Glamocracy Blogger: Hillary has ruined it for future female politicians by being “unfeminine”

glamocracy.jpgFernanda Diaz at Glamour magazine’s political blog, Glamocracy, writes that Clinton’s “unfeminine” ways have ruined things for the next generation of female politicians.

I resent the fact that Hillary is now inescapably a symbol of women in power, and that women for years to come will be compared to her. I have a problem with this because I’m used to a new kind of woman leader, one who doesn’t have to try so hard to fit in with the boys and prove that she can be aggressive and ruthless just to be taken seriously. By acting in such a decidedly un-feminine manner, Clinton has actually made it harder for us who had already felt accepted as leaders without resorting to those measures—now, it will be harder for women in my generation who don’t act like her to be taken seriously.

Full disclosure: Diaz emailed me the post and suggested Feministing write about it. When I told her that I strongly disagreed with her analysis, she was very open to discussion so I’m going to do my best to leave the snark at the door. That said…ugh.
Since when is aggressiveness and leadership “unfeminine”? By framing characteristics that are normally attributed to leaders – like being aggressive or powerful – as masculine, we’re playing into the false notion that men are “natural” leaders. And what’s ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’ anyway? Essentializing gender traits doesn’t do any one any favors.
It’s comments like these, that Clinton is “acting like a man” or is “unfeminine,” that allow for the sexist attacks that are so often lobbed her way. But I get the feeling that Diaz isn’t being deliberately sexist in her opinion as much as she’s being a tad naive:

I have grown up with female bosses, editors, teachers and family members who exhibit great, traditionally feminine qualities: kindness, compassion, and accessibility, and their authority has never been compromised because of it. They’ve been amazing, and never faced sexist attitudes.

So if we act in a “traditionally feminine” manner, we’ll never face sexism? Powerful women, no matter what their leadership style, are targets for sexism. From further emails with Diaz, I gather she believes that in order for women to be in power they have to act “like men.” Again, problematic because of the essentializing, but Diaz’s thoughts also preclude the idea that there is a spectrum of leadership styles and characteristics – there’s no nuance in her argument. Can’t one be aggressive and compassionate? Kind and steadfast? I’m curious as to what folks think…

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70 Comments

  1. invisible_hand
    Posted May 23, 2008 at 2:38 am | Permalink

    what an idiotic statement and claim. bullshit. clinton has broken so many barriers it’s ridiculous.
    but
    there is a lot to be said and argued against when one considers the politics she has chosen to espouse, some mirroring the rhetoric and discourse of “manly men” such as bush II. if we believe in a feminist politics, we must be disturbed by clinton’s need to posture as the manliest (which makes her the best in foreign policy) as well as he surrogates claiming her “testicular fortitude” as well as emasculating the black candidate. in these ways, she is taking steps backwards in reinforcing the old political/patriarchal bullshit, that manly = strength.

  2. Posted May 23, 2008 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    “cow-towing”
    You meant kowtowing. It is pronounced as [kou'tou'] (cow + t + ow, where the second syllable rhymes with the first), comes from the Chinese kòu tóu (å?©é ­) meaning the act of respect such that one gets on one’s knees and bows one’s head all the way to the floor. In English it means a kind of extreme deference and/or obsequiousness, as you clearly know.
    I corect this because your hyphenated misspelling calls to mind someone towing a cow somewhere and that brought a smile to my lips.

  3. alikatze
    Posted May 23, 2008 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    Yeah, the problem with analysis like Diaz’s is that there is this idea that we *have* to have Male and Female gender distinctions that are static and fixed. Frankly, who gives a rat’s ass if Hillary is tough, assertive, blah-blah?? Why does that make her any less of a woman?
    Naive may not be the best descriptor for Diaz’s post — I’d postulate that she’s a bit outdated and myopic in her thinking.

  4. brad
    Posted May 23, 2008 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    Thanks Kieth, I actually didn’t know where the word came from, I’m pretty sure I’ll remember how to spell it now. I hope I was able to get my point across anyway.
    snark/
    You forgot an “r” in correct by the way. /snark
    Just kidding, I actually do appreciate the correction.

  5. orchid
    Posted May 23, 2008 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    Powerful women, no matter what their leadership style, are targets for sexism. From further emails with Diaz, I gather she believes that in order for women to be in power they have to act “like men.”
    I agree wholeheartedly with your take on this – but I have also been troubled that many women fall into this trap, i.e. thinking that liberation = being a faux man.
    That formula is demeaning to the idea of what it is to be female, as if it is relative to “male” as the gender standard.
    I think women make better leaders, bosses, in general, they handle stress better, are able to deal with difficult people better, possess more capacity for consensus building, and studies are beginning to show more intelligent on average – and as a result, I think ultimately our society is moving towards a more female-led paradigm.
    I was hoping we would elect a woman for president this year, but it will happen soon.

  6. IowaFeminist
    Posted May 23, 2008 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    I had a brilliant women’s history teacher who had a wonderful answer for arguments such as this: Namely, “XYZ hasn’t been my experience, or my family’s experience, or the experience of anyone I know, therefore XYZ must not exist.”
    She would say: “That may be true, but your experience is not the universal experience.”
    Perhaps this woman’s mentors “never” faced sexist attitudes — or perhaps they did but didn’t identify them as such — but many of us have, regardless of our leadership style.

  7. Alexandra
    Posted May 23, 2008 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    “I have grown up with female bosses, editors, teachers and family members who exhibit great, traditionally feminine qualities: kindness, compassion, and accessibility, and their authority has never been compromised because of it. They’ve been amazing, and never faced sexist attitudes.”
    I agree with sebadoh999, life on Mars must be great. I’ve worked in both the legal field and academia and I’ve always found women -specifically women older than me, Hillary’s age- to be very different than Diaz’ description. Generally, they are fiercely competent (they had to be to be able to survive in the boys world) and have little tolerance for BS (having had to deal with so much crap to get where they are). The women of Hillary’s age that I’ve worked with made good bosses because they had high expectations and were fair but, as I said, did not tolerate any bullshit -NOT because of their kindness, compassion or any other touchy feely quailites (I HAVE a mother). Whatsmore, I’m sure Diaz wouldn’t expect coddling or hand-holding from her male bosses. I don’t think that standard professionalism is unfeminine. I think expecting different treatment from women bosses is inappropriate.

  8. Posted May 23, 2008 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    “Thanks Kieth [...] You forgot an ‘r’ in correct by the way”
    There is an unwritten rule that if one is ever arrogant enough to correct someone else’s spelling or grammar on the Internet, one will make a spelling or grammatical mistake while doing so. I’d like to claim that I misspelled correct in order to anticipate my comeuppance, but that would be untrue.

  9. iqonefiftynine
    Posted May 23, 2008 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

    Actually, just the opposite is true. Hillary is so polarizing that anyone not as Clintony will be a relief… selling like Ice Cream on a hot day. Remember this is not Ann Richards we are talking about (fem dem in a red state). This is a woman that alienates blacks, can’t pull the well educated and struggles with the affluent. There is no place to go but up for a quality female candidate that runs even just a decent presidential campaign.

  10. Jon S
    Posted May 24, 2008 at 2:24 am | Permalink

    On that note, two words:
    Kathleen Sibelius. Please mark my words. First woman president. Strong, competent, fair and independent-minded, and not afraid to kick George Bush Jr.’s ass after the SOTU.
    (and if you don’t mind my saying, a hottie to boot ;-)
    Seriously though. Check her out, she’s the bomb. And hopefully president in 2016 (after 8 years of a democrat, whoever he or she may be)

  11. rkstone
    Posted May 24, 2008 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    iqonefiftynine: Didn’t you get the memo that paid Obama bloggers were to tone down their hateful rhetoric of Hillary Clinton?

  12. rkstone
    Posted May 24, 2008 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    On that note, two words: Hillary Clinton.
    Clinton 08, Obama 2016 (he needs a few more years on him)

  13. Roger Helgeson
    Posted May 24, 2008 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    I think Diaz’s ultimate conclusion is valid, but she arrives at it for the wrong reasons, and every conclusion leading to that ultimate conclusion is wrong. The ultimate conclusion I speak of is that Hillary Clinton has, most likely, done some element of harm to the possibility of a woman becoming president in the future. She has, but not enough that it makes any difference, because she has done more good than harm.
    I think Hillary Clinton’s campaign has been a complete disaster from the get-go, and this has nothing to do with her being female and rather a lot to do with the way she has conducted herself as a candidate. Furthermore, as a Clinton, her name carries a high level of both recognition and prestige. And as the first potential female president, the spotlight is even brighter.
    The problem is that her campaign has just been…bad. I’m not even talking about her platform, which I disagree with. She has run her campaign in a very sloppy, arrogant, and obnoxious manner. She has not paid vendors. She has played the “Obama is unelectable because of his race” card, which is kind of ironic considering the circumstances. And she generally comes off as unwilling to accept defeat, as though we owe her the nomination and then the presidency simply because she is a Clinton.
    The fact is, she comes off as a poor diplomat and as the US has a poor foreign image right now, I think a pleasant face is what this country needs more than anything else. Personally, I think Obama has a pleasant aura and has quite a bit of political savvy and intelligence, which is why he has my support. Well that and that I agree with many elements of his platform. But this isn’t a debate on any of that, so I’ll digress.
    The harm I spoke of earlier is that people LOVE scapegoats. People will point to Hillary’s campaign as an unfair example of “why woman don’t make good candidates.” And there is a LOT of backstage political stuff that the public just never sees, political nooks and crannies where whispers are king and this kind of scapegoating will undoubtedly occur. Maybe not overtly, but I think it is naive to think it won’t happen four or eight years down the line.
    But that isn’t really her fault. I don’t think Hillary Clinton has been anyone but herself. I reject the idea that she is overcompensating or trying to act masculine or any of that. Maybe it’s because I live in New York and have followed what she’s been doing, more or less, but Hillary’s campaign just seems like business-as-usual to me.
    I think any “harm” she has done is something that will get lost or compensated for in any future political miasma involving a female Presidential candidate. She has provided a weapon for misogynistic politicians to use against woman possibles in the future: “look at what happened LAST time a woman ran for president,” but overall I think she has done more good than harm, at least on this front. I think she has shown the world that women can be seriously considered for the presidency. Not just our country, but the world. I think that is important. I just think her individual campaign is not what this country needs right now and I don’t think she is the diplomatic face this country needs to point at other countries. We need to seriously consider our image. Bush has killed it.
    So, I think Diaz’s conclusions are entirely baseless and that any harm Hillary has done to the woman’s movement or to a woman’s potential to get elected to the Presidency in the future is essentially irrelevant and offset by the good she’s done. I don’t think she’s done a good job as a political candidate here, but I think she HAS opened the door for female candidates in the future, which is a good thing.

  14. iqonefiftynine
    Posted May 24, 2008 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    Nope. My memo said “Turn up the hate. Assassination plot uncovered”. Stop being a twit!

  15. Alexandr
    Posted May 25, 2008 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    It’s sad that George W. Bush’s campaigns and presidency has ruined it for future prospective male presidents, let alone male politicians.
    Oh, wait…

  16. waxghost
    Posted May 25, 2008 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    This reminds me in some way of Carol Moseley-Braun’s run for president. Every time I saw her at a debate, I thought she was the best speaker there, and yet she was ignored by everyone. I guess black women get ignored while white women get attention but are vilified.
    Or Theresa Heinz. Does no one else remember how much she was vilified? Even though she wasn’t running herself, I wouldn’t be surprised if Diaz thought she ruined it for future potential First Ladies. In fact, when I think of presidential races and the women that have been associated, the only one I can think of as not having been treated horribly was one of Kerry’s daughters; I don’t think it’s a coincidence that she was light-skinned, young and beautiful.

  17. amanohyo
    Posted May 25, 2008 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

    If anything, it would make more sense to claim that the next generation of female politicians’ “unfeminist” ways have ruined things for Hillary Clinton.
    But then again I’m still very, very bitter about this whole disappointing mess…
    Any woman that says Hillary (or any other assertive woman) has ruined anything for anybody has led a life of privileged ignorance that has prevented them from gaining the most basic understanding of power in American society.

  18. Roger Helgeson
    Posted May 25, 2008 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

    Alexandr wrote: It’s sad that George W. Bush’s campaigns and presidency has ruined it for future prospective male presidents, let alone male politicians.
    Oh, wait…
    Alexandr, please…
    The point here is that the presidency is male dominated. By extension, both political society and society-at-large have a bigger capacity for “forgiving” male blunders, in office and on the campaign trail.
    I am not suggesting that Hillary should not have been herself, however the fact that the presidency has been male dominated invalidates the point you are sarcastically trying to make.
    The point is, Hillary is a bad presidental candidate, regardless of her gender. It is therefore a big blow that a woman considered the most potentially electable is, in essence, not going to be elected. Has she “ruined” anything for any future potential female candidates? I don’t believe so. But I do think that she has done some element of harm solely by coincidence by running a pisspoor campaign. That she ran a pisspoor campaign has zilch to do with her gender, but people will use her gender as an excuse.
    Again, that’s their fault, not hers. I’m not saying she necessarily had a feminist responsibility to run a proper campaign. I do think she had a Democratic responsibility, of course, but you’re naive if you think the fact that she is a woman isn’t going to be one of the fundamental explanations (at least in some circles) as to why her campaign failed. Overall, though, I don’t think it matters.
    That was my only point.
    And your comment is somewhat false anyway. Bush has absolutely tarnished the reputation of the Republican party. It wasn’t a one-man job by any means, but he is the person people point to when they claim they are going to swear off the Republican party for good.) So, uhm, that actually kind of proves my point. He set an example for the Republican party, and probably an unfair one because there are plenty of sane Republicans (I suppose). Same goes for Hillary.
    The difference is that I absolutely blame Bush for what he’s done and I don’t blame Hillary for the tangential harm I am suggesting; I just blame her for running a bad campaign. Some of the repercussions from that will be fair and some will not be fair. That’s just how it is.

  19. rkstone
    Posted May 25, 2008 at 8:52 pm | Permalink

    Alexandr: I agree with you.

  20. Alexandr
    Posted May 26, 2008 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    It was a counter to the Glamocracy headline, “Hillary has ruined it for future female politicians…>”. Not you.
    Givent that fact, I don’t see where the dissonance lies.
    The things you bring up about how Hillary and her campaign has been and will be further judged, and by extension all women (by many), aren’t fair, aren’t right, but that’s the practical reality of the world we live in today.
    If Georgie isn’t as apt a choice of name for you, substitute him for any other shitty, male leader (with more or less power vested in him as an individual), that in spite of his blunders, or the blunders of the peers he surrounded himself with, did *not* screw it up for the future males aspiring to positions of leadership, authority and prestige.
    I’m not necessarily pro-Hillary, although she’s not nearly as “unfit” as she’s portrayed to be now. I’m against the undue sexism and ignorance that has been thrown her way, and that the US media has been complicit in.

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