Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Hillary Clinton: Honest Tears?

Erica Jong writes,

"It's the tears. She pretended to cry, the women felt sorry for her, and she won," said Bill Kristol. So did his page-mate Maureen Dowd, that fierce feminist. So did many of my friends.

Why is it ok for men to get misty and not for women? Why is it assumed everything HRC does is scripted? Why is she seen as bloody Lady Macbeth while Obama is seen as darling Cordelia? Why is a man more sincere than a woman? Why?

Gloria Steinem says we'll do anything not to elect a woman.

"Gender is probably the most restricting force in American life, whether the question is who must be in the kitchen or who could be in the White House. This country is way down the list of countries electing women and, according to one study, it polarizes gender roles more than the average democracy."

That has been my experience as a writer. Whether I have written about women or men, the present or the past, the USA or other countries, politics or poetry, I have been assailed by both genders as self-involved, narcissistic, shrill -- buzz words for women who try to change the status quo.

There's a tee shirt that says: "Women Who Change the World Are Rarely Polite" -- but do we believe it? We buy the tee shirt. We wear the tee shirt. But what do we really believe? Do we allow women the same emotional latitude as men? I doubt it.

But perhaps my experience is skewed. Perhaps the world has changed. I hope so. I want Gloria Steinem to be proven wrong, but I question it. When I think of the way Eleanor Roosevelt was attacked, Geraldine Ferraro was attacked, Bella Abzug was attacked, Nancy Pelosi is attacked, Hillary is attacked, I wonder. I hope like hell to be mistaken. I hope gender doesn't matter. I hope race doesn't matter, but I wonder.

Erica, of course, is speaking of Hillary Clinotn getting misty-eyed during the New Hampshire primary race on Tuesday. I did not see this event, but heard about it from a colleague at work. The question was not one of is it acceptable for a woman politician to cry, but rather were the tears genuine. My colleague holds a similar opinion of Hillary Clinton as I do - that she is a hard-hearted, dishonest, power hungry person. Who cares that she is also female. I certainly don't.

And, Erica forgets that the electorate is not very tolerant of any broad show of emotion. Look at what happened to Howard Dean during the last major election.

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