Girl Power?

I missed the AFL-CIO’s Democratic presidential forum the other night, but while reading a short write-up of the debate, I came across a quote from Senator Clinton that made me do a double-take:

“For 15 years, I have stood up against the right-wing machine. And I’ve come out stronger. If you want a winner who knows how to take them on, I’m your girl.”

Wait, what? Forget the part about how Clinton says that she stands up to right-wing machine when she actually has a history of caving in (*cough* Iraq War). “I’m your girl?” She’s 59-years-old!
I bring up her age not to make her sound “old”– I’m 23, and I bristle at being called a “girl” as much as any 23-year-old man bristles at being called a “boy.” I resent the cultural phenomenon of infantalizing women, as well as the social practice for men to be called men the moment they turn 18, while women have to wait at least until they’re 30 to be regularly called a woman, and even then are encouraged to put off the change as long as possible.
Maybe I’m making a mountain out of a molehill, but as someone with an English degree, I think that language is important. Particularly in politics, words are chosen very carefully. And I’m not the only one who noticed. So what the hell is going on, here? How did we go from a Hillary Clinton eager to push her credentials of toughness to a Hillary Clinton referring to herself as a “girl?” Is it an attempt to reverse the perception that she is too masculine? An attempt to appeal to women as “one of them,” like with her self-deprecating remarks about her weight? Or, since it was a labor union forum, maybe she was trying to appear populist, as opposed to the liberal that she is so often (incorrectly) portrayed as?
And what on earth are we to think of it? Of course, she gets to call herself whatever she wants, but we’re also entitled to our opinions. As feminists, we have worked long and hard to see a woman with a real shot at the presidency. I know that a lot of us already have personal reservations about her and her policies. So how are we to feel about having a legitimate female presidential candidate– the Democratic candidate who would probably win if the primaries were held today– referring to herself as a girl? And, particularly for those who find the phrase inconsequential, why don’t we have the same reaction to Clinton saying “I’m your girl” as we would if Giuliani said “I’m the boy for the job?”

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