs Republicans. Sheryl gets to be shocked. And Mark gets to denounce it,” one executive said.
• Alarming allegations. We finally know more about the puzzling arrest in Minneapolis last summer of JD.com founder and CEO Liu Qiangdong, who also goes by Richard. Prosecutors declined to press charges, but now a civil lawsuit by University of Minnesota student Liu Jingyao accuses Liu of sexual assault and false imprisonment, among other claims. The Chinese billionaire has denied all wrongdoing. JD.com itself is named as a defendant; it’s accused of being liable for Liu’s conduct because he was on campus as part of his CEO role.
Wall Street Journal
MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Claire Hodgson was named EIC of Cosmopolitan U.K. Former International Game Developers Association head Jen MacLean joins Amazon Game Tech as head of worldwide business development.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
• Respect. This week’s Pulitzer Prize decisions brought a posthumous milestone to Aretha Franklin. The superstar is the first individual woman and the first black woman to be granted a special award and citation, out of 41 since 1930.
• Sneaking into stadiums. A stunning photo essay by Forough Alaei follows Zeinab, an Iranian woman who disguises herself as a man to watch soccer matches, which had been off-limits for women in Iran for 40 years. At the end, Zeinab cries as she is finally able to watch a game dressed as herself.
• Survey says… Speaking of Brett Kavanaugh, a new survey shows how those emotional confirmation hearings affected American men and women. The “Kavanaugh effect” pushed many people to vote for Democrats in the 2018 midterm elections; but among Republican men specifically, the hearings made them “more sexist and less likely to believe women who say they were assaulted.”
• The voice of Afghan women. Afghanistan’s First Lady Rula Ghani is a voice for Afghan women during ongoing peace talks—even though her husband’s administration is excluded from them. Ghani’s office surveyed 15,000 Afghan women, including in provinces controlled by the Taliban; in these talks, Ghani calls herself “the little stone you put under the urn so it will not fall.”