Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius' name is being bandied about by many pundits as a potential VP for Barack Obama. She's a moderate Democrat who managed to make peace across partisan aisles while still championing health care and education. If chosen, Sebelius will be the second woman to run for VP (after Geraldine Ferraro), and, as a politician on the national stage, will be facing the same kind of sexist scrutiny that Hillary Clinton did. In fact, we've pinpointed four ways in which Hillary was demonized due to her gender, and how Sebelius is already subject to the same sort of misogynistic blather, after the jump.
1. Her Looks: As we all know, Hillary's sartorial choices were skewered and her weight and visage were criticized. Anna Wintour angrily called her "mannish" after she backed out of a deal to pose in Vogue. Well, Sebelius's looks are already an issue, and in a possibly more insidious fashion — instead of being maligned for being too mature looking to be "sexy", Sebelius might feel the brunt of brutes for being too attractive. According to a New York article debating Sebelius's merits as a potential Veep, an anonymous source tells writer John Heilemann, "She's a bit older than Obama, but not old enough to be maternal. And she is quite attractive. They'd look too much like a couple together. [Putting her on the ticket] would risk evoking on a subconscious level every American trope about miscegenation - a recurrent, threatening theme throughout our cultural and political history. Every time they smile at each other, it will be triggered … And that's exactly the kind of anxiety you do not want to raise in white working-class men - the fear that this handsome, charismatic black guy is after their women." Wow. Just…wow.
2. Lack of Acceptable "Feminine" Behavior: See Wintour's "mannish" comment above. Also, Hillary was oft-criticized for being a ball-breaker and "looking like everyone's first wife standing outside a probate court." Also, back in the day when Bill was running for President, Hillary was criticized for being a working mom who didn't care about chocolate chip cookies, the same way Michelle Obama is now being criticized. As for Sebelius, she's got the Wintour seal of approval, as Kathleen posed for the February issue of the magazine. Of course, Sebelius was always a working mom (she was state legislator and insurance commissioner before becoming Governor), so she'll be vulnerable to some of the same anti-working woman vitriol that Hillary and Michelle were subject to. However, Sebelius is known as a uniter who can negotiate partisan politics, so her Vogue-described "elegant, circumspect" manner might get her points in this arena.
3. Excess Of Acceptable Feminine Behavior: How could we forget Hillary's cry heard-round-the-world? First she was condemned for being too "hard," then she was raked over the coals for being a hysterical woman. She couldn't win. In the same vein, Kathleen Sebelius was slammed for her "vague and fuzzy" rebuttal to Bush's State of the Union address, in which her "delivery [was] nervous and halting."
4. Only In Power Because They're Related To Politicians: Hillary took a lot of heat from people who said that her run for President was predicated solely on her marriage to Bill. Kathleen Sebelius is the daughter of former Ohio Governor John J. Gilligan. Thankfully, I haven't seen Sebelius criticized for this yet, though I can imagine Republicans using this to bash her for a different reason: she could be painted with the same "elitist" brush Obama is. Sigh. Gird yourself for the coming months, people, it's going to be a bumpy ride.
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