Women’s Resilience Is Saving the World
As macho leaders descend into public tantrums, the coronavirus is revealing how women’s everyday emotional resilience holds our lives together
It’s become a familiar sight during this pandemic: the president of the United States, losing seemingly his entire shit under relatively mild questioning from a female reporter.
The most recent instance centered on Paula Reid of CBS News, who on Monday committed the cardinal sin of pressing the president on how he had (or hadn’t) prepared to combat the coronavirus when the severity of the threat became apparent at the start of the year. “What did you do with the time you bought — the entire month of February?” she asked. As she kept repeating the question, Trump dodged it, gave non-answers (“a lot”), and eventually, just started screaming at Reid for asking: “You know, you’re a fake,” he yelled, “and the whole network, the way you cover it, is fake, and the people are wise to you!”
Trump explodes when he faces pushback from women, and anyone who has followed his Covid-19 press conferences has seen it more than once. Just a few weeks ago, he snapped “don’t be aggressive” at PBS NewsHour correspondent Yamiche Alcindor because she’d pressed him on the ventilator shortage. There is something quintessentially of the moment about these spectacles: women, keeping their cool and asking the questions that matter, while the most powerful man in the world vents his rage at them. Women live and work under constant pressure, keeping their own emotions in check while being expected to manage the out-of-control emotions of the people around them, but when a crisis hits, it turns out the person who’s trained herself to excel under pressure is the one you need on your side.
Columnist upon columnist has pointed out the failings of traditional masculinity in this moment. In Forbes, Avivah Wittenberg-Cox writes that countries with female leaders — New Zealand under Jacinda Ardern, or Germany under Angela Merkel — are largely handling the coronavirus crisis better than manly right-wing populists like Boris Johnson or Donald Trump, who have led their people into disaster. At The Guardian, Robin Dembroff argues that the “toxic masculinity” of leaders like Trump, or…