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April 7, 2008 | by  | in Opinion |
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Women’s Column

I want Hilary Clinton to be President.
Or at least the Democratic Candidate.

Why? Because she’s awesome. Even before Bill Clinton came along she was turning heads. She was a lawyer, the first female partner at her law firm in 1979, and the first female New York senator. As First Lady, she achieved many great things for women. She helped create the Office on Violence Against Women at the Department of Justice. She argued against women’s rights abuses in China, and the treatment of Afghan women. She helped create Vital Voices, an international organisation that helps women participate in the political processes of their countries.

In the wake of the Lewinsky affair, the public reaction to her support for Bill was mixed: Was she strong and calm in the face of public embarrassment? A victim of her husband’s behaviour? Weak for not leaving him? Power hungry for staying with him? It seems poor old Hilary can never get it right.

We know she can do it. But what I find fascinating about her campaign is the way it is bringing sexist attitudes and old prejudices to the fore. Take her appearance for example – she’s either too sexual or not sexual enough. Too powerful or too weak. She’s been criticised for showing cleavage and yet also being too mannish. She’s been called old, fat and ugly. When was the last time an article commented on a male candidate’s figure? Or his age in relation to his appearance rather than his ability to do the job?

And then there’s her voice. MSNBC commentator Tucker Carlson said of Clinton, “There’s just something about her that feels castrating, overbearing, and scary,” whilst top-rated radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh called her “the woman with the testicle lockbox.” American communications studies professor Kathleen Hall Jamieson acknowledges this sexism saying, “there’s language to condemn female speech that doesn’t exist for male speech. We call women’s speech shrill and strident.” Well, that sucks.

If the appearance and voice attack isn’t working, why not try using some sexist stereotypes? You could play on the fact that she’s a mother – criticize her for playing up her motherly image, or use her motherly image as a negative thing. Cue headline “Obama, here comes Mama. And she doesn’t play” (23 January Washington Post editorial).

Or we could undermine her by talking about her husband. On 22 January, ABC News anchor Charles Gibson asked Clinton skeptically, “Would you be in this position were it not for your husband?” She’s clearly capable. Of course she has been helped by who her husband is, but only because a woman still can’t make it on her own. But then she deserves it. What man would need to move states and sacrifice his career for love (as she did when she left New York for Arkansas to be with Bill)? What man would need to change his name to appeal to his wife’s voters (as she did when she became Hillary Clinton for Bill’s voters in Arkansas)? If you ask me, Bill owes her one.

And then there’s the big one: Are we even ready for a woman president? Why the fuck not? Gender is important, but it shouldn’t wholly define her and especially not in a negative way. But if we keep talking about the fact that she’s a woman, we won’t have to discuss her strong leadership or her intelligence or that’s she’s totally fiercely kick ass.’s Tim Grieve had this to say: “Clinton … [isn’t] running for ‘first woman president’ … [she’s] running for president, period.”

It’s not just the media having a go. A simple search on Facebook reveals an alarming number of anti-Hillary groups, from “If she can’t satisfy her husband … how can she satisfy a nation?” to “Hillary Clinton Shouldn’t Run For President She Should Just Run The Dishes” to “Life’s a Bitch, Don’t Vote for One: Anti-Hillary Clinton ‘08” (which also includes some lovely doctored pictures of Hilary in bondage gear). However, the Facebook groups playing on Obama’s race are few and far between – apart from the ridiculous “Proud to not vote for barrack alsarqewe achmead muhhammad beenbombin’ obama.”

Flak magazine formulated the Bigotron3000 to translate these sexist statements about Hilary into equally offensive racist statements about Obama. I particularly like:

Christopher Hitchens, Slate: “Of course, against all these considerations you might prefer the newly fashionable and more media-weighty notion that if you don’t show her enough appreciation, after all she’s done for us, she may cry.”

Hitch-o-tron: “Of course, against all these considerations you might prefer the newly fashionable and more media-weighty notion that if you don’t show him enough appreciation, after all he’s done for us, he may go all Negro on your ass.”

You would never hear the media say that. Because it’s ‘racist’. And yet, Hilary can’t really talk about all this. If Clinton even tried to mention the dreaded ‘s’ word (sexism), she would have people labelling her a feminazi. Why? Most people are against racism, and we don’t think they’re crazy. Most people are against sexism. If they are, then I would call those people feminists.

She’s as classic a liberal feminist as they come – making it in a man’s world, without attempting to change the structures of society or patriarchy itself, but hey, I think she could do great things and show the world that a woman can be President. I want her to be President, but more importantly I want the media attention she’s getting to be fair and balanced, focus on the issues, and not trivialise her because she’s a woman.

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About the Author ()

Well hello there. Eleanor was the Theatre Editor in 2007, now she writes the Women's Column and just generally minces about the Salient office. Eleanor is currently an Honours student in Theatre (with a touch of gender). She also has a BCA in Marketing but she tries to keep that on the d-low (embarrassing, because she loves academic integrity and also perpetuating the myth that she's a tad bohemian). If you've got a gender agenda, woo her by taking her a BYO Malaysian. She lies, if you show any interest at all she'll probably tackle you in the street and force you to write a column.

Comments (7)

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  1. Von Hayek says:

    Her womanhood alone makes her a better candidate than Obama? Millions of people worldwide have analysed Democratic candidates based on issues and policy and found her to be a figure of the unsatisfactory Clintonite establishment. The idea of a Clinton dynasty is particularly revolting. Hillary seems like a Hawk with regard to foreign policy issues, she was pro-War, she constantly trianglulates, her campaign has been run in a rather cynical and banal fashion, her claims to experiences are totally fatuous, and as far as I can see she is a figure of the traditional East Coast Democratic establishment. How about we choose candidiates based on whats good for America and the World as opposed to the fact that Hillary is a woman. Unfortunately she is subject to petty, low-brow attacks on the issue but you’ve not examined why people have far greater concerns with her.

  2. Mark Pennis says:

    No chance that she will become president, TOO MUCH baggage (not just carpet bagging her way to the Senate in 2000 either):

    Try these:

    -Health Reform fiasco in early 90’s
    -White Water rumours all through the 90’s
    -Paul vs Clinton case (donations scandal) to be back in court on April 25
    -Bosnia lies (caught out other week about the actual lack of sniper fire)
    -5600% wealth increase since 2000 (shown by the about time release of her tax returns last week)
    -She’s divisive too (“Vast Right Wing Conspiracy” rant some years ago comes to mind) and Electorate don’t want that (that’s why the 2 least divisive candidates are pretty much in i.e. McCaine and Obama)
    -Voting for the War in Iraq and trying to campaign against it too (classic flip flopper) plus the rest of her voting record is hardly startling
    -Constant spin (especially now she is behind in delegates so she has another Bill crony Harold Ickes constantly changing the goal posts for the media and super delegates to focus on)
    -Her campaing manager left two moths ago
    -Her chief political strategist Mark Penn just resigned
    -She just had to retract her famous hospital story (about the pregnant woman on the campaign trail)

    AND she is too far behind in delegates to catch up to Obama almost 200 delegates behind, slim single digit lead in Pennsylvania and 25 % behind in North Carolina and Obama is picking up all the delegates and leading in the polls nationally, mathmatically impossible for her to win…

    I agree with Bishop that why not have a woman president, but I do not believe that Hillary is the right woman candidate, even Nancy Pelosi is hinting that she won’t back her and I think Condeliza Rice would be better President than Clinton were she ever to run with Obama taking the step into candidacy that Powell (he would have done well if he’d run also but he opted for diplomacy instead) always shunned shows that blacks and yes women can be taken seriously as candidates.

    So thank you Hillary for running, but I doubt that you will be the Democratic candidate and if you became the candidate it is unlikely you would beat the Republicans as they HATE you so much that the turn out against you would just be too big…

  3. Alan Shore says:

    You probably like Helen Clark because she is a woman. It is not sexist to criticise a female politician because she has right-wing politics. Ann Coulter is a woman, so is Shirley Phelps-Roper, Margaret Thatcher and Imelda Marcos. Do you support them?

  4. Is it ok to say “I want Obama to win because America’s never had a black president”, but not ok to say “I want Hillary to win because America’s never had a woman president”?

    Because you guys seem to think that it’s not okay to like a candidate partially on the basis of their gender and the greater representation they could henceforth give to a group. And if you like Hillary because she’s a woman, you must be racist, right?

  5. seann p says:

    tsk tsk…the state of political consciousness…terrible.

  6. Tom says:

    so like, that Hitchens quote is referring to a specific event where Clinton cynically manufactured tears in order to save her candidacy, not a general stab at the crying habits of the female persuasion. anyway, pretty awful article in general.

  7. fred says:

    heh heh she can’t bowl either, even worse than obama does…

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