Sexism has nothing to do with Hillary's fate

Business Times - 30 May 2008

At the centre of her campaign's message is the notion that she is tough and aggressive

HEY, guys, I think that the time has come for us to take collective action and to resist the onslaught on our gender, on our rights and identity as Men. There is no place for anti-man(ism) in public life. And I'm not talking here about such issues as child custody and domestic violence where men in most Western societies are finding themselves now on the losing side (like who is going to believe that a Big Guy was beaten-up by his wife? Is he 'girlie' or something?).

No. My main concern has to do with 'sexism' that according to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has raised its 'ugly head' during the current presidential campaign.

'Hillary' (is it sexist to refer to her by her first name?) has been 'whining' (oops . . . again . . . does this sound sexist?) that the press (here she and her aides provide a long list of journalists and pundits who happen to be men) has been making 'sexist attacks' against her (mmm . . . do my quotation marks - imply and reflect my sexist bias?) which she found to be 'deeply offensive'.

Hence, Mrs Clinton told the Washington Post that it seemed as though the press was not 'bothered by the incredible vitriol that has been engendered by the comments by people who are nothing but misogynists'.

At the same time, 1984 Democratic vice-presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro - who supports Mrs Clinton - said she may not vote for Barack Obama if he is the party's nominee because he has acted 'terribly sexist'.

Speaking on NBC's Today Show, Ms Ferraro also said that sexism was 'rampant' in this year's presidential campaign. 'There is a real difference in this country. It is not okay to be racist. It is just not. It is almost acceptable to be sexist,' said Ms Ferraro.

Misogyny? According to my dictionary, a misogynist is 'one who hates women' and 'sexism' is an 'attitude that one gender or sex is inferior to the other'.

Does that sound like the way the American public, the Democratic Party and the media have been treating Mrs Clinton? If anything, her rise to political power as a democratic senator from New York and now as a leading presidential candidate had everything to do with her being a woman - the wife of the popular man who occupied the White House for two terms and the sympathy that many Americans, and especially women, have felt towards her in the aftermath of the Monica Lewinsky affair (during which many of them accused her husband of being a misogynist).

Indeed, most polls indicate that Mrs Clinton continues to draw her support from women above the age of 50 (young women tend to support Obama) many of whom seem to buy into her allegations of sexism among American politicians and journalists.

In fact, most political analysts would agree that if Hillary Clinton had been a male Democratic presidential candidate with no chance of winning enough delegates to be nominated by his party, he would have withdrawn from the race a long time ago and pledged his support for Barack Obama. The reason that the Democratic Party's leaders continue to tolerate Mrs Clinton's behaviour is because she is a woman and they, indeed, don't want to be accused of sexism.

Can anyone imagine the husband of a leading American female winning political office by running on the coattails of his wife? Or is it conceivable that this man could win the support of the public, and especially that of male voters, by exploiting the sympathy he could receive after it was discovered that his wife had cheated on him with a younger man? Mmm. . . I don't think so. Such a man would probably be ridiculed by men and women alike as a 'wimp', a 'loser' and a 'girlie' man.

No one is really shocked when men who run for political office - especially for the job of the US president who is also the nation's commander-in-chief - are judged by their leadership qualities that tend to be associated with male attributes: strength; toughness; potency; charisma; ability to play political hardball.

That explains why military figures or football players tend to do well in politics, as opposed to, say, ballet dancers and male models, or why Hillary didn't protest when a trade union leader introduced her to a crowd as the 'only candidate in the race who has balls' or when another Southern governor suggested that unlike her opponent, she was not 'a sissy'. Indeed, at the centre of Mrs Clinton's campaign's message is the notion that she is tough and aggressive, just like a man; one that was ready to 'obliterate' Iran if it attacked Israel.

It's true that during the long campaign, Hillary has been on the receiving end of insults from men and women. One man shouted: 'Iron my shirt'; a fashion columnist who happened to be a woman referred to her cleavage and cackle; and one company is selling a product called 'Hillary nutcracker'.

But male public figures have always been mocked by hostile voters and a cynical press, claiming that they had no hair on their head or too much hair, they were too short or too heavy, too macho or too pretty or too 'wimpy'.

It goes with the territory of dirty politics. Male and female candidates don't win brownie points by playing the role of the victim. No one expects that a male politician losing an election would accuse his opponents and the media of sexism or 'anti-manism'. That would sound as either pathetic or ridiculous, or both.

If anything, Mr Obama who has faced hostility from many white voters during the campaign - some have refused to shake his hands or referred to him as a 'nigger' in his presence - has insisted that unlike old-style black leaders such as Jesse Jackson, he was not running as the African-American or black candidate, but was instead a representative of post-racial politics.

Ironically, one of the ways that Mrs Clinton has been trying to win the support of the Democratic Party's super-delegates is by playing the race card in addition to the gender one, arguing that unlike Mr Obama she appeals to a larger number of white voters.

There is no doubt that the fact a woman is now being seriously considered as a presidential candidate, breaking through the political glass ceiling is a historic development.

But American women now occupy top political positions as governors of large states, such as Michigan, mayors of large cities, and as lawmakers, including the house majority leader and the two women who represent California in the Senate.

In these and other instances, their gender wasn't an obstacle on their way to political leadership. In many cases, it was an asset.

Moreover, the fact that Hillary, who not long ago was the frontrunner in the race is now trailing Mr Obama, has very little to do with her gender and more to do with her failure to manage her campaign as well as with the political reality.

She is facing a young and charismatic opponent who is running for 'change' in a year when American voters are clearly fed-up with the status-quo in Washington. And Hillary and her 'experience' - which she has worn on her sleeve during the campaign - are associated with this hated status-quo.

Copyright © 2007 Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. All rights reserved.


It looks like the primaries are finally over, but Hillary Clinton hasn't withdrawn from the race yet, while Obama says he's the winner! Whom would you like to see as his running mate? Should it be Hillary herself? People Power Granny asks you to read my my post about this tonight and vote in my poll regarding if Hillary should be his running mate.

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