Tuesday, April 22, 2008

"the next Hillary"

I have a friend who is working on the Clinton campaign. She's actually working, not just volunteering, as it's part of her regular job (she works for a small, Emily's List type place). We have had a few diplomatic conversations about the campaign and I respect the reasons she's supporting Clinton (basically it seems to boil down to the "Day One" experience argument, plus feminism). One thing we talked about this morning, in the middle of her Election Day madness (she is on the ground in Pittsburgh this week), was how, win or lose, what we'd like to take from this election is this idea that we are the next powerful women in this country. As she put it: "what I realized last night was that if Hillary doesn't get this I think that as a young woman and a feminist this is our wakeup call, this is our launching ground. It will be up to our generation to produce the next Hillary."

I'm not supporting Clinton, but that is not to say I don't incredibly sympathize with her. I do agree that she is in a tough spot, and a lot of the reasons she is disliked and forced into corners and coming out to "twist the knife" as Obama put it is because things are not easy for her as a powerful woman in a male-dominated field, or even a male-dominated world. She is damned if she does, and damned if she doesn't. And I don't like the way that makes her behave (and I also don't think that her personality is entirely a product of the way our society treats women, but it's a significant part of it), and I want Obama to win because I want fresh blood and I believe in his movement and I think it's amazing that someone has gotten the whole country excited, and for a lot of reasons. But I do want a woman president someday, sooner rather than later, and I think that my friend is right about this being a wake-up call. We have to be able to find another way to be a woman in this country, to embrace our femininity and our strength, to be powerful without being or being called bitchy or shrewish, to show weakness from time to time without losing our footing and the respect of others. I hope we can do that, and I believe we can. (Yes, we can!)

On that note, I've got my fingers crossed for Obama in Pennsylvania today. Polls are all over the place and there's no way to predict, I'm just hoping for something good.


Silvs said...

i don't know. i think people are taking this "oh its so hard as a woman to run in this male-dominated game" stuff too far and its kind of annoying. like hillary is not getting a bad wrap cause she's a woman, i think she genuinely sucks as a person. she is manipulative, cold, and calculating.
plus, i mean if this game is so tough for a woman then you'd think in other countries where women are seriously marginalized far more than here in the US there would be no chance in hell for a female elected leader but this is not the case (e.g., pakistan, india). dude and these are countries where women get killed by their uncles, brothers, and fathers for having a boyfriend.
like, i'm all for women's rights, equal pay, lessening the income gap, blah blah blah but sometimes it just gets exhausting when people play the gender and race card all the time.

Anonymous said...

While I agree with some of what you wrote, I would like to point out a fact that slipped through your comparison between the US and India and Pakistan. Yes, both India and Pakistan have had women installed as prime ministers. It has happened once in each country. It has also happened once in each country that these women were eventually assassinated.

Silvs said...

true but that's a few radicals acting on their own personal actions. it still doesn't take away from the fact that the majority of the country elected them into power.
not to mention, indira's assassination was a part of a bigger skirmish involving a separatist group whose leader she had killed, not specifically cause she was a woman. kinda the same for bhutto. it was a power struggle issue not a "how dare we follow a woman" thing. (specially if you believe the rumors that musharaf was behind it) if bhutto had been a man, those people would still have tried to kill him, same for indira.

Anonymous said...

The fact of the matter is that vertical and horizontal segregation is still a significant issue for women in politics. Even those women who have risen to the top position have often been forced to 'masculinize' themselves (e.g. Thatcher, Merkel, Meir, Bhutto, Ghandi) or draw upon their relationship or consanguinity with a male politician (e.g. Bhutto, Ghandi, Kirchner, and arguably Clinton). It's not an even playing field. Some of the countries we are talking about, incidentally, have certain policies more progressive towards women. Take, for instance, the fact that Iran and Pakistan allow women to fight on the front lines, while the US does not. Rwanda has 49% women in its parliament as compared to the US's 14%. Cuba is at 36%. Pakistan is at 22%. Perhaps in terms of some indicators, the US is actually *less* free and democratic.

Emily said...

I think you could argue that Clinton is definitely benefiting from her husband's former position (and current sway over politics in the U.S.; the number of polls where folks state that they are voting for Hillary because they liked Bill is obscene), and also masculinizing herself. That was part of what I meant when I said that I think it's up to (I should have said that it should be a priority for, an imperative even) our generation to find a way to be powerful women, equal to men, without being dependent on them or having to imitate them. I have faith that female leadership can be, and is, as good as male leadership, and it doesn't have to be a carbon copy. Anyway, I like that Pablo is arguing my side, with his years of knowledge to back him up.

I think Hillary may be manipulative, calculating, and cold... but I think that in some ways those are understandable (if not ideal) reactions to being a woman in a man's world. I think it's still inarguably a man's world out there (and I know there is that ongoing argument about which is worse, racism or sexism, and I have not exactly picked a side there, since obviously in many cases the two overlap or whatever).

I actually still think that it is hard to run as a woman in this game. It isn't an excuse for Hillary's behavior, but it is at least part of an explanation. Then again I think in the past few years I've come to be very familiar with the subtle misogynistic strains that run beneath our society, and I believe in them absolutely. (I mean, I believe in their existence.) I question whether you think that they are as prevalent as I think they are. In which case, this argument might not go much further!