Does twice count as a pattern? I've now received two forwarded e-mails from earnestly liberal women of my own generation, making a feminist case for voting for Hillary Clinton. One is Robin Morgan's new "Goodbye to All That" harangue, a litany of indignation at the misogynistic slights, slurs, and double standards that have been directed at Hillary, conflating them with the persistence of brutal control of/contempt for women all over the world and suggesting that we must vote for Hillary as reparation for millennia of sexism. Go read it if you can (if I say it's humorless, someone will inevitably point out that clitoridectomy isn't funny), and tell me if you think I've misrepresented it. Just a taste:
The real question is deeper than her re-finding her voice. Can we women find ours? Can we do this for ourselves? “Our President, Ourselves!”
Time is short and the contest tightening. We need to rise in furious energy–as we did when courageous Anita Hill was so vilely treated in the US Senate, as we did when desperate Rosie Jiminez was butchered by an illegal abortion, as we did and do for women globally who are condemned for trying to break through. We need to win, this time. Goodbye to supporting HRC tepidly, with ambivalent caveats and apologetic smiles. Time to volunteer, make phone calls, send emails, donate money, argue, rally, march, shout, vote.
UPDATE: Ronni Bennett at Time Goes By calls Morgan's screed "the worst kind of feminist polemic [...] divisive, sexist and counterproductive." You go, Ronni.
The second is a letter from New York "Assemblymember" (sounds like a build-your-own-dildo kit) Deborah Glick. I don't know where this can be found online, so I'll reproduce it for you:
Inauguration Day 2009: Madame President
That’s what resounds in my brain over and over again. For years, I’ve been reminding audiences how far we’ve come, but how far we still need to go. When my mother was born, women didn’t have the right to vote and when I entered college, women didn’t have the right to choose. We stand on the edge of a possibility that will change forever the reach for women in this country.
There is no one serving in office anywhere who is smarter than Hillary Clinton. She’s incredibly experienced, knowledgeable about the workings of the government and conditions all around the world. And there can be no doubt that she is steely strong. Yet, too many in the media ignore the real qualities that are essential in a president when reviewing Hillary’s record, but reiterate their perception that she may not be likeable enough. When will women be freed from the impossible balancing act that somehow men escape?
It has been said in this campaign that doing the same thing over again and expecting a different result is crazy. Yet, we have nominated good smart guys, who in the end can’t make the fight against the Republicans. Therefore, it is time for the men to move aside for us to try something we’ve never tried before: it’s time for us to nominate a woman.
Restoring the world’s confidence in us and rebuilding the dismantled and dysfunctional government left behind by the Bush Administration is a job for someone with more
experience than having been a State Senator three years ago. Democrats may be willing to hear the soaring rhetoric and hope that it will all come out well, but our fight for the White House will be against people who will argue relentlessly that his time on the road has been too short and his experience too limited.
The stakes are too high and they are highest for the women in this country. It’s not just the Supreme Court, which is poised to turn back the clock for women, but it is a question for the Democratic Party. If our Democratic Party can reject a woman in this primary as smart, experienced, strong and knowledgeable as Hillary Clinton undeniably is, who is the woman that will come along next and how long will it take?
Besides being a recitation of pieties ("the right to choose" is such a smug euphemism), this is identity politics pure and simple: voting for someone because of what she is instead of who she is. And apparently it is one major basis on which a lot of older women are voting and campaigning for Hillary.
I've questioned myself, whether my aversion to voting for Hillary is a form of pandering to those who are impatient for women to get over feminism, prematurely as it may be. Feminism was enormously important to me, but it was important the way an elevator is important that gets you out of the basement to the ground floor, where you can get out and walk away. Feminism showed me that I was not defective or inferior, that I was as human as a man, as capable of culture while men were no less bound by nature. That was all I needed to know to be off and running. Nothing is more important than for girls all over the world to get basic legal rights and protections and that elevator ride. And God bless the people who devote their lives to running the elevator. But staying in the elevator rather defeats its purpose.
Hillary makes a great impression -- I daresay Presidential. She would have been quite a good actress. (It's funny lately to hear her trying to inspire -- and almost succeeding -- while Obama tries to sound boring and wonky to show that he's not content-free.) Unfortunately we know too much about her behind the scenes, her dysfunctional marriage and her high-handed, control-freak ways. Even granting that she has put her time and work in, that she may well have matured and been tempered and learned (at least to wear the velvet glove), she comes with too many liabilities: Bill, her devil's bargain with him, and her inescapable role in the partisan Punch-and-Judy show of the last sixteen years, which would only be perpetuated by her election. We really do need to get beyond these people -- all of them.
I'm ambivalent about Hillary. (But then, jeez, what or who am I not ambivalent about?) I don't want to be unfair to her. Like most of us around her age, she's lived a transitional life, neither fish nor fowl. She's made her own bones and ridden on her husband's coattails, so you never quite know whether to admire her as a pioneer or despise her as a compromiser. Her competence is undeniable, but it's hard to escape the feeling that her new, radiant, cheerleading persona is a façade, and hard not to be a little chilled by the patient ambition that could motivate her to craft precisely such a plausible one. There is nothing misogynistic about scrutinizing Hillary unsparingly as a human being rather than cutting her a break as a woman. In the final analysis, it's being judged by our character that will show that women have arrived.
UPDATE: Maureen Dowd wrote about this yesterday.
Many women I talk to, even those who aren’t particularly fond of Hillary, feel empathy for her, knowing that any woman in a world dominated by men has to walk a tightrope between femininity and masculinity, strength and vulnerability.
They see double standards they hate — when male reporters described Hillary’s laugh as “a cackle” or her voice as “grating,” when Rush Limbaugh goes off on her wrinkles or when male pundits seem gleeful to write her political obituary. Several women I know, who argue with their husbands about Hillary, refer with a shudder to the “Kill the Witch” syndrome.
In a webcast, prestidigitator Penn Jillette talks about a joke he has begun telling in his show. He thinks the thunderous reaction it gets from audiences shows that Hillary no longer has a shot.
The joke goes: “Obama is just creaming Hillary. You know, all these primaries, you know. And Hillary says it’s not fair, because they’re being held in February, and February is Black History Month. And unfortunately for Hillary, there’s no White Bitch Month.”
Of course, jokes like that — even Jillette admits it’s offensive — are exactly what may give Hillary a shot. When the usually invulnerable Hillary seems vulnerable, many women, even ones who don’t want her to win, cringe at the idea of seeing her publicly humiliated — again.
But Dowd is basically saying the same thing I am.
Those close to Hillary say she’s feeling blue. It’s an unbearable twist of fate to spend all those years in the shadow of one Secretariat, only to have another gallop past while you’re plodding toward the finish line.
I know that the attacks against powerful women can be harsh and personal and unfair, enough to make anyone cry.
But Hillary is not the best test case for women. We’ll never know how much of the backlash is because she’s a woman or because she’s this woman or because of the ick factor of returning to the old Clinton dysfunction. [...]
As a possible first Madame President, Hillary is a flawed science experiment because you can’t take Bill out of the equation. Her story is wrapped up in her marriage, and her marriage is wrapped up in a series of unappetizing compromises, arrangements and dependencies.
Instead of carving out a separate identity for herself, she has become more entwined with Bill. She is running bolstered by his record and his muscle.
Read the whole thing, quick, before I quote more. Dowd's rejoinder to Glick and Morgan: "If Hillary fails, it will be her failure, not ours."