Manhattan broadsheet the New York Observer scored quite the coup this week, signing up author Susan Faludi to take on the controversial new anthology about Hillary Clinton Thirty Ways of Looking at Hillary: Reflections By Women Writers. Derided by other critics as narcissistic (among other things), the book is not one of Faludi's favorites either: the feminist pundit describes it as "a good deal of convenient psychologizing, self-absorbed meanderings and unearned snipes" and all but calls it sexist, asking readers to imagine its conceit applied to male writers and a male presidential candidate: "Inside, we would find ruminations on the male candidate's doggy looks and flabby pectorals; musings on such 'revealing' traits as the candidate's lack of interest in backyard grilling, industrial arts and pets... We would hear a great deal about how the candidate made them feel about themselves as men and whether they could see their manhood reflected in the politician's testosterone displays. ... And we would hear virtually nothing about the candidate's stand on political issues."
With that out of the way, Faludi focuses in on whypeople hate Hillary so much, pointing to a culture in which only younger women are prized and writing that once women's "30-years-old freshness date has expired... [they] are out of luck — there's no matriarchy to step in to offer wisdom and hand over the reins." She also argues that Clinton, because of her age and her potency, gets associated with "mother" in a primal way, and that the country's penis-obsessed Portnoys subconsciously regard her as "the smothering, devouring American Mom whose power male writers have been shuddering under since at least the 1950's."
For all the hosannas over young women advancing in competitive sports or Katie Couric snagging the CBS News anchor slot, we continue to have no tradition and no real image of public female authority. As [Vanity Fair writer Leslie] Bennetts observes in her essay, 'A woman can become Speaker of the House, but Nancy Pelosi has to cloak her authority in gender mufti by describing her ability to order congressmen around as using her 'mother-of-five voice.' A female can't just be strong and forceful and direct in her decision making; she has to revert to being a mom, which we all know is her primary role anyway.'
Is that really the problem? Are Americans working out their mommy issues in the polling booths instead of the therapist's office? Or is Faludi just participating in some theoretical mental masturbation in the name of taking the piss out of the patriarchy? Hell if I know, but I'm definitely sick of talking about Hillary and "feelings". Maybe brilliant American essayists like Katha Pollitt and Dahlia Lithwick can start talking about Hillary's policies instead, and soon.
Hillary and the Feminine Gaze, Up Close and Personal [NY Observer]