29 February 2008

Woman President? Not Yet

“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.


slouching mom said...

i don't know, ron. i think hillary may just come with too much baggage (read: bill) for her candidacy to be a true test of how sexist we as a nation still are.

Life Hiker said...

I agree with slouching mom - too much baggage, both "Bill" and the hate of 35% of the population.

But Hillary has run a poor campaign while Obama has run a good one. That alone says something about why Obama may be the better president. He picked his theme and stuck with it, while she's been all over the place.

Sayonara, Hillary.

HRH said...

I just think these candidate's "ism"s are neutralizing the election and because both have an "ism" people can actually focus on who they like better for the job. I think it would be a completely different race if only one of the Democratic candidate was "ism" branded.

I also believe that Hillary is not the best female candidate, but the one that sold her soul for the position *gasp and disregard any further comments from this reader*. Where is the US Margaret Thatcher? Not in this election.

cce said...

Thatcher is not what this country needs (talk about conservative) but I agree with HRH that a Janet Reno type of female (unattractive, all business) is more electable in that discussions about clothing, hair style and bouts of weepiness seem to be avoided. Both men and women need attractive females to behave in certain ways while unattractive females are trusted with more traditionally male roles. I'm not condoning this attitude, just observing it. Hillary, while she's no super model, might coast too close to cuteness to be forgiven her intellect and capability.

Dave said...

I was going to type a comment that would have been an amalgm of those above. Senator Clinton is not a true test of our country's willingness to elect a woman. Were she a good candidate (if she wins, this comment will self destruct) she would win.

Ron Davison said...

Dave, LH, S-mom, and hrh,
I still maintain that Clinton is the best female candidate yet for one simple reason: even if she concedes on Wednesday, she'll have come closer than any female candidate before her. For me, it is simply a matter of electoral performance. Is she flawed? Yep, but so is Obama and McCain and Bush and Kerry and Bush and Gore .... I stand by my point: she's the best female we've put up yet, and she's not good enough. Really? It just so happens that in the history of the US we have yet to see a female as qualified as Bush, Clinton, Bush, Reagan, Carter ... ? I doubt that. Very much.

So, we take unattractive women more seriously? Interesting theory. You want to be taken seriously and you never post pictures.

jen said...

i'm blaming it on disney.

cce said...

Ron, exactly right. No matter how good or qualified a woman is, if she happens to be at all attractive, she is somehow reduced in the mind's of others for that fact. Sad but all too often true.

Gypsy at Heart said...

I think you guys covered it all really so I'll just leave it at that. Ron, Cce HAS posted a photograph of herself and she's a cutie pie let me tell you. Dave, your comment WILL self-destruct (I still have hope for Hillary). Jen, you couldn't have said it better. Disney is indeed the culprit.

Damon said...

Or maybe democrats are racist AND sexist?



Ron Davison said...

you did and did it well. yours was an interesting post, thanks.

now that G@H has assured me you're attractive, I have trouble tracking your arguments. You were saying?

your hopes have been kept alive. this is going to be an interesting, down-to-the-wire race.

Condi could be run as a control factor in the study of -isms. Well, if her reputation had not been besmirched by that drunken frat boy she's been spending so much time with.