Barbara Lee on Hillary’s Boston Visit, and the Problem with Calling Women ‘Scripted’

One of the biggest advocates for putting more women in elected office is predictably jazzed about Clinton's latest campaign stop.

barbara lee

Photo by Tony Luong for “Wonder Woman

Barbara Lee has helped elect 132 women in 30 states, including every sitting Democratic female governor and U.S. senator. It’s no wonder then, that when Hillary Clinton rolls into Boston for a campaign stop Thursday, Lee will get some time with the former Secretary of State.

“I look forward to seeing her when she’s in town,” Lee, a resident of Cambridge, tells Boston magazine. Following a fundraiser at King’s, Clinton will discuss substance abuse with Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and State Attorney General Maura Healey.

“Hillary’s talk in Boston about substance abuse in our communities demonstrates her compassion and competence: tackling tough issues, fighting for families, and connecting with people. Hillary heard directly from families on the campaign trail who were devastated by substance abuse,” Lee says. “She was so moved by their stories that she made tackling the issue a priority.”

Lee, founder and president of the Barbara Lee Family Foundation and the Barbara Lee Political Office, has made $1.6 million in campaign contributions since 2012, all in pursuit of landing more women in elected office. In 1998, Lee and Laura Liswood, head of a United Nations network of female world leaders, cofounded the White House Project, and placed ads in women’s magazines promoting 20 female candidates for president—Clinton was one of them.

The late Mayor Tom Menino threw his political weight behind Clinton when she last ran in 2008. Seven years and a reshuffling at City Hall later, Lee is confident that support for Clinton in the Hub is unchanged.

“Support for Hillary is strong in Boston for the same reason it is strong across the country,” Lee says. “Everyday voters are excited about her candidacy, because they know she is the most qualified person to lead our country forward. There will be opportunities for people across the state to meet her and hear her plans for themselves.”

Clinton has lead the Democratic field for much of the early going, but not without her share of setbacks. The latest cache of emails released by the State Department Thursday reveal that Russia-linked hackers targeted the private email server Clinton used during her time as Secretary of State, disguising malware as parking tickets.

“As a woman who has been in the public eye for decades, Hillary is under a microscope in a way no other candidate will be. My foundation’s nonpartisan research over two decades shows that all women candidates are in a double bind,” Lee says. “For men, complete candor is a luxury. For women, it’s a liability.”

Moreover, Clinton suffers from what critics call a lack of authenticity. Even her attempts to inject a little spontaneity into her campaign, albeit announced in a New York Times story, have been skewered by the likes of Stephen Colbert. Lee says this is a critique that wouldn’t be levied on a man in Clinton’s position.

“Women are expected to be poised and polished at all times. When men are disciplined, they are considered on-message. When women are disciplined, they are considered scripted.”