Why do women hate Hillary?

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 she’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.

45 Responses to “Why do women hate Hillary?”

  1. Patrick says:

    Simple answer: she’s not a lady.

  2. Andrew says:

    Aside from the partisan and ideological reasons for not liking Hillary, I just find her generally unlikeable. She comes off as fraudulent, shrill, and ambitious — not in the Trojan sense but in the eerie, power-hungry, Richard Nixon sense of the word.

  3. Antonia says:

    She is like fingernails on a blackboard to most women because they can see right through her.

    Women have a very acute sense about other women. We are judgmental of women because we understand them.

    Women will give men a much wider opportunity to disappoint them because we can not read them as well and also I think it has something to do with hormones :)

    Hillary can not pretend to stand up for women when she can not even stand up to her own lousy marriage.

    If we were to look under HER carpet it would be crawling with some very ugly things.

  4. Kristin says:

    Very interesting. I think it’s true that women judge other women more harshly. Something that was mentioned in the course of the trials this weekend was the fact that women jurors are much harder on women lawyers. I hadn’t thought of it before, but it makes sense.

    I have never liked Hilary, not even when she was First Lady. I agree with Andrew, she appears power-hungry and ambitious. And I agree with Becky, she seems like a bitch. Does this make her a bad choice for President? Not necessarily, but she’s going to have to work harder to overcome that image. Men have image problems as well in politics, but to a lesser degree. Vestiges of the good ol’ boys club still remain, and men will be excused for a lot things women will not be. People may still vote for a man even though he’s an asshole, but the bitch presumption is much harder to overcome. Neither men nore women like a bitch.

    I wouldn’t vote for her anyway because I don’t agree with a lot of her views. But her image does play a big role in my immediate, visceral reaction to her.

  5. Wobbly H says:

    “If we were to look under HER carpet it would be crawling with some very ugly things.”

    Hillary Clinton has crabs?

  6. David K. says:

    but in the eerie, power-hungry, Richard Nixon sense of the word

    Who despite breaking the law, did atleast have a good foreign policy. If she is like Nixon in that regard, we’d end up much better off than we are now if she were elected. I doubt it will happen, just an observation.

  7. Antonia says:

    I always wanted Elizabeth Dole to Run

  8. Brendan Loy says:

    Hillary Clinton has crabs?

    No, but she does have a snuke in her snizz.

  9. Anonymous says:

    I think women judge other women harshly simply because they’re the competition. I also think men judge other men just as harshly…

  10. Antonia says:

    As a woman all I can say is the last thing I want the world to think is that women in America are like Hilary and approve of her.. ACK

    She is just such a comic book charactered of what a woman is.

  11. Antonia says:

    should have said..
    “comic book character of what a powerful American woman is”

  12. Brendan Loy says:

    I also think men judge other men just as harshly…

    I completely disagree. I don’t think men judge other men NEARLY as harshly as women judge other women.

    Do men judge other men more harshly than women judge men? Maybe. I’m not sure. Probably depends on whether the man in question is an ex-boyfriend of one of the women in the conversation. :)

    But I think woman-on-woman judgments are definitely the harshest of all, in general.

  13. Brendan Loy says:

    Exception: men who come across as effeminate or “gay.” Men (especially in packs) tend to be very harsh in judging men who display that particular trait.

  14. Aaron says:

    I hate to comment on an article which i haven’t read, but the link you provide keeps timing out on me. So I’ll just ask: does the article provide any actual evidence, or is it, like your post, merely anecdotal? Because I think the premise of your question is off. Women, as a group, don’t hate Hilary. Every poll I’ve ever seen shows the gender gap to be in her favor. Take, for example, this LA Times piece on polling data.* Specificly:

    Nationally, a Zogby survey in late March found that Clinton outstripped her competitors, leading with 42% of likely primary voters among Democratic women, compared with 19% for Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and 15% for former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards. Clinton held a much thinner lead among male Democratic voters. At 28%, she barely edged Obama, who was at 26%, with Edwards trailing at 11%.

    She shows strength among independent women as well. A Gallup survey released Monday showed that nationally, 59% of female independent voters have a favorable image of Clinton — compared with 45% of male independents.

    Even Republican women view her slightly more favorably than do Republican men, though she ranks low with both groups, the poll found.

    Now, I don’t disagree that some women hate Hillary. Many, even. But then, so do many men, and in my experience they are not less likely to express that hatred then women are. This is anecdotal as well, but that’s my point.

    *Is it just me, or are poll results (the actual results, not some newspaper’s report on the results) bizarrely difficult to find on the web. The article I linked to doesn’t link to the polls it refrences, and I wasn’t able to find them via Google.

  15. Aaron says:

    Though I’ll admit, the evidence (such as it is) provided by this comment thread is against me so far.

  16. Brendan Loy says:

    Aaron, I can’t get the article to load now either, but its evidence does seem to be mostly anecdotal. However, while I certainly wouldn’t dismiss the polls entirely, I don’t blindly trust the polls to get this sort of thing right, for reasons related to the ones Mickey Kaus mentions (though he doesn’t share my particularly gender theory).

  17. 4-7 says:

    My guess would be that few people believe Hillary Clinton is sincerely devoted to the American People. Instead, they see a deeply power-hungry person on a lifelong quest of self-affirmation of her fringe political and social philosophy. Few people believe she has any beliefs that are not subordinate to her quest for the presidency.

  18. Aaron says:

    Oh, believe me, I don’t trust polls either. And Kaus’ idea is entirely plausible, though, as he admits, he doesn’t have the gender breakdown of the CNN poll which he really needs to test his hypothesis.

  19. Aaron says:

    I think I’ll partially retract part of what I said. Among my friends and collegues, who tend like me to be pretty liberal, I may have noticed a little of the phenomenon you describe: a reluctance among men to express a dislike of Hillary compared to a relative freedom among women. When I talked about equal opportunity Hillary-hating I was thinking more of my conservative leaning family, where the hate flies from both genders.

  20. Condor says:

    Asking the question “Why do women hate Hillary?” is like asking the question “Why do Black people steal?” The appropriate answer in both cases is, “They don’t,” followed by, “Stop asking stupid questions.”

  21. Anonymous says:

    “If she is like Nixon in that regard, we’d end up much better off than we are now if she were elected. I doubt it will happen, just an observation.”

    David just can’t help himself.

  22. Brendan Loy says:

    Condor, I acknowledged in my post that the quesiton is a massive generalization:

    the question “Why Women Hate Hillary” is worth pondering (to the extent that any massive overgeneralization is worth pondering)

    But massive overgeneralizations often are worth pondering, so long as we acknowledge that they are massive overgeneralizations, and don’t just them to judge individual people. For example: I don’t know the statistics on theft (“Why do Black people steal?”), but I do know that a disproportionately high percentage of African-Americans are in prison, so I would contend that the answer to the question “Why do Black people go to prison so often?” is NOT “They don’t,” followed by, “Stop asking stupid questions.” Rather, it might be, “That’s not a very sensitive way to ask such a charged question… but you’re right, statistically speaking Blacks do go to prison in large numbers, and here’s why I think that is…” followed by a discussion of the possible causes (socioeconomic, familial, cultural, discrimination in the justice system, all of the above, whatever). So long as both parties to the conversation understand that it’s a generalization that doesn’t reflect on any individual, the causes of the broad phenomenon — provided the phenomenon exists, and just because it’s a generalization doesn’t prove that it doesn’t — are certainly worth discussing.

    Your attitude — that the appropriate answer whenever someone asks an un-P.C. generalized question is “They don’t,” followed by, “Stop asking stupid questions” — would make it impossible to discuss any and all sociological phenomena that are “politically incorrect.” Now THAT is stupid.

  23. Condor says:

    My point wasn’t nearly as refined as you seem to be taking it. I take your points.

    This article headline reminds me of those Observer headlines such as “Students outraged over X.” Usually in the Observer articles, no one that I knew was outraged over X. So, what the article amounted to was the Observer going out and asking people if they were outraged over X, thus generating outrage over X. The point is, in both this Hillary headline and the Observer techniques, the headline generates the news rather than reporting on the news.

  24. Joe Mama says:

    If this was a news website, Condor’s comment might make sense.

  25. Joe Mama says:

    Strike that, I see that Condor was in fact referring to the title of the article Brendan was talking about. But still, is that a news article or more of an editorial (can’t tell ’cause the link timed out)?

  26. Brendan Loy says:

    It too was an editorial. I understand your point, Condor, but I think, when we’re talking about an opinion piece rather than a news article, sometimes the whole point of the headline is to be a bit provocative and encourage people to read the article (or in this case, blog post). I mean, yeah, the headline could be, “Anecdotal evidence suggests that an indeterminate number of women may or may not dislike Hillary Clinton,” but would you read that article? :)

    I don’t take that concept as far as some people — for example, I was not a big fan of Andrew’s infamous “Who needs blacks when we can get Mexicans cheaper?” (in reference to the labor issues surrounding the rebuilding of New Orleans) or Becky’s even more infamous “If only God had snipers” (in reference to child molesting priests) — but I don’t think this headline is nearly as inflammatory as those.

  27. Condor says:

    I see your point Joe Mama, but I’m not sure if it applies here. I mean, suppose there was an editorial with the headline, “Why does Bill Clinton beat his wife?” It may only be an editorial, but it’s still implying an assertion of news content.

  28. Brendan Loy says:

    Condor, that headline would be libelous unless there was something to back it up. Here the headline isn’t accusing anyone of anything, it’s examining a broad question that people can reasonably debate both ways. Totally different situation.

    No one is suggesting that headline writers can simply make stuff up out of thin air when the headline is on an editorial. We’re just saying there’s a bit more leeway to be somewhat provocative.

  29. Condor says:

    I see. It might be helpful for me to actually read the article. Too bad it’s timed out.

  30. Brendan Loy says:

    Yeah. Must be the overwhelming amount of traffic coming from my site.

    Er, or perhaps Drudge. :)

  31. Briandot says:

    A friend of a friend who was a marine in the White House during the Clinton era said that despite the public personas/perception, it was Bill who was personally repugnant in private and Hillary who was the likable one. There may have been some bias though, so I don’t know how to take that assertion, and as I’ve never met either of the Clintons myself I can’t say for sure. :-P

    (I have met Dick Cheney, though, and I can say that he’s unpleasant.)

  32. Mad Max, Esquire says:

    I hate hate Hillary, and I’m not a woman.

    She’s a bitch who doesn’t deserve to be President.

  33. Briandot says:

    Thinking on this issue a bit more, I’m a little wary of voting for the “more likable candidate”, given our experience the last time. Maybe the “bitch” is precisely the best (wo)man for the job?

  34. Patrick says:

    I can scarcely think of anything more unpleasant than the thought of having to look at her cankles for four years.

  35. Joe Loy says:

    “…something inescapably odd about the fact that I am significantly more likely to vote for the First Woman President than is my feminist wife…Ideology can’t explain it, because if anything, Becky is more conservative/hawkish than I am.”

    This observation Startled me at first but upon Reflection, yeah, I suppose Miz Hil is what Passes for the conserva-tish Hawk in [circling Above? ;] this season’s fallow Democratic field. / Remarkable. (Where have you gone, Joe da Lieberman, our Nation turns its lonely eyes From you, woo woo woo. / Apologies to Simon & Garfunkel. :)

    “Few people believe she has any beliefs that are not subordinate to her quest for the presidency.”

    4-7, I think few people believe that more than A Few people who have taken up that Quest in recent Decades ~ or quite possibly, Ever ~ have had any such Insubordinate beliefs, either. / There are two Modern-era exceptions of whom I am reasonably certain: Barry Goldwater and George McGovern. And look what happened to Them. :|

    “I’m a little wary of voting for the ‘more likable candidate’, given our experience the last time. Maybe the ‘bitch’ is precisely the best (wo)man for the job?”

    I Share your Suspicion, Briandot. Maybe So. Probably so. (btw after the recent Debate, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews declared that HRC did OK because she contrived to come across as “not unlikeable.” :)

    “My dad’s 100% Irish grandmother, ‘Ma’ McNamara, famously called presidential candidate John F. Kennedy a ‘little Irish upstart, gettin’ above his station.'”

    Indeed she did, did Helen Mary Quinn McNamara ~ I heard her Say it meself, I did, when I was a Gossoon back in The Black ’60 :} ~ but I have Reason to believe that when it came right Down to it in November, “Ma”, like the Vast majority of culturally-conservative lacecurtain mickyanks, voted For that high-falutin’ castleIrish Harvard lad annyway :>. // Just as will most of the presently-bitching-criticizing Women vote for Hillary, if she becomes the nominee.

  36. PPD says:

    Wow Patrick, that comment was very christian of you.

  37. Alasdair says:

    Hmmmm …

    I know few who seem to *hate* Senator Clinton … I know a bunch of folk – both Dem and GOP – who do not respect her, who distrust her, who are closer to loathing and despising her than anything else … but not hating her …

    My own suspicion on the perceived gender difference in response to her is that it may well be based in our human tendency to most strongly react negatively to those attributes we see displayed by others that we most dislike when we display them in ourselves … thus, her tendency to make her husband look like someone who has staunch and steadfast convictions and principles will tend to alienate those who are doing their best not to be fakes themselves …

    I’m sure her recent blac-cent efforts haven’t helped her with Women of Colour, either …

    Brendan – I’m glad to see you are seriously considering voting for Condi Rice, however … (grin) …

  38. Anthony says:

    The media has played a huge role in making everyone hate Senator Clinton.

    Imagine, that while the troops were in Somalia, First Lady Clinton stated that “And believe me, no one suffers more than their president and I do when we watch this, and certainly the commander in chief, who has asked our military to go into harm’s way.”

    I’m sure the media would have covered it the same way they covered Laura’s comments.

    Of course, I don’t think Laura meant that she believed Dubya and her suffer more than the troops, but Hillary would be demonized by something like this. The media is such a joke.

  39. uscroger says:

    I liked Becky’s headline better than Maxima Culpa since I understand God has more lethal warriors than snipers , anyway. But, it was nice you were compelled to censure her moralistic expression.

  40. Brendan Loy says:

    Roger, I think you are confused about a few things. First of all, the word you’re looking for is “censor,” not “censure.” Second, this is my blog, and what goes on my homepage tends to reflect on me, so if a guest-poster says something that I consider overly inflammatory, I will sometimes “censor [their] moralistic expression” lest people associate it with me (which happens all the time, people don’t notice the bylines). I’m not “compelled” to do so, I do so because it makes sense for me to do so. You’re free to disagree with my judgment, but you can’t object in principle because I’m not doing anything objectionable in principle.

  41. uscroger says:

    First of all, the word you’re looking for is “censor….”

    I’m glad you agree with me in that respect.

  42. Anonymous says:

    A small point: where was the proof for “women HATE Hillary?”

  43. Adrienne says:

    It’s way past my bedtime, but I wanted to comment because I find this to be an interesting question. The second I read that women hate Hillary, my first reaction was, ‘Well of course!’ And then I thought about it and realized that that belief is completely unfounded. First of all, someone out there must like her if she got elected to the Senate, even as a perceived carpetbagger, so there’s no reason to think that an entire gender is predisposed to dislike her (both genders, from what Ms. Douglas said). Who is that voted for her to begin with?

    And second of all, why do I dislike her? I don’t even really know. I have no idea what her views are: my perspective is entirely shaped by the media and her image as reflected in it. Maybe this is entirely an issue of the media misrepresenting her, in which case she should have fired her publicist years ago, but there is something to this. It may be nothing more than her mannish demeanor: the suits, the short hair, the minimal amount of makeup–I feel she’s gotten where she is by acting like a man, which is a betrayal: being the exception proves the rule, the rule being that women can’t hold positions of power. And since I like to believe we’re capable of that, I resent the implications otherwise. (I’m not smart enough to come up with that argument on my own, by the way: while I agree with it, Ariel Levy is the source.)

    I feel that the heart of it is the fact of a double standard, plain and simple, that dictates certain behaviors for people based on their age and sex, and men are supposed to be more aggressive and are awarded for it where women are not and are punished for it. Or at least we perceive that we will be punished for it. To be honest, I have a lot of respect for Hillary Clinton, I just don’t like her. In politics, that will probably be significant. But more to Brendan’s question about women’s lack of forgiveness towards other women in everyday life, maybe that standard isn’t as significant, even though a lot of us think it is. That may be divided by gender as well: men may respect a woman who acts more like them, but other women won’t. For my own part, I work in a department that is 90% men, and… well, I sure don’t know the answer to this question, even though I’ve done a lot of thinking about it. I have only male role models in leadership positions, and I’m probably well-served in emulating them, but I don’t always feel comfortable doing so, and gender is an inescapable part of who you are and how people perceive you, so is going against the grain really a smart move?

    In Hillary’s case, she has very little flexibility with regards to the persona she projects, because trying to be remembered for too many things will lead to you being remembered for nothing and above all she must be remembered if she is to have any kind of a chance at all. She may not have chosen the best image to portray but I don’t know what a better one is, and regardless, someone’s going to dislike her for it. Political personas are a poor foundation for any meaningful sociological/psychological/whathaveyoulogical discussion.

    In real life, women judge other women harshly for a host of reasons: competition, resentment, righteousness, and envy, to name a few (I think those are all different names for the same thing, actually) and we feel more free to share these biased opinions because, as women, we can’t be hit with the accusation of sexism or just not knowing any better. We’re right, dammit, because we’ve been in similar positions ourselves and TOTALLY would never have worn that top, or those shoes, or those shoes with that top, or repeated this, or believed that, etc.

    Clearly this is a big topic, and one I could discourse on for quite awhile longer, but I have to get up and go to work in 5 hours so I’m not gonna. (A comment page isn’t really the right forum for all that anyway, though I’d love to hear your thoughts if anyone is willing to read all of the 44th comment.) Sorry for any convoluted thoughts or sentences, it’s a wee bit late and I already worked 12 hours today, so my brain isn’t really in top form.

  44. sabinal says:

    I don’t like Hillary because she has the attitude that since she is a woman and was married to Bill that she should become President.

    The problem is she comes off as so craven and dependent on her husband’s victories as Pres. She refuses to stand her ground over the Iraq vote, which looks cowardly to me and everytime she speaks to the crowds, notice how she does not speak about *her* sucesses as Senator but her experiences as Bill’s wife. It comes out as a cover up for her inaffectiveness as a Senator for New York (which is not necessarily true, but gives the appearance.)
    Lastly, the fans/groupies that have flocked around Hill have soured some of the public. Just as there are “Bushbots” the idea of a Hillary cult bothers some people.