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Sexism and Hillary Clinton: Maureen Dowd Edition

Speaking of sexism and Hillary Clinton, I give you Maureen Dowd:

THE most famous woman on the planet has a confounding problem. She can’t figure out how to campaign as a woman.

In 2008, Hillary Clinton took advice from two men — Bill Clinton and Mark Penn — and campaigned like a man. Worried about proving she could be commander in chief, Hillary scrubbed out the femininity, vulnerability and heart, in image and issues, that were anathema to Penn. Consciously tamping down the humor and warmth in Hillary and playing up the muscularity and bellicosity, her strategist modeled Hillary on Iron Lady Margaret Thatcher.

[…]

Hillary saw the foolishness of acting like a masculine woman defending the Iraq invasion after she fell behind to a feminized man denouncing it. After losing Iowa and watching New Hampshire slip away to the tyro, Barack Obama, Hillary cracked. She misted up, talking to a group of voters in New Hampshire when a woman asked her how she kept going, while staying “upbeat and so wonderful.”

Her aides thought the flash of tears would be a disaster, that she would seem weak. But it was a triumph because she seemed real. As The Washington Post’s Dan Balz wrote in his campaign book, it “let a glimmer of her humanity peek through.”

Hillary always overcorrects. Now she has zagged too far in the opposite direction, presenting herself as a sweet, docile granny in a Scooby van, so self-effacing she made only a cameo in her own gauzy, demographically pandering presidential campaign announcement video and mentioned no issues on her campaign’s website.

It’s inescapable that Clinton* is a woman and that this brings a certain scrutiny. But it’s hardly as if male candidates are immune from taking too much advice from handlers and overcorrecting.

__________
*Like Dowd, I frequently refer to Clinton as “Hillary” in the written form, presumably for the same reason: there’s another Clinton, her even more famous husband, whereas everyone knows who you’re talking about when we say “Hillary.” I nonetheless prefer to keep with the last-name convention when it’s obvious from context about whom we’re referring.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He earned a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. An Interested Party says:

    I’m trying to remember if Obama had this same problem in 2008–he couldn’t act too “black” lest it would scare off moderates…unfortunately, anyone who isn’t white and male is going to have to deal with this kind of thing when running for the presidency…humph, we’ve come so far, haven’t we…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

  2. James says:

    Maureen Dowd still has a column?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  3. James Joyner says:

    @An Interested Party: I suppose. But a lot of this is just using the gender role where it doesn’t belong. Mitt Romney had the same positioning issues in 2012, John Kerry had them 2004, and Al Gore had them in 2000. There’s a constant pressure on politicians to package and reinvent themselves.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  4. Gustopher says:

    @An Interested Party: Obama never, ever shows anger. Is this because he is secretly an Anti-Colonialist Kenyan Socialist Muslim Buddhist, or because he dare not be the Angry Black Man.

    Probably a bit of both…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  5. ernieyeball says:

    …the last-name convention…

    Can’t this be solved by using Hillary Clinton on most or all occasions?
    Be unconventional!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  6. al-Ameda says:

    Both “Hillary” and “Clinton” serve to cause Republicans to manifest deep-seated (and quite often) irrational anger.

    I find it interesting that Obama has been the recipient of the same type of deranged opposition as Bill and Hillary received from 1993 to 2000. In fact so much so that Republicans now look back wistfully at the Clinton years as a time when they could work with the Democratic Party, all the while impeaching Bill – ah, the good old days.

    Hillary has to be accustomed to it by now, I know that most Democrats fully expect the Republican Party to angrily attack Clinton for the entire campaign season. The question is – given that Hillary is clunky and often tone-deaf on the campaign trail – can she withstand withering attacks and at the same time motivate Democrats to turnout in great numbers. Demographics seem to favor Democrats however the full effect of the favorable demographics predicated upon high voter turnout.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  7. Eric says:

    “Hillary saw the foolishness of acting like a masculine woman defending the Iraq invasion after she fell behind to a feminized man denouncing it.”

    Rather than run from her support for enforcing Saddam’s “final opportunity to comply” (UNSCR 1441) with the Gulf War ceasefire mandates, Clinton should set the record straight in the zeitgeist with explanation (link) of the law and policy, fact basis for Operation Iraqi Freedom.

    Senator Clinton voted for the 2002 AUMF because President Bush’s case against Saddam was really her husband’s case against Saddam, Bush’s enforcement procedure for the Gulf War ceasefire mandates carried forward her husband’s enforcement procedure for the Gulf War ceasefire mandates, and as was the case for her husband’s administration, Saddam was guilty across the board of breaching the Gulf War ceasefire.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  8. Barry says:

    @James Joyner: “Mitt Romney had the same positioning issues in 2012, John Kerry had them 2004, and Al Gore had them in 2000. There’s a constant pressure on politicians to package and reinvent themselves.”

    They are not the same problems. Mitt had the problem that he actually was an extremely rich person who made most of his money by ripping off other people – he was the guy who bought your company, and when he was through, the money was gone, there was massive debt, and tough sh*t about your pension. His ‘47%’ remark showed that if anything his critics were not harsh enough.

    With John Kerry and Al Gore, we see the same Dowd pattern that Democratic politicians are all ‘girly men’, while GOP politicians are oh-so-strong Men. Heck, Dowd wrote about Bush in such a manner as to make somebody wonder if she was writing his name with little hearts above the i’s, and if she had written ‘Maureen Bush’ in her notebook hundreds of times.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  9. bookdragon says:

    “Hillary saw the foolishness of acting like a masculine woman defending the Iraq invasion after she fell behind to a feminized man denouncing it.”

    Yeesh. That about sums up the problem for both men and women. I woman can’t be tough without being ‘masculine’ (if I had a nickle for every time someone assumed I must be a lesbian because I enjoy martial arts…) and I man who argues against a stupid war of choice is ‘feminized’.

    I didn’t comment on the previous threads on HRC and sexism because others said what I was thinking very well, but it really seems to come down to the fact that we have really fked up ideas of what it means to be be ‘a man’. And since ‘woman’ is so broadly defined in our culture as simply ‘not a man’, that means our definition of what it means to be a woman is fked up as well.

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