Politics & Policy

To Feminist Consternation, Hillary Is Being Judged as an Individual — Not as a Woman

(Justin Sullivan/Getty)

Hillary Clinton is not a woman, and that’s a triumph for feminism and a problem for Hillary.

Let me clarify.

Yes, technically she is female. But when millions of Americans think of Hillary Clinton, they don’t think of her gender; they think of, well, Hillary Clinton. Some may think of her as a heroic liberal technocrat. Others might think of her as a deeply partisan politician. The list goes on: She’s a supportive (or enabling) wife, a great (or terrible) former secretary of state, a left-wing bully, or a victim of political witch hunts.

What she is not is an icon for a category of humanity called “womanhood.”

This strikes me as a significant victory for feminism, though not for professional feminists and certainly not for Hillary Clinton.

Clinton, who on her best days is a workmanlike (workwomanlike?) politician, desperately wants to borrow some unearned excitement about her gender. And to her great frustration, it’s not happening. In Iowa, Bernie Sanders crushed Clinton among women under 30 years old by 70 percentage points (84-14). He beat her significantly among 30- to 44-year-old women (53-42). Meanwhile, Clinton trounced Sanders among mature and, uh, very mature women. Women over the age of 65 backed Clinton 76 percent to 22 percent.

RELATED: Hillary’s Sincerity Problem

But in the lead-up to the New Hampshire primary, Sanders had opened an eight-point lead over Clinton among New Hampshire women, according to polls.

While a gaggle of female Democratic politicians and aging feminist writers and actresses have tried to gin up female solidarity, it’s largely backfired.

Gloria Steinem, a fading icon of a bygone era, said that Bernie Sanders is attracting young female supporters because they’re boy-crazy, and “the boys are with Bernie.” She later apologized.

Former secretary of state Madeleine Albright was trotted out to issue her favorite quip: “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other!”

RELATED: Hillary Clinton Is Not a Feminist

Albright’s defenders note that she’s been saying this for years. And that’s true. She traditionally aimed this banishment to eternal damnation at women who undermined other women in contests for the one token woman’s position.

And that’s quite telling. While there’s surely still sexism out there, the days when women had to make do with token positions as representatives of their gender are largely behind us. Clinton herself was the third female secretary of state. No one thought she got the job because she’s a woman.

In other words, Albright, like Clinton, is a product of another age, and she sounds like it.

#share#The best part of feminism was always grounded in the simple idea that women should be judged as individuals, not categories.

The irony, however, is that in pursuit of that laudable goal, feminists argued that society needed to do the opposite. Whether through hard quotas, Title IX lawsuits, or social pressure, feminists argued that a certain amount of tokenism was required to get society to a place where women could be judged on their individual merits.

The best part of feminism was always grounded in the simple idea that women should be judged as individuals, not categories.

We can debate all day whether those efforts were warranted, fair, or wise — or if they are still required. The simple fact is that we now live in a country where a woman as accomplished as Hillary Clinton can’t get away with claiming she deserves a job just because she’s a woman.

Again, I’d like to think that argument wouldn’t fly coming from any woman, but it really falls apart coming from Clinton, precisely because no one sees her as an abstraction. Most people see her as a very controversial and compromised person who has been in the news for nearly 30 years.

It has been widely reported that Team Clinton wants to re-create the Obama coalition from 2008. The problem with that plan is that Hillary Clinton is no Barack Obama, for good and for ill. Race and gender play different roles in our society. And, right or wrong, the prospect of the first black president was more exciting for more Americans than the prospect of the first female president.

#related#Moreover, Obama was largely an unknown, upon whom diverse voters could impose their hopes and expectations. Clinton keeps reinventing herself to no avail; people know who she is.

That’s why when she says she’s not part of the “establishment” because she’d be the first woman president, most people scratch their heads and say, “Huh?” When she invites female senators and celebrities to say Clinton’s the rebel, young people see the establishment rallying around one of their own. Shouting, “I am woman, hear me bore” won’t change that.

Most Popular

Film & TV

Why We Can’t Have Wakanda

SPOILERS AHEAD Black Panther is a really good movie that lives up to the hype in just about every way. Surely someone at Marvel Studios had an early doubt, reading the script and thinking: “Wait, we’re going to have hundreds of African warriors in brightly colored tribal garb, using ancient weapons, ... Read More
Law & the Courts

Obstruction Confusions

In his Lawfare critique of one of my several columns about the purported obstruction case against President Trump, Gabriel Schoenfeld loses me — as I suspect he will lose others — when he says of himself, “I do not think I am Trump-deranged.” Gabe graciously expresses fondness for me, and the feeling is ... Read More
Science & Tech

Set NASA Free

The Trump administration has proposed shifting the International Space Station from a NASA-exclusive research facility to a semi-public, semi-private one. Its plan would nix all government funding for the ISS by 2025 and award at least $150 million per year to NASA to help with the transition. This would be a ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Students’ Anti-Gun Views

Are children innocents or are they leaders? Are teenagers fully autonomous decision-makers, or are they lumps of mental clay, still being molded by unfolding brain development? The Left seems to have a particularly hard time deciding these days. Take, for example, the high-school students from Parkland, ... Read More
PC Culture

Kill Chic

We live in a society in which gratuitous violence is the trademark of video games, movies, and popular music. Kill this, shoot that in repugnant detail becomes a race to the visual and spoken bottom. We have gone from Sam Peckinpah’s realistic portrayal of violent death to a gory ritual of metal ripping ... Read More