Monday, September 24, 2012

I Want a Dyke for President!

Zoe Leonard, "I Want A Dyke for President"

In the context of the upcoming elections, I wanted to revive this legendary work for my fellow feminist (or feminist-in-training) brethren. I first came across this during university, and remain floored by its genuine yearning, pain, and its power. I remain humbled at the ability of someone who has never met me, spoken to me, or known of me, to write something with which I identify with so strongly and intimately.

Anyone who knows me or has the misfortune of being my facebook friend will know that there are few people more in love with our current president than me (including possibly Michelle). I really really love him (and his big ears and even bigger brain) and what he's done for me personally because I am LGBT and a woman and a student and an atheist. But five years later, I still have a bone to pick.

Hillary Clinton was rejected as the Democratic nominee five years ago. Not because she had a vagina (or at least no one will admit to that as their reason for rejecting her), and not because she was a mother, but because she was publicly perceived as a "bitch." We all remember watching Hillary's hecklers yell "Iron my shirt!" at her town hall meetings and public appearances. I heard from male peers (Stanford undergrads, so an admittedly self-selective sample of progressive, young, and privileged men) that they couldn't relate to her and she never smiled and seemed "uptight" and "barely human." A Gallup poll from 2008 showed that she was regarded most strongly in the following three categories: "experienced," "qualified/capable of being president," and "dislike her." Seriously??

Thankfully, when Hillary was finally driven to tears in public, fellow woman-in-charge Maureen Dowd (and Pulitzer-winning journalist) at the Times finally confronted the issue.
“I actually have emotions,” [Clinton] told CNN’s John Roberts on a damage-control tour. “I know that there are some people who doubt that.” She went on “Access Hollywood” to talk about, as the show put it, “the double standards that a woman running for president faces.” “If you get too emotional, that undercuts you,” Hillary said. “A man can cry; we know that. Lots of our leaders have cried. But a woman, it’s a different kind of dynamic.”

In a super interesting article comparing the public opinion differences between Hillary and Michelle, researchers at the University of Illinois analyzed public opinion data on the two would-be first ladies from 1992 to 2008. Their results indicated that "spouses who embody the traditional role of first lady tend to be more popular, while spouses who assume an active role in advocating policy, such as Hillary Clinton, garner less support." This study also concluded that most to-be first ladies generate highly polarized reactions along partisan lines, but that more traditional spouses evoke a less divisive response. This reminded me of the backlash Michelle Obama faced for trying to tackle childhood obesity in America through legislative efforts, and how she's now trying to stay under the radar during election season for this contested issue. 

We are now four years after the findings of this University of Illinois article, and Hillary has served extensively as Secretary of State and harmoniously within the Obama administration. So when will it be her turn?

1 comment:

Sarah said...

Your title reminds me of one of my favorite Le Tigre songs: Just try to sit still to Le Tigre!

I think what is really interesting is how Hillary's public image/perception has evolved over her course as first lady, public figure, candidate, and secretary of state. Who knew that all her hard work, dedication, diplomacy, intellectual prowess would be overshadowed by a meme of her looking superladyinchargecool (