The Men Go A Little Nuts Over Hillary
Not being a woman, I can't speak from personal experience about the nature of "the secondary conversation" that women might have apart from the men, in which they share the realities of their lives in ways that might not fly in mixed company. Nonetheless, I intuitively sense that this post by Garance Franke-Ruta at TAPPED is describing accurately what happened to Hillary Clinton this past week.
I also feel strongly, with Ezra Klein, that accusing Clinton of "playing the gender card" based on her comments at Wellesley is just ludicrous. What, is she not even allowed to mention the fact that she is a women--even when visiting with fellow-alumnae from an all-woman college?
And how is saying, "In so many ways, this all-women's college prepared me to compete in the all-boys club of presidential politics," in any way to claim victimization? I think Obama's claim that Hillary said, in effect, "Don't pick on me" in the aftermath of last week's debate is a real distortion. He lost some stature in my eyes with that unfair attack.
If you ask me (you didn't, but play along), the article that best explains the dynamic in the Democratic race this week is one that didn't even mention Hillary Clinton. It is this New York Times story by Lisa Belkin--in the Style section!--describing the psychological obstacles that professional women face when they seek advancement:
"It's enough to make you dizzy," said Ilene H. Lang, the president of Catalyst, an organization that studies women in the workplace. "Women are dizzy, men are dizzy, and we still don't have a simple straightforward answer as to why there just aren't enough women in positions of leadership."Abe Foxman of the ADL likes to point out how the stereotypes of Jews harbored by anti-Semites are mutually contradictory: Jews are "too clannish" and "too attached to their own kind," but they also are "too pushy" and "too eager to force their way into circles where they aren't welcome"; they are "too liberal" and "closet Communists," but they are also "arch-capitalists" who "secretly rule the business world."
Catalyst's research is often an exploration of why, 30 years after women entered the work force in large numbers, the default mental image of a leader is still male. Most recent is the report titled "Damned if You Do, Doomed if You Don't," which surveyed 1,231 senior executives from the United States and Europe. It found that women who act in ways that are consistent with gender stereotypes--defined as focusing "on work relationships" and expressing "concern for other people's perspectives"--are considered less competent. But if they act in ways that are seen as more "male"--like "act assertively, focus on work task, display ambition"--they are seen as "too tough" and "unfeminine."
Women can't win.
I see Hillary as being up against the same kind of self-contradictory attacks. She's an ultra-liberal bogeywoman hated by the Right, but also a Bush-appeasing hawk hated by the Left; a naive ideologue pushing an extreme agenda, but also a flip-flopping weathervane who will say anything to get elected; a vicious pursuer of vendettas driven by the desire for revenge on her enemies, but also a robotic "Stepford Wife" candidate programmed to behave only in politically correct fashion.
And now, apparently, the mainstream media consider it out-of-bounds for her to make an appeal to one of her most important natural constituencies--women (who constitute more than half of the Democratic Party and the national electorate). They call it "playing the gender card," as though this is somehow sleazy. Since when? Have the morning talk shows ever attacked any of the Republican candidates for "playing the religion card" in their appeals to "Christians"? Speaking as both a Christian and a man, I find those appeals far more divisive and offensive than Hillary's comments about being a woman in a male-dominated profession.
Maybe Tim Russert and Chris Matthews can get together a write a list of approved campaign strategies for Hillary, along with a description of the clothes she is allowed to wear, the places she is allowed to visit, the people she is allowed to meet, and the facial expressions she is allowed to wear. Such a list would be interesting to see and it might make it easier for future female candidates to win the approval of the self-proclaimed gatekeepers of our political system.