What We Demand of Her

Can an American top-ranking female political leader in 2008 speak as passionately & forcefully as Martin Luther King Jr. or John F. Kennedy & get away with it? Why is it that Obama can follow in those remarkable footsteps but every time I hear Clinton speak–she’s softer? During their last debate, Obama’s most consistent expression was a serious & thoughtful one while Clinton smiled–and even beamed–throughout most of the evening. With every public appearance, it seems that Obama becomes more aggressive while Clinton becomes “warmer.” Would we even want a constantly smiling, “soft” Obama or a serious, unsmiling Clinton? I dare say this has something to do with us—the American people—& our struggle to embrace the idea of a profoundly powerful woman leader. Had Benazir Bhutto (related to a powerful male leader, like Clinton) been American, could she have achieved her political success and survived her political failures, staging a comeback against all the odds? Or would we have assassinated her long ago? Let her formidable oratorial style speak for itself: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V-8M9759sGg.  

2 thoughts

  1. Pertinent questions!
    I have been consistently struck throughout my adult years of watching any number of national/state/local political races by how challenging it is for female candidates to prove their smarts, mettle and competence in a subtly balanced manner. I think the largest hurtle for Clinton is overcoming the rampant public prejudices. The sexism that she is having to contend with is a certain reminder to us all that women are in no way elevated to equal status. The internal-sexism of women themselves is darkly troubling. It seems that female journalists and news commentators are the first and longest throwers of judgments about Clinton’s appearance (clothing and physical body, both). Such distractions are obscuring the more pertinent issue—which candidate can get the job done.

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