analyzing life, media and culture at the intersection of the personal and the public, a blog by Laura Hodes
I read your article in the Trib today. I do agree that Hilary has gotten a lot of coverage on trivial issues such as her pants suits and laugh. But Al Gore was derided as a phony who claimed to invent the internet, and a lot of ink was wasted on coverage of his brown suits and effort to be an alpha male. John Kerry was made to look like a flip-flopping effete snob who wind surfed in his spare time.Hillary does have problems because of her gender, but a big part of her problem is because we've known her so long that she is an established brand. She carries all the baggage of the Clinton years, good and bad, along with the branding her time as a Senator. She still has to live down her Iraq war vote, and the fact that she is more of a Hawk than most Democratic primary voters.Obama has been able to trancend the role of the black candidate because of his message and the way he promotes it. As a newer face he doesn't carry all the negatives that Hillary does. I think there are female candidates out there who will trancend their gender, but she is not the candidate and this is not the time. We know her too well.
Laura – I agree with the views expressed in your piece that appeared in today’s Chicago Tribune. I am 61 years old and recently retired after working for 37 years in the legal profession as a paralegal. While I greatly admire the young women coming out of law school today for their intelligence and work ethic, I worry that they accept the current employment situation as the natural state of things. They don’t know that they wouldn’t have such opportunities if their grandmothers, mothers, aunts and older cousins hadn’t fought for them during the ‘60s and ‘70s. Moreover, the fight for equality in the workplace is not over; and as long as business is run by white men, all such progress could be lost if women don’t remain vigilant. I haven’t decided whom to vote for (I liked Biden) but I support Clinton’s right to be in the race and to be treated as if her sex didn’t matter. I think Barack Obama’s attraction is akin to John F. Kennedy’s in 1960. (I had just graduated from grade school when he won the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination; I was a senior in high school when he was assassinated. I remember pictures in E. B. White’s book The Making of the President 1960 of nuns in full habit jumping up and down when JFK’s motorcade went by.) It’s the attraction of youth, beauty and idealism, rather than of ideas and policies. History repeats.
Ms. Hodes, I am a 43-year-old woman and a feminist. And it is as a feminist (and not a "post-feminist," in your condescending and ill-informed turn of phrase) that I oppose Hillary Clinton.My feminism has taught me that the lives of women in other countries matter as much as those of wealthy and privileged white women in America. Therefore, any woman who votes in support of a war and occupation that destroys the lives of hundreds of thousands of innocent women in another country is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a feminist. (Nor does any woman who votes for such an action after only reading a five-page summary of the National Intelligence Estimate have any right to claim "Ready from Day One" executive judgment.)My feminism has taught me that marriage is not the same as a career. Therefore, a woman who wishes to climb to power by claiming "a wealth of experience" earned by marital osmosis is not a feminist -- particularly when she refuses to make public the records of her time as First Lady, so we the voters can fairly judge what glaring anti-feminist, anti-human rights legislation of the Clinton years (Don't Ask, Don't Tell, the Defense of Marriage Act, throwing poor kids of Medicaid as a part of "welfare reform," just for starters) were undertaken with her advice and judgment.My feminism has taught me that working-class women deserve protections every bit as much, if not more so, than their white-collar sisters. Therefore, I will not support a woman who worked in a union-busting law firm and served on the board of Wal-Mart. (Barbara Ehrenreich's book, "Nickel and Dimed," can illustrate for you just how "feminist" an environment that corporation has been.)My feminism isn't based on a psychological need to see "someone who looks like me" in the White House because it would be so darn"empowering," even if the individual in question helped shred the Constitution during their time in the Senate by their support of the Patriot Act, and cannot make a definitive statement as to whether or not waterboarding constitutes torture. (But she is dead certain that flag-burning is a problem of such national importance that she has sponsored legislation banning it.)Mine is an informed feminism, a global feminism, and I assure you there is nothing "luxurious" in adopting such principles. It requires taking a hard long look at each candidate and judging them by "the content of their character," not the equipment under their clothes. It also requires living up to my own standards and expectations every day, and not living vicariously through the achievements of anyone else -- a husband, a romantic partner, a parent, or a president.I would remind you that of the three major candidates in the Democratic primary race, Senator Obama has the most years in office as an ELECTED public servant. In other words, experience in which he, unlike a First Lady, is held accountable to the voters.If you would like to make an intellectually honest argument as to why, given the indisputable facts about her record stated above, Hillary Clinton still deserves to be supported as a feminist, I'd be happy to hear it.I'm not rejecting Hillary Clinton because I'm a sad deluded "post-feminist." I'm rejecting her because of what she has done -- and hasn't done -- as Hillary Clinton. And my ability to do so is, in my view, a real triumph for real feminism.Kerry Reid
great article laura. you have beautifully articulated thoughts i share about the feminist movement and clinton in particular. she has had to work more than twice as hard to achieve what she has (including overcoming her husband's personal blunders late in his presidential term). she is brilliant, resilient and progressive. my hope is that, while she knows how to work the system and do what it takes to get elected, once in office some of her true colors (lefty ones) can shine through. unfortunately, she may get hammered just as unfairly as president as she is now being assailed as candidate. could america just give her a break?!karen
Karen, has it occured to you that the eight years of the previous Clinton administrations and Ms. Clinton's pro-war, pro-Patriot Act stances in the Senate (and her career with the union-busting Rose Law Firm) might in fact constitute her true colors? She has had plenty of time to let those "lefty" colors out during her time in office. I suspect that they are no longer a part of her palette.As for working "twice as hard," she inherited the Clinton political machine with all its advisers and fundraisers, and she came into the race with a high name recognition factor compared to many other candidates. Yes, that is truly a liability for the poor woman. And if she is overly burdened by memories of her husband's tenure at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, she could always ask him to take a reduced role in the campaign. I'd have a lot more respect for her if she could make her attacks herself, instead of sending the boys (Bill, Robert Johnson of BET) out to do her dirty work for her.It is entirely possible to denounce some of the coverage of the Clinton campaign (I for one was appalled that newscasters described her eyes welling in New Hampshire as a "humanizing" moment, implying as it did that she wasn't human before), while still holding Candidate Clinton accountable for her past actions. Those actions aren't related to her gender. They are related to her decisions, and she doesn't get to make bad decisions, as with the Iraq War vote (a decision that cost so many women so much more than Hillary Clinton has ever suffered, or will ever suffer -- I state this for the benefit of those of you who are still able to view non-American females as "human"), and then turn around and claim that attacks on your record are somehow unfair and hardball tactics on the part of the boys.She might also want to consider not using sleazy and unconscionable campaign tactics, such as lying about the staunchly pro-choice record of Senator Obama in materials sent to New Hampshire voters. He has a 100% rating for pro-choice activism in Illinois, as Planned Parenthood Chicago has made very clear, and in fact, Ms. Clinton's truth-impaired presentation of that record has driven some of her former supporters in the pro-choice organizations to his side instead.But I suppose they're just suffering from some "post-feminist" delusions as well. The triumph of Hillary will not be a triumph for women, no more than Margaret Thatcher's time as PM of England made the world better for women. It will be a triumph for her alone -- and for those who are overly invested in her as a symbol, rather than the reality.
I've read your excellent article in the Tribune and agree that Hillary has received some unfair (and often ridiculous) criticism. However, as several of your blog responses have noted, most presidential candidates have weathered similar criticisms (and some far worse than anything yet directed at Clinton).Unfortunately, the fundamental problem (which many women will steadfastly deny) is with Clinton herself -- that is, her character as a person rather than her gender. You really have to give voters a bit more credit for intelligence.Let me give you an analogy. Jesse Jackson also ran for president and lost. His supporters claimed that he lost based on race rather than on personality. But the plain fact is that he lost because voters knew who he was and wouldn't accept him as a potential president. Now Obama is running, and although many voters may not know him as well as they did Jackson, what they do know about his personality is trumping any problems regarding his race. Hillary has Jackson's problem: she is well known by voters, many of whom find aspects of her personality unacceptable (especially when given Obama's personality -- and vision-- as an alternative).Sadly though, many Clinton supporters (apparently yourself, included) are going to blame what's happening to Hillary on gender rather than on personality. It's these women who are unable to rise above "gender politics," not the voters.
Shepherd,What do we really know about the personality of Hillary Clinton or Obama? It's only what we glean from media clips and media accounts. Is Hillary really "well known" by voters? Or is it just that she has been vetted and attacked in the press for years, unlike Obama who is a new figure. I would argue that what you think is Hillary Clinton's "personality" is really what you have absorbed from media accounts of her personality, and those media accounts have been slanted by her gender. She is depicted as "angry" or "jealous" or "shrill", words that would not be used to describe a man. When she's emotional, it's doubted that those emotions are real. She can't cut a break. The media coverage you are seeing is already biased by her gender, and portrays her in a negative light as a result. Please do tell me, what in particular do you not like about her personality and what do you think constitutes a presidential personality?
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