There Is Literally No Facial Expression Hillary Clinton Can Make to Please Male Pundits

September 27, 2016, 2:39 PM UTC
Campaign 2016 Debate
Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton laughs to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump during the presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., Monday, Sept. 26, 2016. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Julio Cortez — AP

Smile too little and you’re cold. Smile too much and you’re “condescending.”

That’s the message male pundits are sending to Hillary Clinton, whose pearly whites have become a major topic of discussion this election season.

During the Democratic primaries back in March, MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough tweeted to Clinton: “Smile. You just had a big night.” Female social media users were swift to call out the host’s comment as sexist, and Fortune‘s Kristen Bellstrom wrote pinpointed the reason for their outrage over the Scarborough’s comment:

What is it about being told to smile? There’s the idea that smiling makes women look “prettier,” and the implication that appearing attractive to men is one of our responsibilities. Then there’s the condescension of being told the correct way to feel. (You should always be happy!) Of course, a smile also makes you look friendlier—or perhaps I should say, more docile. It’s a way of neutralizing a woman who might otherwise be read as a potentially threatening presence.

During her DNC acceptance speech, Clinton was again told to smile, this time by Atlantic editor Steve Clemons (who later apologized):

Now, it seems even a grinning Clinton can’t please male pundits.

Women on Twitter were quick to answer conservative political commentator David Frum’s question, “Who told Hillary Clinton to keep smiling like she’s at her granddaughter’s birthday party?”

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Meanwhile, even some “positive” comments about Clinton dwelled on her likability, with a Twitter user quoting Hardball host Chris Matthews on the seemingly shocking revelation that a powerful woman could appear “almost charming.”

Perhaps not surprisingly, some pundits skated right past Clinton’s facial expressions and likability factor and went straight to her appearance: Consider Fox News commentator Brit Hume, who described Clinton as “composed, smug sometimes, not necessarily attractive.” (Hume later said his comment was in reference to Clinton’s “demeanor.”)

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include Hume’s Tuesday response to the criticism of his description of Hillary Clinton.

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