Must We Be Anti-Clinton to be Pro-Obama?

Maureen Dowd’s sexism continues unabashed. In her most recent embarrassment NY Times Op-Ed she attempts to explain Hillary Clinton’s lack-of-popularity as being related to her presenting a ‘masculine’ image when what this country was really needing was a more ‘feminine’ approach (which, apparently, Obama was giving us).

Nowhere does she ever mention the difficulty of a woman presenting herself in the political process. If she is more feminine-styled, especially in areas of defense, she is called weak, if she becomes more masculine-styled, she is seen as cold, strident & ‘too masculine for America’, if she tears up or when she makes a more conciliatory statement about Obama, she’s being calculated-ly feminine. The manner in which this election is being talked about has emphasized for me that racism is far more taboo in our society at the present moment than sexism. Just take the amount of times people have called Hillary a bitch contrasted with the number of times Obama has been called an equivalent racist term. Or the fact that McCain laughed & said ‘good question’ when a town-hall crowd member said ‘How do we beat the bitch?’ as opposed to what he would have done if the n-word had been used in a same statement about Obama.

Obama is just as calculated in presenting his image to America as any politician and a woman with Obama’s style would just not be accepted in the same way. Not that racism isn’t present regarding an Obama candidacy but the public seems much more comfortable with sexism (even from liberals) in their discourse about the election.

I’m an Obama supporter because I think we have the greatest chance of winning with him at the present moment and because he and Hillary are very close on the issues I care about. I’m not a fan of his rah-rah speech style and think Hillary has clearer & better-planned policies (not to mention that she’s just a total wonk when it comes to politics & one of the smartest people I’ve ever heard speak related to foreign affairs in particular but also on health care and other closer-to-home issues).

My realization that America might not be ready for a woman in the White House and the press (and general public’s) treatment of Hillary has disappointed me. We should be celebrating what an incredible, intelligent, accomplished woman she is (and what an asset to our party she is), even if she isn’t our choice for the nomination. She is far more on our side than against it, if we abide by the values of the democratic party.

It got me thinking whether, aside from the sexism in the anti-Hillary sentiments, there’s another issue present in the people’s current behavior towards the candidates.

Is there some reason why we have a need to, in any competition, vilify the side we don’t choose. I believe a lot of our political partisanship stems from this inability to see issues & people as they really are – in shades of gray rather than the much easier-to-accept black/white dichotomy. In our attempt to win our arguments we seem unable to see both positives and negatives in each side of an issue or, in this case, in each candidate. Our tendency to do this has been even more highlighted in this recent race for the Democratic nomination where the candidates have such similar stances on the issues. What is it that keeps us from being able to say, “Obama is my choice, but Hillary has many good points I like and some I don’t”? If I remember correctly, it seems we started out in this place a year ago and then, when political vehemence took over (usually a good thing in my book) it seemed we began couching things in terms of good vs. evil.

I’ve often talked of this human tendency to want to separate things into Good/Bad piles and lack of ability to look at the ‘gray-ness’ of a situation. In fact, I’ve often praised the Democratic party for being able to see the Gray. For example, following 9/11, the ability to see that yes, this was a horrific act but that there were many elements that contributed to the act, including some bad choices made by our own government. Especially at a time when popular sentiment was that the ‘evil’ people did this to the ‘good’ people. Unfortunately this most recent Good/Bad labeling of the democratic candidates has shown that, as progressives, we’re susceptible to the same faulty thinking. I’m hoping more of us can start being aware of our tendencies in this direction, and talk about things as they really are as opposed to this archaic, albeit comfortable, paradigm.

For a lighter treatment of the anti-Hillary sentiment, here’s Tina Fey on this past week’s SNL.

And a fantastic (ire-inducing) sexism-watch by Shakesville here.


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