In George Skelton’s review of the debate between Carly Fiorina and Senator Barbara Boxer http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-cap-20100906,0,3045614,print.column he indicates that Boxer needs to hone her debate skills.
Skelton believed that Boxer seemed disjointed, she used jargon, she didn’t connect with the audience. Fiorina was cool, calm, and unrelenting in her criticisms. In “Women Seen and Heard: Lessons Learned from Successful Speakers,” we emphasize that women need to gain credibility as the voice of authority, which men start with once they take to the podium. In today’s world, more women are now competing with one another for top jobs, including the role of US Senator, and they begin with credibility as “experts” in one field or another. The playing field is more level- at least between women whose capacity for leadership has already been proven — and they are more confrontive and aggressive in their debate style. Seeingwomen debate is making us all think further about the criteria to use in evaluating their performance.
Femininity be damned, Boxer took off her white gloves and put on her boxing gloves (no pun intended) discussing Fiorina’s record at HP as a dismal failure: “She shipped 30,000 jobs overseas. Think of it!… And through all that pain, what did she do? She took $100 million. So that reminds me of Wall Street…. Bonuses at the top….” And “I want to see the words ‘Made in America’ again.”
We can’t assume that all women are alike with a bias towards a ‘feminine’ tendency to be tender, even at the podium, and that women speakers will be more responsive than male speakers would, conveying that they feel our pain (so to speak). But women like Fiorina and Palin bring a confidence to the microphone that voters are drawn to, whether or not that confidence is justified. And it’s easy to criticize the insider. Skelton’s analysis that “One of Fiorina’s responses sounded callous, if realistic when she said that “This is the 21st century. Any job can go anywhere.” In California, she continued: “We are destroying jobs, and others are fighting harder for our jobs.” Competition in the business world is a fact of life, she implied as in Get With the Program.
Boxer challenged that confidence, being confrontational in the debate, forcing Fiorina to admit that “if there were an opportunity” she’d vote to overturn the Supreme Court’s landmark Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortions. But, Fiorina quickly added, it’s “not an issue I’m running on.” No matter, Carly. It’s an issue, period. No avoiding it. If you are a voting feminist, a candidate’s position on Roe V. Wade will transcend her position on other issues and likely be the deciding factor. If you are business minded, you will seek to elect someone who can promise jobs, but do you care where? Jobs on US soil for US companies, or jobs overseas?Will the reproductive choice issue trump the business issue? And will voters’ take the time to analyze the nuances in a candidate’s track record in business or does it matter anymore to disappointed Americans hit hard by the recession?
Voters are skittish and incumbents aren’t guaranteed re-election. The candidate’s ability to perform in a debate setting can shift things on a dime and voters want to know that women can take the heat and deal with tough, complex issues that defy easy answers. What do you look for when you watch and listen to debates between women? Is the candidate’s testosterone level the new litmus test? We’d like to know.