Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Mother Jones Takes on Hillary

This month's cover story in Mother Jones is called Harpy, Hero, Heretic: Hillary.

This article may be of historic importance to the place of women in politics. The intent, or at least the effect, may be to clear the Pigpen-like haze that surrounds Hillary Clinton and give her a fair shot at running for president. The method is to expose everything - every gory detail, every prejudice, every fear, every thought we have about Hillary. It's a sort of Twelve Days of Christmas of all the ways we despise Hillary Clinton, and they even provide a new word - Hillarating - to define how we despise her.

I don't agree with everything the article says. But once these things are out in the open, perhaps we can move on and see Hillary Clinton as a politician, and not as an icon of sexuality, motherhood, marital crisis, threatening femininity, female ambition\duplicity or feminine opportunism.

We (men and women alike) need to confront our prejudices towards women, and their root - sexuality. Sharon Stone is quoted as saying, "A woman should be past her sexuality when she runs. Hillary still has sexual power, and I don't think people will accept that. It's too threatening." Putting that out in the open allows us to confront it, which we must do... because as women we're hit both ways. While sexual, women in the public sphere are threatening and so are put down. When their looks go, women in the public sphere are ridiculed and so are put down. Hillary could very easily reduce her "sexual power" by letting her hair go grey. But then she'd be seen as old and ugly, and she'd have a much harder time being taken seriously.

In the last 50 years we moved from a time when women were discriminated against to a time when women are overly sexualized. There is too much emphasis on whether a woman is sexually desirous or not. That has nothing to do with their ability to do their job. And we still seem to be on the arc of increasing the sexualization of women (and girls). I don't think we'll see vast improvements in equality in politics until we start to let women be people. Otherwise, female candidates will continue to be seen in their female stereotypes (mother, whore, shrew, crone) and their job-qualification attributes will not be paramount.

The importance of all this to me is not whether or not Hillary wins the primary or the presidency. It's the hope that this might clear the air, just a little, for women in high leadership positions. It's the hope that what happened to Sheila Copps when she became deputy PM - the embarrassing photos in the newspaper, the jokes and ridicule - won't happen to the next uppity woman who makes it near the top.

As an aside... I thought I liked John McCain, but the genial guest on The Daily Show takes on a different color in this quote from the article: "John McCain once got a lot of laughs cracking this joke: 'Why is Chelsea Clinton so ugly? Because her father is Janet Reno.' Chelsea was still in high school at the time."



Anonymous said...

I trhink you're absolutely dead on with this, Yappa. There's no doubt there's a damned if you do, damned if you don't mentality that operates for women only. Sometimes, as an old-time 70s feminist frequently lectured at by my juniors about the post-feminism age we inhabit now, I despair that women themselves are so blinded to this age-old catch 22 women face, and have always faced.

Anonymous said...

age-old catch 22 women face, and have always faced...

Puns intended?