Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Yesterday, it was Steinem's Defense of Hillary; Today, It's Dowd's Pillory of Hillary

Maureen Dowd's column entitled "Can Hillary Cry Her Way Back to the Whitehouse?" today replaced Gloria Steinem's op-ed piece, "Women are Never Front Runners" as the most emailed story in the New York Times. The topic, of course, is still Hillary's "meltdown," her "moment," as some are calling it. In one of the more scathing passages of her column, Dowd writes: "But there was a whiff of Nixonian self-pity about her choking up. What was moving her so deeply was her recognition that the country was failing to grasp how much it needs her. In a weirdly narcissistic way, she was crying for us. But it was grimly typical of her that what finally made her break down was the prospect of losing."

I, of course, cannot say definitively that Hillary did not plan the "moment," as Dowd and others have alleged. I do know, however, that I've experienced tearful moments in public places and in the presence of bosses, under pressure and exhausted. What pleases me out of all of this is that many female voters apparently rallied around Hillary. Maybe they did so because of her "moment," because they empathized. Maybe they did so because of derisive and caustic comments from the likes of Rush Limbaugh (and now Maureen Dowd) in the wake of her show of emotion. Maybe those women, like me, know just how natural these emotions, these "moments," are. Perhaps their emotional displays have been used to undermine them, too.

Some feminists are wary of such solidarity among women-- at least as it might be seen as the reason to vote for her. Even Hillary's campaign seems wary of the downsides, given recent statements focusing on her debate performance as the reason for her N.H. victory. Of course, solidarity among women is not a bad thing per se, but these feminists want to send a clear message that women vote on the issues. They thus steer clear of any suggestion that women would vote for Hillary based on her gender, based on empathy for her "bad day" and the attacks it engendered (pun intended). I agree that women are informed and care about the issues, but if emotion didn't matter in Presidential politics, why would there be so much talk about Obama's charisma? Sure, emotion has always been a double-edged sword for women, but I don't feel the need to "clean up" women voters by disassociating them with the type of emotions that led them rally around one of their own -- especially when that one is so spectacularly qualified to be President of the United States.

1 comment:

Meredith Wallis said...

Dowd's piece was annoying, but I just thought I'd highlight part of Steinem's article, which I found particularly odious:

"Black men were given the vote a half-century before women of any race were allowed to mark a ballot, and generally have ascended to positions of power, from the military to the boardroom, before any women (with the possible exception of obedient family members in the latter)."

Really? You're going to rest your dubious rhetorical race-to-the-bottom between white ladies and black men with a reference to the franchise? I'll give Steinem the brief period of high turn-out among black male turnout during Reconstruction (although I'm pretty sure she's not making a historical reference). But what about the Redemption--the lynching, the intimidation, the restrictive & fraudulently administered qualifications (poll taxes, literacy tests, grandfather clauses), the white primaries? The entire history of voting jurisprudence is about new and more creative ways of reducing the representational power of blacks. It took a long time for the 19th amendment, but they didn’t hang white suffragettes before or after it passed. Geez, what poor taste.

Unhinged standpoint theory strikes again.