Sen. Clinton and our War Against Women

In a NY Times op-ed today, prominent social analyst Gloria Steinem weighs in on America’s persistent gender and politics problem:

Gender is probably the most restricting force in American life, whether the question is who must be in the kitchen or who could be in the White House. This country is way down the list of countries electing women and, according to one study, it polarizes gender roles more than the average democracy.

Steinem is right about a great deal in this analysis, and while I don’t agree with her that Sen. Clinton is the best candidate for the job of president, I share her frustration at the cynical, regressive gender politics framing the public “debate.”

Women really are screwed when it comes to their pursuit of leadership. They grow up in a culture where strength – which is the most important of all possible qualities in every phase of American life – is cast in strictly masculine terms, and as they train for positions of leadership the subtle, but clear message is that in order to succeed they have to become men.

If they adopt masculine styles, of course, they’re bitches. If they don’t, they’re weak.

We see this trap playing out yet again in New Hampshire, where Sen. Clinton came dangerously close to showing emotion yesterday. ThinkProgress provides an outstanding look at the ensuing hypocrisy of the “press,” which most days displays neither strength nor the slightest hint of intelligence. Please watch the clip, because it’s instructive seeing CNN, MSNBC and ABC tripping over themselves trying to out-stupid FOX (with a good deal more success than we might hope for).

Pay attention – crying is weakness! Well, unless, of course, it’s a Republican male. As our friends at ThinkProgress note, Mitt Romney can cry. Robert Gates can cry. Dubya can cry. Dubya’s daddy can cry. But if Ed Muskey cries he’s a simpering liberal pussy. If a female candidate shows signs of humanity, we’re faced with a choice: is she weak, or is she calculating and manipulative?

There are reasons to prefer another candidate to Sen. Clinton – real reasons, valid reasons that do not require you to demonstrate before the world that you’re a drooling moron. It’s maddening having to watch all this 21st Century technology being deployed in service to 14th Century ignorance, though.

When Sen. Clinton had a near-emotional moment on the campaign trail after one of the most hellish weeks of her life it didn’t really tell me anything new about her. I already knew she was human.

Sadly, the media’s response didn’t teach me anything I didn’t already know about it, either.


29 thoughts on “Sen. Clinton and our War Against Women”

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  2. It tells me that she’s too weak for the job of President, as would such a breakdown from any candidate irrespective of gender. This “hellish” week is nothing compared to what she’d face on a day-to-day basis as the US President.

    America – probably any nation – needs leaders that can cope and keep coping no matter what – especially when people are watching. We certainly don’t need someone who cracks under the pressure when that pressure is only things not going their own way.

  3. So anyone capable of shedding tears (that is, any human being with remotely normal emotions) is unqualified for the presidency? And that would include Bush, Mitt, Bush the Elder, and probably every other candidate in the race?

    Just want to make sure I have your position straight.

  4. What worries me is that some women, perhaps especially younger ones, hope to deny or escape the sexual caste system.

    We have to be able to say: “I’m supporting her because she’ll be a great president and because she’s a woman.”

    I agree wholeheartedly with the first statement; I see it in action all the time. So many young women don’t know the terribly recent history of the fight for women’s rights or the status of women in the mysterious, irrelevant “rest of the world.”

    I want to throw something at Steinem for the second. The point, the POINT, damn it, is that eventually somehow the playing field will be level enough that we will support the candidate with whose ideas we agree: gender identity won’t matter. Don’t misunderstand – I am terribly, terribly disappointed that Hillary has turned out to be someone I can’t support, because on a gut level, I would love for the first US President my daughter remembers to be a woman. But how, really, will voting for a woman because she is a woman help speed the day when a woman will be President?

    I won’t do it. I won’t vote for Obama’s skin color. I won’t vote for Mitt’s excellent hair. And I sure as hell won’t vote for a vagina whose attached person voted for this stupid, stupid war.

  5. Americans are so primitive and immature in their misogyny. Look at all the countries that have had woman leaders. Britain. India. Israel. New Zealand (also the first country to give women the vote, fully twenty seven years before the USA did). Yet Americans are still whimpering “Are we ready for a woman president?” Pathetic. What a backward country.

  6. Steinem’s point is well-taken but so is Euphrosyne’s. Back in 2000, I thought Hillary would be an excellent candidate for the presidency but she has changed far too much for me to be able to support her. As for Obama, he is no better, riding on his status of media darling which has exempted him from substantive analysis. He is a hollow shell, a political cypher, and I prefer to vote for a candidate who means what he says, says what he means and is prepared to carry it out. I look forward to the day when Americans as a whole can vote for a candidate on those grounds instead of because of race or gender (for or against) or media sycophancy.

  7. America – probably any nation – needs leaders that can cope and keep coping no matter what –

    I talked to my Uncle John on Sunday. A few months ago, he lost his wife of 56 years. When the conversation turned to her, he sobbed.

    Uncle John waded ashore at Tarawa from his stranded Higgins boat. Of the six men (artillerists for pack howitzers) in the boat, three made it to the beach alive. Only one made it through the day, and then through Peleliu and Leyte, to live to cry over his lost, lifelong companion, lover, and friend.

    Uncle John made it to sergeant. He led a fire team at Tarawa. At Peleliu, he started out leading a squad, then a platoon, then what was leftr of a company, as officer after office fell.

    But he’s not a good leader under pressure, is he, because he cried. You would be a much better leader, wouldn’t you jonolan? Is that because you don’t ever cry? Is that because you’re a sociopath?

  8. I spent 25 years in the Army and Air force. The best advice I ever received about military women was from a female captain who was one of the best officers I ever met. She said simply: “women cry. All you have to do, Sarge, is to let her know you expect her to do the job. She can do it crying or not, that is up to her, but she signed up to do the job, so she has to do it”. I found this to be true, so many times. I feel that Senator Clinton wouldn’t be running if she didn’t expect to do the job. Just like the rest of those political jerks. Forget the tears, you have her record. Look at it!

  9. I’m a liberal, gun-owning, meat-eating married mother of two. Ever since I had my first child I’ve been susceptible to tears at extremely emotional moments. The only times I’ve cried on the job are when I was so angry that I could no longer find words to express myself. Most of the time, though, I’m told that I have bigger brass ones than the males that I’m up against.

    The ability to shed tears is not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of passion, empathy, sadness, or whatever it is that makes a person give a damn about the situation.

    The only way tears are a negative for Hillary are if, as suspected by some, they are scripted. From my own experience, I can say that strong, agressive women can still cry. Just like men.

  10. I don’t think she’s weak for crying if it’s genuine, but it would be naive to not consider that it might be calculated. I’m sure it was a coincidence that two yahoos chanted “Iron my shirt” at her speech today as well. Same Clintons, same BS. They are trying to play to the female vote because Obama took it from her and apparently many women fell for this ridiculous act.

  11. Eh Brando, the two jerks with the “iron my shirt” signs were from some radio station doing some dumb stunt. The Clinton campaign had nothing to do with it. The BS is coming from people like you that seem to believe that there is nothing, ever, that this woman can do right. Irrational, don’t you think?

  12. People who have had sex changes, male-to-female and female-to-male, report that when under the influence of female hormones they cry easily, and when under the influence of male hormones they don’t. Clearly it is something to do with endocrinology and no indication of strength or weakness of mind or character.

  13. Watching Chris Matthews on MSNBC has become too painful. Although I like Keith Olbermann, I can’t watch their election coverage any longer. Chris is a psycho when it comes to the Clintons. He starts screaming at his “guests” the minute they say anything remotely nice about Bill or Hillary — the guests should all vow never to appear with him again.

  14. I think a woman might do a better job running this country then the “boys” have for the last 20 years. And so what if she uses tears to help her win? No worse than the GOP who “talk with God”. Which is worse? I can’t trust anyone who says they communicate with God. CAN YOU? And yes, all women cry, and the large majority of men cry. So What?

  15. Misogyny is still woven into the very fiber of our society, as is racism. When such biases have been incorporated on a fundamental level, they affect our perceptions so most of us aren’t even aware that we suffer from them, indignantly protesting that WE aren’t like that.

    But, at least on a societal level — we are.

  16. You’re right, miscue. Sooner a woman who tears up easily than a man who believes he is in direct personal communication with God. The first is behavior normal particularly for persons of that gender, and the second is delusional for anyone, regardless of gender.
    Anyway, with the NH results in, all the male candidates may be sending their aides out to buy some onions.

  17. A racist statement or act is taken far more seriously than is a sexist one. Why is that? Both are equally repellant.

    The reason that racism is considered more serious in this country than is sexism is because racism affects men – whereas sexism usually does not. And when people in this country talk about great civil rights activists, it’s usually males that come most immediately to mind: MLK, Malcolm X, Frederick Douglass. For some reason, Rosa Parks and Harriet Tubman don’t trip so frequently off one’s lips as do their male counterparts.

    Women constitute the majority in this country – as well as the rest of the world. Yet, when it comes to political representation, they are almost a non-entity. It is particularly disturbing in the U.S. – a country that continually reminds everyone how free and equal it is. Not for women.

  18. Gender is probably the most restricting force in American life????

    I suppose that Steinem looks at America’s illustrious history of exclusion based on race as a minor annoyance?

    I don’t for one minute believe that Hillary’s expression of emotion was unscripted, I think we can all relate to the realistic frustrations women face competing in a male dominant society and Hillary took full advantage of casting herself in the role of victim.

  19. i am tired of the media “guiding” us to the candidates THEY want. i refuse to watch keith olbermann when he is with tweety. cannot stand the irrational hatred tweety has for the clintons. i get teared up everytime i think of our wounded country and what we must do to help it survive. tweety hates hillary because the clintons would not give him the job he wanted. ed schultz of air america hates hillary because she will not come one his show. these people do not care about our wounded, just themselves. i am now going to donate heavily to hillary. i am tired of the boot print on the backs of women.

  20. The Democrats are masters at losing elections. A presidential candidate cannot win without the male vote. Hillary alienates most men and Obama will bring out the anti-black sentiments secretly held by many voters. To ignore political reality loses elections. If Ross Perot didn’t run in 1992 Bill Clinton would have been beaten by Bush 1.

  21. Reggie, one terrible problem does not necessarily exclude or downplay another. Did you see this bit in the Steinem piece?

    I’m not advocating a competition for who has it toughest. The caste systems of sex and race are interdependent and can only be uprooted together.

  22. >>Euphrosyne, January 8, 2008 at 12:23 pm :

    I won’t do it. I won’t vote for Obama’s skin color. I won’t vote for Mitt’s excellent hair. And I sure as hell won’t vote for a vagina whose attached person voted for this stupid, stupid war.<<

    Classic. We need to see more lines like this…

  23. First this…

    >>Reggie, January 9, 2008 at 11:52 am :
    Gender is probably the most restricting force in American life????

    I suppose that Steinem looks at America’s illustrious history of exclusion based on race as a minor annoyance?<>Euphrosyne, January 9, 2008 at 3:03 pm :
    Reggie, one terrible problem does not necessarily exclude or downplay another. Did you see this bit in the Steinem piece?

    I’m not advocating a competition for who has it toughest. The caste systems of sex and race are interdependent and can only be uprooted together.<<

    The thing is that th american experience is different for different people. So depending on what race/gender/class you are from, your restrictions may be different for you than for another. There is no one restricting expereince for all.

    And then there are the laws that make things un-equal in attempts to make things equal. Just ask Dr. Slammy’s friend (I forget his name) who couldn’t got displaced because of the black female nun in a wheel chair when he needed a job.

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