Saturday, January 5, 2013

Women Who Don't Like Hillary Clinton

When Anne-Marie Slaughter gave up her high powered job at the State Department she said that, with the exception of a few superhuman creatures, it was impossible for a woman to achieve outsized career success and to be a good mother at the same time.

Now, we also learn that when a woman does have it all, holding down an important executive position while raising a family, other women resent her.

Feminists would have us believe that these superwomen are the vanguard leading the way to a future where we are all going to be suffering from the form of social engineering called gender parity. Apparently, they have miscalculated.

We already know that the best laid feminist plans “gang aft agley,” so we are not surprised to discover that Brave New Feminist World is something that women do not want. They don’t even like it.

Katie Roiphe raised the issue brilliantly in an essay about Hillary Clinton called: “Elect Sister Frigidaire.” You do not have to read much further than the title to know Roiphe’s take on Hillary Clinton.

The essay appeared five years ago in a book entitled: Thirty Ways of Looking at Hillary. I confess that I missed it; even today I have only read excerpts of the Roiphe essay.

(For the record, the book’s title is a takeoff on the title of a poem by Wallace Stevens: “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.”  Since the poem counts as one of the great poems of the twentieth century, I find it mildly disconcerting that the editors would have chosen to defile its title. I have no idea why they compared Hillary Clinton to a blackbird.)

Anyway, Roiphe opens with a striking observation. Speaking for her liberal New York female friends, she remarks:

I have yet to meet a woman who likes Hillary Clinton. They may agree with her politics, may think that she would be an effective leader, may support her candidacy for president, but they don’t like her.

It is a little too easy to dismiss this point. I find it to be important and profound. Surely, it mattered greatly that out nation decided that it just didn’t like Mitt Romney.

Keep in mind that Roiphe’s brutal criticism of Hillary Clinton is coming from someone who, with her friends, would surely vote to make Mrs. Clinton the president.

What does Roiphe mean here? In part she is saying that no sentient woman would ever want Hillary Clinton’s life. Frankly, I find this to be a hopeful sign.

Roiphe begins to try to grasp women’s visceral dislike for Hillary by pointing out that that Hillary Clinton is a “phony.”

She asks:

… why should it matter, why should it make our skin crawl, that Hillary Clinton in particular is a phony? Or rather, what is it about her particular brand of phoniness that irks us?

Why do women consider Hillary to be a phony? First, Roiphe explains, they believe that her marriage is a political arrangement designed to advance her own ambitions.

Women believe that Hillary ignored her husband’s cheating because she did not care about him in that way, but was using him as a stepping stone to gain political power. But that also means that she had no real self-respect as a woman.

When Hillary stood up to defend her husband against the “vast right wing conspiracy” Katie Roiphe thought that Hillary had stifled her human emotions in the name of political ambition.

Let us take the full measure of what Roiphe is saying. For a woman marriage is, for want of a better word, a sacred commitment. A woman’s honor, her dignity and her integrity are wrapped up in the way she lives her sexuality. One should not underestimate the degree to which a woman's self-respect is linked to with the way she behaves sexually.

Roiphe is implying that women believe that Hillary Clinton’s marital arrangement, her insouciance about her husband’s multiple dalliances, defiled something that they believe to be sacred.

This implies that Hillary has created a picture of womanhood that is so starkly at variance from what women are that her triumphs have demeaned and diminished them all. This does not make her very likeable.

Roiphe finds Hillary Clinton’s “her forced relation to femininity” to be a sign of her exceptional phoniness.

From her multiple hairdos to her lame fashion sense Hillary Clinton’s femininity seems to be something she put on for the masses but does not really feel or live.

One might have thought that feminism was about overcoming the “feminine mystique” but clearly, in the matter of Hillary Clinton women still judge other women in terms of their femininity.

So, women resent Hillary Clinton. They talk the talk about strong and powerful women, and yet, when they are faced with one, they find her seriously lacking:

Could it be that we like the idea of strong women but we don’t actually like strong women. There is an intolerance on the part of powerful women toward other powerful women, a cattiness, a nastiness that is not part of any feminist conversation I have ever heard.

Roiphe has offered an unflinchingly honest critique of Hillary Clinton. Clearly, she is upset that the most important and powerful woman in America, the woman who is truly living the feminist dream, is such a bad role model. .

Recently, a German magazine took up the same question: women who don’t like successful, strong women.

Calling it “The Dark Side of Feminism,” Alexandra Borchardt explains that, as a rule, when everyday women see other women rise up the status hierarchy, breaking glass ceilings as they go, they resent their success, more so if these trailblazers also have children.

When Yahoo CEO and new mother Marissa Mayer declared that having a baby has been “easy” women cringed and resented her.

Why should this be so?

I will hazard a guess: for most mothers bringing up a child is not “easy.” It represents an extremely important responsibility, a sacred duty that most mothers fulfill to the best of their ability. New mothers understand what it feels like to care for a helpless infant. They do not toss their babies into the arms of a team of Nannies because career success beckons. They might not begrudge women who have some help with their babies, but they resent women who seem have repressed their maternal instincts. .

In the end, Borchardt suggests, competing for position on a status hierarchy is a man’s game. Some women can do it, but they are obliged to leave their femininity at the door.

To see a woman sell out her sacred duties as wife and mother in order to move up a male hierarchy, does not inspire women. Beating a man at his game does not make her more of a woman. It makes her, in the eyes of most women a traitor to her sex.

Competing in a male status hierarchy does not. Borchardt reports:

Men and women behave very differently when it comes to recognizing status and hierarchy. Gender researchers say that men have no problem with pecking orders, whether it’s on the soccer field on in the boardroom. They recognize the top dog, who occupies second and third place, without envy (mostly) and everything about their seating and speaking order at meetings, body language, status symbols, bear witness to this. That doesn’t mean of course that they won’t compete for better positions. And they usually do this by emulating the top man and copying his strategies. And when they make it to the top, they see no reason to play that down.

Research has revealed that females react very differently. They do tend to play themselves down to bring everybody together: their goal is integration, not competition. Among little girls, any girl who stands out because she is smarter, funnier or prettier is anything but admired by the others. Grown women in professional life have learned that hiding their qualities just so other women will like them damages them, but the net result is: they are not liked. Solidarity ends there.

Apparently, gender differences are still alive and well in the human DNA.


Anonymous said...

Women are a funny lot. I prefer working with men. Old boys are more porous than chick cliques and men are more open - what you see is what you get. No one is trying to change anyone.

So why hate Sarah Palin who is the antithesis of Hillary?

Here are some trends that I've seen that feminists don't discuss: Cliques sabotage other cliques. Career women shun and look down upon stay at homes. Career women with kids shun those without kids. Liberals shun Conservatives and vise versa.

Each woman wants to be the most special. Women will sabotage each other out of jealousy, even if good friends. Most that make it through the glass ceiling are queen bees in every sense of the word. Women rarely sponsor and nurture other women in their careers. Look at the history of the heroine in fiction. Isn't she always the only, the most special, alone and singular, "the one"? And isn't it almost always about getting the man or being won by a man? If you reverse all the genders in Lord of the Rings would you find that movie credible?

Webutante said...

This is another terrific post Stuart and a premise I heartedly agree with.

Nothwithstanding the fact that women loath other women who lead with their masculine sides, Hillary's grueling lifestyle is frightfully unhealthy and one that even the fittest of men could not endure for long. This latest incident should be a huge wake up call for her and her lofty aspirations.

There's not a woman I know who would change places with her, however many of us are fascinating and watch, wanting to know how this all ends.

Learning to rest and regroup is a feminine trait that feminism doesn't admire but should.

David Foster said...

"They do tend to play themselves down to bring everybody together: their goal is integration, not competition."

Did these researchers ever go to junior high school?

Female status hierarchies are very real, and many women are very concerned about their position in them.