There’s Something About Hillary

Well, as I write this, votes are being counted in New Hampshire in a very important primary. I’m really not sure who I support as the democratic candidate, it’s true. And since by the time the primaries make it to FL it doesn’t really matter all that much I admit I don’t feel that pressured to make a decision.

My rather uneducated opinion is that we need someone with experience, a truly skilled politician to begin to clean up the mess. My hunch is that Hil has more experience in terms of how the presidency actually works than the others, and while I don’t particularly agree with all of her decisions, I think she is probably the best person for the job. Eight years of Hil followed by 8 of Obama might begin to get the country back on track.

But that’s not what this post is supposed to be about. No, the idea for this post began a few weeks ago, just before the holidays, when JPR and I were walking along Steinway St. <insert dreamy music and swirl/fade back into time to set the scene>…Yes, we stopped into the Rite Aid so I could pick up travel size bottles and happened to see a Hillary doll. Upon pressing the doll’s hand, Hillary begins to bobble around and sing to the tune of “My Country Tis of Thee” — however, the Hil version goes something like “My name is Hillary, First broad of liberty, of thee I sing…Land where my husband lied, and I stood right by his side…”. You get the idea.

Now, upon hearing the first “broad” of liberty line my jaw dropped. But what I found more appalling was that she is clearly identified by her husband’s misconduct, and berated for her decision to stay with him. I’m sorry, but last time I checked the conservatives were all about upholding the sanctity of marriage. It seems like Hil’s decision to keep her home intact and practice that fine Christian art of forgiving should have warranted her a bit more credit, rather than discredit. In case you want the full effect, I was able to find a video of the doll on YouTube.

Now, fast forward to today. D-berg sent me an Op-ed article from NYTimes by Gloria Steinem. I’d read Steinem’s brief comments on a Salon.com article where she expressed her support for Hillary. But in this Op-ed piece she reflects on the recent defeat of Hil in Iowa and the astounding success of Obama. She points out that the gender issue is something the country has not gotten over as much as it would like. In true Steinem style, she begins the article with a reversal of gender (if you haven’t seen her piece lambasting Freud’s theories I recommend it, flawed as it may be) to make us aware of the glaring double standards that exist in our society. She describes Obama to the letter, but presents the characteristics as pertaining to a woman, not a man. What she’s trying to get us to see is that our gut reaction is probably to NOT vote for this person, who is essentially the same as Obama, but a woman.

The part I like most about this article is her discussion of the polarizing and unifying forces present in the elections (and in society in general, for that matter). While Obama’s race is, for the most part, a unifying factor, Hil’s gender seems to be quite divisive. I’m reminded of the amazing comment made at a McCain rally where a woman stood up, grabbed the mic, and asked McCain, point blank, “How do we beat the bitch?” During this entire election I have been quite disturbed about the polarizing nature of gender. I haven’t really been able to put a finger on it, but I think Steinem describes it quite well in her article. Why is it ok to obsess about Hil’s physical appearance? her emotional displays (which, frankly, I deeply admired)? her “bitchiness”?

Of course, Steinem doesn’t discuss the inherent advantages that Hil has had as a white woman in the United States. Yes, as one commenter points out, white women have had an unspoken agency that far surpasses the agency of black men throughout history. I think this is an equally valid avenue to investigate, but that’s not the point of Steinem’s article. The point is to draw awareness to the double standard that women are subject to, and to point out how we can see this still occurring on a national scale in the 21st century. That’s the point. However, as Broadsheet points out, she is in danger of creating a competition between “who’s got it worse” — and I think that’s just the kind of counterproductive writing we DON’T need right now. But when discussing race and gender, and class and sexuality for that matter, as well as other -isms, that is always a danger. And I think it is important to realize that we can critically examine one issue, gender in this example, and that shouldn’t mean we are negating or disregarding the others. We’ve got to be able to critically examine how our identities influence our situated experience in the world, bottom line.

I found the reader comments to be even more interesting and informative than the article, as I often do with online articles. Supporters and critics came out in full force (last I checked there were 533 comments) regarding Steinem’s article, and I think they really represent the struggle that we still face around BOTH race and gender.

So, agree or not with Steinem, race and gender are at the forefront of these elections, and they are operating on individuals in ways that we can spend years struggling to understand. But it just seems that there’s something about Hillary that really gets people going in a way that hasn’t really existed since…Janet Reno? I don’t know.

Now, it’s off to do some reading and then turn on the tube and get the preliminary results from NH…

Hil gets verklempt…


2 Responses to “There’s Something About Hillary”

  1. 1 Jason
    January 9, 2008 at 9:03 am

    …and the Republicans sleep well at night, knowing they don’t have to vote for a black man or a woman.

  2. 2 Allison
    January 9, 2008 at 8:27 pm

    I don’t get why people hate her so strongly. And why women get so vicious and catty about the lady. My mom for example, sent me an email that described someone taking great joy in killing Hilary and when I told her I didn’t see how it was humorous, she could only come up with, “Well, she’s liberal trash.” Greeaaaaat. It’s stuff like that that makes me so happy to be out of the small town mentality.

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