Magazine Thinks Hillary Clinton Spends Her Time "Sneaking Brownies"

Illustration for article titled Magazine Thinks Hillary Clinton Spends Her Time "Sneaking Brownies"

Two big things jumped out at me when I saw Vanity Fair's new June cover. The Katy Perry profile is cover-teased as, "There's Even More Than Meets The Eye!" but, I must admit, what I saw first was her ample Meets The Eye. And then there was the Hillary Clinton cover line. "HILLARY CLINTON'S THIRD ACT: DEALING WITH OBAMA, SAVING THE WORLD, SNEAKING BROWNIES."


There are times when I lose touch with my feminist rage. These periods can last for weeks; sometimes they go on so long that I begin to think my capacity for feminist outrage is forever broken and worn out from over-use, that every last tired molecule of my hatred is currently holed up a darkened room, sleeping it off, never to be roused again. You work long enough at a job where you have to React instantaneously to Things That Are Bad For Women and, slowly, even when you can recognize that what you are reacting to is in fact objectively speaking a Bad Thing, a stupid and sexist and deeply annoying Thing that, say, trivializes a secretary of state for daring to hold public office while being female, sometimes I just don't feel it in my gut. And then, just when I think that for the rest of my life I'm going to have to pantomime a sense of insult I no longer am capable of feeling, wham — my rage comes back! And just as strong as ever. It's like it never left! I had one of those get-back-in-touch-with-my-rage moments courtesy of that Hillary Clinton cover line.

Hillary Clinton is a woman. Women, as everyone knows, all have food issues. Every last one of us! We fret about food, we deny ourselves food and call it "being good," and when we eat heartily, we're being so very bad! You can bet that a woman in the public eye is either considered to be eating too much or too little. Because for a woman to have an appetite is still suspect — it speaks to deeper needs and desires, it hints at an assertiveness that, if left unchecked, might lead a mere female to consider herself qualified to, I don't know, run for president or something — a woman must always be described as "sneaking" a brownie. Not "enjoying" a brownie, or simply "eating" or "consuming" or "masticating and swallowing" one. No, when a woman eats a food item generally understood to be dessert, she is being "naughty" and must be careful to cover her tracks. Hillary fucking Clinton, in the opinion of the sages at Vanity Fair magazine, can't actually decide for her own damn self when she feels like having a brownie, and eat one — she must "sneak" it. (This "sneaking" business seems improbable on so many levels — are they entirely sure it wasn't Bill?)

Profiles of men and women always have these of allegedly telling, "humanizing" moments, and generally the more hacky the writing and editing, the greater the narrative weight they have to bear. The C.E.O. whose golf swing is a metaphor for the way he goes about hostile takeovers. The antique painting that's a synecdoche for a subject's good taste. And Hillary Clinton, as a woman in a position of vast power, is clearly in need of a strenuous public "humanizing." But for a headline editor to seize upon a food anecdote (based on one 28-word sentence in a 6,853-word piece) and blow it up to Cover Lie status says that editor believes that Hillary Clinton's relationship with brownies is of crucial importance to understanding her tenure as secretary of state — on an equal footing with her relationship with the President and her handling of the State Department. And that is absolutely ridiculous and insulting. Hillary Clinton is a woman, so her humanizing note must be related to food? One is reminded of the time Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard was criticized for having a too-clean kitchen; opponents seized on the fact that her kitchen didn't show signs of frequent cooking as evidence that she was unfit for office.

Why can't the media let Hillary Clinton just eat a brownie in peace? Sometimes a square of gooey chocolate is just a square of gooey chocolate. Even when it's in the hands of a secretary of state.

Woman of the World [VF]



The thing that pisses me off most about all this is the idea that women need other women to be "relatable", and that in order for a woman to be relatable she must be diminished in some way. As if women find the idea of a poweful female politican unacceptable if she's depicted as intelligent, tough, and competent. No, instead we must find some way in which she is vulnerable in order to soften her image, becase you see women naturally hate each other, so we need to be able to go "oh, she sneaks dessert just like me!" in order to want to read about her.

(And that's before we get into the infantilising nonsense that describes grown women as sneaking treats like naughty children.)

I don't think this is actually true. Clearly the magazine industry thinks it's true, and so does Hollywood. But I think they're wrong.

Hillary Clinton is Secretary of State. Sweetness and vulnerability are not features that I require in a SOS. I don't need the SOS to be "relatable" because omg, she has a fucked up relationship with food just like I do! I need her to be good at her job. Which is not striving to look pretty by trying (but failing, because women are weak!) to avoid dessert. I don't give a shit what she eats, as long as it's not roasted toddler with an endangered species sauce.

Every time this happens an opportunity to fight the status of women as the sex class is missed. We could talk about whether or not Clinton is a good SOS, what the SOS does, what's going on in the world right now that she's focused on. But no, instead we need to talk about food guilt and how she maintains her relationship with her husband, because that's what's really important. Oh, and also her office husband, because it's not like she could possible relate to Obama as a colleague.

I'm with Jenna on this. It's this sort of subtle underminey bullshit that's most effective at maintaining the role of women as the second sex, and we should be angry about it.