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.