Too often over the last few weeks, I have seen my own and so many of my friends’, colleagues’ and mentors’ struggles reflected in the Hilary bashing that has erupted on social media. And it’s grown so loud that I have to put my foot down. This is not about who you should support for president. It’s not about the issues. It is about an insidious, persistent campaign to discredit female candidates.

I say this because it happens at all levels. I’ve seen it in local races, in county races, state races and now we see it on a national level.

Let’s start with the yelling. Apparently, some pundits only turn the volume on when Hilary Clinton comes on because otherwise how do you explain the complaints that she is the only one yelling if they listened to Trump or Sanders or Christie at the same volume? It is the new twist on what has often been labeled as “shrill” — think for a minute if all those male candidates have been labeled shrill. What can’t find one? That’s funny…. Now think about the female candidates who’ve been called shrill or unlikable. Ah… now you’ve got a list.

Then we’ll go to the trustworthy piece. Here is what people say.

  • She’s disingenuous
  • She flip flops 
  • She’s calculating 
  • She’s too willing to make a deal
  • I can’t remember why, but I just feel like she’s a liar

Let’s take a look at this: in her lifetime in the public eye, she’s changed her mind, she’s evolved in her thinking, just like Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Ronald Regan and any number of elected officials. Shouldn’t it be comforting to know that leaders aren’t so single minded, so entrenched in their own thinking, that they can’t be swayed by facts, by testimonials, by a change in heart?

These “attacks” are particularly disheartening when, at the same time, we call on Washington to work together, to compromise. We punish those efforts when it comes to female candidates. Those values somehow get twisted when it comes to female candidates — we are cold, calculating, strategic — all in direct opposition to the accommodating, maternal standard.

These comments are so insidious, so covert, that people who have fought for equality, who have stood on the front lines, sometimes repeat them without even knowing that these comments began as dog-whistle attacks to keep women out of elected office.

I’m not saying that these are reasons to vote for Clinton — that’s a whole different column. But I am saying, for anyone who has used those arguments, please take a step back and figure out what facts back it up. If you draw a blank, then revisit the candidates. Take a look at them issue by issue and make up your mind. Don’t let these low level attacks aimed to disguise sexism shape our public debate. We are better than that.

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Cathleen Lewis
Cathleen, the Mayor of Lawrence Township & a full-time Public Affairs professional, counts her best job as being Mommy to Abigail (3 years) and Bridget (6 months ). A New Yorker originally, but Boston raised, Cathleen enjoys the challenge of raising the girls in a mixed household with her Yankee-fan husband Paul. She hopes to make up for the confusion by encouraging the family’s love of Rutgers football. She dreams of sharing her love of beaches, margaritas, music and adventure but is happy to squeeze in a family walk with the dog and a back yard BBQ these days. Formerly an avid reader and writer before work, life and children; Cathleen hopes she hasn’t lost her ability to capture thoughts through the written word but often can’t remember where the grocery list is.


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