Don Lemon’s comment that Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley is past her prime fundamentally disregards women as professionals, according to a humanities expert at Northeastern University. Lemon, a co-host on “CNN This Morning,” also said a woman is considered to be in her prime in “her 20s, 30s and maybe her 40s.” Haley is 51.
“Why on earth would someone say 20s, 30s, 40s?” says Martha Johnson, associate professor of government in Mills College at Northeastern University and in the College of Social Sciences and Humanities. “That’s only if you are thinking of women and their appearance or their childbearing capacity, their sort of sexiness.” Johnson says that women actually reach their stride in politics and in the corporate world much later in life than men, according to research. Because of the way that family responsibilities are still broken down in our society, women often have competing obligations to have children and take care of them earlier in life. “If we’re talking about politics, a woman’s prime is your 50s, 60s, 70s,” she says.
The same is true for the labor market, says Alicia Modestino, associate professor of public policy, urban affairs and economics at Northeastern and research director at Dukakis Center.