Alicia Menendez – “The Likeability Trap” and the Challenges Female Politicians Face | The Daily Show


This book, I feel,
speaks perfectly to what we are
subconsciously dealing with in every single debate,
the likeability trap. How do you become likeable
as a candidate, whilst, at the same time, still
being yourself as a person? Why is that so difficult
to achieve? It’s difficult to achieve
across the board because likeability is
so wildly subjective. But it’s particularly
challenging for women. If you are a woman
who strives to lead, you are told one of two things. You’re either told
you’re too much, too assertive, too aggressive,
you need to tone it down. Or you’re told
you’re not enough, you don’t take up enough space,
you don’t take up enough oxygen, -you don’t have
what it takes to lead. -Right. So women are told
they can either be likeable or they can be a leader,
but there’s almost no way for them to be both. And when you talk
about women candidates, what makes that so complicated is that voters will vote
for a man candidate even if they don’t like him, -so long as they think
he’s competent. -Right. For women candidates,
they have to clear both hurdles. Voters have to like them and they have to believe
that they’re competent. It’s interesting, because,
in this race specifically, a lot of media coverage
has been geared towards discussing
Elizabeth Warren’s likeability. You know? Whereas people before, like, let’s say when Trump
was running, they-they said, “Well, you know,
I don’t like him, but I think
he can get the job done.” And that was a common thread
that went through the election. Um, in the book, you say something
that’s really interesting. -You talk about Hillary Clinton
in particular, -Mm-hmm. …where, you know,
you talk about something that I didn’t really
pay attention to, and that was, when she was just doing it
for the country. She was secretary of state. -When she was secretary
of state, people liked her. -Mm. Independents liked her,
Republicans liked her, Democrats liked her. And then,
immediately when she ran, people perceived it as now
she was doing it for herself, and her likeability dropped. Why do you think that is? Well, with men, we presume
that it’s in men’s nature to want power
and to grab for power. When women do that, it violates
this expectation we have of women that they are communal,
that they’ll act communal. I mean, there’s an irony
in that, right? Which is,
most women run for office because they want
to do something -that benefits their community
at large. -Mm-hmm. But they’re seen as…
as it being a power grab, right? Because it’s their name
at the top of the ticket, and so it’s seen
as this singular act. And so, just the act of saying,
“I am a woman, and I believe that I am worthy of power,” immediately makes
a woman less likeable. Chris Quinn, who’d run for the
mayor of New York, said to me, “The day you declare,
you have a new negative.” That’s an interesting place to be in, um,
as a woman who is a candidate, because you’re in a race where people are looking
at your likeability, but then they’re also locking
at your-your track record, which, as you’ve seen, you know, people spoke about
on the debate tonight. Amy Klobuchar said,
“Look, I think “there is a double standard
for how much you have to have achieved
as a woman to be on the stage.” Whereas the men can just
come in with like, “I have a few good ideas, and this is why I think
I should be here.” When you look at the trap, how do you think
people can escape the trap? How-how can a woman be likeable
if that is something that someone needs
to strive towards, but then still achieve
or be the best or be the leader, etcetera? You are doing such a good job of articulating
how complicated this is. And women have been given
two paths, right? We have either been told we can do this gender-correcting
performance where we, like, sit
in our chairs and are cautious about how we use our hands
and how we use our voice, -or we can just let it go.
-Mm-hmm. We can just choose not to care
about likeability. I don’t think either
of those paths work, right? Because if you do the first one, then you put the responsibility
of likeability back on women. -Mm-hmm. -If you do the later,
you don’t… you’re not being honest
about how important likeability really is. And what I think we need to do
is push back on likeability as what it really is–
a cover for bias– and say, “Enough with it”
once and for all. (cheers and applause) It’s a powerful stand to make. And you make a good case
for it in the book. Thank you so much
for joining us on the show. A really fascinating look
into the world of likeability. The Likeability Trap
is available now. Alicia Menendez, everybody.