For Female Political Candidates, Sometimes the Biggest Threat Isn’t Losing an Election

Christine Jahnke, a political communication expert who has advised former First Lady Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, has seen some head-spinning stuff while working with Democrats and progressive groups. The author of The Well-Spoken Woman, Jahnke recalls an incident in Indiana, where a candidate she advised arrived to campaign at a veterans’ hall and “some old guy comes up to her, looks her in the eye, and says, ‘Are you the stripper?'”

The best thing a woman can do, according to Jahnke, is have a coolheaded, practiced response ready to go when someone does take that cheap shot: “What you don’t want to do [is] lash out in a way that will be perceived as ‘angry’ or out of control,” she said—and that’s not always easy, because attacks rooted in gender can be distracting and distressing.

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