Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Deconstructing the Hillary Hate

Yesterday afternoon, I heard this story about the New Hampshire primary on NPR's All Things Considered.

What struck me was not Obama's humor but Clinton's personal response. The amazing thing about radio is that people are left only to their audible voices - there isn't as much to distract the listener. I find I actually think about the news when I listen to NPR, I soak it in rather than just consuming it. And when I heard Hillary respond in such a seeming genuine way, I thought, "She really believes in this. She really believes in what she's doing."

Either she is genuine and truly believes what she expressed, or she's a damn good actor. I know a lot of people who would believe the latter, and no matter how she comes across, they cannot believe her to be genuine in anything she says.

But why am I so surprised and, strangely, touched by her genuine, human response? Did I need her to become human?

Why is it that she, as a woman, needs a more feminine touch? And is that related to why so many people, especially ardent conservatives who hold strong gender biases, hate her so much?

Is America ready for a woman as president?

First, the easy part. Yes, I think conservatives hate her because she's a woman. She's playing a man's game, and she's playing it very well. She's threatening, she could win. They claim they don't hate her just because she's a woman, but because she's a conniving politician who's only interested in power.

If that's the case, why does she elicit so much hate when male politicians have been doing the same thing for the entirity of this country's history? Because good politicians have to embody stereotypical male dominance, and a lot of people, especially in conservative circles, don't want a bitch (read - a woman with dominance) running their country. We have not come nearly as far as I thought.

However, I believe what she is doing is incredibly significant. As a girl, I always wanted to see a woman as president, but by the time I was in high school, I had nearly given up on the notion. Once in college, I though it would never happen in my lifetime.

But here she is, with the good and the bad, doing well despite the Iowa set back. She has a chance, a strong one, and I'd be lying if I didn't admit that excited me. I can't hate her, even if I disagree with her (and to an extent, I'm not sure how much I disagree with her).

But being back in Georgia made me realize that there are a lot of minds that won't change, and a lot of people who don't believe her when she's being human. That's why the sound byte is significant: She convinced me for the first time because she was displaying feminine characteristics of vulnerability and sensitivity. I want a leader who admits his or her feelings from time-to-time. Politics needs to embrace the feminine, and maybe this country could actually get better if it were less about dominance and more about the greater good.

Still, I have to wonder why am I so relieved that Hillary finally became feminine. Why is it that I need her to be more "like a woman"? This is the not-so-easy part. It somehow legitimizes her candidacy, and I realize I have been swayed by the Stop Her Now rhetoric. I have been supporting Obama because I thought he'd be less hated and more likely to win. I knew the Hillary haters would never be won over, and now more than ever, I believe that's because she's the type of woman that she is. It has nothing to do with her politics.

Her expression of emotion, concern, and vulnerability have re-painted her as a candidate for me. I'm sorry to admit that's what it took, but at the same time, I believe her. I believe that she wants to make this country a better place and ensure the opportunities America promises are available to as many people as possible - male or female. She embodies that possibility, even if she isn't as soft around the edges as people would like.

I don't think she'd do a bad job, either. She can't do any worse than our current president, right?


Heather said...

interesting read, my dear gina. interesting read. i'm not one to argue about politics. i had given up on them myself in college. i have to say though that listening to some of ron paul's speeches and interviews on youtube has changed the way that i think about politics. i didn't realize how much he had impacted my thinking until i went home for christmas and found myself talking about hard money and the constitution.

Sarah said...

amen, sister, amen. i find it completely fascinating that people hate her sooooo much when, realistically, her politics and policies are better than any other democratic candidates',and all of the republicans as well (i mean, I like Obama alright as well, and think he'd be great in 8 years, but i am definitely swayed by Hill's experience and the fact that she's a woman). i think one of the only reasons she is so unliked by so many is, REALLY, that she is a woman, and a woman who doesn't take shit and speaks her mind. I've liked Hillary for a long time. I started to like her, actually, when the whole sex scandal was going on with Bill. And I honestly think anyone who claims she is merely a heartless politician fails to observe the small moments of her speeches (like the one you were talking about) and the fact that her life backs what she says she believes. she's fought hard for women and children and families most of her life, and she started the healthcare reform bandwagon. and i think gloria steinem is right - hillary's womanness is a far bigger deal than people like to say it is, and a lot of people like pretending that they don't hate her because she's a woman but because she's "this, that, or the other", but I think it's hard to ignore that, if Hillary had a penis, people would love her (like they loved Bill, FDR, and other hard-hitting Dems in the past). it is indeed frustrating.

i mean, i'll be honest, i cried when she won new hampshire. it was incredible to me that a woman, A WOMAN, is actually a frontrunner for the nomination, and that a woman, for the first time in history, won a primary race. EVER. it makes me feel like there is hope...that even if it doesn't happen THIS time, it WILL happen. but until she gets knocked out of the race, she's got my support, and my vote. not only do i like her policies (if i didn't, i wouldn't support her) but it's an additional bonus that she's a woman in a male predominated society, running for an office that a woman has never held, and still refusing to give up the fight or completely compromise her femininity.

this was really long. i have very strong opinions about politics and strong feelings about hillary...we need to have that phone date soon.

Autumn said...

Sigh. I feel like such a terrible American for not having a stronger interest in politics.

The sad truth is that my appraisal of candidates doesn't go much further than the superficialities. I've never liked Hillary, but the only reasons I can come up with are that she has a terrible haircut and very little personality. Much like Martha Stewart, actually. I could give dozens of rubbishy reasons for not liking the other candidates either (Obama is unctuous and tries too hard, Rudy is shifty-looking about the eyes, Huckabee reminds me of an uncle I hate), but I should probably not betray more of my irresponsible approach to voting than I already have.

I guess I'm just too cynical. It's hard to take any of them seriously--I have difficulty trusting that anyone, man or woman, isn't just in it for the power.

I am truly trying to be less of a lazy American, though. I've paid more attention this year to policies and platforms and such, though it feels much like sitting through math class. I promise that when it actually does come time to vote, I'll have progressed to considering much more important issues than uncles and haircuts. I hope.