Intr o duct i o n 5 of violence.28 Traditional gender roles, based on cultural norms, include beliefs such as that men should be dominant, aggressive, strong, and sexual, while women should be submissive, passive, fragile, and pure. Accordingly, in such traditional roles, women are expected to be modest, sweet, nice, thin, and faithful, while men are expected to be self-reliant risk-takers who exert power over women, have a propensity for violence and emotional control, and may lack the capacity for sexual fidelity.29 Ambitious women seeking positions of public authority, such as in elected office or corporate leadership, have had to ignore gendered expec- tations and break out of the passive roles that have traditionally boxed them in. Yet those actively pursuing roles of political power or other forms of public authority or influence can expect to feel “the full thrust of social disapproval.”30 When Professor Susan Tolchin (Dr. Stabile’s doctoral the- sis advisor and mentor), wrote about this phenomenon in 1973 in Clout: Womanpower and Politics, a book which she coauthored with her hus- band, New York Times journalist Martin Tolchin, she spoke of women being branded as aggressive, tough or ruthless—attributes associated with respect for male politicians, but which can be damning for women. Half a century later, the social opprobrium for women vying with men for positions of power can also precipitate relentless social media takedowns, including rape and death threats,31 in addition to more pedestrian unflat- tering portrayals.32 Nonviolent, rhetorical means may augment or sub- stitute for threats of sexual violence to defuse the perceived threat posed by powerful women by vilifying, belittling, or lampooning women who challenge or resist existing norms.33 Merriam-Webster defines sexism as “behavior, conditions, or attitudes that foster stereotypes of social roles based on sex.”34 Tacit acceptance of such stereotypes supports palpable policy positions that can lead to “discrimination or devaluation based on a person’s sex or gender, as in restricted job opportunities, especially such discrimination directed against women.”35 One manifestation of sexism can be observed in the pervasiveness of supposedly humorous one-liners about women. Saying that someone runs like a girl, throws like a girl, or cries like a girl are commonplace put-downs. Jokes about women being bad drivers are a persisting part of popular culture, along with many other “women are bad at stuff” tropes—bad at math, bad at tech, and so forth.36 Women are also frequently called “hysterical”37 or “hormonal.”38 Such character- izations cut at women’s perceived competence, disqualifying them “from positions of power and a general sense of autonomy” and suggesting that they are innately unfit for public life, which, since the time of Plato and
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