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Claire McCaskill says women politicians should be ‘self-effacing’

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Sen. Claire McCaskill poses for a selfie with Meladie Quarlles in St. Louis, Missouri this month.
Sen.
Claire McCaskill poses for a selfie with Meladie Quarlles in St.
Louis, Missouri this month.

Scott
Olson/Getty Images


  • Sen. Claire McCaskill, the Missouri Democrat who lost
    re-election to a third term this month, says she wants to help a
    new generation of women learn how to get ahead in politics in
    part by being “self-effacing.”
  • But some of the senator’s supporters disagreed with her,
    arguing online that women shouldn’t be asked to conform with
    double standards, but instead be encouraged to break them.  

Sen. Claire McCaskill, the Missouri Democrat who lost re-election
to a third term this month, said that after leaving Washington
she wants to help a new generation of women learn how to use
humor and be “self-effacing” in order to get ahead in the
male-dominated world of politics. 

“I think I can really help other women understand that really
difficult balance you have to have as a woman of being strong and
opinionated, but very careful that you don’t go too far over the
line so that you’re in the ‘B-word’ territory,” McCaskill said in

a Friday interview with NPR.

She added, “That’s a really hard balance, and a lot of that
has to do with being willing to be self-effacing and have a sense
of humor.” 

McCaskill acknowledged “it’s awful” that women are often held to
different standards than their male counterparts, but justified
her approach by arguing that she’s “just being realistic” about
what it takes for women to succeed in politics.  

The two-term lawmaker has been open about the sexual harassment
she’s faced during her decades in politics, and again related the
story of when the speaker of the Missouri House of
Representatives
suggested
that, as a state senator in her early 20s, she
perform sex acts to help build support for her proposed
legislation.

McCaskill said she brushed off the harassment, in part by
making fun of it. 

“I got through it with a sense of humor and I kept saying to
myself, ‘I’m going to have better jobs than these guys before
this is over’ — and, as it turned out, I did,” she told
NPR. 

Some of McCaskill’s fans felt her remarks this week were out of
sync with her record, and argued that women shouldn’t be told to
conform to a double standard. 

“All it does is erase their hard work if young women are
forced to keep playing with one hand tied behind their back,
backwards and in high heels,” Jess McIntosh, editor of Shareblue
Media and a longtime Democratic strategist, tweeted
in response to McCaskill’s comments. “The point of progress is to
make it easier for the next gen, not to tell them to hamstring
themselves because you had to.”

McIntosh added, “Also not for nothing, one of the things I
LIKED about Claire McCaskill was that ‘self-effacing’ was not an
adjective you could apply to her.”

Joan Walsh, a writer for the liberal Nation Magazine
tweeted
that she was “shocked” by McCaskill’s comments. 

“I really thought differently about @clairecmc and looked
forward to her unvarnished honesty in the future!” she
wrote. 

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