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Imagine a female Andrew Yang being a frontrunner for mayor of NYC

In this image from video, former Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn, former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke and Andrew Yang, talk during the fourth night of the Democratic National Convention on Thursday, Aug. 20, 2020. (Democratic National Convention via AP)

It’s impossible no matter how hard you try:

There is an adage that men are judged on their potential and women on their accomplishments.

A 2019 study in Frontiers in Psychology showed how this can work in the business world. Participants were asked to weigh four candidates, two men and two women, for a job at a fictitious company. One man and one woman had résumés and recommendations emphasizing their past achievements. The other man and woman had résumés and testimonials foregrounding their abilities and leadership potential.

In two different experiments, groups of participants were asked whom they’d hire. In each, the perception of potential was an advantage for men, but not for women. The experiments didn’t show pure sexism: In one, the participants thought the women would be better hires overall. But they did show that women were judged on what they’d already done, while men were judged on what people thought they could do in the future.

Other research shows that men are more likely than women to be viewed as inspired. In 2017, The Harvard Business Review reported on a study revealing that men, but not women, gain leadership status at work for promoting ideas seen as helping the group. A 2015 study found that “a man is ascribed more creativity than a woman when they produce identical output.” Women can be workhorses, but rarely wunderkinds.

This helps explain why there could never be a female Andrew Yang.


Writing in The New Republic, Alex Pareene contrasted Yang with Cynthia Nixon, a celebrity with a deep history of civic engagement whose 2018 primary challenge of Gov. Andrew Cuomo “never stood a chance.” Yang’s innovation, Pareene wrote, was to “become a celebrity by running for president,” legitimizing himself by sharing a stage with the leaders of the Democratic Party. It’s a good point, but it leaves out what is probably an even more salient difference between Yang and Nixon.

Male candidates can embody possibility and run as repositories for people’s diffuse hopes. Women usually have to pay their dues. It creates a double bind. There’s never been a female mayor of New York City, but that doesn’t make it any easier for a woman to be the candidate of change.

Cf. Christine Quinn paying the consequences for allying with Bloomberg’s plan to lift mayoral term limits, consequences that for some reason did not apply to Bloomberg himself. Also cf. Jacobin praising Bernie’s embrace of incrementalist Medicare expansion, a position that would cause the entire editorial staff to shit their pants with fury had Elizabeth Warren proposed it.

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