Rhymes With Fuchsia

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Gender Bender

I've been following the presidential race fairly closely but not obsessively, given that 1) I know which party I'm voting for (if you're new here or you have a short memory, here's a hint) 2) as far as I can see any of the top three candidates would make a perfectly respectable president.

But one thing has been driving me absolutely loony: the constant harping on the theme that Senator Clinton is "calculating," "scripted," and let's not forget "ambitious." Whether the pundits intend it or not — I think some do, some don't — these adjectives all seem to cover a basic uneasiness about her, the root of which is "she wants to be a man." No one complains about any other candidate's determination to stay on message, and while you can see a certain former Massachusetts governor carefully parsing every word he speaks, tacking with every capricious political zephyr, in him it's viewed as standard candidate behavior, doing what he has to do.

Ambitious? Hello, the woman is a professional politician who has already attained high public office; if she weren't ambitious she would be quietly practicing law back in Arkansas*. She has as much right as any other second-term senator to aim even higher.

When Grant and I discussed this on our way to work this morning, he pointed out that the "calculating" label gets at both Clintons' tendency to, as the buzzword has it, triangulate: to try to steer a middle course so as to appeal to as many people and offend as few as possible. He mentioned the "don't ask, don't tell" policy as a signal example. He didn't mention Senator Clinton's Iraq-war squishiness, although he could have.

But President Clinton's poll-watching got him tagged as a "people pleaser," and there was much psychobabble about whether his having grown up with an alcoholic father might have made him fear conflict too much. He's too feminine. She's too masculine. You can't win. Senator Clinton found that out yet again when she dropped her guard just before the New Hampshire primary; the conventional wisdom said that her misty-eyed moment pushed her over the top, but there's one sexist pig in every crowd. (I think, by the way, that while her emotion was and is genuine, she decided quite deliberately to take any good chance to reveal it. And I have no problem with that.)

An executive is supposed to calculate, to look at all the facts, especially the inconvenient ones. I want our next president to make world-changing decisions only after due consideration and assessment of all possible pros and cons, not on a prayer and a gut check.
*While I'm getting ticked off at sexism, I should pause to reflect on how far we've come. I can remember when the only thing a former First Lady was supposed to practice was her backhand.


  • ::applause::

    By Blogger Chris H, at 3:32 PM  

  • Nicely said!

    By Blogger Local Egg, at 3:46 PM  

  • Excellent job on this!

    By Blogger Carole Knits, at 6:02 PM  

  • very well said - you've articulated a lot of my unvoiced frustration with the coverage regarding Hillary

    By Blogger Pumpkinmama, at 6:16 PM  

  • Amen.

    By Blogger Ruth, at 6:34 PM  

  • Oh, um, and didn't you forget the bitch word? That may not appear in print, but you do hear it quite a bit. Grrrrrr...rr.r.r.r.r.r.

    By Blogger knitnzu, at 7:49 PM  

  • I love your *hint*. Hee.

    Good Lord, I wish the pundits would SHUT UP already. They find most insubstantial nits to pick. I mostly just tune them out.

    Excellent analysis.

    By Blogger Norma, at 9:05 PM  

  • WooHoo!!!!!!!!I wonder if the men who were here when women couldn't vote are spinning in their graves. This could be our next source of energy. Ambition, hmmm, I'd have to gander that ALL of the proposed candidates would have to be ambitious running for president and all, no? Those barking the loudest are in greatest fear of losing their bones. Poor babies.

    By Blogger Carol, at 12:15 PM  

  • There is nothing to add, you've said it all. (Concisely and with great insight.)

    By Anonymous Beth S., at 4:23 PM  

  • Thank you for clearly naming what's going on. It's amazing that in 2008 we are still dealing with basic woman hating. What is wrong with our culture that women are so despised and men are so threatened by women?

    By Blogger Rhea, at 9:50 PM  

  • nicely put.

    By Blogger maryse, at 7:41 AM  

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