Donald Trump doesn’t like Carly Fiorina’s face. He thinks it’s unpresidential. He can’t imagine anyone voting for it. But the important thing about Donald Trump’s assessment of Carly Fiorina’s appearance is this: she doesn’t care.
The reason Carly doesn’t care is also the reason that her run for the Republican nomination is so interesting — even to those of us who don’t make a sport out of politics or don’t agree with Fiorina’s platform in general. Fiorina doesn’t care what Donald Trump thinks of her because she’s already met him, in a hundred different boardrooms and a thousand different neckties throughout the course of her career and her campaign.
No woman stays in the business world for as long as Fiorina has without encountering someone like Trump. Trump is the guy who assumes that the woman in the room is there to make coffee, that if she disagrees with his ideas it’s because she’s bleeding from “somewhere,” that her clothes and face and hair are there to please him, and that she needs to just wait until he stops talking. They’re not necessarily harassers: they’re just dinosaurs with power.
Confronted with one, a business woman has to decide what to do. Sometimes the problem is bad enough to raise the issue with HR. But most often, for most women, the solution is a more subtle one.
We Fiorina our way through.
That means going to the meetings where this guy talks over us, or restates our ideas because they sound better in his voice. It means being told to smile, and being criticized for being aggressive when guys like Trump are just “assertive.” It means being better, every day, until we work our way from secretarial positions to management, and from management to CEO.
It means playing the long game, keeping our cool, and outlasting the guys who think we’re party decorations. It means focusing our competitive drive on things that count, not on wrinkle-free skin, perky breasts, and winsome smiles — caring about assessments of our work, not our wardrobes.
Fiorina has dealt with all of this for decades; Trump’s hijinks can’t rattle her. I guarantee you that she’s heard worse from people she respects more. And she’s gotten over it. He can say whatever he likes, but I don’t think his insults can touch her.
That’s going to drive him crazy. It’s probably why he’s on the attack. He’s used to Miss America contestants and celebrities whose success is tied to his evaluation of their looks.
Carly Fiorina isn’t playing that game, and she has been a model of restraint as she has consistently refused to allow Donald Trump to make her play it.
So we could spill a lot of ink about Trump’s archaic nonsense. We could waste a lot of pixels complaining about it.
Or we can do what Fiorina, and businesswomen all over the world have done since the moment they walked into their first jobs. We can raise an eyebrow, practice our poker faces, sharpen our stilettos, and sit at the grownup table while the Trumps try to start a food fight.