Post-________

hillary.jpgMy magazine subscriptions tend to get away from me. As a result, I just picked up New York Magazine‘s June 15 issue, featuring Hillary Clinton on the cover. Among the features on why Hillary lost is a brief column by Bernard-Henri Lévy in which he argues that the reason Hillary failed in her bid for the presidency was because, “Many women simply couldn’t abide her.”

He’s not the first one to make this argument and when I’ve heard it before, I’ve been troubled. Not because I think he’s wrong, but because I didn’t really like her myself. By “like” I mean just that: I was not instinctively drawn to her. I’m smart enough and have done enough hiring to know that a.) the best person for the job is not always the most personable, and b.) the “interview process” – in this case a national campaign – does not lend itself to accurate impressions anyway. Even taking those notes into account and discarding my objections to some of her positions and tactics, I’ve been troubled by my intuitive rejection of a the first viable female candidate for President. I’ve felt vaguely misogynistic.

Not supporting a specific white man is a vote of no confidence in what he stands for; not supporting a woman (or black man) feels like an indictment of the entire gender’s (or race’s) qualifications.

How many times has affirmative action been called onto the carpet because it treats less qualified minorities preferentially? (Never mind that access to those qualifications is itself biased.) If affirmative action is sound, shouldn’t that logic extend to situations with finer distinctions, like electing an eminently qualified woman to a post where only a slight preference would be required to get us over the hump of never having seen a woman in that office? Why couldn’t I get there to help her get there?

On the eve of Obama’s inauguration, I think I’ve finally cracked it. It’s not because she’s a woman. It’s because she’s not “post-_____” enough for me. Post what? Post-feminism, post-racism, post-last century, post-Bush, post-Clinton, post-Washington wing nuts, post-faxes and not Blackberries, post-lobbyists, post-war. Obama is. (Or he seems to be, and “seems” is what you vote for, ultimately.)

I don’t dismiss the continued need for feminism. Racism is a serious and continuing issue. Washington is still Washington and no amount of outsider status will dismantle that machinery in a day, or even a four-year term. But the hope is there in, “Yes we can.” I project onto that refrain the hope that we can both acknowledge the hard road that women and minorities have trod to get us where we are and move onto a new road where the rules have changed, where we act like our best selves, with equality and justice for all.

It felt like Hillary was still on the same road, didn’t it?

I can’t fault her approach. When I was in college – a women’s college, like Hillary‘s – I didn’t have much patience (well…any patience, really) with the feminists on campus who focused on bias, inequity, and discrimination. Yes, those were there, but wasn’t that like hitting the pothole in the road because that’s what you were looking at? I was of the mind that the the way to get ahead in a male-dominated world is by being better than the men around you. No, it’s not fair that you have to be better, but what else are you going to do? Someone has to be the first woman elected to the Senate, the board room or the Presidency and it’s not going to be on a, “But I’m a girl!” vote. You are going to get where you want to go by being the obviously – not slightly – better candidate than the man up for the job.

(I understand that I can take this position because the first wave of feminists paved the path for me. They were the ones who broke through many, many glass ceilings, that set Hillary up for her run. However, honoring that debt does not mean continuing in the same vein. The point was to get from a dirt track to a paved road. That done, the needs are different now.)

Hillary has lived my collegiate position, and I respect that. She acted like a white man, played the white man’s game, and did it well. She was better than the white men and, by my own philosophy, she should have succeeded. She deserved to succeed. Unfortunately, I think I’ve evolved beyond that position over the last several years and her candidacy threw that into relief. When I had to make a choice between Hillary’s white man positions and Obama’s call to play a different game, I had to go with the different game.

No one can miss that Hillary is a woman the same way no one can miss that Obama is a black man. In supporting one of the candidates’ platforms, you were necessarily also supporting his race or her gender. This is where Obama came out ahead, and it’s not because overcoming the racial barrier means more to me than overcoming the gender barrier. All other things being equal, I’d have taken the woman over the man. But all other things weren’t equal. It’s strange to say it, but Obama took race (and gender bias) out of the equation and left me free to support him as a candidate.

Of course Obama was managing the race card. But his management of it did not include playing it. Of course he benefited from an enormous African-American turnout. Of course that played a role in his strategy, where he went, what he said, how he said it. But that’s materially different from positioning himself as a qualified black man. He positioned himself as a qualified candidate with a new vision that included new rules for an old and broken game. And by “game” I mean how we think about and run our society.

What it boils down to is that, regardless of how I and other women felt about Hillary as a person (a ridiculous statement, given that I and most voters have never met the woman), if I’d pulled for her, thrown my weight behind her the way I eventually did for Obama, I would have been doing it because she was a woman, not because I agreed with her. It would have been mild gender-based coercion. I didn’t want to vote for a category the way I have in the last couple elections – a Democrat, any Democrat, anything but Bush, etc. . I would have if I’d had to, but I didn’t want to. I wanted to vote for someone of any race or gender or sexual orientation who could get us closer to where we need to go. To me, that’s a “post- ______” place where race doesn’t matter and neither does gender. What you stand for is what matters – justice, peace, transperancy, reason, objectivity – and may the best person win.

Hillary will make an excellent Secretary of State and I hope Obama will make an excellent President. I believe I put my eggs in the right basket for the right reason, even if I wasn’t clear on exactly why until now.

Advertisements

Tags: , , , ,

Categories: News, Nuisance, Miscellany

Subscribe

Subscribe to our RSS feed and social profiles to receive updates.

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: