Hillary Clinton is not what one would term traditionally "feminine". She's tough. She's at times uncompromising. And she has never been exceptionally good at playing the traditional wife and mother. She friggin' kept her name after marrying her husband as a way to symbolically remain an autonomous individual with her own strengths and interests and life. And she had to give that up because she was seen as being too uppity and too independent by Bill Clinton's constituents; he lost in part because his wife had the audacity to keep her fucking name. And that is reason #1 why I admire and love Hillary Clinton, both in the fact that she kept her name after marriage -and the reasons for doing so- and the fact that she was forced to conform for the good of her husband's career. I imagine that it must have killed her to do so; but she gave up a part of what she felt made up her identity because American society insisted upon it. Because her husband and herself could not have succeeded in the political sphere if she insisted upon being seen as an individual and not simply as an appendage. And that is reason #2 as to why I love Hillary Clinton. She has, over the years, refused to be Nancy Reagan. She refused to be defined as simply a wife and mother. She refused to be seen as anything less than she was. She didn't bake cookies and sit at home. She was out fighting for children's rights, and she wasn't going to apologize for it. Until her uppity ways once again hurt her husband's political career, and she had to come back to the pack and downplay her intelligence, her strength, and her individuality.
Truth is, there was a time when I was at most ambivalent-leaning-toward-like about Hillary Clinton. When Barack Obama gave the keynote address at the 2004 DNC, I was blown away. When he chose to run for president, I actually had a bit of a debate about who I would vote for. I chose Hillary Clinton. It wasn't that I didn't believe in Obama. I did and do. It wasn't that I thought he wouldn't make a good president. I did and do. It wasn't that Hillary Clinton was a woman, and that I absolutely had to have a woman president if given the opportunity. I've said it before and I'll say it again, "I didn't want to elect 'a' woman president. I wanted this specific woman to be president". I looked at her plans and Obama's plans and even McCain's plans -because if McCain had won the Republican primary in 2000, I may have voted for him in 2004- and I decided that as close as Obama's and Hillary's platforms were, I liked Hillary's better. And as the attacks on Hillary Clinton grew in fervor and in animosity, as I felt myself as someone who had ovaries as being subject by proxy to those same, baseless, sexist, useless attacks, I grew closer to Hillary Clinton's campaign. I wanted her to succeed in spite of the fact that the phrase "Take out the garbage" was said over and over and over again in response to her voice. I wanted her to succeed because of every frickin' critique of her hair, her clothing, her wrinkles, and every other insult that was hurled at her but was not hurled at a similarly qualified male candidate. I didn't start off liking Hillary Clinton because she was a woman, but after a while her being a woman and being subject to what was basically highly televised and publicized street harassment made me want her to win more. Because what was hurled at Hillary Clinton, the belittling she faced, is the belittlement women in general face. And anyone -man, woman, child- who doesn't accept that fact, who doesn't acknowledge that fact, is not acknowledging the reality of being a woman in America.
Which is why I am so astonished that a good friend of mine -the same one who felt that Hillary was a phony- would ever say, "Did [Andrew Sullivan] offend your feminist sensibilities simply because he attacked a female leader?" So, I still love you but in the words of Sports Night's Dana Whitaker, "You know what, bite me so hard for that". Andrew Sullivan offended my feminist sensibilities for many reasons. Reason #1: he said, "it became clear pretty soon that the Senate was indeed merely a stepping stone back to the White House". I'm not a disciple of Andrew Sullivan the way my friend is -my worship is already taken by Joss Whedon, Aaron Sorkin, and Anna Quindlen- so maybe I'm wrong here but if Andrew Sullivan didn't have the exact same complaint about Barack Obama and his 2004 Senate election, then I cry foul. It may not be sexist, but it is certainly baseless. Reason #2 is that he invoked the specter of the tears of femininity in order to show how Hillary was a bad feminist; actually, the term he used was "anti-feminist". Which, "you know what, bite me so hard for that" Andrew Sullivan. But instead, I'll let Kristen Schaal do the honors of a rebuttal:
Plenty of politicians tear up. Plenty of elected -male- leaders get emotional. But no, when Hillary does it, it must be that she's a calculating, cold-hearted bitch who is setting feminism back a hundred years. I'll listen to Andrew Sullivan's criticism of Hillary Clinton's anti-feminist tendencies when he seriously looks at how he and many other media outlets play to anti-feminist themes. Until then, ciao, Andrew Sullivan; your feminist critiques have no teeth -especially when you seem to imply that Margaret Thatcher makes a better feminist icon than a woman who fights for things like women's rights, children's rights, comprehensive health care, and the environment (heretofore known as Reason #3). Which, last I checked, were all issues the feminist side of the spectrum were pretty down with.
There was an article questioning why women are still not running for office published a while ago; I pretty much think that the treatment Hillary Clinton endured answers that pretty soundly. I don't know of any single person who would voluntarily place himself or herself in a situation where political pundits, newspaper columnists, Maureen Dowd, and anonymous bloggers would do their worst to humiliate, dehumanize, and diminish the candidate. But that is what Hillary Clinton faced. Time and time again, that is what Hillary Clinton faced. And so, reason #? for why I admire and respect Hillary Clinton is that she was able -day after harrowing day- to step back onto the podium and make her historical run for president. That she didn't just crawl under the covers and never come out due to the jeering, the misogyny, and the idea that she should just be nagging her husband to take out the garbage.
You want more reasons? How about a neutral one? I don't hate her for staying with Bill Clinton. I don't even suspect she stayed with him for the political boost. I don't think she's anti-feminist for staying with a man who cheats. Maybe the Elizabeth Edwards situation will better Hillary's decision, but since people actually like Elizabeth Edwards and think of her as human -which I attribute partially to the fact that she is traditionally feminine- maybe not. I am not a part of her marriage to Bill Clinton. Because I'm not, I don't feel comfortable making judgements about it; but I've read about it. I've read their accounts of it, and I've read others' accounts of it, and what comes out time and time again is that these are two people who seem to genuinely care about one another and who enjoy each other's company, talents, and intellect. There is a story about how Bill Clinton's mother asked him why he was marrying Hillary, and he responded it was because he could talk to her. I think their marriage is a little odd; but I also believe that everyone's relationship is a little odd. I like Bill Clinton -I have a love affair with good oratory that knows no bounds, which is partially why I like Ted Kennedy and why I fell for Obama so quickly- and I certainly can understand why Hillary would be attracted to him, and how she is able to like or love him enough to stay with him regardless of his many personal faults.
Need some more? Every article I've ever read where she's been interviewed, she has been intelligent, moderate in emotion, and has addressed real issues stemming from her campaign. I have yet to read an interview where she railed against the press for what they did to her; and it would have been completely understandable if she had, if a little self-serving and naval-gazing. Need more? Read Courtney Martin's "Dear Hillary" letter. Need more? How about we discuss the cult of personality, and how men and women have to fit into their prescribed roles more often than not in order to succeed, and how men and women who go against the current are maligned, demonized, and made into the worst of the worst. And how we have to, as women, as progressives, as human beings, celebrate those few who don't allow the threat of being maligned, demonized, and made into the worst of the worst to affect how they act, how they dress, and what they see as being the most important aspect of their lives.
Hillary Clinton is one hell of a politician. And we can criticize how she got to where she is; we should critique political families and their influence in American culture. But we celebrated RFK and Edward Kennedy, and we wanted JFK Jr. to go into politics, and so criticisms of Hillary Clinton riding on her husband's coattails fall short of being purely altruistic in motive from where I'm standing (reason #? for why I didn't like that Andrew Sullivan piece). I firmly believed that Geraldine Ferraro's assessment of the Obama campaign was right, that Obama's meteoric rise is due in part to his race and his post-1960s racial construct in addition to his obvious intelligence and skill and talent. Just like John McCain's rise is attributed in part to his having been a POW and being seen as a maverick in addition to his 30 years in Washington DC as a successful politician. Just like Hillary Clinton's popularity is in part due to her gender and who she married in addition to her skill, intelligence, and talent. Geraldine Ferraro wasn't wrong; the American public -and I would assert any public- likes a good narrative. These three have good, inspiring narratives. But you can only get away with criticizing one of their narratives and have your job in the morning. Guess who's narrative that is?