In the face of articles detailing allegations of abuse towards staff, one of the reflexive defenses offered for Minnesota Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar is that these articles are sexist. Female bosses are portrayed as bullies or means, but male bosses are never criticized for the same behavior. An MSNBC anchor wanted an “example of when we talked about a man being bossy.” (Klobuchar is not accused of being bossy, but of threatening the job security, emotional wellbeing, and even physical safety of her staff.)
But is it true that male politicians have gotten a pass for being abusive bosses? Well, if they have access to Google at MSNBC, they should know it isn’t:
“Embattled Congressman Accused of Turning Staff Into His Personal Servants” [5/25/2018]
“Veteran N.H. Lawmaker Accused of Creating ‘Intimidating and Abusive’ Environment in State House” [8/9/2018]
“Exclusive: Ex-Farenthold aide shares new details of vulgar and abusive behavior” [12/14/2017]
“Former aides say Rep. Todd Rokita yelled at staff, docked pay” [12/1/2017]
“Inside Tim Murphy’s reign of terror” [10/05/2017]
“‘It was humiliating.’ Former staffers say Gig Harbor lawmaker prone to ‘screaming fits’” [4/21/2017]
I could go on and on, but it’s a fair summary to say most of these stories are probably about male, not female lawmakers. The reflexive gender defense seems to be a common aspect of the superficiality of American debate — you make some sort of claim of bias or discrimination, but you don’t have to interrogate it or back it up. But the reality is that psychology research has shown, if anything, that Americans tend to have a bias to view men as perpetrators and women as victims.
But it does not matter if you are being abused by a man or a woman. To riff off of a Malcolm X quote, abuse is abuse, no matter who says it or does it. And a presidential contender is obviously going to get far more interrogation and questioning about these issues than any other kind of candidate or lawmaker. The question is whether Klobuchar will address these allegations, and, if they are true, will make amends. If she does not take the issue seriously, it raises the question not only whether she should be president, but whether she should be a senator.