Monday, January 07, 2008

Clinton Unifies On One Issue

I like Hillary Clinton. She's not my favorite candidate, but I'd be quite pleased with her as President. And even when she annoys me (as, like any politician, she does from time to time), I respect her talent, drive and abilities.

But the one thing that really pushes me towards Hillary more than anything else is the blind, frothing hatred that is directed at her. It viscerally offends me, and makes me want to stand in her corner on fairness grounds alone. People worry about whether Obama would be safe as President, but honestly I think that Clinton faces a bigger threat. For fifteen years now, an entire cesspool of hate has bubbled around Hillary Clinton, one that has been fanned (if not sanctioned) by "mainstream" conservative forces. And let's be clear: it openly fantasizes about violence against her. Is there any contemporary analogue to the "I Wish Hillary had Married O.J." t-shirts? It's sick.

That's why recently, I've been pleased to see a diverse array of bloggers who have been willing to call folks out on the misogynistic BS Hillary faces as a matter of course. The response to the tears at the New Hampshire rally (prompting ABC to question whether her emotions will "get the best of her"). The buzzing about her "too harsh" responses about change at the Democratic debate. She's a cold emasculating ball-buster, when she isn't a frail, emotional wimp.

Stephen Suh summarizes the absurd double standard:
Is Hillary ahead in the polls? Then she's too cold, too ambitious and calculating. She's a woman, after all, and women are all nurture-y and, um, I don't know, emotional and stuff. Has Hillary lost her composure at any point? Then she's too emotional, too unstable. She's a woman, after all, and they can't be trusted to keep their inner weaknesses in check. That's why women aren't good leaders, you know.

Unfortunately, it doesn't surprise me to see this type of treatment. It's always there when a woman gets uppity. She's too mannish until people find a way to describe her as too typically "female." Then they'll go straight back to the original criticism without missing a beat.

Reformed conservative John Cole, who I know is no fan of Clinton, similarly is sick of it, and pegs the source of the problem right where it should be: Hillary's a woman, and folks can't stand the idea of a woman showing a spine:
Quite frankly, I hate to say this, but I think what we are actually seeing is a double-standard here, and the feminists may be right. This is all about Hillary being a woman. John Edwards has been 150 times as angry the whole campaign, and has built his entire campaign around it. Howard Dean was angry, and people lapped it up. Here, Hillary isn’t really angry, just matter-of-fact and frustrated, and people are giving her shit.

He's right about Edwards. Of course, if a woman shows any degree of softness, then the other foot drops: she's weak and emotional. Here Steve Benen rightfully hits Edwards for cheap-shotting Hillary on that very point.

These are not Hillary fans. But they're hitting back against the clear, persistent, and unmistakable sexism that has plagued Clinton's campaign from day one. If someone as powerful, educated, talented, and able as Clinton can fall prey to it, what makes us think other women will be spared?

1 comment:

PG said...

See Steinem in today's Times.

I think she misfires slightly. First, she quietly elides the reaction to black voters and Obama, which is just what she says it is for women voters and Clinton: biased if you go with him, disloyal if you don't. Second, she blithely ignores the fact that Sen. Clinton chose to marry Bill Clinton and subsume her career to his for several years, which means that she is now tied to him for good or ill. On the good side, she reaps the same benefits of name recognition as Bhutto and Nehru-Gandhi; on the bad side, she trails whatever mud still attaches to the name. Third, Clinton isn't a kind of blank slate with "woman" the only thing we know about her. If young women have a more negative reaction, it may have to do with the compromises Clinton has made in her personal life, ones that older women understand are just part of marriage but that to young women seem intolerable. To that extent, Condi Rice would be a much more interesting candidate for us to sort out what people think of a female president, because she is tied to a male president only by her having worked for him, not in a personal way, and because she actually typifies the unmarried, childless, career-focused (and thus "selfish") modern woman that the anti-Hillary folks love to bash.