Today on Blogcritics
Home » Hillary and the Women Who Resent Her

Hillary and the Women Who Resent Her

Please Share...Tweet about this on Twitter0Share on Facebook0Share on Google+0Share on LinkedIn0Pin on Pinterest0Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUpon0Share on Reddit0Email this to someone

You take your history how it’s made, now how it’s wished. Those hoping that history this time would be made in the form of the first female presidential nominee from a major political party will instead have to settle for it in the form of the first black presidential nominee of a major political party.

It’s hard to appreciate the breadth of a historical event as it is happening, so the fact that Barack Obama’s ascension from afterthought to nominee may not be fully appreciated by many is understandable. But given this country’s uneasy and complicated relationship with blacks since its inception, it would be nearly impossible to overstate the significance of his nomination, at least until he is actually elected in November.

But none of this even begins to answer the question that’s been rolling around in my head for months: why do women hate women? Maybe that’s a bit harsh. The real question is why do women resent other women in power? This being a man’s world and all, the popular thought is that misogyny is a one-way street. But one painful truth of Hillary Clinton’s failed quest to be the first woman president of the United States is that her undoing was an inside job. It seems that too many women just didn’t want to see one of their own succeed.

I had no expectations that women were going to universally support Clinton because she was a woman anymore then I expected blacks to support Obama because he was black. Ok, bad example. But the fact that Clinton couldn’t connect with more of her gender like Obama connected with his race  ended up sabotaging her campaign as much as anything else and says less about her professional shortcomings than it does to how women tend to treat women in power.

There seems to be no dispute that Clinton can be polarizing in her approach. But she is a partisan politician after all and thus it’s expected that her views will clash with others of a different political bent. She’s also been in the public eye for so long, she’s a convenient target. But do women have to be so catty about it?

Maybe it’s what passes for wit these days, but doesn’t it seem like an awful lot of the commentary about Clinton, particularly that written by women, has had a few too many references to her looks, her voice, her clothes, her ankles? Do your own Google search on “Hillary Clinton” and “cankles” and you’ll find over 13,400 entries. Many of these, of course, are the product of the internet’s chief advantage, anonymity. But that doesn’t even begin to explain, for example, those who are actually trying to be taken seriously, like Maureen Dowd. The need to jab Clinton personally while attacking her politics isn’t clever, it’s revealing.

With no sense of irony, too many women, including too many so-called feminists, didn’t support Clinton under the theory that because she couldn’t manage her husband she certainly couldn’t be trusted managing the country. As a corollary, they offered that she has an amazing lack of judgment, and not just about Iraq but because she didn’t dump Bill after he so publicly embarrassed her and her daughter (pick an episode). Not to unfairly turn the focus back on reality, but it is true that it was never her job or responsibility to control her husband. His inability to keep his glands in check doesn’t reveal some shortcoming on her behalf. Her desire to keep the family intact, even under such trying circumstances, hardly constitutes a character flaw, unless, of course, you’re Clinton. You see, she’s an opportunist. Far better, they posit, for the political career to stay in a sham marriage than be distracted by an ugly and public divorce. In other words, never argue the facts with those hell-bent on not letting such things derail an argument being built simply to mask true feelings.

The other odd circumstance is that while personally resenting Clinton’s success, a lot of these same women were still protective of her intentions. Recall the uproar when Chris Matthews of MSNBC suggested (wrongly) that Clinton hadn’t achieved anything on merit, advancing in her career only by playing the victim to her husband’s shortcomings. Feminists, even some who otherwise despised Clinton, howled that the comments were sexist and Matthews offered the inevitable apology, apparently for being misconstrued. Matthews was wrong because he completely glossed over Clinton’s educational background and professional accomplishments. That doesn’t mean he was sexist.

In fact, Matthews’ comments were no more sexist, and probably less so, than those written by Camille Paglia recently in the Telegraph of London. Paglia, a somewhat contradictory intellectual, is either a feminist or she’s not. And while far more literate than the bombastic Matthews, that shouldn’t be reason enough to give her a pass that Matthews didn’t get. She wrote, for example about Clinton that “she is both inspiring role model and cringe-making bad example — an overtly feminist careerist who never found a way to succeed without her husband's connections, advice, and intervention.” Where is the feminist indignation?

How is her (wrong) observation any different than the comments for which Matthews was forced to apologize? And don’t misconstrue. I’m not asking her to apologize anymore than I would have asked Matthews to apologize. But in truth, the observations are nearly identical and yet because Paglia is a woman she isn’t held accountable for what is essentially an angry missive at a woman threatening to succeed. Paglia is a professor and a mostly shrewd observer of the human condition, but apparently she is no more immune to the underlying personal petty jealousy women tend to feel toward each other than the assistant whispering to her female co-worker in the break room about how the boss’s choice in suits makes her look fat.

In some sense, both Matthews and Paglia were fostering certain stereotypes while missing the point that a woman taking advantage of her husband’s connections turns tradition on its head perhaps but it is hardly a sin. No one makes it on his or her own these days. Support systems vary but everyone needs one. Maybe I haven’t read the latest manifesto, but I didn’t think women were ever fighting simply for the right to go it alone.

The final irony is that in defeat Clinton is now being praised by those who criticized her for the role model she really has become. No longer an immediate threat to succeed, it’s fine, even expected for them to give her the hardy pat on the back for fighting the good fight. But a woman is no closer to the White House as a result and while the “atta girls” may be gratifying to Clinton personally she’d be fully justified in asking where were these women when she needed them most?

Powered by

About Gary D. Benz

  • Chris

    Clinton did not make herself a good enough role model to get behind for all women. SHe lied, wanted to cheat, gave the impression that she had no honor and would do anything to win. As much as you want to win sometimes you want it done honorably and in a way that you could be proud of. Hillary did not make me wish I were like her.

    Also, do not forget that the majority of blacks did not support Obama until he proved himself worthy. Maybe if Clinton had proved herself worthy then more women would have voted for her.

    It’s very contentious and divisive to say that women didn’t vote for her because they were hating and trying to keep her down. This is just a part of the usual rhetoric used to keep women down. We aren’t brainless, we can decide who we want and we have to vote for a woman if we don’t believe in her.

  • Gary Benz

    Far from trying to keep women down, my real hope is that they see their failed support as a chance to reflect on why one of their own didn’t do better. You can find enough flaws in any candidate to justify your decisions, but Hillary was a strong candidate, not perfect, and could have used a little more support.

  • Marny

    I found Paglia’s brand of “knotty psychodrama” journalism repugnant, and not anything I relate to either as a woman,or a feminist.There is nothing noble in her hyena-like tirade. Even points well stated were, to use your word, “catty” beyond reason. And if there’s “no one better at flattering and soaking the rich and famous”, as Paglia states, can we then assume that Obama got Oprah in his corner solely on presidential merit and not even a scosh of blackness? And oh, I guess milking having been a prisoner of war till all the tits run dry is somehow not the cash cow for McCain that I think it is?[And has it really made him an expert on Iraq?] Paglia is no sister of mine, not in spirit or otherwise.Hillary Clinton has devoted a large chunk of her life to very real public service and has been a tireless advocate for those without a voice. I, for one, am glad she has one.I am still thinking about your article, Gary–I have only touched on one point. And–I agree with your response to Chris.

  • Marny

    My expression of contempt for Ms. Paglia for her attack on hillary Clinton, in what I saw as vile, got me thinking on the point of Gary’s piece, or as it were, the question of why women resent other women in power.[I think “hate” is untrue and provocative, Gary]. While I don’t think either sex has a monopoly on jealousy, ambition, or competitiveness, I do think men and women often view themselves differently. I think women are more prone to self-loathing than men are and therefore loathing of one another. Anorexia and bulimia are always on the rise in our young girls, as is self-mutilation. Our children, male and female, are bombarded in every form of media by emaciated 15-year old girls selling wrinkle cream etc. Those women who choose to have children and invest their time and energy in being stay-at-home-moms, are still too often thought of as not having lived up to their own potential apart from that role. [I realize that 2-income homes are more the norm, and there are more single parent households than ever.]Women who choose a life path that does’nt include having children of their own are still often thought to be somehow incomplete without them. Women who try to do both, often don’t feel they excell at either. Women often become defensive about their choices, or the circumstances they find themselves in. There are exceptions ofcourse, and lives with the kind of support that allows everyone involved to flourish.What I’m trying to say is self-image is everything. I worked with emotionally disturbed girls, aged 7 to 17 who could not function in society. When I told a 14-year old who was too self-conscious to be seen in a dark movie theater–that she did’nt have to cut “help me” into her arm with a knife, she could come and ask me for help instead next time–I could’nt help but think of all the girls who feel unworthy and worthless because they don’t fit a mold or measure up to the media message of how they should look. We must praise our children, girls and boys, in abundance for the gift they are and the gifts they have. And just maybe they’ll grow up to feel their value and to praise one another for all the right reasons. Every child is worthy of our love and a life of dignity and compassion.