Kirsten Gillibrand Warns Women Against Following Their 'Nature'


Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, badass champion of women’s rights as she is on the Senate floor, is often asked to dispense advice to woman when she’s not on the Senate floor. Her most recent tidbit of impromptu advice, though, was a little… confusing.

During the recent Shriver Report summit, Gillibrand was asked, by a man in attendance, if women in business and politics hold themselves back by acting all womanish. Gillibrand responded,

The interesting thing about women is that we are often collaborative in nature,” Gillibrand said. “We generally prefer to be well-liked, and we like for people around us to be happy. These are some skills we learn being mothers and daughters: We feed everyone at the table, try to make everyone happy …

At this point, per The Atlantic, Gillibrand was interrupted by a male journalist who was like OMG What are you talking about? But then Gillibrand went on:

This issue of likability. For a lot of young women, they want to be well-liked. If they’re too aggressive, or too pushy, or too declarative, they won’t be well-liked.
[…] To meet those standards, you have to speak less like a young girl and more like a young, aspiring professional.
It’s part of our nature. It’s not a bad part of our nature. [But] it’s a choice every young woman is going to have to make about how she wants to be and how she wants to be received.

To echo Slate’s Katy Waldman: Wha?

Do women “naturally” want people to like them, or are women simply taught that the only way to navigate existing power structures is to kiss up to the people in charge until they’re deemed too nice to advance any further? Is playing into the patriarchal bait-and-switch a natural thing that women do? What’s with the “feeding everyone at the table” business? Is it possible that a Senator speaking extemporaneously worded something less carefully in speech than she would have in writing?

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