On this day in 2007, I posted on my original blog, Peaceful Ponderings, about Hillary Clinton during that wonderful political race four years ago. Judging by the antics surrounding the GOP candidates today, I thought it only appropriate to repost here:
The time has come, the walrus said, to speak of the ongoing presidential debates once more! As the Iowa caucuses come closer, the individual campaigns of those running are growing more heated and, you might say, more base and muckraking as well. Several entries ago I expressed my opinion that arguments regarding the playing of the gender card were unfounded considering that Clinton is in the lead; any attacks against her are because she is the one to beat, not because she’s a woman. After the most recent debates, and other news-worthy headlines as of late, I have to say that my stance is wavering.
Most likely you have heard about Senator John McCain’s response to a voter’s question, “How do we beat the bitch?” After a couple minutes of laughter, McCain began his answer by saying, “Now, that’s a good question.” Excuse me? A good question? Are we in high school, Senator? Talk about mudslinging. Many constituents were polled, the majority believing he handled the question well under the circumstances. This is shocking to me. He did not admonish the way the question was worded, and he certainly did not seem to disagree with the expletive that was used to describe the forerunner in the presidential race. All told, I think he handled the situation extremely poorly, furthering the opinion that yes, in fact, Senator Clinton’s gender is being used against her.
Moving on to the most current set of debates, we are now seeing the moderator asking completely absurd questions specifically aimed at Clinton. As the New York Times reports today, “[At] the end of the debate, in another sign of how Mrs. Clinton was often the central focus of the event, she was asked if she preferred diamonds or pearls. “Both,” she replied.” I cannot fully express how infuriated I was by this, not only by the question, but by Clinton’s response as well. Were any of the male candidates asked this? Of course not. What kind of a question is this anyway? Moreover, why did Senator Clinton grace this question with an answer? If I were her, I would have instantly been up in arms. Talk about the gender card! As if such an inquiry were completely forgotten, Clinton answered in the negative when questioned about her gender and if it played a role in Las Vegas (where the debate was held): “”I’m not exploiting anything at all. I’m not playing, as some people say, the gender card here in Las Vegas. I’m trying to play the winning card,” Mrs. Clinton said. “People are not attacking me because I’m a woman. People are attacking me because I’m ahead”” (Healy and Zeleny, “Clinton’s in Thick of Barbed Democratic Debate”). Probably true, but the fact that you are a woman cannot be hidden; nor can the sexist questions and tactics of your opponents.
But, what if Clinton, despite constant denials, is playing the gender card? Or, if not, at least not avoiding or censuring when others do. If it’s any indication, according to another article regarding the McCain incident, “[the] Clinton campaign has not responded to the slur, which occurred in Hilton Head, S.C., at a McCain campaign event. But Clinton allies have suggested in the past that sexism-based attacks can actually help Mrs. Clinton by inspiring sympathy among women” (Seelye, “A Campaign Hopes a Slur Will Lead to Donations”, 16 Nov 2007). I wonder if there are any articles out there attesting to the fact that the voter to question McCain was, herself, a woman?
This past Wednesday, feminist columnist Maureen Dowd had her own take on Clinton’s campaigning in her Op-Ed piece titled, “Should Hillary Pretend to Be a Flight Attendant?” Dowd writes of how, even though times are changing, where women are proposing to men (or women!), and waiting longer to wed because they can support themselves, age-old stereotypes remain ingrained in our culture. “Hillary Clinton, who is trying to crash through the Oval glass ceiling, may hope that we’re evolving into a kingdom of queen bees and their male slaves. But stories have been popping up that suggest that evolution is moving forward in a circuitous route, with lots of speed bumps.” Indeed, what does it say that a presidential candidate is not only asked about what jewelry she prefers, but that she, herself, admits a love of the kitchen? Playing into stereotypes might be a campaign strategy for Clinton, but is it the right one? Up until the last debate, Hillary Clinton has kept her composure as compared to the slew of male candidates surrounding her (literally and figuratively if you watch these debates) in the Democratic runnings. Dowd quotes Yale researcher, Victoria Brescoll who “found that men who get angry at the office gain stature and clout, even as women who get angry lose stature because they are seen as out of control.”
Fortunately, Clinton’s calm observational ways are now making way for a more pit-bull-like approach to debating, and people are noticing. “The most striking change from the seven previous debates was that Mrs. Clinton no longer stayed above the fray, and instead addressed her rivals by name, criticizing their positions, and rebutting them as much as the moderator would allow” (Healy and Zeleny). I suppose one could argue that she is now trying to play like a man, playing some type of “reverse gender card” instead, but, come on! The woman’s got to fight some way, regardless of how and which socially constructed gender role she fits under. It may be asking a lot, but how long can we as Americans, and the candidates themselves, tap into the issue of Clinton being a woman? Sure, it’s a first for a presidential race, making it very exciting; but there must come a time where we disregard the genitalia underneath everyone’s clothes and focus on the issues and stances on those issues. Because, in the end, isn’t that what matters most?