And So Begins the Tedious Commentary on Hillary’s Gender

I was slow out of bed this morning, so as I got dressed I listened to KQED’s Forum. They had on a bunch of political horse race handicappers to talk about the upcoming primary elections, which of course meant Hillary Clinton, which of course meant gender and the American electorate.

Michael Krasny launched the topic by asking the guest from Emily’s List if they hadn’t just endorsed Hillary Clinton because she’s a woman. Sigh. Later on, he asked the assembled horse race handicappers about the fact that there are women who might not like the idea of a female President (gasp!). I wish I had the exact wording here, but the audio archive won’t be online until tomorrow. Anyway, it was to the guests’ credit that they sounded a bit baffled at this question and quickly dismissed it in favor of talking about actual data gathered on the net effect of gender in Congressional, state, and local elections. The representative from Emily’s List, too, knew what she was doing and ignored her question in favor of a spiel on Clinton’s qualifications.

Still, it twisted my gut to realize what we’re in for in the next year (year and a half, if Clinton wins the nomination) of political commentary. That men are sexist voters is not worth discussing – not when you can spend your time marvelling at the strange, disloyal behavior of women! And of course any feminist, or any woman, who supports Clinton will immediately be accused of just votin’ for the boobies.

Bah. I’m not precisely surprised, though I must admit, I expected better from KQED. However, I’m sure it’ll be much less subtle on the mainstream network news. I’m not a Clinton supporter (as usual my heart’s with Dennis Kucinich) but I hope her campaign does good, comprehensive, grassroots media training. These stupid “what about the girl-cooties?” questions will provide countless opportunities to launch into prepared spiels on her qualifications as a candidate. Combined with a raised eyebrow and a politely withering tone of voice, such a response is, I think, the best choice from a feminist as well as a partisan perspective.

That said, I’m guessing some of you will be more interested in yesterday’s Forum, about the Baroque-era naturalist Anna Maria Sybilla Merian. In 1685, she left her husband and began to study South American insects; eventually she took her youngest daughter with her to Surinam, where she made pioneering observations of metamorphosis.


  1. Lab Lemming wrote:

    Isn’t that discussion of her sex, not her gender? Reading your headline, I thought it would be talking about whether or not she should wear pants, get a tupee, scratch her crotch on the senate floor, and shag interns.

  2. yami wrote:

    Not unless we’re talking about her chromosomal type, her hormone levels, or her twiddly bits – and let’s please not talk about Hillary Clinton’s twiddly bits, Bill’s were bad enough.

  3. Thermochronic wrote:

    Since she hinted at running she has been treated as more of a spectacle than a candidate. How many other candidates will have to answer so much for their spouse?

  4. Lab Lemming wrote:

    How many other candidates have spouses who have been President?

    If Sam Brownback had been elected to the Senate at the end of his wife’s second term as President, it is quite possible that the same questions would be asked.

  5. Steph wrote:

    I have to say that while I’m not really a Hillary fan, I love seeing a woman serious about running for President. It should be interesting to see how much of a role her gender plays in the election.

  6. delagar wrote:

    When I teach Victorian Literature each Spring, I always go off on this at least once, because *reading* what the (male) Victorians, most of them, have to say about women, you would think women of the time were oppressed, mild victims — but if you look at what women of the time were doing, well, there’s Francis Trollope leaving her husband (because he was a troll, apparently) to travel to America and write for a living; there’s Mary Kingsley, off to West Africa to study bugs; there’s Edith Nesbit, supporting her husband *and* his lover on her writing; there are all those women working alongside the men in the coal mines — not to mention the women running farms and estates and shops, and getting feminism up to speed. What the (usually male) approved view of the world is and what is really going on in the world, I like to point out at this spot in my rant, uh, lecture, are vastly different realities.

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