So Hillary won New Hampshire.
Watching the results come in yesterday, and reading about the Hillary turnaround, I couldn't help wondering how much of this had to do with her little 'breakdown' on Monday. And by extension, just how spontaneous that breakdown was.
I could be, and probably am, wrong. It's entirely possible that Hillary would have won NH even without the coffee-shop incident. And it's likely that her little outburst was genuine. It's just that the whole thing looks a little too neat to my twisted, cynical mind. Candidate has reputation for being heartless. Candidate's campaign is not going well. Candidate has much publicized emotional moment a day before an important primary. Candidate wins said primary by a narrow margin. Isn't it just possible that the Hillary campaign managers decided what she needed was to show a little emotion, and she did?
Don't get me wrong. This is not a criticism of Hillary. On the contrary, if she really did pull off a stunt that clever and calculating my respect for her just went up. What saddens me is the idea that people may have needed to see Hillary break down and cry in order to be able to relate to her. As though there were something wrong with a woman who wasn't vulnerable, or, more importantly, who wouldn't show that vulnerability in public. It doesn't really matter whether Hillary's breakdown was staged or not - the point is she shouldn't have needed it at all (which, of course, she may not have - but we'll never know now, will we?).
You could say this is not a gender thing - that men have been shedding tears on the campaign trail as well. True. But aside from the fact that men don't risk being labeled weak or hysterical as a consequence, I can't help feeling that showing emotion is a choice for male candidates, not a necessity. If a male candidate behaved the way Hillary does, I suspect he'd get labeled 'the strong and silent type', the assumption being that he felt deep emotion but just didn't want to put it on display. When Hillary refuses to show emotion she gets described as unfeeling and cold and unlikable, the assumption being that if she doesn't show it, she's not feeling it.
Look, I'll be honest. I'm not a huge supporter of Hillary per se. But when I see the sexist way the media reacts to her - when I read front page profiles in the New York Times that talk about how she may be "too hardened to inspire", or see / hear the endless stream of cartoons and jokes that riff off her being a woman, it makes me hope she'll win anyway, just to show them. And I can't help wondering how many other people, if any, feel that way.
In Fire With Fire, Naomi Wolf attributes the success of the first Clinton campaign (in 1992) in part to the Republican's bungling of the gender issue. She writes:
"the media tended to put the governor's wife [Hillary] in a harsh light....("For better or worse, an awful lot of Americans have taken a negative image away from their experiences with her. How you explain that?" Bryant Gumbel asked on the Today show, inadvertently providing the explanation himself.) ...misreading the press's warmth toward Barbara Bush and hostility to Hillary Rodham Clinton as a reflection of the feelings of the electorate as a whole, rather than a reflex on the part of the male-dominated press, the GOP cued its themes to that contrast, and did not understand that a significant portion of Republican women saw their own lives reflected more fully in the lives of the Arkansas governor's wife"
Wouldn't it be ironic if all the sexist commentary on Hillary were actually helping her? And if she ended up winning, inspite of herself, precisely because she is a woman (not that I'm saying it's going to happen, or that she needs it)? I'm still trying to decide how I'd feel about that. On the whole, I suspect I'd be happy.
Meanwhile, to commemorate the season of primaries, I've been watching State of the Union. It's not Hepburn and Tracy's greatest film (actually, it's not even average) but it makes for interesting viewing given what's happening in the presidential race. It's especially fun, in the context of the Obama campaign, to watch the character Tracy plays mouth off about how "we need to pull together or we'll end up pulling apart" and talk about how he'd like to break away from conventional politics. It makes you think how much of the Obama campaign could have been directed by Frank Capra (with, presumably, Angela Lansbury as Hillary).
P.S. Some of you may notice that this post marks the introduction of a new label on 2x3x7. I figured it was time I stopped being in denial. And what better day to inaugurate a 'Gender' label than the birth centenary of Simone de Beauvoir