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Monday, November 5, 2007

More on Clinton’s Gender Politics

posted by on November 5 at 9:25 AM

Good Monday morning. I’ve still been unsuccessful in my efforts to grow a vagina, but while I try to meet that very high bar for being allowed to comment on Hillary Clinton and gender, I’ve noticed that a lot people (with vaginas and without) were busy over the weekend dissecting Hillary Clinton’s use of gender in her campaign. And, shockingly, a lot of them said things similar to what I said in that post that caused the vagina challenge to be thrown down on Friday.

Here’s Maureen Dowd on Clinton’s “Gift of Gall”, writing sarcastically:

Girlfriend had a rough week.

First Hillary got brushed back by the boys in the debate. Then some women bemoaned Hillaryland’s “Don’t hit me, I’m a girl” strategy…

She should certainly be allowed to play the gender card two ways, or even triangulate it. As her campaign manager, Patti Solis Doyle, said after the debate, she is “one strong woman,” who has dwarfed male rivals and shown she’s tough enough to deal with terrorism and play on the world stage. But she can break, just like a little girl, when male chauvinists are rude enough to catch her red-handed being slippery and opportunistic.

Here’s Ben Smith and David Paul Kuhn at The Politico, exploring the various reactions to the Clinton campaign’s use of gender:

The debate is still churning in feminist circles, where some women’s activists said she had every right to invoke sexism and gender stereotypes as a defense on the campaign trail — and predicted that this tactic will prove effective against fellow Democrats and against a Republican, if she is the general election nominee.

“It goes beyond logic — it’s a gut response,” Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation, said of the spectacle of Clinton onstage confronting seven male rivals and two male moderators at a debate in Philadelphia on Wednesday night.

Smeal, who has endorsed Clinton, compared the debate scene to the congressional grilling of Anita Hill when she challenged Clarence Thomas’ Supreme Court nomination in 1991.

“Every woman — it was just so visceral — that panel was all male,” Smeal recalled. “It didn’t matter almost what was being said. It [was] a visceral gut reaction, and I think that’s what you’re seeing here again.”

Here’s Adam Nagourney and Patrick Healy in this morning’s New York Times with a political memo that asks, “Different Rules When a Rival is a Woman?”:

Mrs. Clinton’s opponents, and some prominent women, countered that Mrs. Clinton was resorting to using her sex as a shield against substantive criticism in a hard-fought race.

“It’s outrageous to suggest that it’s sexist for the other candidates to ask her tough questions or criticize her,” said Kate Michelman, a women’s leader and a supporter of Mr. Edwards. “To call it sexist is to play the gender card. Any claim of sexism is just a distraction from the fact that she did not do well in the debate, that she did not answer important questions on Iraq and Iran.”

And here’s the great Ruth Marcus column that kicked a lot of this off on Friday.

Please. The Philadelphia debate was not exactly a mob moment to trigger the Violence Against Women Act; if anything, this has been an overly (pardon the phrase) gentlemanly campaign to date. Those other guys were beating up on Clinton, if you can call that beating up, because she is the strong front-runner, not because she is a weak woman.

And a candidate as strong as Clinton doesn’t need to play the woman-as-victim card, not even in “the all-boys club of presidential politics,” as Clinton called it in a speech yesterday at her all-women alma mater, Wellesley College. I have a pretty good nose for sexism, and what I detected in the air from Philadelphia was not sexism but the desperation of candidates confronting a front-runner who happens to be a woman.

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Gender Politics. Come on people, it has been around 300 years since a female has ruled any part of America (along part of the eastern seaboard) and most people survived. Except for native Americans and a few others.

Isn't time for another female leader?

Posted by Just Me | November 5, 2007 9:31 AM

This whole debate is such bullshit - it's typical journalist horse-race talk. It all comes down to this:

Those other guys were beating up on Clinton, if you can call that beating up, because she is the strong front-runner, not because she is a weak woman.

But they'll attack her carefully to avoid looking like brutes or sexists. And, on the other side, Clinton's team is carefully trying to paint this "beating up" as a sexist issue to gain female votes - but not so explicitly that male voters think she's "playing the gender card" and get turned off.

Meanwhile, we'll have yet another election decided not on any substantive issues, but on mostly image-based shit like this.

Posted by tsm | November 5, 2007 9:42 AM

The problem with all this analysis of the "gender card" being used is that I still have not seen Clinton USE said "gender card" in the campaign.

She said the presidential race is a "boys club" - which is a statement that reflects the truth, not a statement that the boys were attacking her because she is a girl.

The Politics of a Pile On video makes the exact same arguement against the Dems as the statement that she made against the Reps - She is being attacked and talked about nto because she is a woman but because she is the front-runner.

I don't know what use of the gender card you are talking about. I never heard her call sexism at any point. You're falling for the hype and lies and repeating it. Why?

Posted by Dee in SF | November 5, 2007 9:43 AM

Eli, it isn't the cooter that women use to form opinions about Hillary. Everyone knows it's all those swinging hormones that make women think the way they do. You don't need to grow a vagina: just a big dose of that estrogen.

By the way, after you've run this vital topic into the ground, are you going to write one of those pompous screeds bemoaning how the campaign got so far away from real policy issues?

Posted by elenchos | November 5, 2007 9:44 AM

i'm still waiting to hear where the expression, "the politics of pile on," came from. i'd never heard of that before last week. and that sounds like a very subtle play of the sex card.

Posted by infrequent | November 5, 2007 9:51 AM

yes, subtle,,,, perhaps TOO subtle.....

Posted by unPC | November 5, 2007 9:53 AM

How is the use of a football term (Pile On) a subtle play of the sex card?

Posted by Dee in SF | November 5, 2007 9:54 AM

@3 - "I don't know what use of the gender card you are talking about. I never heard her call sexism at any point. "

Well, yes. And Bush never actually called Kerry unpatriotic, or claimed he lied about his Vietnam service. He didn't have to directly.

Posted by tsm | November 5, 2007 9:56 AM

What Dee said @ 3 and 7.

I think men are looking for any opportunity they can get to play the "Clinton is playing the gender card" card. They're trying to exploit the stereotype of angry feminists while simultaneously calling Clinton weak for having to "hide" behind her gender. Sounds to me like they're the ones trying to have it both ways.

Posted by exelizabeth | November 5, 2007 9:58 AM

@ Dee in SF: It's not just the "Politics of Pile On" video, though that's certainly part of it. Read the Ruth Marcus and Maureen Dowd columns that I've linked. They lay it out.

Posted by Eli Sanders | November 5, 2007 9:59 AM

@9: Men? Ruth Marcus and Maureen Dowd are women.

Posted by Eli Sanders | November 5, 2007 10:00 AM

@8 - No, the Swiftboaters were given money to make commercials saying that Kerry was unpatriotic....

I haven't seen any swiftboaters here.

The first mention of the gender card was when NBC news asked Obama about Hilary "using the gender card" and I hadn't seen the gender card mentioned until that moment. That's yellow journalism, not swiftboaters.

Posted by Dee in SF | November 5, 2007 10:02 AM

@12 - campaigns use journalists as proxies all the time. They don't have to say X; they just have to get journalists to start asking questions about X. You won't convince me that Clinton staffers weren't throwing this very idea off of the writers at the NYT and the Post in the back rooms after the debate, off the record. It was shrewd of them to do so.

@9 - please. "Men", collectively, aren't looking for anything here. The Obama and Edwards campaigns are definitely looking to do what you say. And the Clinton campaign is also trying to have it both ways, in appearing both unfairly attacked but also above crying about it. The fact that journalists are now wanking over this very topic so much is evidence that they've succeeded.

Posted by tsm | November 5, 2007 10:06 AM

I'm with Dee @3. And what I see here is less Clinton playing the gender card and more her opponents playing the "playing the gender card" card! And Eli, you're buying right into it.

And this is NOT about men vs. women. A lot of men aren't sexist; a lot of women are.

Finally, Eli, please get over the "grow a vagina" comment already. It's pathetic that you keep mentioning that as a way of avoiding the REASONED comments made by women AND MEN on this issue! That comment does not represent what most people are arguing here, so drop it.

Posted by Irena | November 5, 2007 10:16 AM

Eli, just because some women are on this bandwagon doesn't make my points less valid. It's a really common anti-feminist straw man to say, "But look! There are other women who think differently than you, so your point is invalid!"

Neither of our points are invalid. I think the male campaigns are and will continue to exploit the angry feminist and weak women stereotypes as much as they can, but will attack Hilary if she so much as does something that hints she could be using either stereotype to her advantage. I think that's lame. If Maureen Dowd and Ruth Marcus want to get on that bandwagon, that's there prerogative.

Posted by exelizabeth | November 5, 2007 10:16 AM

The idea being discussed here is "the gender card". This idea did not come from Clinton, but from Obama, Edwards, Dowd, Nagourney, Marcus, etc. The Clinton campaign is not in control of the message and its not helping her campaign. All this bitching about Clinton is just that, bitching about Clinton.

What did Clinton do to elicit this response? She accused the candidates and Russert of "piling on" her remarks about driver's licenses for illegal immgrants in NYC. She was correct. Then she told an audience at her alma mater that her time at an women's college had helped her in the male-dominated world of politics. Hardly a surprising thing to say. If she'd went to the UW she'd have said eating salmon and cheering the Huskies had helped her in the east coast dominated world of politics, or some other crowd-pleasing bullshit like that.

All this shit she'e getting now is coming from her opponents. If you don't like Clinton, fair enough, but at least pick on her from something legitimate. If you really want to invoke gender, how about asking why the hack-pack are so obessed with Clinton's.

Posted by gavingourley | November 5, 2007 10:22 AM

I see exelizabeth already made my point about Clinton's opponents playing their own card. Good, because I think it's pretty obvious.

And I agree with her post at @15 completely.

Posted by Irena | November 5, 2007 10:24 AM

Can't wait until HRC's rumoured lesbian lover comes out, and does a press conferance... Talk about "piling on!"

Posted by BillyBob | November 5, 2007 10:25 AM

And I would like you to consider that for various reasons, and in part because of the backlash against feminism, many women have internalized sexism that makes them quick to criticize other women. And many feminists, many of whom feel beat up by the "angry feminist label" (not that they are victims, just that fighting against stereotypes can wear you down), are sensitive about seeing the gender card played and, tired of being beat up, will criticize it when they perceive it as being played.

I'm not sure I was able to articulate that well, but maybe you get the gist.

I would like to not have this conversation be men vs. women, because we're not in grade school any more, but that's really what discussing Hilary's gender politics generally implies to me.

Posted by exelizabeth | November 5, 2007 10:27 AM

Considering that world leaders pretty much comprise a boys' club, Hill better stop complaining that she can't stand up to the boys' picking on her. She's going to have enough of a hard time establishing her credibility with the sexist Arab world. I like Obama, who understands both eastern and western culture; both Islam and Christianity. Plus his spouse never cheated on him.

Posted by kitchen gets HOT, honey | November 5, 2007 10:38 AM

I do't hink Hillary played the gender card, but by talking about piling on, she sure changed the debate.

Look at us.

No one is talking about whether her answers are too vague anymore.

She is a great campaigner -- Obama et al. would have been better off sticking with the "your answers are too flip floppy" rather than playing the gender card card.

Hmm. Why dont they Oh. Got it -- they do not see her as equally substantive

Posted by unPC | November 5, 2007 10:38 AM

I love how the MSM has managed to include the Stranger in it's Sen Clinton obsession.

What's next, Guilani articles?

Posted by Will in Seattle | November 5, 2007 11:33 AM

elizabeth, i think eli keeps bringing up the vagina issue because it demonstrates the position men find themselves in (much like women often find themselves in difficult positions).

if a woman feels she is being treated differently because she's a woman, she may not be able to cite a specific quotation as to why.

in the same way, a man should be able to say if he feels a woman is playing the gender-card without being able to provide absolute empirical proof. but he cannot, because, he doesn't have a vagina -- which proves his point on one level at least.

Posted by infrequent | November 5, 2007 12:03 PM

@23, I think your comment was aimed at me, since I'm the one who told Eli to stop with the "grow a vagina" stuff.

I agree with you completely. The person who made that comment to Eli was an idiot. He has every right to post on this issue. I just think by constantly bringing it up he's avoiding addressing the reasonable arguments against him. Plus, it makes him sound whiny, which doesn't help him make his case.

For the record, I don't buy those gender-essentialism arguments one bit. If Eli need to grow a vagina to talk about these issues, then the implication is that Hillary needs to grow a penis to be president. So the person who made the post is a moron, and Eli needs to stop hiding behind it and address the real arguments.

Posted by Irena | November 5, 2007 12:33 PM

Perhaps y'all'd like to have the refulgent Steel Magnolia, Elizabeth Dole, running in Hillary's stead. We know she's a Republican - but still, how would she be treated? With her inbred Suthrun airs, would Liddy get a pass on playing her jasmine-scented gender card?

Identity politics is what it is, and if Hillary wins the nomination but doesn't win the election, then you can always blame Ralph Nader for not having a vagina. Period!

Posted by RHETT ORACLE | November 5, 2007 12:44 PM

I love that you noticed the sarcasm in Dowd with the "girlfriend" stuff. As I explain in this post, Dowd is saying "poor baby" when Hillary tries to have it both ways about playing with the big boys. The good thing about Dowd is that since she does have a vagina she can call bullshit on feminists that defend Hillary at all costs.

Posted by Mo MoDo | November 5, 2007 1:33 PM

It's equally frightening to me that people will vote for Clinton simply because she's a woman as it is that right-wing lunatics voted for Bush simply because he constantly invoked "the lord." In fact it might be even more frightening because at least the christian crusaders admit it.

Clinton has invoked feminimity CONSTANTLY throughout her candidacy. If you haven't seen it then you haven't been paying attention. Either that or you're purposefully ignoring it, which (again) is worse.

Clinton is by far the most disgustingly perverted politician I have ever seen. It's like watching a zombie try to convince the world that she is alive while in the back of her head she's just plotting various ways she can turn us all into zombies so then we won't notice that she is. As best I can tell there is absolutely nothing genuine about that woman - except for the fact that she does purportedly have a vagina, and feels compelled to constantly remind us of that with comments like "I am comfortable in the kitchen and can handle the heat."


Posted by Tom | November 5, 2007 1:43 PM

Tom @ 27: "[Sen.] Clinton is by far the most disgustingly perverted politician I have ever seen."

Sounds as if you were Born Yesterday much before David Duke, George Wallace, Jesse Helms, Jesse Ventura, Huey Long

Would you like her to wear a burkha? - that's pretty non-feminist-invoking. Or for her to just go away (sorry for the split vagina - er, infinitive).

What DOES a man want?
- Song-Freud

Posted by JUDY TAKES A HOLIDAY | November 5, 2007 1:56 PM

as long as there are people who will not vote for a woman because she is a woman i do not care that there are people who will vote for her because she is one.

frankly, it's embarrassing that we have yet to have a female leader. while hillary is not my first choice, she is qualified, and i would be more than happy to have any qualified woman as president because it's about time.

and when/if she does win... it will not be solely because she's a woman. it will be because she was the best choice for the job this year. the tight rope she has had to walk is, in a way, proving this.

Posted by infrequent | November 5, 2007 2:14 PM

JUDY TAKES A HOLIDAY | November 5, 2007 1:56 PM
"Would you like her to wear a burkha?"

Did I say my opinion of her had anything to do with the fact she's a woman? Let me guess, you're of the camp that she didn't pull the sex card, right? Something smells in here...maybe it's the irony...


Posted by Tom | November 5, 2007 2:24 PM

hillary did, in fact, go to an all-girls school. the presidential field this year is, in fact, strongly dominated by men. i see no weak girlish cry of sexism in her statement at wellsley. this is a stupid, stupid thing to focus on.

the gender card only came up when the today show interviewed obama, and baited him into commenting on the gender card by pulling the race card, and then claiming to have not pulled it. what a silly cause for debate about a candidate who actually has a chance.

Posted by kim | November 5, 2007 3:07 PM

We're all victims! Ahhhh!

Clinton has a chance? Riiiight. You must have missed the multiple polls showing over half of voting age people in this country wouldn't vote for her AT ALL.

Posted by Tom | November 5, 2007 4:53 PM

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