Monday, February 25, 2008
Hillary Clinton and the Death of Second-Wave Feminism
Hillary Clinton's increasingly desperate attempts to undermine Barack Obama, resorting to negative, harshly condemning, and snide put-downs are creating a backlash among Democratic voters and the entire electorate as a whole. Put into the context of the current phase of the race, these attacks are revealed as transparently designed merely to rip Obama to shreds in the futile hopes that somehow she can cast enough doubts among his supporters to effectively throw their support behind her. I was willing to tolerate Saturday's first volley, in which she called Obama to the carpet for his condemnation of her universal health care plan and his criticism of NAFTA.
However, the last straw for me was her rant yesterday in Rhode Island.
None of the problems we face will be easily solved. Now, I could stand up here and say lets just get everybody together, lets get unified." Clinton continued, "the sky will open, the light will come down celestial choirs will be singing, and everyone will know that we should do the right thing and the world will be perfect. Maybe I'm just lived a little long but I have no illusions about how hard this will be. You are not going to wave a magic wand and make the special interests disappear."
That's is a particularly unwise strategy because it directly labels all Obama supporters as delusional and represents a significant change in political discourse. She's not just attacking her opponent, but she's attacking his supporters, and that's is no way to win friends and influence people.
But these tactics are also causing a backlash, perhaps not as easily comprehended, in the feminist community. Her few remaining supporters are socially active women who out of a sense of indignation and sour grapes have fallen over themselves defending her latest rants as somehow empowering and indicative of a double standard against women when they go on the attack. Even Tina Fey on the latest edition of SNL heavily implied that there was something empowering about supporting a female candidate who dared to stand up against Patriarchy.
"Bitch is the new Black", she proclaimed, as though "bitch" should be seen as some badge of honor given to all women who forget that resorting to mean-spirited tactics of any kind is hardly any cause for celebration. Instead of men acting like fools, we now have women who act like fools. Negative attacks like these are never endearing, no matter what gender a person happens to be.