So where is the line I see? It runs between explaining how being a woman is among a nominee’s qualifications and touting the mere fact that she is a “first woman.” It’s the difference between, “I’m nominating X, who will be excellent in this role, and also will be the first woman to fill it,” and, “I’m nominating X to be the first woman in this role, and she’ll be excellent.” Biden’s announcement of Haines was closer to the latter category. He led with the “first woman” bit, then never mentioned it again when explaining her qualifications. His Yellen announcement was better, detailing her many achievements before adding this second “first woman” designation to the pile.
The patronization is in the expectation that I would be glad to see a woman nominated even if, as in Flournoy’s case, I believe her policy perspective to be dangerously flawed. (I’d take a male dove over a female hawk any day.) It’s in some of the reporting I’ve encountered on the all-woman communications team, which has treated as big news what feels to me like a nice piece of trivia.