Hillary, by contrast, seems to want to be more like a man in her demeanor and politics, makes few concessions to the social demands of femininity, and yet seems to be only a partial feminist. She seems above us, exempting herself from compromises women have to make every day, while, at the same time, leaving some of the basic tenets of feminism in the dust. We are sold out on both counts. In other words, she seems like patriarchy in sheep’s clothing.
One of progressive feminism’s biggest (and so far, failed) battles has been against the Genghis Khan principle of American politics: that our leaders must be ruthless, macho empire builders fully prepared to drop the big one if they have to and invade anytime, anywhere. When Geraldine Ferraro ran for vice president in 1984, the recurring question was whether she had the cojones to push the red button, as if that is the ultimate criterion for leading the country. And while American politics has, for years, been all about the necessity of displaying masculinity, Bush, Cheney and Rove succeeded in upping the ante after 9/11 so that the sight of John Kerry windsurfing meant he wasn’t man enough to run the country. But now, with the massive failures of this callous macho posture everywhere—a disastrous war, a deeply endangered environment and more people than ever without health insurance—millions are desperate for a new vision and a new model of leadership.
Well, my obvious problem with this is that it presents the feminist movement as monolith – which we all know it most certainly is not. The author seems motivated by a very ‘second wave’ impetus to embrace the authentic ‘female’. This always troubles me. I think there must be some middle ground between the first wave’s assumption of masculine values and the second wave’s embracing of ‘feminine’ values. And I have a problem with holding women up to a predefined idea of what women should be and judging them by how well they cohere to that image.
All of this frames many women’s reactions to Hillary. If she’s a feminist, how could she continue to support this war for so long? If she’s such a passionate advocate for children, women and families, how could she countenance the ongoing killing of innocent Iraqi families, and of American soldiers who are also someone’s children? If it would be so revolutionary to have a female as president, why does she feel like the same old poll-driven opportunistic politician who seems to craft her positions accordingly?
Maybe women like me are being extra hard on Hillary because she’s a woman. After all, baby boomer women couldn’t be “as good” as men in school or the workplace; we had to be better, to prove that women deserved equal opportunities. And this is part of the problem too. We don’t want the first female president to be Joe Lieberman in drag, pushing Bush-lite politics. We expect something better.
I think the questions raised in this section are very important but how are they intricately connected with Hillary being a woman? We need to stop holding women up and necessitating that they be ‘better’ than men to get into politics. It only effectively works to keep women and their voices out of politics. Perhaps instead we should just start expecting more from politicians – whehter female or male?