The Problem of Hillary Clinton
Feminism. Once a respectable description for female liberation it has of recently been reduced to a punch line used to describe a hard lined, uptight, no nonsense woman who wears the pants and pulls no punches. Todays American society is still unsure of how to handle such women; to shun them would be repressive and to embrace them is to be extreme. The landscape of the American view towards women is a complex and contradictory labyrinth and nowhere is that more visible then in the 2008 presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton.
In a historic presidential race she has been dogged by the same type of questions and setbacks as her rival Barack Obama. His amounts to the question of race, hers to the question of gender. In any case they are both questions of diversity and the levels of power they can rise to in the 21st century. Each candidate has an advantage over the other with such questions. For Clinton, she does not face such a dilemma of blending together the ethnicities of white and African American citizens. For Obama, he doesnt need to worry about embodying the distinctive view of an American president. Obama has one key factor that plays a major role in how Americans perceive him: his gender. The political high wire of strength and sentiment is more easily balanced by a man than a woman because American people generally assume that a male presidential candidate can be hard-hitting. Sentiment is all that a man has to strive for emphasis; a woman must strive for both.
Americans today might picture a female president as a lioness and a dove: able to be strong, fierce, and protective of their nation but also able to delicately care for it in arduous times and shed a tear for it. It is more acceptable for a woman to be strong as long as she can be nurturing as well for to be devoid of the latter trait is to be seen as hard, unnatural. Hillarys biggest roadblock is that she has done everything in her power to present herself as a strong woman, but by leaving out the nurturing side has more or less defined herself as an iron woman. She is now a lioness set in stone, forever set to spring with calculating ruthlessness and since a dove set in stone cannot fly or shed tears, Hillary becomes an emblem of aggression and repression. Hard and unnatural.
An Iron Woman, while not exclusively a derivative of the iron maiden, could be seen as a metaphor for it. A woman who is cold, tranquil and whose very inner workings are sharp and brutally precise. The Iron Maiden was an 18th century torture and execution device that was built with wood or iron. A person bleeds profusely and is weakened slowly, eventually dying because of blood loss, or perhaps asphyxiation due to the body being impaled with sharp objects such as spikes or nails that are built in the front and rear of the inside of the maiden. Such a parallel may seem extreme or even irrelevant but a closer look reveals a consistent pattern of viewing women of power as inherently destructive.
Traditionally, strong women have been entered into the lexicon as either villains, temptresses, or pillars of female virtue. Women who have gone against such positions have paid greatly. Even more so if the woman is unmarried or divorced, which is often the case because many independent women don't get attached out of fear of becoming like everyone else.
A woman who gets married like every other woman is just like everyone else. Yet it is here that Hillary again defies such standards by forging her own path and persona away from her husband. From her stance, to her speech, to her general demeanor she exudes an aura very much akin to the monarchs of old governments. It is a double edged sword; monarchs were untouchable figures, divine entities placed on Earth. In todays society that wields the Internet, mainstream publication, and freedom of speech their are more ways than ever to reveal the weakness, the humanity in even the most seemingly impenatrable figures.
Perhaps showing a streak of sentiment is something Hillary Clinton shouldn't fight at all.