“I think that woman should be equal with men. I just don’t think that they should have positions of power over men.”
- Student in my son’s college class
The experts have begun to eulogize Hillary Clinton’s campaign. And I’m hesitant to make her campaign’s apparent demise mean anything because something had to be proven: either we would conclude that racism or sexism is still alive and well in the US. Someone had to lose. Obama is a great candidate, but he’s not flawless. Clinton is a flawed candidate, but she’s still great. It’s easy to say that she had the bad luck of running up against one of the best speakers in politics in years, but if Obama were running behind Clinton, similarly persuasive points could be made about why a candidacy as promising as his foundered.
Clinton is articulate and her view of the world is sophisticated. She talks like a politician at times, but we’ve had the good old boy approach of plan speech and simple thinking, so nuance ought not to automatically disqualify her. And while I acknowledge that she’s reviled by a wide swath of the polity, if that were enough to keep someone out of office, dubya would be clearing brush in Crawford. (Wait. Let me hold that image for a moment. Sigh. Back on topic.)
It’s hard to imagine that women will have a better shot at the presidency any time soon, and after 200+ years, they apparently still have not come up with a candidate worthy of the job. One wonders how long it’ll be before we join the 40+ countries that have already had female heads of state. (Among them Muslim countries like Indonesia and Pakistan.) It may well be that Clinton is not a good enough candidate and that she is, just coincidentally, one in a string of millions of women who just happen to be “not quite good enough” for the job.
There are many reasons that we have not had a woman president, but among them there seems to be a subtle one that intrigues me.
Women are used to putting the needs of others before their own. Blame (praise?) nurture or nature for this trait, but could it be that the edge to Obama is as simple as that? Women are better able to help others and might they have, once again, deferred their own agenda. Are women simply working to right racism before they deal with sexism?
Ben knew once he had opened the two sweaters that he’d better not wait. If he didn’t quickly put on one of the sweaters, his mother would be offended, assuming that he was unhappy with his Christmas present. As soon as he put on the one sweater, his mother wrung her hands. “Oh, Ben. The other sweater, you don’t like?”
I know that if Clinton wins, very similar arguments will be made about how racism is more deeply entrenched than sexism. But perhaps John Lennon was ahead on this as with so many topics. He and Yoko Ono were visiting some Black Panthers, talking about racism. Lennon was appalled at how casually demanding the men were of the women, ordering them about. This is what prompted him to write, “Women is the Nigger of the World.” Maybe he’s right. Maybe sexism is stronger even than racism. The Democratic primary suggests that this is still true.