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We Need To Talk About Joe Biden's Tone Of Voice And 'Likability' Factor

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Throughout the 2016 election, and indeed before that, we, as a nation, were treated to a million male opinions on "What Is Wrong With Hillary Clinton's Voice" and how her voice made them feel, deep in their petulant but definitely not at all sexist little souls. This cycle, it is hard to imagine a male pundit even having a job anywhere in the mainstream media without being extremely sensitive to the sound of a female voice, any female voice, and very willing to criticize those voices and talk about how those voices make them feel and what other women they didn't like who also sounded like that. It is hard to imagine one without very strong opinions on whether or not any of the women running for President are likable enough. None of them ever will be, except for that time when some carfone on Politico was "concerned" that Kamala Harris was connecting with audiences too much.

This week, after the debates, CNN political analyst referred to Elizabeth Warren as having a "hectoring" quality.


We don't hear much about the male candidates being likable or not (though, fairly, they'd probably talk about Bernie being "unlikable" were they to ever mention him). We don't hear about their voices or their tone of voice.

I can tell you that I, personally, do not find Joe Biden likable at all. I would not want to hang out with him or have a beer with him or anything. He seems agitated all the time! However, generally speaking, it would even not occur to me that this is a thing that should matter or have anything to do at all with whether or not he should be president.

But can we talk about it, for a minute? Can we at least talk about the fact that if any of the women talked like Joe Biden talked, that we would never hear the end of how "angry" they sounded or how dismissive and disrespectful or impatient-sounding they were? If any of them talked to someone the way Biden talked to this immigrant rights activist, it would be a week-long news cycle.

How many op-eds did we get about that time Elizabeth Warren was not respectful enough to a hypothetical person who believed marriage should be between a man and a woman? Could any of the women have gotten away with being as testy as Biden was on Wednesday when he was talking about how much the "Blamericans" loved him or during his closing statements? I do not think they could.

Everything Joe Biden Said During the Democratic Debate in Atlanta | NBC New York www.youtube.com

And I'm just going to point out here, that the day after that happened, we got a very nice and poignant article about Biden overcoming his stutter, explaining that many of his gaffes were the result of having had that stutter before. That's fine, and it was a lovely essay, but it's a little irritating given that no one falls all over themselves to empathetically address any of the supposed "flaws" of the female candidates in that same humanizing way.

I have gotten so tired of hearing about how women's voices make men feel that every time a man — any man, really — opens his mouth, I am preemptively annoyed, on principle.

I understand that at least part of this is not so much straight sexism as it is that everyone assumes that either Biden or Buttigieg is going to be the eventual nominee, and that therefore criticizing them should be off the table, so as not to give ammo to the Right. But if we're going to play that game, it would be nice if everyone could stick to critiquing the other candidates based on their platforms and statements rather than on their demeanor and their voices and other things that have literally nothing to do with their campaigns.

That is all.

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Robyn Pennacchia

Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Previously, she was a Senior Staff Writer at Death & Taxes, and Assistant Editor at The Frisky (RIP). Currently, she writes for Wonkette, Friendly Atheist, Quartz and other sites. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse

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