Jill Abramson and Hillary Clinton: Treading on Gender Turf Again

By Cathleen Decker
Los Angeles Times.

Much of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign was a disaster. The candidate was often stilted and imperial, finding her voice only when there was no chance she would win.

Jill Abramson’s tenure as executive editor at the New York Times has been marked by reported disputes with those around her, culminating in Wednesday’s surprise announcement of her firing by publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr.

So maybe both women, known publicly as much for their flaws as their attributes, deserved their fates. But their falls from grace nonetheless played on gender turf that is likely to be trod all over again in 2016 if Clinton opts for a second try for the presidency.

There have been more than a few searing where-were-you moments in recent years which drew wildly different responses, depending on gender.

In 1991, law professor Anita Hill accused Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of unwanted sexual comments and found the all-male Senate Judiciary Committee unwilling to hear out the women who supported her accusations. The committee members, led by now-Vice President Joe Biden, seemed to be bollixed up by fear of looking like they were participants in what Thomas called a “high-tech lynching.”

In 2008, Clinton found her campaign suffused with sexist insults: men in the audience chanting “Iron my shirts,” Arizona Sen. John McCain laughing after being asked how to “beat the [rhymes with witch],” cable pundits who compared Clinton to hectoring mothers and the deranged bunny-boiling character in the film “Fatal Attraction.”

Then there was the Hillary Nutcracker, a representation of Clinton with serrated blades lining her inner thighs.

In an odd replay of the Clarence Thomas hearings, the co-creator of the nutcracker explained in a 2008 interview that he “thought it was funny” but could not imagine something similar mocking Clinton’s rival, Barack Obama, or the GOP nominee, McCain.

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