Why Can't We Stop Skewering Hillary Clinton?
06 Jun 2012
by Anita Finlay
This woman just cannot get a break. Let’s start with biographer/author Ed Klein taking her apart on FOX news last night because she is “overweight.” He says that will “slow her down” should she once again stand for the Presidency. “Hillary 2016” is on the lips of many at the moment. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, former Governor Ed Rendell, and even Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi all are pushing her to throw her hat into the ring.
Moreover, the self-same media that bashed Clinton relentlessly her last time out are playing the speculation game. Whether this is spit balling to sell copy, wishful thinking, manipulation to keep disgruntled Hillary supporters faithful to their party and hopeful for the future, or prescience remains to be seen. But as night follows day, along with speculation must come derision.
There is no female politician that can escape a ridiculous amount of attention being paid to her appearance. There are plenty of male politicians who have a higher Body Mass Index than Mrs. Clinton and enjoy no such insulting scrutiny about their weight in the press. Her tenure as Secretary of State has shown Clinton to be indefatigable with a tireless work ethic. Her grueling schedule exhausts aides half her age. Yet she is the energizer bunny. Must be those hot peppers she says she ingests daily. Or maybe she just likes doing her job. This is a normal, healthy woman – not a swimsuit model.
Next, of course, we have to criticize her age. I wonder how the baby boomers feel being told that someone who will be 68 during her next campaign in 2016 (should it happen) will be too old to run the country. Secretary Clinton is now 64. Mitt Romney is 65. Is anyone telling the Republican nominee to make himself some warm milk and put his teeth in a cup? Sexism plus ageism is quite the double whammy for a woman.^
On May 6th, Clinton gave a speech in Bangladesh wearing glasses and no make-up, save some lipstick. Here is what she had to say:
“Leveraging the values of tolerance, respect for human rights, inclusion and resilience of Bangladesh society, including a robust civil society, we intend our broader collaboration to be anchored in a strong bilateral development partnership focused on joint development priorities, including food security, maternal and child health, family planning, climate change, strengthening democracy, youth and women’s empowerment, among others.”
What did Drudge Report and about 100 other news outlets choose to discuss: Hillary goes “au natural.”
Maybe there was an emergency before she got to the press conference. Maybe she just didn’t feel like taking the time to primp.
Secretary Clinton has also received an huge amount of criticism for letting her hair grow long – and not just from the press. A number of women on the ground seem to take umbrage at her new look. Perhaps there is the sense that she represents all of us and as such must maintain a particular appearance. Her aides explained that she gets on and off planes constantly and gets so windblown that it is easier to have that long hair pulled up in a twist, or heaven forefend – those headbands she is known for.
The amount of responsibility on this woman would be daunting for anyone. There are multiple fires to put out, at home and abroad. Aren’t we, as Americans, happier in the knowledge that someone is working hard for us instead of spending hours on her hairdo? Clinton’s recent response to the make-up and hair question was lovely: “Let someone else worry about it!”
I can staple myself together pretty fast, but when I think of how many man-hours, or should I say “women-hours” I have spent taking that blow torch to my hair, doing my make-up along with the excruciating attention to clothing choice – it is mind numbing. Whoever notices if a man is wearing the same suit?
Recently she also kicked back for one half hour with staff to enjoy a beer. She was promptly dubbed “Swillary” in the press and even called an “embarrassment.” How odd that many male politicians are judged a success if voters long to share a beer with them.
Male + beer = popular and genuine.
Woman + beer = slattern.
The method and cost of condemning every woman’s “imperfections” was brought into sharp relief by talented comic, Dana Carvey, in one of his HBO Specials. Riffing on a number of ex-Presidents, inevitably, he brought up Bill Clinton’s dalliance with Monica Lewinsky. He next said… “Well, look at Hillary. Can you blame Bill for what he did?”
The audience laughed.
There is nothing funny about sending the message that any woman not resembling Charlize Theron is somehow fit for ridicule, is ‘less than’ or less than capable. We send a devastating message to other woman with this behavior. In the back of every woman’s mind, is there a worry that she had better not get too big for her bloomers, or someone will turn their lasers of her, picking her apart for every blemish. That is, if she has not already done that to herself.
We live in an airbrushed society. As women, we are trained to pick ourselves apart based on the brainwashing we see in the media daily and so, we exhibit far too much tolerance when it is done to women in the public sphere. This also telegraphs a dangerous preoccupation with style over substance.
Should Hillary Clinton decide to once again stand for the Presidency, let us hope that we spend more time focusing on the person and the policies, not the primping.
Anita Finlay is the author of Dirty Words on Clean Skin: Sexism and Sabotage, a Hillary Supporter’s Rude Awakening, available at Amazon.com in print and Kindle editions.
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