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While I was working on this strip, my friend Rachel suggested I read the blogger Echidne’s post “The Hillarization of Female Politicians,” and I can see why.
On top of that criticism female politicians also elicit a different type of scrutiny, one which tries to find the hidden worm in the superficially perfect-looking apple, which tries to find something that is very very wrong in her basic values or her basic competence.
The worm MUST be there, for why otherwise would we find her so unauthentic, her voice so grating, her ambition so calculating?
And once the worm has been found, it is turned into a boa constrictor and then that boa constrictor is turned against the politician herself.
On Twitter, Jennifer Palmieri also put it well:
When did [Elizabeth Warren] become unlikable? Looks like you can pinpoint time of unlikability to moment she showed ambition to be POTUS. As far as women have come, people still find women w/ ambition vexing. “There’s something about her I just don’t like.”
There are tons of legitimate reasons to dislike any politician, including women who are politicians. But when the politician running is a woman, the reasons often seem suspiciously nebulous, like a rationalization for something else.
Moira Donegan may have said it best:
The claim that a woman candidate is not “likable” is a code for saying she defies our shared cultural understanding that power and authority are implicitly male, and that women who claim them are illegitimate, threatening or breaking the rules. If it were possible for Warren to be “likable”, under this rubric, it would only be if she were able to adhere to prevailing ideas of what is appropriate behavior for her sex – that is, if she were not seeking public office at all.
When I originally wrote this cartoon, almost two months ago, it was going to be just one guy monologing.
But I felt very little enthusiasm about drawing it, even though I liked the strip idea (and it seemed to grow more relevant every day, alas).
I eventually realized that I just didn’t feel like drawing nine panels of the same rather annoying person talking. So I split the monologue among eight speakers, with the panel 1 speaker returning for the final panel (and hopefully providing the strip with a pleasing sense of circularity), and just like that – poof! – I was looking forward to doing the drawing.
This kind of strip is always fun to draw, because I get to design character after character after character, and the only rule is that none of them can look too much like any other. That’s a neat challenge. So is trying to avoid giving any two characters similar clothes or a similar body position.
Add in a checkerboard color scheme and some shading (I’m actually very pleased with how this came out visually), and, as the British might say, much to the bewilderment of me and every other American, Bob’s your uncle.
TRANSCRIPT OF CARTOON
This cartoon has nine panels, plus an additional tiny “kicker” panel below the bottom of the cartoon. Each panel shows a single speaker, talking directly to the reader.
A youngish white man with square glasses speaks cheerfully to the reader, holding up one forefinger in a “making a point” gesture.
MAN: We’d love to vote for a woman in the primary! As long as she’s the right woman.
A middle-aged man with a long face, sunglasses, and a tiny mustache holds his arms wide as he complains. His t-shirt is mostly cut off by the bottom panel border, but we can make out that it says “Biden.”
MAN: She’s so old. Can’t we have some fresh blood?
A woman with shiny black hair holds a coffee mug and speaks, looking concerned.
WOMAN: She just seems too ambitious. I don’t like that in a President… Plus she’s so inauthentic!
A benign-looking older man, wearing a dark suit and a striped tie, speaks to us, a small smile on his face.
MAN: Her? No. She doesn’t have enough experience…. Yes, I voted Obama over Hillary in 2008. That’s different.
A middle-aged man wearing a sports jersey and a baseball cap is looking at his smartphone, tapping it with one finger as he speaks.
MAN: She SAYS she listened to Tupac in 1989… But Tupac’s first album was in 1991! I won’t vote for a liar!
A young man with pierced ears, tattoos, a shaggy haircut, and a cheerful demeanor waves a hand dismissively, as if he’s laughing at a dismissable concept.
MAN: C’mon, her voice is so shrill! IT’d be like voting for my mom!
A man with neatly combed hair, perfectly round glasses, shrugs. He’s wearing a black shirt, a necktie, and a jacket with a plaid pattern.
MAN: I’d vote for a woman. But think of all the backwards people who won’t. That’s why we have to choose a man.
A young man in a hoodie, wearing large glasses, is partly turned away from us, but looks back at us out of the corner of his eyes, raising a hand for emphasis.
MAN: She’s just not likable, okay?
The youngish man from panel 1 is back. He’s grinning a bit too big, and holding two thumbs up towards the viewer.
MAN: So that’s a “no” for 2020! But if an acceptable woman ever runs, we’ll totally vote for her!
A tiny panel below the bottom of the stirp shows a young man with his hair buzzed on teh sides, looking smugly amused, talking to Barry the cartoonist. Barry has a pained expression and has slapped a palm over one of his eyes.
YOUNG MAN: So you’re saying it’s “sexist” to ever criticize a female politician?
BARRY: OW! Eyeball rolling injury!