« The Democrats wrap themselves in a flag ... | Main | The news story Rosie O'Donnell will skip »

April 29, 2007

The inauthenticity of Hillary

Why can't a woman be more like a man?
Men are so honest, so thoroughly square;
Eternally noble, historically fair.
Who, when you win, will always give your back a pat.
Why can't a woman be like that?

There are times I loathe the extended campaign season. It is reminiscent of retail stores dragging out the Christmas decorations in mid-October in an attempt to artificially whip up the “holiday spirit” and get people to part with more of their money sooner. The money quest drives political campaigns to “officially” start at ever earlier dates (thank you, McCain and Feingold) with the same kind of one-upsmanship. This threatens, if it hasn’t already engendered, a kind of campaign fatigue on voters. “Bah, humbug! I’ll start paying attention in the summer … next summer.”

However, along the way will be written reams of articles, examinations and puff pieces on the putative candidates. Interestingly, some of these columnar inches will reveal more about the mindset of the author then the candidate they are dissecting.

Case in point is Susan J. Douglas’ current article Why Women Hate Hillary

Contemplate the title for a moment and try not to laugh at the implication that Ms. Douglas knows what lurks in the hearts and minds of all women. She actually begins the article examining the demographics of the poll numbers concerning the negative reactions to Mrs. Clinton. However, the frame in which she judges Hillary and finds her wanting is quite clear:

Hillary, by contrast, seems to want to be more like a man in her demeanor and politics, makes few concessions to the social demands of femininity, and yet seems to be only a partial feminist. … In other words, she seems like patriarchy in sheep’s clothing.
Ms. Douglas is judging Hillary not just on her views, but how those views are at odds with her definition of what makes an authentic woman:
One of progressive feminism’s biggest (and so far, failed) battles has been against the Genghis Khan principle of American politics: that our leaders must be ruthless, macho empire builders fully prepared to drop the big one if they have to and invade anytime, anywhere. When Geraldine Ferraro ran for vice president in 1984, the recurring question was whether she had the cojones to push the red button, as if that is the ultimate criterion for leading the country.
Certainly the “recurring” question was present during 1984, but contrary to Ms. Douglas’ assertion, it had more to do with what was between Ferraro’s ears then what was between Ferraro’s thighs. Voters in 1984 had the example of Margaret Thatcher and the fresh memory of Golda Meir as strong, unflinching leaders who just happened to be women. Willingness to make the hard moral decisions is not sex-specific, though Ms. Douglas wants to make it so:
But now, with the massive failures of this callous macho posture everywhere—a disastrous war, a deeply endangered environment and more people than ever without health insurance—millions are desperate for a new vision and a new model of leadership.
Notice Ms. Douglas’ odd mix of “disasters” … war, nature and insurance. Somehow all the fault of The Patriarchy. This is the kind of kitchen-sink argument that allows the arguer to set up a singular set of “facts” and if the opposing side objects to one portion of it, then the arguer can attack them on the most serious part of the set. Thus, a person who disagrees with the assertion of “man-made global warming” then, but of course, that person is a war-monger.
If she’s a feminist, how could she continue to support this war for so long? If she’s such a passionate advocate for children, women and families, how could she countenance the ongoing killing of innocent Iraqi families, and of American soldiers who are also someone’s children? …

We don’t want the first female president to be Joe Lieberman in drag, pushing Bush-lite politics. We expect something better.

Leaving aside Ms. Douglas' snarky slam on Senator Lieberman, she is quite clear about what "authentic" women believe. “We” are pacifists. “We” are to be against the next war before it happens. “We” are to change the world by swapping our incandescent lightbulbs for florescent, using less toilet tissue and making doctors and nurses civil servants.

Actually, Ms. Douglas inadvertantly stumbles on the real reason so many people have a negative reaction to Hillary

Clearly, Hillary and her advisors have calculated that for a woman to be elected in this country, she’s got to come across as just as tough as the guys. And maybe they’re right. But so far, Hillary is not getting men with this strategy, and women feel written off.
It is not the “get tough” strategy that hurts Hillary. It is the fact that Hillary is nothing but strategy. Many people feel uneasy with a candidate that lacks sincerely held values. People even accept that over time, with changing facts and contexts, that a candidates policy positions can change. However, when there’s no “there there”, except an obsession to be elected at all costs, voters will turn away.

But that kind of equity feminism doesn’t fit in Ms. Douglas’ “progressive” feminist narrative. It isn’t Hillary’s pretense at hawkishness that makes Ms. Douglas discount her, it’s that Ms. Douglas’ defines war as patriarchal and, afterall,

We want a break with the past, optimism, and a recommitment to the government caring about and serving the needs of everyday people. We want what feminism began to fight for 40 years ago—humanizing deeply patriarchal institutions.
Ms. Douglas then falls lockstep with every “progressive” feminist confronted with a “sister” who engages in apostasy:
If Hillary Clinton wants to be the first female president, then maybe, just maybe, she should actually run as a woman.
It is instructive to see the invalidation of “authentic woman” in action.

Brava, Susan. Brava.

Posted by Darleen at April 29, 2007 10:10 AM


Well, speaking of dislike...

I dislike Mrs Clinton's voice, it's grating, unpleasant, like chalk on a blackboard, like glass being broken, like a lot of other unpleasants sounds one hears throughout the course of one's life.

But I'm still voting for her.

Posted by: Carl W. Goss at April 30, 2007 09:38 AM

Do you have any actual evidence to support your claim that Clinton lacks seriously held values, or is that just the talking point of the day?

For an actual case of politics over principle, one can find much better examples in the recent pandering by Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney to the wacko GOP base.

Posted by: Josh at April 30, 2007 10:23 AM

"...humanizing deeply patriarchal institutions..."

Presumably that is because only women are truly human.

Posted by: Q30 at April 30, 2007 10:41 AM

"Do you have any actual evidence to support your claim that Clinton lacks seriously held values, or is that just the talking point of the day?"

Hillary Clinton has precisely *one* seriously held value: Power.

Posted by: John at April 30, 2007 07:07 PM

Hillary Clinton has precisely *one* seriously held value: Power.

I asked for evidence to support the talking point. You just repeated the talking point. Fail.

Posted by: Josh at May 1, 2007 11:33 AM