I remember the early Women’s Movement, from Junior High School to college. I was applying to college when Harvard finally admitted women. I went to an intense liberal arts school, where the women’s and gay rights movements were as strong as anywhere. We were so isolated from the vulgarities of mainstream commercialism (and of course, “the news” was a half hour of Walter Cronkite), that when a popular band came to play at our campus, the Women’s Center was shocked that their promotional material exploited a sexy female image. After my letter to the editor to the school paper - comparing the model in the poster to Alice in Wonderland’s “eat me” cake - the posters were immediately taken down. So, I know about wanting a woman to be president.
I met countless women who were preparing for professions that had just begun to be populated by women. Charting this new territory, we talked about how we would change the world. I had one friend, in particular, who aspired to be an OB/GYN. She spent hours discussing the past sins of that male-dominated profession with her friend who would become her husband, and how it hurt both women and babies. (I remember the frequent mention of “forceps.”) It was clear that part of her motivation for being an obstetrician, was to right those wrongs. She is now a medical school professor, who recently took responsibility for re-vamping medical education.
And she was not alone. Many of us were convinced that we were about to unleash a new force on the work world, filled with more humanism, more compassion, more justice. Which all makes me think about Hillary Clinton.Clinton, of course, points often to the history-making potential of her candidacy. Beyond issues of equal opportunity, the clear implication is that things will change with a woman in charge. (After all, Sally Field said that if mothers ran the world, there would be no wars.) That’s why it has so saddened me, that Hillary Clinton seems to have spent so much of her career showing - not how she would be different - but how she can be just as “tough” and ruthless as her male predecessors.
So, she rushed to support Bush’s war in Iraq, to show she was as tough on “terror” as her male (and Republican) counterparts. Similarly, she voted with Bush on Iran, presumably for the same reasons.As a candidate, she has similarly shown that she can be as cut-throat as any male candidate, throwing mud at Barack Obama like it’s going out of style. Her pro-corporate/anti-labor strategist, Mark Penn, no doubt contributes to this approach.
So, she encourages disdain, fear, and doubt, in the mind of the public, concerning Senator Obama. She sneers that his campaign is “change you can Xerox,” that the media might as well as Obama if he wants another pillow, accuses him of plagiarism with questionable evidence, says there’s no reason to believe he’s a Muslim as far as she knows, and accuses him of duplicity on NAFTA, when it was she who now campaigns against the trade deal she once championed. And, taking a page from Karl Rove, her “3 AM” ad tries to scare the electorate into voting for a familiar face.
Congratulations, Senator Clinton. You are the first woman to advance this far into the big time. Now tell me: what difference does it make?