Christine Quinn wanted to run a gender-blind campaign about her competence and accomplishments. Voters didn’t give her the option. According to a New York Times postmortem, Quinn was so unyielding in her refusal to approach things “as a woman or as a lesbian” (until some eleventh-hour pandering, that is) she refused to listen to a terrifying-sounding panel of two dozen female executives, bankers, and law-firm partners, who warned Quinn that the qualities that had gotten her this far would make her unlikable to voters. (They also told her to get a voice coach.)
Lo and behold, according to exit polls, voters’ objections to Quinn included many of the requisite qualities for becoming City Council Speaker, most of which are deemed socially undesirable in women. The exit polls read like Sheryl Sandberg’s chapter on gendered criticism: “ambitious,” “petty,” “mean,” “bossy,” “self-interested,” “defensive,” “combative,” and “argumentative.” Commentary on Quinn’s voice was nonstop; some objected outright to the fact that she is a lesbian; one Park Slope dude called her “too masculine.” Quinn’s loudest opponents — she was the only candidate with a dedicated “band of protesters who screamed at her on the street and interrupted her at events,” unless you count Sydney Leathers — resorted to calling her fat, ugly, and clownish, while the Upper East Side women who financed her campaign wondered aloud why she wasn’t “wearing a size two St. John’s dress.” Needless to say, you didn’t hear anyone criticizing ambitious, self-interested Bill de Blasio’s ill-fitting suits.