Some folks view critiques of her bare-knuckles style of campaigning as an attempt to penalize her for being un-ladylike. Some may think that way, but I don't think most Americans think that way, especially given her culturally conservative base. If anybody would have a problem with Hillary having sharp elbows, it would be them.
But you can be seen as unsympathetic and mean-spirited independent of gender. You can also be seen as disloyal, on the basis of your actions. Lieberman's a good example. In critiquing the rhetoric of Obama supporters, one should consider the nature of the perceptions she has raised by continually consorting with media figures, rhetoric, and tactics more appropriate to the other side.
Lastly, we should consider the tensions and the anxieties generated by a contest which has long lead in, with Obama long known to be the likely winner.
Hillary's image problems have little to do with her gender, and to make them out to be gender-related is insulting to real feminism. To be equal in our society is to be held equally responsible for obnoxious behavior and self-expression. If you pander to the Right-Wing Media to attack fellow Democrats rather than stand up for the party, you should be held accountable. If you selfishly extend a contest you are unlikely to win, rather than conceding things to get the fight against your common enemies started earlier, people are going to get angry and frustrated with you.
The question for feminists raising the red card of porcine male chauvinism should be this: when they talk about other people, do they speak of those folks as an "us", or a "them"? Is the goal of feminism to preserve women as a separate block, politically, one that needs special treatment to get fair treatment, or is the goal of feminism to put men and women on equal footing, with equal rights and equal obligations?
Some would say, if Hillary is defeated, it's chauvinism. But the reality is, if women are equal, they will be winners and losers in proportion to the men as well. You can't win all the time if you are equal.
We make a big deal in politics and in society about those who fight and fight and never give up, but in reality, apart from the adolescent fantasies of avoiding compromise, not all fights are worth the effort and energy, and those who perpetually contend with others often weaken themselves and their political supporters in the process.
The impulse to dominate, to completely, perpetually triumph is tempting, but we should consider the importance of dealing with people reasonably, as equals. The world cannot function well if it's everybody for themselves, people being satisfied with nothing less than the perfect extention of their will in the politics. If we want to work towards our mutual interests, we've got to be willing to be reasonable, not fight amongst ourselves in the interest of pushing our factional interests.
We will win in November, if we can keep ourselves and our act together. Hillary's campaign has blazed the trail for future strong female candidates. Some women have threatened to vote for McCain over a Hillary defeat. I would ask them to consider that it will be far easier to make a woman president if Obama wins, than if McCain wins; McCain's victory would only reinforce the standard paradigm of who can be elected president. If that centuries-old pattern is broken by a Democrat in November, whether a White Woman or a Black Man, then the certainty that only a white man can lead the country will be dealt a blow. If the women of this country try hard enough and often enough, a woman WILL become president. Feminists should move forward with the confidence that this country WILL elect a woman president, rather than depend anxiously on one candidate who's chances of winning are becoming remote.
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