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Suzanne Fields
Suzanne Fields
12 Dec 2014
The Feminist Rape of Reputation

Feminism is entering a new phase of the movement. You could call it the era of mea culpa. Feminism has … Read More.

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Rapping at the Supreme Court

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28 Nov 2014
Cosby's Message Survives Personal Disaster

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The Hillary-Warren Collision


Back in the day when Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem were in high school, and a new girl walked into the classroom, the boys looked to see whether she was a pretty one, and the girls looked to see what she had to offer to their cliques. The boys evaluated looks — the girls personality.

Since the ascendancy of feminism, the "gender split" is blurred in both high school and the life that follows. Looks and personality are measured on a different scale. No longer does a guy make fun of a girl with brains because sexist perceptions are no longer fashionable. (Men will always think a pretty girl is like a melody, however, and good for them.)

The changes have transformed politics. When Hillary arrived on the political landscape, she was essentially a "pre-feminist" woman, getting along with the girls and winning their support, but pre-feminist enough to depend on her man to smooth a path to power. She endured the feminist jokes and climbed over old boundaries. Her image as a first lady prevailed over policy. But when her health care scheme collapsed, the derisive question echoed across Capitol Hill: "Who elected her?" She learned a hard and expensive lesson.

By the time she left the White House, the political culture had changed and supported, at least by more than it had, a woman seeking power. She embarked on a "listening tour" to see whether New York voters wanted her to run for the Senate, and she was elected with feminine wiles and feminist determination, passive enough to smile and listen, smart enough to know when to speak up. By the time pants had become female fashion, she wore them as "one of the boys." More important, she became her own person.

So close did Hillary come to defeating Barack Obama for the nomination in '08 that he first wanted her out of town. So ambitious was she to be a power figure larger than simply a senator, one of 100, that she accepted the job of Secretary of State and stayed in town as the president's mouthpiece abroad.

Hillary initially sought power through a powerful husband; she had a realistic grasp of how far a woman could go in politics and waited to ride out of Bill's enormous shadow on the crest of second-wave feminism. The "glass ceiling" was once a formidable obstacle for her, and she still sometimes uses it as convenient metaphor.

But that's not her problem now. The new girl in the classroom is.

Elizabeth Warren doesn't come with the '"sexist" baggage that Hillary carried into the limelight. No man ever carried her over the threshold to power. When she arrived in Washington, feminist politics had pushed on to a new stage of acceptance; it was OK for a woman to be as wonky as Washington men.

The Democratic class of '16 won't now choose between Hillary Clinton or Elizabeth Warren based on gender (or sex as it used to be called). Their divisive lines are ideological. They represent different perspectives on what's wrong with the country. If both women see themselves as intellectual heavyweights, they weigh in on different scales.

As the Democratic Party moves ever more leftward, Warren taps into passionate differences between them. When Barack Obama ran against Hillary, he said he was about hope and change, and no matter how Hillary tried to be the first woman president, "herstory" was trumped by the first black to be president.

There's a completely different story lurking in a matchup with Elizabeth Warren. Hillary runs far behind as the populist to curb the power of the wealthiest in America, as the threat to Wall Street excess, issues with increasing Democratic appeal. While an earlier Hillary could have stretched out in a populist campaign, the Hillary with a Wal-Mart past (she once sat on the board) and a fabulously wealthy foundation would be loathe to alienate the big bucks she needs to run.

The long-standing knock on the Clintons is that "they primarily represent themselves," as Noam Scheiber, writes in The New Republic after long talks with Democratic moneybags. Elizabeth Warren's "core convictions" shade the Clinton focus groups.

In a digital media world impatient for a fresh voice and galvanizing inspiration, Clinton photo shoots are as dated as the rotogravure. Elizabeth Warren has a determined economic agenda to expand government regulation. The odds are long against a Warren nomination, but she can fire up a fierce debate about who the Democrats are and what they want to be. That ought to give a few good men in the Republican ranks the opening to get their small-government message packaged for prime time. The Hillary-Warren collision is a potent opportunity.

Write to Suzanne Fields at: SuzanneFields is currently working on a book that will revisit John Milton's "Paradise Lost." To find out more about Suzanne Fields and read her past columns, visit the Creators webpage



1 Comments | Post Comment
Ma'am;... I don't know why so many people think that either Mrs. Clinton or Mrs.Warren is bound to be the candidate or be elected. The Democrats may put one up, but that does not mean she will get enough republican womens votes to put her over. I don't know what it is; and this is only a supposition, but it seems there is enough self loathing among republican women that turned outside, and exposed is very misogynistic. They have no desire or reason to see another woman succeed, and especially not one of a democratic stripe. And if they should ask the question that all women should ask: What is in it for me; they will see no advantage to a democrat of any sex elected.

Women do not need symbolic advancement at this stage. For women to elect another woman to a position in which everyone will judge her according to a hypothetical comparison to a man is to invite her to act as a man, and so give up every virtue associated with women.
The same thing happened to Mr. Obama. He did as a white man would do with Wall Street, and he let the little people wait on a specious recovery. That did not stop anyone from calling him a socialist, and a nicker. He failed to save the economy, but in trying to right it, he doomed his presidency. What hope is there now of electing another symbolic black man to the office?

I would elect any woman to office to act like a woman. I think most women are more naturally intelligent, sensitive, and moral. If those qualities had to die in a woman president to be considered as if a man; why not just elect a man who will be less conscious, and less conflicted, and be ahead of the game?

The democrats have got to stop electing symbols and start electing leaders, or else everyone in the democrat party will have to become a leader. This is not a figurhead office. When the house sold itself to the parties they lost power to the parties and to the president. This is all the more reason why a determined and intelligent democrat should be nominated and elected. Mr. Obama was not creative in his thinking and could be easily bested there, even by a republican. In fact; Just as Lincoln realized, he had no consitutional powers to end slavery, so that this revolution waited on reaction; and the evident willingness of Mr. Lincoln to do what he could with the power he had tipped the scales. Mr. Obama did not do all he could legally do, and he could not see the way in which law had worked in the hands of the powerful to break the nation; and now it is too late.

The success of the presidency is not in regard to abstractions. Either the president leaves us materially improved, or he has done nothing worth a word of history. The same thing goes for a woman. If she is not creative. If she is only willing to see the issue as those before her have done, then she is done before she has begun. Insightful thought is not so strange under the circumstances we face. Thought beyond the pale is the goal. The people have shown their willingness to vote for change, and change has not been forthcoming. This people has every reason to lose their patience with government and with the symbols of government. New people elected out of the desire for change must change themselves and change our fundamental national relationships.

Ma'am; the Democrat party may be moving left to try to keep its base, but this people left and right are recapturing their revolutionary spirit, and that spirit is central in our history, in our technology and in our national conflicts. Today it may be unarmed demonstrators who will die. Perhaps whole classes may be targeted; but as long as we have the will to resist this failed government and economy, we will prevail.
Comment: #1
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Sun Dec 21, 2014 8:35 PM
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