Everyone is piling on Hillary Clinton for allegedly using her gender to garner sympathy in the presidential election. Even Maureen Dowd — author of Are Men Necessary? — is accusing Sen. Clinton of using her status as a Vaginal American to get ahead and get out of answering tough questions. The story has only gotten bigger and bigger since the last debate. And it’s illustrating one major problem with American media and public perception: If you repeat something enough times, it becomes true. Even if it’s not.
See, Clinton never actually threw down the gender card, during the debate or in conversations about it thereafter. She even explicitly said, “I don’t think they’re piling on because I’m a woman, I think they’re piling on because I’m winning.”
I think that’s an accurate characterization.
The big post-debate gender-mention was in her speech at her alma mater, when she said, “In so many ways, this all-women’s college prepared me to compete in the all-boys club of presidential politics.” Yes, she mentioned gender. But that isn’t quite the same thing as using it to garner sympathy. And are we all supposed to pretend like gender doesn’t matter and doesn’t exist at all? That the presidential race is split evenly between men and women, and that presidential politics aren’t actually an all-boys club? She was also speaking at her all-women’s college about her candidacy in a race that is historic because she is both a woman and her party’s front-runner — and the only woman of 17 presidential candidates. Of course that’s relevant — and it’s what everyone has been talking about. Yet when Clinton so much as mentions it — and certainly not in a self-pitying way — she’s taking unfair advantage of being a woman.
Most of the Clinton critics are focusing on her team’s reaction to the debate. According to the Chicago Tribune, “In Tuesday night’s Democratic debate, Clinton bobbled a question about illegal immigrants getting driver’s licenses in New York, appearing to both support the idea and later distance herself from it. Her campaign responded with a video showing each of her male candidates zeroing in on her.”
What should they have released? A video of the female candidates zeroing in on her?
No one from the Clinton campaign argued that the other Dems are targeting Sen. Clinton because she’s a woman; they simply pointed out that the debate did devolve into an all-versus-one pile-on. It’s media commentators and Clinton’s detractors — you know, the ones who are saying Clinton shouldn’t be bringing gender into it — who are bringing gender into it. In claiming to want a gender-neutral race, they demonstrate just how much our deeply-held ideas about gender and power matter in politics.
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