2016 election

I, Virginia Bergman, pledge not to vote for a male presidential candidate in 2016 just because he's male.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Hillary Clinton: Talented, Competent, Richly Complex Woman or Sybil Incarnate?

Hillary Clinton speaks in Beijiing on Women and Health in Sept. 1995. AP

Since the day it was first rumored that Obama was naming Hillary Clinton as secretary of state the media has focused on all the possible reasons for her selection other than her obviously outstanding qualifications. Is anyone really surprised the reasons reporters and pundits alike have offered were dug up from the extensive files of Hillary-bashing maintained for decades by both the left and the right? Keep in mind that sexism and misogyny are held in common across the entire political spectrum.

In her op ed this Friday morning,
Ellen Goodman looks to the right to single out Rush Limbaugh’s explanation for Obama’s choice of Clinton for the top diplomatic post in his cabinet. Goodman writes:

“Of course, it turned out that Rush was being his old cynical self. He wasn't praising Hillary's talent, but Obama's cunning at keeping his enemy close.

“’So it went with much of the analysis before and after Clinton was chosen for the premier Cabinet post. The political story line asked if she would be a ‘teammate’ or a ‘rival’ in the ‘Team of Rivals’ metaphor du jour. And was she close enough to the president to be his international right hand?”’

Goodman doesn’t explore further the variously skewed political analyses, but chooses instead to examine the pseudo-psychological interpretation recurring from the days when it first surfaced in the Democratic primary. Recall how bewildered the provincial members of our media became when they first encountered a political candidate – a woman at that – who presented more than a one-dimensional robotic personality out on the campaign trail: Omg. Hillary is an intelligent, complex woman who has filled a variety of roles in her lifetime. How can we effectively demean her? Why, of course, we can mock and ridicule her as Sybil-like in her complexity.

But back to Goodman’s op-ed:

“’The psychological story line asked, however, whether we were getting yet another new Hillary. A National Review blogger described her as an ‘enigma who is best seen in stages; as a series of parts, not a whole.’

“A series of parts? Not a whole? Hillary, lawyer, wife, mother, first lady, senator, presidential candidate, secretary of state.

‘“I was reminded of Mary Catherine Bateson's classic book, ‘Composing a Life,’ which describes life as the art of improvisation.

‘“Life is not a straight and narrow march of achievement, but a quilt made of many parts. Reading the trajectory of many women's lives with their interruptions and conflicts, twists and turns, Bateson saw creativity, not confusion. ‘These are not lives without commitment, but rather lives in which commitments are continually refocused and redefined.’”

Goodman describes the world Clinton faces:

“Still, the new secretary of state will be operating in a world in which three-fifths of the world's poorest people are women and girls. Seventy percent of the children not in school are girls. Half a million women die every year in childbirth. One in three women will suffer from the pandemic of violence - rape, honor killings, genital mutilation. But only 16 percent of legislators are women, and less than 3 percent of the people at the table when peace treaties are signed are female.”

Remember the 13-year-old Somali rape victim who turned to the authorities for help and instead was stoned to death? It was Sen. Hillary Clinton who wrote a letter of protest to the United Nations.

Goodman continues:

‘“What we are learning around the world is that if women are healthy and educated, their families will flourish,’ Clinton said in Beijing. ‘If women are free from violence, their families will flourish. If women have a chance to work and earn as full and equal partners in society, their families will flourish. And when families flourish, communities and nations do as well.’

“Part of a life? Or a whole life composed and recomposed? Well, Hillary regarded Eleanor Roosevelt as a role model. Mrs. Roosevelt's second or third or perhaps fourth act was to get the world to agree to the first Universal Declaration of Human Rights. That was adopted exactly 60 years ago this month. Now it's Hillary Clinton's improvisational turn.”

And despite the inevitable creepy sexist assaults from both the extreme left and right of her own nation, Clinton will take her improvisational turn, and the world will be a better place for her efforts.

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