Monday, April 21, 2008

It's good for Hillary, and even better for me

If you were lucky enough to have listened to the latest edition of Another Goddamned Podcast, you may have heard Ordinary Girl’s impassioned defense of Hillary Clinton for the pounding she has taken due to her gender. While I support Barack Obama, don’t like the way Hillary has campaigned against him, and hope that she soon drops out of the race, I have to agree with OG to a certain extent.

The hatred of Hillary is way disproportionate to the reality of the person she is. It always has been. I believe (no empirical evidence for this) that if she had been the wife of Dick Cheney and a die-hard conservative, there would be an intense dislike of her on the left, but it would have virtually nothing to do with her gender.

As it is, she is currently receiving the wrath of those of us who support Obama, but there is venomous dislike for her on the right and, I think in this case, a lot of it does have to do with gender. Again, I have no evidence to support this.

As a male, I’ve been privy to many discussions in which females were not present. Naturally you can not put a big emphasis on this type of anecdotal evidence. But it’s worth remembering that I’m a pretty liberal guy and the types of people I associate with are hardly hard-core, conservative males. If I’ve repeatedly heard gender-based insults cast at Hillary, I can only imagine how much of it goes on in other, more macho circles.

Some might wonder why I’m interested in this. Fairness for Hillary? Why bother with that at a time like this, when I see this election as so important and Obama the best person for the job? Is it because I’m such a big supporter of women’s issues?

I do indeed like to see myself as someone who is willing to stand up for those who have not had a fair shake. Equal rights for women is an important issue. It’s one of many issues that I take an interest in. I would be inclined to speak up for gays or lesbians that were being mistreated, minority ethnic groups or even persecuted religious groups. But there is an additional reason.

More and more I’m becoming convinced that I must always question my motives for anything and everything. It doesn’t mean being indecisive, equivocating and changing my mind constantly, but it does mean being vigilante and examining issues from multiple angles and not allowing my mind to fall for pat answers that are almost too perfect. Life is full of subtle texture. The more I think something is perfectly clear, it’s very likely that I’m being lazy in the use of my rational mind. It’s so convenient to throw everyone and everything into categories of good and bad and smugly think I’m on the “right” side.

While watching Bloggingheads.tv recently, I heard one of the most cogent defenses of Hillary yet, from a man I really respect – Glenn Loury of Brown University. Glenn is an African American man, about my age and he still supports Hillary. I think it’s time for him to give up that ghost, but he gives some important points to keep in mind, even if you want Obama to triumph.

9 comments:

Brendan said...

I feel as though I'm repeating myself on this, but I'm going to say it again anyway.

The flip side to fretting about Hillary being attacked because she's a woman is that this is the immediate response to anyone, particularly men, expressing a dislike for her.

Personally, I find her without principles, evidenced most recently, but not for the first time, by her campaign tactics. I also find her to be a phony in general, and her voice and other aspects of her on-camera persona grate on me. I don't think that this has anything to do with her extra X chromosome -- I feel this way about almost all politicians. I could be blind to my own bigotry, but I don't think I am. I have reported to female supervisors without a problem, learned from female teachers without a problem, and have always preferred strong women as romantic partners.

I am not at all saying that Hillary hasn't been subjected to sexist attacks. But I do resent that this card gets played against anyone, like me, who genuinely does not like her.

PhillyChief said...

Brendan puts forth the general point I didn't do so well at putting forth on the podcast. The animosity for her is due to SOOOO much more than her being a woman, but making woman jokes is just the quick and easy way to make a crack at her.

Look at it this way, no one raced to the defense of weird looking little people or ufo enthusiasts when jokes were made of Kucinich. Who tried to defend Romney's magic underwear? Who's defending the elderly when there are cracks made of McCain's age?

No one would say the only reason to not like these candidates was because of their appearance, underpants or advanced decrepitude. They're simply easy targets to focus all the dislike we have for a particular candidate due to their policies, both past and proposed. Likewise, I don't feel Hillary has been victimized or treated any less fairly. I disagree that "the hatred of Hillary is way disproportionate to the reality of the person she is" but if there's any truth to it, it's not for the fact that she doesn't have a penis. If anything, it's because of the penis she does have, or more correctly, what's attached to it, namely, Bill Clinton.

Ordinary Girl said...

My defense of Senator Clinton was in no means an attack on any of the Herd. I thought that would be obvious, but apparently, it was not.

But the subject we were debating is whether or not Senator Obama appeared weak, and Evo brought up that perhaps he was being careful to not perpetuate the image of an angry black man.

Going down that road I simply pointed out that I thought the bias was larger (not that a bias didn't exist against Sen. Obama) on Sen. Clinton's side because she was a woman.

I based that on my personal experience of the things I've heard about Clinton constantly since before she even announced her bid for president. The arguments are that she can't be possibly be president because she might make bad decisions due to PMS (not taking into account that she is most likely post-menopause anyway), she's weak because she's a woman, she's just a puppet for her husband, and many others that harp on her being a woman more than being of poor character.

Again, none of my comments were directed at the Herd, but that general bias I find is much more prevalent in a red state against Clinton than Obama. And maybe because she's so hated, it's become an easy way to denigrate her. But it by no means makes it acceptable.

The criticisms against Obama are largely associations with his name to the religion of Islam, while they are meant to be insulting, are more inaccurate than insulting (because why should a Muslim be not as eligible as a Christian?). The attack against his race has been more behind the scenes - and largely perpetuated by Clinton, I agree.

But, I shouldn't have to defend each and every action of Clinton's in order to defend her sex. The fact that she has done things that I disagree with are irrelevant to that argument.

PhillyChief said...

My defense of Senator Clinton was in no means an attack on any of the Herd. I thought that would be obvious, but apparently, it was not.

Now I'm completely confused. One of the herd thinks they've been attacked by OG? Which one? Why am I the last to get these memos, and why are they distributed here?

Ordinary Girl said...

Now I'm completely confused. One of the herd thinks they've been attacked by OG? Which one? Why am I the last to get these memos, and why are they distributed here?

OK, perhaps it's the wording. Attack may be too strong. But I did get the feeling that you guys thought I was accusing you of disliking Clinton because she was a woman. And I wasn't. I wasn't even saying that you shouldn't dislike Clinton.

I was simply saying that many people use sex as a reason that Clinton is ineligible for the White House, even if they have other reasons for thinking so. And some people think that sex is a perfectly good reason.

Brendan said...

OG:

The criticisms against Obama are largely associations with his name to the religion of Islam ...

I don't know if I completely agree with that. Racism is, sadly, alive and well in America. Here is a disturbing story that attempts to quantify it -- the takeaway is that 8% of those whites surveyed have no problem saying out loud that Obama's skin color is a problem for them. A Republican operative interviewed for the article figured the true percentage of white people who would let race sway their votes was closer to 15%. Based on life experience, I'd say it sounds right to assume that for every person who isn't ashamed to be racist out loud, there's probably at least one more who feels that same way, but won't admit it in mixed company.

Now, it could well be that similar numbers exist for sexism. I'm not trying to argue that Obama has more of a problem because of his skin color than Clinton does because of her gender. I just wanted to make the point that the Islam thing is not the whole story; in fact, I suspect a lot of people offer that as a reason to be against Obama because it's safer than saying what's really on their minds. Or, since they're predisposed not to like Obama because he's black, they'll latch onto whatever label the attack dogs offer up. See also accusations of communism, America-hater, and friend of terrorists.

BTW, what is this Herd? Am I in it? Should I be?

Ordinary Girl said...

Brendan, I agree with you.

The attack against his race has been more behind the scenes - and largely perpetuated by Clinton, I agree.

The Exterminator said...

OG (and Everyone):

I did get the feeling that you guys thought I was accusing you of disliking Clinton because she was a woman.
Nah. For the record: I didn't get that feeling, nor do I think any of us fellow-podcasters thought you were talking specifically about us.

I do agree with the other commenters that there are many, many, non-gender-specific reasons to dislike her. There are also some reasons which are peripheral to her being a woman, although her woman-ness, per se, has nothing to do with engendering the animosity: i.e. she would probably not have become New York's senator if she weren't the wife of an outgoing president. It's impossible to make that statement about a man.

On the other hand, I think Evo is writing here not specifically about attitudes toward Clinton, but about assumptions we rationalists make -- assumptions that may not always be rational. Many of us dislike Clinton for reasons that will stand up to scrutiny. But we ought not make the assumption that everyone who dislikes her has similarly reasonable criteria. In other words, there probably are some people, maybe many people, in this country who have a negative attitude about a woman becoming president.

The Ridger, FCD said...

"i.e. she would probably not have become New York's senator if she weren't the wife of an outgoing president. It's impossible to make that statement about a man."

I remember hearing the Bobby Kennedy owed it to being the brother of a president ...