Talk about "thirty ways of looking at Hillary": There is slew of female-penned articles in the new Newsweek about Hillary Clinton, gender, what the Democratic presidential candidate means to post-menopausal women, 20-somethings, "tae kwon do moms", pre-teen meth abusers... even that elusive centaur demographic. (Joke.) Sound familiar? It should! After all, the what-Hillary-means-to-women story has been done to death. But Newsweek does have some worthwhile nuggets, starting with Tina Brown's insightful essay about boomer women and how they are ignored by America's "relentless youth culture." Of course, the former New Yorker editrix can't resist planting a few underminery jibes at Hillary — she calls Clinton "inspiringly pedestrian" — but, by in large, Brown is sympathetic to Hillary's plight as whipping girl in a culture that vilifies aging females.
Brown takes a page from Ralph Ellison and calls over-50 females "invisible women." Younger women aren't voting for Hillary, she posits, because "The very scar tissue that older women see as proof of her determination just embarrasses their daughters, killing off for them all the insouciant elation that ought to come with girl power in the White House." Brown suggests that Hillary team up with Chelsea and hold some mother-daughter rallies in Pennsylvania to appeal to the under-30 set.
And why isn't that generation voting for Hillary? Young Jessica Bennett treads on well-worn territory when she argues that the "universal sisterhood" idea doesn't appeal to 20-something female Obama-philes. In a Q& A with Newsweek, Hillary herself explains why young women do not flock to her: "It's hard for young women to really feel the emotional connection because they didn't live through what we lived through. When I was a young woman, there were colleges I couldn't go to, jobs that I couldn't have ever had, a set of expectations that were pretty much imposed—and so women my age, we have gone through this extraordinary movement ... But the true beneficiaries are our daughters and our granddaughters."
But these 20 and 30-somethings who vote for Obama still feel guilty about not voting for Hillary, perhaps, as Jessica Bennett argues, because "[We were] reared at a time when Hillary was ever present, a sort of surrogate mother to us all."
If the Hillary-as-mother trope makes women feel guilty, it makes men feel a Freudian rage, says Kathleen Deveny. Deveny believes that much of the sexism directed towards Hillary is based in men's primal feelings towards their mothers and these men "mean 'mother' in the nagging, scolding, mom-jean-wearing sense, and not in a reassuring, brave and noble 'founding father' sort of way. Because since our mothers were often the sole authority figures in our childhoods, powerful women can bring back uncomfortable, if not emasculating, memories."
Speaking of emasculating, many have compared Hillary to another powerful old broad, Margaret Thatcher. Writer Julia Baird makes the point that though Thatcher pranced around her home "peeling potatoes" and "baking cakes" to soften her iron-woman image, she's not the only politician to do so. "Like men, women have exploited their gender when it suits them," Baird says.
Anna Quindlen takes the idea of Hillary's gender role throughout this race and puts an interesting twist on it. Obama has been allowed to show a more feminine side to overwhelming praise because "while [Clinton] felt the need to prove muscle and mettle, he has been making human connections. Here's the deal: that's because he could afford to. A male candidate owns all the guy stuff simply by virtue of his birth; he can then go on to show that he's caring and communitarian."
By virtue of his birth, Obama is also a black man. For Allison Samuels, her desire to see someone in the White House who cares about black issues "trumps [her] desire to see a woman in the White House." Samuels continues, "I can't afford the luxury of fighting two battles when one is so clearly a matter of life and death."
Last but not least, Slate's Dahlia Lithwick wonders whether this year's election will settle the question of identity politics once and for all. "Perhaps," Lithwick wagers, "at the end of all these months of peering in the mirror, we can stop looking for the candidate who embodies every slight and insult we've ever encountered, and contemplate which of them is better suited to govern." What might fell Hillary is not her gender, says Eleanor Clift in yet another essay, it's her personality, marred by a combination of "hubris and naiveté". Focusing on the policy and the temperaments of the candidates instead of their genitalia or the color of their skin? Why would anyone want to do that!
Hillary And The Invisible Women [Newsweek]
Am I Betraying The 'Sisterhood'? [Newsweek]
'A Common Experience' [Newsweek]
Leave Your Mother Out Of It [Newsweek]
Still Stuck In Second [Newsweek]
The Legacy Of My Grandmother [Newsweek]
Scenes From a Tea for Two [Newsweek]
Enough About Us. What About Them? [Newsweek]