clock menu more-arrow no yes

It was Hillary Clinton's big moment, and all some pundits could talk about was her voice

Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images

Hillary Clinton’s acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention was an emotional, historic moment for many. But some commentators also fixated on things like Clinton's voice, or whether she was smiling:

Donald Trump also weighed in on Clinton's "very average scream":

These kinds of comments made during the campaign have been a constant frustration for feminists, who say they are a sexist double standard. This time was no different:

We've seen these kinds of comments on cable news, and even after Clinton scored huge primary victories in Ohio and Florida:

When women speak, people tend to mentally turn up the volume

Women, and women leaders in particular, often get criticized more for how they say something than for what they actually say. They have to walk a difficult line of being assertive but not too aggressive, likable but not too much of a pushover.

Even though women are interrupted more often and talk less than men, people still think women talk more. People get annoyed by verbal tics like "vocal fry" and "upspeak" when women use them, but often don't even notice it when men do.

The same mental amplification process makes people see an assertive woman as "aggressive," which gets in the way of women's personal and professional advancement. Women are much more likely to be perceived as "abrasive" and get negative performance reviews as a result — which puts them in a double bind when they try to "lean in" and assertively negotiate salaries.

These kinds of implicit biases are sexist, but having them doesn't make someone "a sexist" — or if it does, it makes all of us sexists. It doesn't matter how smart you are or whether you are a man or a woman; everyone has some implicit biases against women.

And that may be one reason why this is the first time a woman has ever won a major party's nomination.


Watch: Hillary Clinton’s acceptance speech

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for The Weeds

Get our essential policy newsletter delivered Fridays.