Cottle on Clinton

Michelle Cottle and Amanda Fortini have a very perceptive conversation about Hillary Clinton, misogyny, and the unlikelihood that we'll see a woman president any time soon:

Cottle: The thing that I worry about is that Clinton had certain advantages because of her celebrity that helped her to overcome certain other things--the charisma issue in particular. There are charismatic women, but when you're talking about "presidential charisma," or projecting both strength and warmth, overwhelmingly the people who tend to possess this are men. And Clinton didn't have this, but she made up for it by the fact that she was kind of a rock star in the party, if for no other reason than because of her husband.

Fortini: I worry about that as well. Even if we had a female candidate who had this ineffable, intangible charisma, I think it would be perceived very differently than it would be in a man. When you think about the kind of ease with which Barack Obama conducts himself, I don't know if it would be received as well if he were a woman. The "I want to have a beer with him" factor that we look for in our male candidates--I don't think we necessarily want that from a woman. I don't think we know what we want from our female candidates, frankly.

Cottle: Right. Nancy Pelosi got to be speaker of the House not because she had to work over the entire country--she had to work a specific group of colleagues to get elected, and that requires a different kind of skill set than pitching yourself to millions of Americans. She did not have to win a popular election. It's the same thing with Margaret Thatcher--it was a parliamentary system. Margaret Thatcher didn't have to be broadly appealing in order to get her first shot as Prime Minister. It's not the same system, and it's not the same skill set. That's what's disappointing and disheartening for me.

I touched on this in a January Op-Ed. The strength/warmth trade-off Cottle mentions is crippling, though Clinton had a ready crutch in her husband's name. I don't think Clinton lost merely because of that trade-off; she has run a sad, distasteful campaign and steadily distanced herself from anything likable about her husband. But Clinton's failures don't change the gendered dynamics that existed before her and will persist after her. The boundaries of socially advantageous female behavior are still just as narrow.

The whole back-and-forth is excellent and worth a read.

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  • ||

    Clinton lost because for whatever reason she didn't roll out the Wright issue until it was too late. Had Wright become an issue in February, Obama probably doesn't roll off seven striaght wins or whatever he did.

    Second, her campaign was lazy and arrogant and didn't figure out Obama's weaknesses until it was too late. It is amazing to me that alleged professional advisors didn't take one look at Obama and understand that he was never going to win over blue collar voters. It wasn't until it was too late the Hillary started rolled out Wright and started effectively courting blue collar democrats. You have to give her credit, she hung in there and righted the ship but she did so far too late.

  • h-dawg||

    Hillary lost because she couldn't point like Bill:

    http://www.hodakvalue.com/blog/2008/05/this_is_so_embarrassing.html

  • ||

    If Clinton had voted against the Iraq AUMF she would have been the nominee running away. Period. So all this whining about misogyny is just so much whining.

  • ||

    A female presidential candidate has one significant advantage -- a slight majority of voters will really, really, really want her to win, all other things being equal.

  • ||

    Clinton certainly could have run a better campaign, but there is something to the gender theory. PJ O'Rourke called Hillary "America's Ex-Wife" and that is such an apt description. While voters look to a president for guidance, when it comes from a woman, it seems like nagging.

  • ||

    The strength/warmth trade-off Cottle mentions is crippling

    And not just in politics. If you look at business, or culture in general, you see the same thing. Off the top of my head, only Katherine Hepburn appears to have successfully straddled the line. It's hard to maintain the image of ball-buster and charmer at the same time.

  • ||

    I don't think we know what we want from our female candidates, frankly.

    Like it or not, this is quite possibly the truest, and most astute, thing one can say.

    But I must say, whatever I might want in a female qualified to be President, Hillary isn't it.

  • ||

    Nobody has gotten anywhere near it. Hillary was beaten by a woman. Obama will be the nominee because he was anointed by Oprah.

  • ||

    I want a female for president who doesn't try to insert her femininity into every position she has, just as I want a male for president who doesn't try to insert his masculinity/macho-ness into every position he has (here's looking at you neo-cons).

  • ||

    A part of me would like to see Hillary make it. Think of how much fun it would be. We know that the powers of the President have expanded while the 4th amendment has shrunk the last 7 years. I suspect that Hillary remembers slights and injuries from the past. Under her administration, the people who investigated Whitewater, Travelgate, and Monica could be in for an interesting time.
    I can imagine Ken Starr's entire staff being rounded up and shipped to Gitmo at 3 AM around the 31st of January in 2009.

  • ||

    Hillary is proof positive that women are equally adept at being a crooked scuzzball running an inept campaign.

    That said, the strength/warmth dilemma is a valid issue and one that is going to be a problem for all female presidential candidates.

    Perhaps the point ought to be--why do we expect such posturing, monarchical horseshit from a person who, in the end, is nothing more than the CEO of our republican form of government? I don't want the president to "feel my pain" or pretend to be a warrior. Their job is to manage the fucking government in at least a semi-competent manner, and to provide overall policy direction. They are not the National Father...or Mother.

    BTW, someone like Carly Fiorina (whatever you think of her tenure at HP) might be better situated to be the first female president than someone already in government.

  • duster||

    I think her campaign would have been effective enough....for the national election. Unfortunately for Dems a lot of primary voters are getting hung up on asthetics. Would there really be any major policy differences between the two?

  • ||

    If you look at business, or culture in general, you see the same thing. Off the top of my head, only Katherine Hepburn appears to have successfully straddled the line.

    Also Martha Stewart and Harpo.

  • Kendra ||

    A female presidential candidate has one significant advantage -- a slight majority of voters will really, really, really want her to win, all other things being equal.

    Really? Are you referring to women voters here?

    I can tell you that I've said from the start of these campaigns that a black man has a better chance at the presidency than a woman (all things being equal) because, with the exception of Uncle Rukkus, you don't have black people running around declaring that blackness makes you unfit for the presidency. Meanwhile, there are a ton of women all over the place who think that women just shouldn't hold that kind of power. What if she launches a nuclear strike on her period???

    Unfortunately, there is enough misogyny across most demographics to prevent a woman from receiving "fair" treatment in a presidential election.

  • ||

    I dunno, I still think the only reason she had a shot (her husband) is a large part of the reason she lost.

  • ||

    What Kendra said.

  • ||

    "If you look at business, or culture in general, you see the same thing. Off the top of my head, only Katherine Hepburn appears to have successfully straddled the line."

    How about the aforementioned Oprah?

    And outside the US, Benazir Bhutto seemed to project both strength and warmth. As well as Michelle Bachelet of Chile.

    I'd say both Pakistan and Chile are more sexist than the US, so I think Hillary's problem is not that she's just a "strong woman", but that she has an obnoxious personality, which is not exclusive to one gender.

  • ||

    I think that the bind that Hillary's gotten into is that she's had to show that she's strong enough and tough enough and experienced enough, but in the process, her campaign missed the other part of the equation: She isn't "human" enough. And that's a very common Catch-22 among women.


    But why does this alleged Catch-22 even exist? Let's review:


    Fortini:The "I want to have a beer with him" factor that we look for in our male candidates--I don't think we necessarily want that from a woman. I don't think we know what we want from our female candidates, frankly.

    Cottle: Right.


    What is the meaning of this exchange? Why would we hold women to different standards than men as far as personality is concerned? Either you have a good personality, or you don't. There's nothing "intangible" about it. These two women right here are exhibiting standard status quo conservative male attitudes about what a woman should be -- by leaving it open as an uncertainty, they are effectively dismissing the topic. I would gladly take a woman president possessing the "would like to have a beer with" quality. I just don't want an Washington elitist, nepotistic crony socialist.

    As far as I'm concerned, that discussion reached the wrong conclusion. I know what qualities I'd appreciate in a woman's personality, and they're the same qualities I appreciate in any man's personality. This needs to be said and realized by the greater population. This is the point that is being overlooked by seemingly everyone. There is no Catch-22 but for the one that women are neurotically inventing for themselves.

  • ||

    smacky,

    I think when they said "we" they didn't mean the two of them, they meant the American electorate in general.

  • ||

    "I think that the bind that Hillary's gotten into is that she's had to show that she's strong enough and tough enough and experienced enough...."


    Strong, tough, and experienced are basically CONSERVATIVE qualities, while at the same time, her party has, correctly I think, perceived the desire of the country for change.

    The liberal qualities of imagination, vision, and even daring are more appropriate for a candidate of change, yet Hillary, over and over again, persists in demonstrating she has none of these things, simply because she wants to win some self-constructed battle in her own psyche.

  • ||

    Chris Potter,

    Right. I'm aware of that.

  • ||

    Also Martha Stewart and Harpo.

    I could be wrong, but I think Stewart is admired more for her advice than her charming personality. She is known as a taskmaster though.

    As for Oprah, I'd agree that she has charm and is an astute businesswoman. But I've never heard that she has a reputation for kicking ass and taking names. Too New Age-y.

  • Tim Cavanaugh||

    Hillary hasn't lost until the party makes its choice. Obama hasn't locked up squat with all these primaries he keeps losing, and all the "mathematical impossibility" palaver that's been going around these many months is just an egghead version of "Sit down, take a pill and let the men handle things, sweetie."

    I hope she brings thousands of angry grannies to the convention and bullies her way to the nomination. Sisterhood is beautiful.

  • dtown||

    " What if she launches a nuclear strike on her period???"

    She's waaaaaaaaaay past those days, folks.

  • GILMORE||

    Hating on Hilary is about as misogynistic as hating on Darth Vader because you're like, anti-cyborg,

    It basically excuses oneself of being a 'person' with 'ideas' (bad ideas?), and claims any opposition is pure bigotry.

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