By Gina Barreca
The Hartford Courant.
Will women vote for Hillary Clinton in 2016?
In Hillary Clinton, will young women see an inspirational leader of indomitable fortitude, imposing intelligence and insurmountable courage? Or will they reject her as Mom, The One Who Just Doesn’t Get It?
Will women closer to Clinton’s own age see her as one of our own: an indefatigable citizen who has cleared away false notions about women’s limited place in the world and pocketed her own pride, without forfeiting her dignity, in order to help America and the world become freer from injustice, violence, poverty and disease?
Or will we succumb to that ruinous standard of perfectionism that carries within the seeds of its own defeat?
In other words, will women judge Clinton as “not good enough” because we think, secretly and reflexively, we might be “not good enough?”
Put it this way: Will women voters be more critical of Hillary Clinton because of her gender or will women be more enthusiastic?
Can we put Grandma in the White House?
Grandma-to-be Clinton looks good on the cover of this week’s People magazine. The interview is chatty and personal.
All the pictures are flattering: Clinton is surrounded by a loving family, posing casually with a cute dog on her lap, and her neck is circled by a chunky turquoise necklace so big it makes her head look as if it’s on a platter. It brings out her eyes.
And if I were talking about a male politician, would I be writing about what he was wearing? Of course not.
Not unless he wasn’t wearing much, a la Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y. That’s right: A male politician has to be naked and sexting for his appearance (and accessories, such as they are) to be worthy of comment.
When Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, was arrested at a Minnesota airport for lewd conduct in a men’s restroom, for example, news reports mentioned that Craig was wearing “dress pants” with “black dress shoes.” I guess that counts as a description of Craig’s outfit, although personally I think they should have reported whether he was wearing matching socks.
And just imagine if I were talking about the first-ever male presidential candidate among a group of female opponents. Would I be questioning whether this one male candidate, let’s imagine he’s been secretary of state and has earned his stripes _ could count on the men’s vote?
No, because men would be carrying him on their shoulders to Washington.
How about if, every time a man voted for a male candidate, we ask whether he made that decision based on sex? Let’s start that conversation.
Actually, I’m glad support for a female candidate by female voters is anything but automatic, because, otherwise, Sarah Palin might be sitting far closer to Washington, D.C., and able to see the presidency from her house.
Unlike Palin, of course, Clinton will not have been pole-vaulted into prominence. And it’s not as if Clinton needs a cable TV series, more recognition or higher speaking fees.
Clinton stands at the summit of her career, offering the vision, wisdom and perspective that can be gained only by making the kind of journey she’s made through national and international landscapes. Fearlessly attempting to untangle the knotted destinies of warring nations and irreconcilable enemies, she’s displayed unflinching leadership.
Vladimir Putin inadvertently awarded Clinton high praise indeed when he sniffed, “It’s better not to argue with women.” Every woman, in every country and throughout history, who has ever won an argument, small or large, has heard that line from the loser.
Believe it or not, there are Americans who sound Putin-esque and think a woman should not be president.
I’ve come close enough to some vehement anti-feminists to see the foam on their mouths as they attempt to form a coherent argument concerning their position, but their points often betray the small bigotries of a narrow life which they seek to make even more confining and confined. Well, that’s my girlish way of looking at things.
They regard Hillary Clinton as a troublemaker.
So do I.
Hillary Clinton’s smiling in People, but you can see there’s steel beneath that surface. Not stainless steel, nobody is perfect, but steel nonetheless.
It goes with her eyes.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Gina Barreca is an English professor at the University of Connecticut, a feminist scholar who has written eight books, and a columnist for the Hartford Courant.