Susan Douglas, in a Drudge-linked article titled “Why Women Hate Hillary,” writes that Senator Clinton’s problem is that she “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.”
Speaking as a man who, while I don’t necessarily like Hillary, certainly doesn’t share the overwhelming visceral dislike that both my wife and my mother-in-law have for her, I agree that the question “Why Women Hate Hillary” is worth pondering (to the extent that any massive overgeneralization is worth pondering). I’m not sure Douglas’s answer is entirely right, though. I suppose “patriarchy in sheep’s clothing” is probably part of the problem, but personally, I think the bigger truth lies in the thinly elaborated statement, “Perhaps women like me are being extra hard on Hillary because sheÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a woman.” Douglas means this mostly in an ideological sense — that women don’t want the first female president to be “Joe Lieberman in drag” — but I think it’s broader than that. I think women are generally harder on other women in life generally, not just in politics, and not just with regard to substantive matters: they tend to judge each other’s appearance, mannerisms, social behavior, etc. much more harshly than men do. I find this phenomenon utterly mysterious, but I’ve witnessed it too many times not to see it as a pattern.
Case in point: ask Becky or Ginny what they think of Hillary, and the answer will invariably come back not to a critique of her foreign or domestic policy preferences, but rather to the notion that she’s a “b**ch.”
Of course, Becky and Ginny, in addition to being women, are also western New Yorkers (or were in 2000, anyway, when she first decided to declare herself a New Yorker and run for Senate), and so I think their anti-Hillary-ism is also somewhat tied up in the notion that she’s a “carpetbagger,” as well as the generalized resentment that western New Yorkers tend to have toward politicians who focus most of their energy on “downstate” concerns (which is to say, nearly all New York politicians, since “downstate” — i.e., New York City and environs — is where the votes are). So perhaps they aren’t the best examples. My father-in-law Ted isn’t a woman, and yet he, too, is not a Hillary fan at all, at all. :)
Still, there’s something inescapably odd about the fact that I am significantly more likely to vote for the First Woman PresidentTM than is my feminist wife, the former USC Women’s Student Assembly president. Ideology can’t explain it, because if anything, Becky is more conservative/hawkish than I am. And Buffalo roots can only go so far in explaining it. At some point, I do think gender becomes relevant. And I think it may very well be true that the biggest obstacle to a female president is… female voters.
This latter point may not be unique to candidates breaking gender barriers. My dad’s 100% Irish grandmother, “Ma” McNamara, famously called presidential candidate John F. Kennedy a “little Irish upstart, gettin’ above his station.” When Joe Lieberman ran for vice president, there was considerable discussion within the Jewish community about whether this was “good for the Jews,” i.e., whether it constituted unwise/premature ethnic overreaching. So it’s not totally surprising that women might be less than totally enthusiastic about a woman running for president.
But I think this is different. I very much doubt that more than a handful of women feel Hillary is “gettin’ above [her] station.” Rather, I think there is something about Hillary that uniquely rubs women the wrong way — and Douglas captures some of it, but focuses too much on the ideological side of things. Notwithstanding the Western New York issue, I think Becky and Ginny are fairly representative of how many women feel about Hillary: they just think she’s a b**ch. (And maybe she is! But at least in my experience, women seem to form this impression much more readily — and express it much more openly — than men do. Speaking of which, don’t even get Becky started on Nancy Pelosi…)
Is it simply that men and women dislike Hillary in equal numbers, but women feel more at liberty to say so (whereas men feel they’ll be labeled as misogynists if they do)? Or is there a genuine gender difference here? Or am I completely off-base? I’m curious what y’all think.