There were also, of course, the now famous New Hampshire tears - to evoke sympathy. And the blunt appeal on gender grounds alone. And the refusal to disavow the use of her husband for her own political purposes, even as he told lies and cast racist aspersions about her opponent. And, on the eve of Super Tuesday, the tears again. Can you imagine a male politician breaking down in public the day before a crucial vote - and expecting it to help? It's time feminists realized that Clinton is a dream gone sour.I find it hard to choose between the two big democratic candidates, but my innermost leanings are probably for Obama. So you should not consider this a specifically pro-Clinton post. Rather, I'd like to weigh in on the feminist questions raised by Sullivan's piece. There are lots of things wrong with the view that Sullivan puts across, but I want to focus on just one particularly silly bit:
Can you imagine a male politician breaking down in public the day before a crucial vote - and expecting it to help?Excuse me? The main reason a male politician can't do that is because we have this construct known as masculinity. What it means is that men are restricted in the sorts of emotions they can show while still having people's respect. This aspect of masculinity is not sensible. It is not helpful. Women should not be aiming to be restricted by it! Is Sullivan trying to complain because women have this advantage in that we can use emotion in ways that men can't?
Well, it's true. The ability to show emotion and have people react sympathetically rather than scornfully is a cultural advantage that women have over men. And Clinton should have no more qualms over using it than a male politician should over using, say, a tough-guy image to try to attract votes. That is to say, it's silly image politics, but it happens all the time. Why should it be more wrong to use a feminine cultural advantage? Masculine ones are used every day and nobody blinks. And if the aim is to try to even the playing field, that doesn't mean that women should always try to conform to masculine methods of gaining respect.
In actual fact, a tough-guy male politician is helping to restrict men far more than Clinton's willingness to use the occasional sniffle could restrict women. Clinton cannot afford to be feminine all the time -- hence the 'robot' accusations prior to her show of emotion -- so she can't really be said to be subscribing to a narrow view of what women should be allowed to do just because she shows emotion occasionally. Whereas the tough-guy male politician is reinforcing a restrictive gender construct down the line.
If Clinton was always playing feminine and implying that her worth depended thereon, or if she were obviously implying that her husband's skill matters more than hers, well, that would be anti-feminist. But she isn't. She's blending masculinity and femininity in what I consider to be a rather impressive fashion, actually. This is the way we ought to go, being willing to claim the traditionally masculine without subscribing to the notion that anything we gain from femininity is worthless. The ability to give emotion -- not in an uncontrolled fashion but in a calculatedly honest fashion when the situation requires it -- strikes me as a worthy part of a politician's skill set.
And if men want in on the softer emotions, you should jolly well organise your own damn movement. Because until then, we're going to go on aiming to have it all right under your noses, and if you're not brave enough to stand up for your own, similar right, that's your fault.