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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

From "In These Times": Running for Commander-in-Chief

Why Women Hate Hillary
She reinforces the Genghis Khan principle of American politics that our leaders must be ruthless and macho
By Susan J. Douglas

Hillary wants to be more like a man in her demeanor and politics, leaving some basic tenets of feminism in the dust. She is like patriarchy in sheep's clothing.

We sat around the dinner table, a group of 50-something progressive feminists, talking to a friend from England about presidential politics. We were all for Hillary, weren’t we, he asked. Hillary? We hated Hillary. He was taken aback. Weren’t we her base? Wasn’t she one of us? Why did we hate Hillary?

Of course, a lot of people seem to hate Hillary. According to some polls, anywhere from 39 to 50 percent of respondents claim they’d vote against her no matter what; her “negatives” continue to be high. Many of these are Republicans and men. But many are not. According to a Harris poll in March, 52 percent of married women said they would not vote for her.

Nearly half of adults say they dislike her personality and her politics. Unlike her husband, people seem to find her cold and don’t see her connecting with everyday people, and this is especially true for married women. Ironically, it is Gen Xers, those between 31 and 42, who give her the most support.

So what gives? For people like my friends and me, her hawkish position on Iraq and her insistence that the U.S. maintain a military presence there even after the troops are withdrawn have been very disappointing. But it’s more than any specific position. Women don’t trust Hillary. They see her as an opportunist; many feel betrayed by her. Why?

Baby boomer women grew up with the Feminine Mystique and then came of age with the Women’s Liberation Movement. As a result, millions of us have spent our lives crafting a compromise—or a fusion—between femininity on the one hand and feminism on the other. And for many of us feminism did not mean trying to be more like men. It meant challenging patriarchy: trying to bring equity to family life, humanizing the workplace, prioritizing women’s issues in politics, and confronting the dangers of militarism and imperialism. And millions of us fought (and continue to fight) these battles wearing lipstick, skirts and a smile: the masquerade of femininity we are compelled to don.

Hillary, by contrast, 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.

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