I can add a little, but not much, to what Alex Leo at the Huffington post has said:
Over a year ago, Rebecca Traister wrote what I still consider the definitive piece on Hillary Clinton and women. Traister was the first to delve into the deep distaste of Hillary amongst the female intelligentsia, exploring the idea of Clinton as a Rorschach test. She was prophetic in her understanding of how this would play out for women voters (who still favor Obama 36% to 34% over Clinton), but I am more concerned with how it affects women who set the national agenda. There has been such an intense double standard in the media that has gone unexplored by mainstream outlets and it scares the crap out of me.
In the beginning of her campaign, Hillary was stalwart, strong not only because that seems to be who she is but also because the biggest fear of a female candidate must be being painted as overly emotional. In response to this she was called wooden and cold. This is a carry over from her time as first lady when she was mocked for keeping her own name, not baking cookies, etc. But then the scandal hit and Hillary was again an archetype — this time of the scorned wife. As Maureen Dowd aptly put it “She couldn’t move up until she was pushed down.” This didn’t stop the press from mocking her — would anyone have dared mock Jackie Kennedy for her husbands indiscretions? No, because Jackie was demure and fragile and fit into the narrative of what we expect from the emotionally bruised wife of a great man with a known vice. It didn’t break Hillary; she wouldn’t let it.
Despite being the first first lady in American history to have a postgraduate degree, Wellesley’s first valedictorian, a graduate of Yale Law, and a dedicated public watchdog who worked on the Watergate Committee and monitored Black Panther trials for abuses of power, there were websites dedicated to her changing hair styles, and (more recently) articles devoted to her cleavage. What was upsetting about this was not only the demeaning nature of reducing a woman to her looks, but also the fact that anytime Hillary changes her clothes there is a deep emotional resonance attached to it in the press. People mocked John Edwards for his haircut, but no one called him emotionally unstable for getting it and that’s exactly what Robin Givhan of the Washington Post did when she wrote:
To display cleavage in a setting that does not involve cocktails and hors d’oeuvres is a provocation. It requires that a woman be utterly at ease in her skin, coolly confident about her appearance, unflinching about her sense of style. Any hint of ambivalence makes everyone uncomfortable. And in matters of style, Clinton is as noncommittal as ever.
This more than subtly portrays Clinton as unstable, unsure of herself and her sexuality. No one ever says McCain is ambivalent for wearing sweater vests.
…After Iowa everything changed, and not for the better. She went from cold to histrionic with one welling of the eyes. And that was it. We got headlines saying we finally saw the real Hillary, that cracks began to show. And that’s the ball game. Hillary was not the strong leader we thought, but the weak emotional woman we always knew her to be. I’m not saying she doesn’t bear blame for invoking feelings at the last debate, and welling up on air, but where was the outrage at this media coverage? The issue here is not that these things happen, but the women we depend upon to speak out against these practices have been noticeably absent. Gloria Steinem’s OpEd in the Times today was the first time I’ve seen a seriously respected and intellectually prominent woman come to her defense, and I’m proud she did.
Things have gone downhill fast. Mark Rudolph proposed on FOX News that Hillary lost Iowa because she reminds men of their nagging wives, and conservative blog Hot Air agreed with him. Joel Achenbach said in his Washington Post blog that “she needs a radio-controlled shock collar so that aides can zap her when she starts to get screechy.” We let people walk on her in the beginning of her campaign and now we’ve lost control. This is offensive to me as a woman, a voter, and an American. Even if you don’t support Hillary, how can we let these attacks that so debase us all continue?
Bolds mine. What I’d add is that the intense double standard Leo is talking about doesn’t scare the crap out of me. To me, it is old news, same old same old. When it comes to women — including prominent women like Hillary Clinton — anything goes. Sexism? Misogyny? Insulting her appearance? Pontifications about her boobs? Endless scrutiny for possible motivations and manipulations? Creating endless double binds so that nothing she does is right? Par for the course. I mean so what if a snot-nosed male punk hollers from the crowds, “Iron my shirts!” Where’s your sense of humor? It was just a prank! Then this sentiment about the Iowa caucus on a blog holding itself out to be feminist-friendly: “I would rather Clinton got destroyed “. (I removed the link to this sentence which can be found at Alas, a Blog. See this post to find out why. Amp made the statement that he would rather Clinton got destroyed in the first sentence of a post entitled “A thread for discussing the Iowa primary results,” dated January 4. ) That doesn’t raise so much as an eyebrow over there amongst progressives, liberals, feminists. Can anyone imagine Amp writing, “I would rather Obama got destroyed.” What would happen if he did? What would be the response?
None of this is anything new, it is just life under male supremacy, and so women and girls are inured to it. Most don’t even hear this stuff, it goes right over their heads. Some figure if you can’t beat ’em, join em, maybe hoping if they behave as hatefully towards women as most men do, they, themselves will be spared, kind of like an offering to the sexism god. Some laugh with the guys, hoping maybe they’ll be viewed as one of the guys, as opposed to — gasp — a woman, like the woman who is the target du jour. Some figure they need men more than they need women and hence, they’re one with the guys in viewing women (besides themselves) as dispensable.
Well, they won’t be spared. No woman is, blindered or not. We are attacked in our daily life as we go about our business, we are attacked on the blogosphere, we are attacked in the media, we are attacked if we defer and comply, we are attacked if we are outspoken and if we resist, we are attacked by the left, the center, and the right. To be female is to be attacked by males and their supporters.
I am not a supporter of Hillary Clinton for President. For one thing I am running for President! For another thing, I don’t want Bill in the White House. I could list many reasons; this isn’t the post for it.
But the way she is being treated — in the media, in the blogosphere, in the feminist blogosphere, by leftists — is, to me, disgusting and despicable and Exhibit A of the long, long, execrably long road before us if we are ever, as women, to be recognized as fully human.
There is talk about Gloria Steinem’s Op/Ed article in defense of Clinton in the mainstream media and what happens? Steinem is next. She is making excuses for Clinton. She is playing the women’s card. She and Clinton are the vagina litmus test. And who does she think she is, some kind of “feminist icon”? Quick with the quotation marks around those words, jeezus, she’s only 73! She’s been a feminist activist for, what, 44 years, helped to found Ms Magazine, has written countless feminist books, articles, newspaper essays? That’s it? How dare someone call her a feminist icon?!
Then the predictable accusation: “She said sex trumps race.” Even if this accusation were true — and it isn’t — what goes unremarked, always, is the despicable treatment of Hillary Clinton (and other visible women) by the media. All that happens is Steinem now is targeted for this same treatment, with everybody nodding solemnly or hooting and hollering, depending.
Does anyone see Barack Obama being subjected to race-based insults in the mainstream, leftist, liberal and progressive media/blogosphere? Do you see him slammed, trashed, taunted because he is a person of color? Can anyone envision hecklers getting away with hollering at Obama to shine their shoes, say, with horrified onlookers told it was just a “prank”? Or liberals accusing him of planting the suckers, i.e., staging the thing? Or bystanders told they just couldn’t take a “joke”?
You do not and you cannot.
Do you see Hillary Clinton subjected to sex-based insults everywhere you look — among conservatives, progressives, leftists, liberals, independents, mainstream media, blogosphere, you name it?
If you have eyes and you read, yes, you do.
I like what Steinem says here:
So why is the sex barrier not taken as seriously as the racial one? The reasons are as pervasive as the air we breathe: because sexism is still confused with nature as racism once was; because anything that affects males is seen as more serious than anything that affects “only” the female half of the human race; because children are still raised mostly by women (to put it mildly) so men especially tend to feel they are regressing to childhood when dealing with a powerful woman; because racism stereotyped black men as more “masculine” for so long that some white men find their presence to be masculinity-affirming (as long as there aren’t too many of them); and because there is still no “right” way to be a woman in public power without being considered a you-know-what. …
what worries me is that Obama is seen as unifying by his race while Clinton is seen as divisive by her sex.
What worries me is that she is accused of “playing the gender card” when citing the old boys’ club, while he is seen as unifying by citing civil rights confrontations.
What worries me is that male Iowa voters were seen as gender-free when supporting their own, while female voters were seen as biased if they did and disloyal if they didn’t.
This worries me as well. Hillary Clinton is being openly and unapologetically trashed because she is a woman, including by “progressive” men so-called who claim to be friends to women. This is a shot across the bow by an establishment which perceives a woman running for President as a shot across the bow. This is men, terorrizing a woman as a woman for daring to get out of her place by running for President. We can hope this might be a heads up at last to every woman in this nation and to women throughout the world of what we are still up against, as women under male heterosupremacy. Maybe women will at last rise in unity to say, “Enough.” One can only hope.