Wednesday, March 5, 2008

She Can’t Win For Losing

There have been times in this election when I have truly felt sorry for Hillary Clinton. While the truth is that she has not been well served by this campaign or her advisors, this only highlights a bigger issue that has plagued her. Regardless of how this election turns out for her she can never win. The reason she can never win is because she can never be herself or she can never have her own voice. It is this lack of a true consistent voice that continues to plague her and her campaign. Regardless of what you may think of her competitors they have been afforded the luxury of being who they are, Hillary on the other hand has not.

She began this campaign with a man’s voice, that she could be just as tough as the boys on security, defense, and the terrorists. But was this what the voters wanted from her? The problem with being a man that looks like a woman is that most voters if given the chance will choose a man. Why have half the package when you can have the whole thing? Conventional wisdom had it that she had to present this tough as nails image to win over white males. Did the voters want a woman that spoke to the issues with the voice of a man? Would the voters support a woman that spoke to the issues as a woman? The problem is that we will never know, because Hillary was never given the opportunity to try. I find it interesting that in the few opportunities that Hillary allowed that female voice to come through she did surprisingly well in those elections. Was it a statistical glitch or was this what the electorate wanted from her?

What do we want from our female candidates? Do we want them to speak to issues as women, bringing those characteristics that separate women from men. It seems that in America we have gotten confused, we have come to the conclusion that equality means sameness. In order for women to be equal to men they must be the same as men, they must be as tough, as masculine, and as treacherous. Rather than accept that we can be different and yet still be equal, we have the mistaken belief that in order to be equal we must be the same. It is this thought process that causes us to absorb other cultures and want everyone to be the same. Those who refuse to accept the Western civilization model and values are deemed inferior and uncivilized. Rather than celebrate and promote our differences we want to integrate and merge them into this one ideal.

While many other societies and cultures value differences in race and gender, we tend to fear them. Given the climate in this country today what would the odds be of an American-born Muslim being elected to any office? Those that are not like us we fear, so we want to make everyone like us even if we have to kill them in the process. Hillary is a victim of this mentality on another level. Instead of being able to bring her femininity to her campaign she is forced to campaign like “one of the guys”. Because rather than her being a choice for change to a more feminine position, she has to mimic the men. So she is a woman that is not allowed to be a woman. Barack Obama has a similar problem in that he is the black man that cannot be black.

For Hillary being a woman should have been an asset in this election and in this country. You would think the electorate would have gotten tired of four hundred years of white men leading this country and would want to try some new leadership. It was fear that the country was unwilling to elect a true woman’s voice that caused her to become this hybrid that appears as a woman but speaks as a man. Unfortunately for Hillary this has caused her to lose support among women who had been hoping that she would speak with a feminine voice. Instead of hearing reconciliation and nurturing they have heard talk of 3 am phone calls to deliver bombs on sleepy villages and a willingness to go nuclear if the boys do it. While this talk may appeal to the hardcore feminist who needs to prove that she is as tough as any man, the majority of women do not share this desire. Many women enjoy and appreciate their tenderness and yes their softness. These are the women that Hillary was not able to speak to or for. These are the women who never got a voice in this election.

Hillary wanted the best of both worlds, she wanted to be able to use being a woman when it was convenient and yet be like a man when it was needed. She never was able to find her own voice, the voice of a woman being a woman. In the end this lack of a true voice will cost Hillary either the primaries or the general election. I am not sure if Hillary would have done better being a woman, but I am sorry she didn’t try. I do know that that campaign would have advanced the cause of women a lot farther than this one has. As it stands now we are still presenting women candidates that must speak like men to be taken seriously. I just hope the next woman who runs won’t be afraid to use her female voice and be who she is. The real question I guess is, will we let her?

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