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"Of mice and women…"

28.June 2008

This is a very good column by Judith Warner.

It still makes me extremely sad, though, that we’re talking about Hillary’s run for President in the past tense. Damn it.

Maybe part of the problem is that she started out as a “trailing spouse” but then couldn’t successfully negotiate the change to leading? (I don’t think this is the case. She negotiated that shift beautifully. The public and her ex-President-husband left a little to desire in this area. He certainly didn’t take kindly to it – note the wild campaign trail antics – and the public talked more about her as First Lady than as a potential President.

Also, this article in todays Times does portray the candidates as having come to a peaceful conclusion (read: Hillary is happy about no longer running, which I can’t quite swallow), which is nice. However, the article really plays up Hillary’s deference (she smiled deferentially while he spoke), wonders at the lack of physical affection between them (they’re not suddenly in a relationship, even if the rally was a pseudo Love-in), and shows a photo with him in a very patriarchial/protective posture, one hand on the little girl’s shoulder. Ugh.

I understand it’s not her place to run the show anymore, but the press is going to have to find a better vocabulary to deal with that fact. I’m stunned by the continued sexism even after she’s stopped being a threat to the country’s collective machismo.

And no, Obama’s little crack about her being able to “anything the boys can do, and do it better, and do it in heels” doesn’t help. Anyone else ever noticed that the word boys has an entirely different effect than the word girls? It implies a kind of bosom-buddyness, an inside-joke tone, a faux humility which tries to come off as self-deprecation but instead actually brags of its down-to-earthness. It says “look at this powerful man who is confident enough to still feel like just one of the boys.” There’s the Old Boys network from the north and the Good Ol’ Boys of the south. Always centers of power-brokerage. Girls, on the other hand are weak, deferential, and the use of the word generally doesn’t cross into dialogues of politics or power. It’s confined instead to girls’ nights out, girly movies, girlish figures, etc. And what kills me is that Obama is signalling his consciousness of this voacabulary issue by very carefully saying that “Women can do whatever the boys do.” He knows he isn’t allowed to call Hillary a girl, but it suits his cause better to refer to himself as one of the boys. Anyway, what the FUCK do heels have to do with anything? Quick boys, undermine her authority and seriousness as quickly as you can! She could still go off at any moment!

Polemic over.

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