Susan Faludi, “Hillary and the Feminine Gaze, Up Close and Personal”

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In this essay, Faludi reviews, “THIRTY WAYS OF LOOKING AT HILLARY: REFLECTIONS BY WOMEN WRITERS,” edited by Susan Morrison. It starts out:

Let’s imagine this book’s concept:30 well-known women writers talk about how they”feel”about Hillary Clinton:applied to 30 male writers and a male presidential candidate. Adjusting for gender, the essay titles would now read:”Barack’s Underpants,”“Elect Brother Frigidaire,”“Mephistopheles for President,”“The Road to Codpiece-Gate,”and so on. Inside, we would find ruminations on the male candidate’s doggy looks and flabby pectorals; musings on such”revealing”traits as the candidate’s lack of interest in backyard grilling, industrial arts and pets; and mocking remarks about his lack of popularity with the cool boys on the playground (i.e., the writers and their”friends”). We would hear a great deal of speculation about whether the candidate was really manly or just”faking it.”We would hear a great deal about how the candidate made them feel about themselves as men and whether they could see their manhood reflected in the politician’s testosterone displays. … And we would hear virtually nothing about the candidate’s stand on political issues.

Later Faludi writes:

THE VERY PREMISE of Thirty Ways invites us to disparage Hillary Clinton as a political candidate and induct her instead into a reality show pageant. More often than not, the contributors take the bait, passing judgment on Clinton’s femininity (“unnatural”and”contrived”), looks (“passably attractive”) and sensuality (“it is difficult for me to imagine her in an embrace, motherly or otherwise,”Susanna Moore writes). Reading through these pages, I wished for a companion volume, Thirty Ways of Looking at Women Looking at Hillary, which answered this question: Why do so many of these women writers:who have shown themselves to be graceful essayists and well-reasoned analysts in other contexts:resort to unfactual and illogical thinking and, in many cases, downright 13-year-old cattiness when the topic is Hillary?

I don’t agree with everything Faludi says but I think she’s mostly correct, and so is Historiann (even though the Heathers reference made me flinch – sorry, Historiann!). See also the related post by Amanda Marcotte, who noted:

I’m not endorsing Clinton in the primary, but should she win, I’m behind her, and the sexist abuse of her has made me like her more, not less, because she prevails under it. To me, she’s a role model. Her willingness to stand by an adulterer is not something I hope to emulate, but it’s understandable, and in the grand scheme of her accomplishments, it strikes me as both a small thing and none of my business. It seems so straightforward, and yet Faludi reports that the dominant tone of the book is something like,”I just don’t like her, and I can’t explain it, probably because to do so would reveal how much misogyny I’ve internalized.”Faludi explains that this sort of opinion arises in a culture where young women can gain some semblance of power by becoming ciphers for the anti-female opinions of sexist men.

–Ann Bartow

Update: Have to quote one of Amanda’s comments in the discussion to her post, because it is so perfect:

I think a lot of why Clinton is tone-deaf is the same reason that women can’t either not have sex (frigid) or have sex (slut). Is there a way she could be right? I think part of her choice to be policy-oriented is that it’s the least offensive. I see this a lot with female politicians, choosing the least offensive path instead of going the charismatic route available to men.

That of course is another way of describing the double bind all women face.   Men are the standard and women are always wrong, because we are always Not Men.

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