Politics & Policy

Hillary Likes the Whine

Playing the gender-victim card.

Editor’s note: This column is available exclusively through United Media. For permission to reprint or excerpt this copyrighted material, please contact: Carmen Puello at cpuello@unitedmedia.com.

On the campaign trail in New Hampshire, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D., N.Y.), became teary-eyed when asked how she copes with the stress of running for president. Predictably, in the run-up to the Granite State’s primary and after her victory there, the tracks of her tears were the subject of many headlines and TV news segments.

Commenting on the tears and the talk, Clinton — lawyer, First Lady, senator, and international superstar — said: “Maybe I have liberated us to actually let women be human beings in public life.” I’m not exactly sure how women have ceased to be human beings in public or private life, but perhaps the limitless power of the Clinton machine has the capacity to break the laws of biology. The pundits who predicted a Barack Obama landslide win in New Hampshire would certainly appreciate that explanation.

Gloria Steinem has her teary-eyed sister’s back. Steinem, founder of Ms. magazine, never really grew up from her bra-burning days, so she has never stopped insisting on her Feminist Dream House America. Steinem’s ideal is a country in which she won’t be questioned for simultaneously claiming to be oppressed, and defending the right of a man to abuse his power with a woman. (She invented the “one free grope” rule during the Monica Lewinsky scandal days.) Her dream is of an America where she is a hero for writing in the New York Times: “Gender is probably the most restricting force in American life, whether the question is who must be in the kitchen or who could be in the White House.” Her sad song came as it looked like Clinton was poised to lose the New Hampshire primary: “This country is way down the list of countries electing women and, according to one study, it polarizes gender roles more than the average democracy.”

So there it is. Neither Hillary nor Gloria wants women to be treated equally. They reserve the right to demand sympathy when the gender-victim card works for their purposes, a distinct chick card not available to their male competitors. For here Clinton is, a likely nominee running for president of the United States, and the sisterhood has to stop the process and to cry special privilege.

None of this is particularly surprising; American feminists tend to like the whine. Last year, after Nancy Pelosi was sworn in as Speaker of the House of Representatives, a minor controversy erupted when she asked for a travel upgrade. The merits of her request could have been debated, but instead there was nonsense. She ran to TV cameras in full-whine mode: “As a woman, as a woman Speaker of the House, I don’t want any less opportunity than male Speakers have had when they’ve served here.”

The controversy had nothing to do with gender; it had everything to do with money and responsibilities to the taxpayers. But why get into issues when you can cry? — figuratively or literally. It is apparently a female politician’s prerogative.

The presidential campaign of Hillary Rodham Clinton, much like the speakership of Nancy Pelosi, is a step back for liberal women in politics and punditry. What a waste. On the bright side, it can’t be too long now before folks realize that right-wing gals like Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan come with no gender-card tears on the floor of Congress and the oped page.

At the same time that Steinem was writing about how bad life is in America for women, a 30-year-old woman was killed by her father in Amman, Jordan, for dating. “Her father refused to allow her to step a foot outside the house,” a police official told the Associated Press. “In the evening they had an argument, so he grabbed his gun and sprayed her with several bullets, killing her instantly.” Jordan recently toughened its punishments for such murders, in a part of the world where killing a woman for family “honor” is more often accepted than not.

The Jordanian honor killing came a few weeks after the king of Saudi Arabia pardoned a woman for the crime of being raped. She was going to be punished with 200 lashes and six months’ incarceration. The fact that the law is such that she had to be an exception to a rule is actual oppression.

Steinem, Clinton, and women who are likewise in positions of power could better spend their time highlighting real oppression and not defining down real suffering by pretending that life in the United States is somehow a hardship for, say, Hillary Clinton. Senator Clinton could also pick a fight based on substance instead of trying to make up for the absence of Oprah on her team. If this silliness continues, Clinton may find herself sobbing on a Barbara Walters special about what could have been.

© 2008, Newspaper Enterprise Assn.

– Kathryn Jean Lopez is editor of National Review Online.

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