Kate Michelman is a fabulous woman. She did a great job as president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, and she’s an impressive feminist activist. I’m a huge fan of hers. But her attack on Clinton follows the established media pattern of creating a scandal where there was none:
But now that we have the first viable female candidate for president of the United States, things will get better for women, right? Her candidacy will positively affect public perception regarding women in politics and business – and that change will benefit all women – even the women struggling in dead end jobs, scrapping by on minimum wage, raising their families on their own?
Not so fast.
As women take a second look at the candidates, now that attention is focusing more on the issues and how each of the candidates would lead, how they would make decisions; now that making a choice is becoming real, less about celebrity, more about being president, legitimate questions are being raised about Senator Clinton.
And we’re all learning something.
When unchallenged, in a comfortable, controlled situation, Senator Clinton embraces her political elevation into the “boys club.” She is quick to assure listeners she is plenty tough enough, that she’s battled tested, ready to play be the same rules as the boys.
But when she’s challenged, when legitimate questions are asked, questions she should be prepared to answer and discuss, she is just as quick to raise the white flag and look for a change in the rules. She then calls questioning, ‘attacking;’ she calls debate among her peers, ‘piling on.’
It’s a political strategy, no doubt focus grouped and poll tested: make it look unseemly that this group of men would question her and hold her accountable for her record.
It is kind of unseemly when six people all go on the offensive against one in a debate. Of course, it’s also politics, so it’s not necessarily unfair. But pointing our the all-against-one dynamic isn’t necessarily about doing the gender-pity thing.
It’s trying to have it both ways; walk the fence, something Senator Clinton’s good at. At one minute the strong woman ready to lead, the next, she’s the woman under attack, disingenuously playing the victim card as a means of trying to avoid giving honest, direct answers to legitimate questions.
Clinton is excellent at avoiding hard questions. She does have a questionable record on some issues. Those are some of the reasons why I’m hesitant to throw my support behind her. But comments like these remind me more of responses to Katha Pollitt’s book than thoughtful political analysis — the message seems to be than any display of weakness from a Strong Woman ™ is unacceptable. And what counts as “weakness” is negotiable. I’m not sure that Clinton’s debate reaction would have been seen as representing weakness if it came from a male candidate who was leading in the polls; I think the fact that Clinton is a woman influences how we perceive her actions. And I don’t think that attacking women for failing to be our Superwoman ideal is particularly helpful.
Back to Michelman:
As a woman who’s been in the public eye and experienced scrutiny, as a woman who knows how hard it can be for women to earn their seat at the leadership table, how hard women have to work just to get the same opportunities, this distresses me.
It is not presidential.
Ouch. Does she think that Clinton doesn’t realize how hard it is to do all of those things? Again, I have my issues with Hillary, but she’s worked her ass off to get where she is, and she knows exactly how difficult it can be. Cutting her down as “not presidential” is really, really low.
Any serious candidate for president should have to answer tough questions and defend their record.
Any serious candidate for president should make their views clear and let the American people know where they stand on issues.
And any serious candidate for president should be held to the same standard – whether man or woman.
Have we have come a long way? Well, far enough to know better than to use our gender as a shield when the questions get too hot.
Unfortunately, that’s bullshit. Clinton never used her gender as a shield. She does what every other politician does — she addresses some tough questions, and she side-steps the tougher ones. She happens to do it extremely well. She has had to defend her record. But the narrative of “Hillary Clinton cries like a girl when she’s pressed” simply isn’t true, and it’s distressing for me to see a feminist leader promoting it.
Watching this story spin out of control has been incredibly troubling. As far as I can tell, no one can actually point to where Clinton said she’s being ganged up on because she’s the only woman; yet that’s what’s being attributed to her. I’m disappointed to see Kate Michelman jumping on board.