Wednesday, January 9, 2008

I don't get it.

Watching all the news coverage of the New Hampshire primaries has been driving me crazy over the past week. First of all, I'm pretty sure I can't sustain this level of coverage for the next ten months. I realize once the nominees are selected, it will quiet down for a little while--but not that much, since then there will be that pesky general election to deal with.

Anyway, what's been particularly bothering me recently is all the coverage of Hillary Clinton and the heavy emphasis on the fact that she's a woman. People say she's too serious, she needs to soften up, those tears on Monday were just an attempt to feminize herself, it's good she's started dressing in bright colours, etc.

Okay. First of all, it bothers me that the fact that she's a woman is being harped on so incredibly much, but I can understand it, since every candidate has that--Obama with being black, Romney with being Mormon, etc. Anything that makes you stand out gets discussed. Fine.

But what's pissing me off is the intense discussion of why Hillary wasn't winning the women's vote. On Monday night, CNN had a reporter talking about how young women today don't remember a time before the women's movement, so they don't understand the urgency of electing a woman to office. The reporter went on and on about how a lot of people just don't believe that a woman can be president--and some of those people are women.

Here's the issue. I like Hillary fine. I like Obama a little better. But for me, it isn't a question of the gender of either candidate. Whether the candidate is a man or a woman isn't a voting issue for me. I guess I would say that if there were two candidates who were literally identical in every way except that one is a man and the other is a woman, I would use gender as the deciding factor and vote for the woman. But given that no such scenario exists in real life, I don't care about the gender of the candidates, I care about their stances and their backgrounds and everything else that people normally look at when evaluating presidential candidates.

I don't think I'll be voting for Hillary in the primary, and it's not because I'm a woman who doesn't believe women would make a good president. It's because there are other candidates whose politics I prefer.

My question is, is it just me? Am I just so young and short-sighted that I don't remember what it was like for women not to be considered equals, and therefore I don't place enough importance on the gender of the candidate? After all, my mother says that she likes John Edwards' stances best, but she refuses to vote for a white man. Am I missing the historical understanding that would make me believe that it's important for a woman to vote for a woman on that basis alone? Would you vote for Hillary, or any woman, just because she's a woman?

49 comments:

La said...

I like to think I'm feminist to a degree, but I don't think I'd ever vote for a woman, just because she's a woman. I'll vote for the best candidate. Period.

violet said...

I understand the dilemma and have been feeling very frustrated of late for simialr reasons. Indeed - do my negative perceptions of hillary come from a media bias against strong women and the same behavior in men would be more acceptable to me? I don't know. But i don't like her politics best - as least I dont think i do. Gah this is the election that wont end - it feels like its been on full tilt since this time last year...

dreamgirl said...

i love the fact that we live in a world where we have a black man and a woman running for president and they both have a LOT of support. right now im still undecided, but i will say that i do feel proud that she won last night, probably mostly because she's a woman. i will have to continue to stay on top of their positions and THEN make my choice

LoriD said...

I think it diminishes her strength as a candidate overall to count her gender as one of the reasons to cast a vote for her. There is no doubt that electing a woman to the White House would break down a number of barriers to participation by women in politics, but if she gets in just because she's a woman... well, that will do more harm than good.

Alice said...

i'm frustrated about that, too. plus i'm coming from new jersey, where christine whitman won the race for governer when i was growing up, due largely to women voting for her solely because she was a woman... then some of those women regretting the policies they'd ended up electing.

A Margarita said...

It's a tough question. I'm definitely tempted because wow, to have our first female president would be great. However, I'm with you on the preference for Obama. Very tough call.

Deutlich said...

I'm having a really, really hard time giving a damn about this round of elections. Call me jaded.

Tessie said...

It IS a tough call. I haven't yet decided between Obama and Clinton, but I thought she did well in the televised debate.

I think gender is less of an issue than the media is making it seem. But I do think that Hillary Clinton has been deemed "unlikeable" in a way that she wouldn't have been if she was a man. I think she is expected to be MORE likeable, for whatever reason, because she's a woman.

I liked her answer to the likeability question in the debate, which was the GWB was considered "likeable" and someone the voters would like to have a beer with, and many people regret supporting him on that basis.

lspoon said...

My mother put it best..."2 terms of Clinton is enough."

Just so you know I'm a card carrying Democrat but I'm a conservative one.

Clink said...

I'm essentially color/gender blind when it comes to politics - I want to vote for whomever I think will do a good job running the country.

And I'm also from New Jersey, like Alice, where voting for a woman just because she's a woman didn't work out so well.

Though, there is a small part of me that would love to have a female president. Or a black one.

Michelle said...

i totally agree. i mean i like hilary, but i'm not sure yet if i'll vote for her. i would love to have a woman president, it would definitely be a huge step for this country. but so would having a african american president.

i'm going to vote based on what the candidates stand for though. not their sex or race. how it should be.

bridgid said...

Thank you for writing about this! I could not agree with you more, and it is *so* nice to know that other people can look beyond what minority group(s) a particular candidate belongs to when evaluating their political platforms.

3carnations said...

It's a big deal that a woman is running for president because it has never happened. It's been 20 years since a woman was even on the ticket as Vice President.

Her being a woman has no bearing on my vote. Nor does Obama being black, Romney being Mormon. I think gender, ethnicity and religion are irrelevant for the most part. I vote solely on issues.

L Sass said...

On some level, it bothers me that I'm supporting Obama and not Clinton. I feel as though I should support a viable female candidate, but I just think Obama is the better candidate. Of course, I feel pretty lucky as a Democrat, because I could enthusiastically and happily support Clinton, Obama or Edwards in the general election. It's nice to have three very good choices. I just think Obama is the very best choice!

each of the two said...

no,

i would consider voting for her because Obama wont win a presidential election and the republicans know it and so want him to get the nomination.

but that has nothing to do with her being a woman or not,it has to do with not wanting another "Bush" in office

fully operational battle station said...

No. Hillary scares me and I wouldn't trust her to babysit my turtle. Which, coincidentally, I don't have a turtle, but you get it.

Go Obama! LOVE him!

Jamie

Flibberty said...

Personally, I'm not too sure about any of these candidates, but also I think it's a damn shame when people support a candidate simply because of their sex, race, or religion and really know nothing else. But then again, television changed everything with Kennedy and Nixon, because Nixon was sweaty and not as good looking.

JMC said...

I think your vote should reflect your political beliefs and how well the candidate fits your beliefs. Also, how believable their excuses for not voting according to their supposed political beliefs, like all of them are wont to do. I'm feeling pretty cynical and apathetic about the whole thing.

SOOOOOOO, I think maybe I'll vote according to the candidate's spoofability factor (one I will arbitrarily make up, of course), because I'm thinking the most important thing in this election is that we breathe new life into Saturday Night Live and MadTV.

Maxie said...

I think it just goes to show that they have this crap on the news too much. They have to come up with stupid ways to compare the candidates because the run out of rational things to say.

ttcmb said...

I agree with you. I won't vote for someone based on gender, just like I won't vote for someone based on color. I will vote based on who I think can do the best in the office and who will benefit the country the most. There is a lot to be done to get us back on track and I will vote for the person that I think is best suited. If it happens to be Hilary, fine, if not, fine.

Also, I think that the media is really harsh with her. She is too tough, not tough enough, not womanly enough, to womanly...she just can't win with the media.

Marie said...

Granted I can't exactly vote, but if I could, I would base my vote on the candidate's ideas, where they stand on various issues, their politics, their political resume and choices they have made. I wouldn't base my vote on whether the person is female or male; black, white, asian, hispanic, etc.; christian, muslim, jewish, etc....I think you get the point.

Personally, I really don't like Hillary Clinton and her politics. But that's just me.

Stefanie said...

I was just thinking on the way to work today (listening to NPR) that I really wish I were more excited about Hillary. I would love to vote for a woman, but only if she's the right candidate. I won't vote for a woman solely because she's a woman. I will definitely vote for Hillary if she gets the Democratic nomination. But until then, I'm not convinced Kucinich, Edwards, or Obama aren't maybe a better choice.

Banana said...

I really like Tessie's comment. I think the biggest reason it is such an issue is exactly how Tessie put it- She is "unlikable" for many simply because she's a woman. Her strong, serious, "ball busting" persona is off-putting because she's the wrong gender for that sort of behavior.

With that said, I'm voting for Obama because I like his politics better. However (looks like I'm in the minority here), I do think its important to talk about it. If we don't publicly discuss issues as they affect us we get into all sorts of trouble. I completely agree that her gender shouldn't be an issue, but unfortunately for many it is, and that is why the rest of us can't be completely gender/color blind.

I'm a communication nerd and I love this sort of rhetoric and discourse. Thanks for the post Jess.

Saly said...

Personally, I feel like voting for someone because they are a woman or because they are a certain race is the same as NOT voting for those people for the same reason.

We need to vote for the best candidates, period, rather than focusing on gender or race.

3carnations said...

I feel compelled to add - While I don't think we should based on gender/race/religion, I also don't think we should vote solely based on political party. I hope everyone is looking at the issues for EVERY candidate - Not just the members of their preferred party. I've been to all the candidates' websites.

I found a neat poll through ABC news' website that asked about 10 questions on various hot topic issues and then told you who your top 3 candidates are based on the responses. My preferred candidate was #3 on my list, but I agreed with as many of his answers as I did my #1 person. I looked at WHICH issues I agreed with, and I agree with the candidate I've supported all along on the issues that are most important to me.

I'll get off my soapbox now... :)

JMC said...

Here's the linkto what 3carnations is talking about. It's really cool. I was surprised by who I matched with (except for my #1, but #s 2 & 3 were surprising).

alyndabear said...

I wouldn't vote for anyone JUST because of their demographic. Obviously all politicians are.. well, politicians, but it's got to be about the plans for fixing things. I'm not American, but I would be backing Obama.

Pickles & Dimes said...

I wouldn't vote for someone based on their gender, but I do feel proud that Hillary's out there busting balls.

But also? Every time I think I like a candidate, I hear more about their stances on certain issues and then I get disappointed. I truly don't know who to vote for this time out.

Chelsea Talks Smack said...

No I won't vote JUST because she's a woman. Honestly, I'm so torn between her and Obama...I would would vote for her because she is FIERCELY smart. Incredibly intelligent.
Truly, I would be honored to have either of them as my president.

Either way history is behing made, but my liking ofr them goes FAR beyond being black, or being a woman. It's about BEING great president.

Tilly said...

First of all, I completely agree about the media coverage. Fiji is obsessed and while I am too, it makes me anxious after too long. I mean, watching the percentages click up and back down--JEESH!

Anyway, I won't vote for Hilary just because she's a woman, but like you, it's because I feel connected to Obama and trust him and his politics more than Clinton's. He is about unification and communication and that is exactly what I think our country needs. Also, listening to him speak gives me the chills and I can think his passion will invigorate our nation.

Le Petit Chic said...

I wouldn't vote for a woman just because she's a woman either, but I'm inclined to vote for her because she is a Clinton :) Just kidding, but I did love Bill. I'm still undecided about who I'll vote for.

Swistle said...

I'm the same as you: if the candidates were identical (impossible), I'd vote for the girl, because I think it would be nice to even things out. But voting for a girl because she's a girl is as bad as NOT voting for her BECAUSE she's a girl.

I almost don't WANT a female president, because I don't want to hear all the CRAP that's going to happen with it. ANY flaw will be attributed to her being a girl. I HATE THAT ALREADY.

She Likes Purple said...

I didn't read all the comments, so I'm not sure if I'm saying something that's already been said or addressed, but I agree with you. I vote for people based on how they speak to me, how their platforms and issues directly relate to the lives of me and my family and the lives of any children I hope to have.

With all that said, I do like Hillary quite a lot, but I've liked her for a while. Out of the Democtratic candidates, I actually do like her best but I think the others are strong, as well. Putting my thoughts on her aside, I think this is a huge election and there's so much buzzing because it IS rather exciting... to be at a time in our history when we're potentially breaking new ground (in a few ways, not just in "a woman may be president" way). I think she's proven herself to be a strong politican, no spotlight on gender needed.

brandy said...

Ahhhhh! I love, love, love you for posting this. I've been having serious rage issues regarding this for the last few days.

My problem isn't people who vote for Hillary because she's a woman, my problem is people who vote for her only BECAUSE she is a women. (Or Obama because he is black). To vote for a candidate based solely on something they can't control (skin color, gender) is insane. And personally? I think voting for someone only because they are a woman is just as bad as NOT voting for them because they are women. Whatever happened to issues?

Nilsa S. said...

Best candidate means different things to different people. I understand the argument that it's high time we elect a woman to office. We are the United States of America, leader of the free world, yet we are so ass-backward when it comes to promotion of minorities, including women, blacks, the elderly, handicapped, etc. It's taken us HOW LONG to have legitimate black and female candidates while other countries have elected these people to office eons ago?! In all honesty, our country disgraces me sometimes. Most of America probably wouldn't vote for a woman for fear she would cry in front of other world leaders. I'm started to get light headed - dehydrated from all the steam pouring out of my ears. Must go now. :)

Captain Backfire said...

This election has focused way to much on celebrity and race/gender issues. And it's pissing me off. It really should be about where the candidates stand. I have no idea who I'm going to vote for; I'm a Republican but I want to the war to be over so I'm probably going to vote for whoever I really believe will end it.

ana said...

It is ridiculous all the crazy coverage and the endless discussions : will it be a woman or a black man. Jesus! I don't get it either, I like Obama way more than I like Hillary, and my liking is purely based on my political reasoning, it has nothing to do with gender.

A.P. said...

I'm voting Obama. and as far as voting based on gender, race blah blah blah.... that all doesn't matter. But... I think Hilary herself is putting alot of emphasis on being a woman. Whenever I click the tv on and see campaign stuff- it's her saying "lets make history." which is just saying- vote for me because I'm a woman. I'm all for women's rights, but I dont think that should be the reason why people vote for her. juuuust my opinion.

BS said...

Interesting. I hear Obama referencing the civil rights movement more than I notice Clinton saying "let's make history."

It infuriates me that the male candidates keep referring to Senator Clinton by her first name during debates and in formal settings (like interviews) while using titles for the other candidates. Has anyone else noticed this?

Did anyone read Gloria Steinem's Op-Ed in the Times yesterday? When you see Obama's experience laid out like that, it does seem like he would make a great president...in eight years.

Unnaturally Blonde said...

I'm taking advantage of national Delurking Week and finally comments after weeks of reading!

I'm interested in the women vote. Iowa is a little more traditional in my opinion and they weren't interested in Hillary. I actually heard on TV the other day that if she doesn't fair well in the primaries they expect a Clinton divorce within two years.

brandy said...

bs- From what I've read, it was actually Hillary who wanted it to be a first name situation. Being called "Senator Clinton" made people think of Bill before her- something her people didn't want. At least that's what I've heard.

Damsel in Digress said...

i love hillary. and i like obama. they're very different candidates but i truly respect both as possible democratic candidates (and, hopefully, our future president). their intelligence and capability are what strike me first and foremost.

but i also love that they are not your typical "old, white men" - and i'm not afraid to say that. while i don't think anyone should vote for any candidate simply for their sex or their race, i do love that we - more than 200 years after the birth of this country - get an opportunity to vote for a woman or an african american male as serious presidential candidates. as a minority female, i find it absolutely inspiring. i would never vote for either hillary or obama if i didn't think they were capable. but the fact that they are the most attractive candidates to me out of all the people running - democratic or republican - and, to boot, a woman and an african american man? it's fantastic.

thanks for this post, jess, and getting us all to think about a very important topic.

Stephanie said...

I definitely would not vote for Hillary just because she's a woman. In fact, I'm not sure a woman would make the best president at all. At any rate, this entire presidential race is so unprecedented that who knows what will happen next!

crystall said...

You know what ticks me off is when guys go off talking about how we can't have a woman in the White House because we have periods?

DO YOU MORONS REALIZE THAT AT 60 SOMETHING WE DON'T HAVE PERIODS ANYMORE?

Public Service Annoucement - Love, Crystal.

(And I don't know about Hillary. Homegirl has a little thing called CANKLES)

Swistle said...

I have to change what I said, because sleeping on it made me realize I AM influenced by the novelty factor. I find presidents to ALWAYS be a disappointment, so why not choose one who'd be FRESH in some way? I DO look at the issues, but I'm influenced more than I should be by other factors.

I'm also influenced by candidate spouses, because it tells me something about how the candidate shows consideration for others. Does a male candidate have a spacey-eyed, submissive wife? Then I don't think much of what he considers an ideal woman. Maybe this shouldn't influence me, but it really does.

BS said...

Brandy: I hadn't heard that so thanks.

Swistle: I couldn't agree with you more about candidates' spouses, particularly potential first ladies. I think it says something not only about how the candidates show consideration, but also about how they feel about women.

amber said...

No way. I'm consider myself something of a feminist, but I would never vote for a candidate just because that person was female. I feel like THAT is the kind of mistake that will get the wrong woman in office, and then all of the pathetic naysayers with go on about how women just can't do it, and then we'll have to wait even longer to have a successful female president. I prefer Obama, and that's probably who I'll be voting for.

Hiya, I'm Kristie. said...

I would never vote a woman just because she's a woman. I vote for principals and values and morals and their political standpoint. If a 4 eyed, tattooed, midget was running and they were the best candidate, you better believe I'll be voting for them. THe women's movement is important, but not as important as voting for what you believe in, no matter the sex.

the frog princess said...

If I didn't like her politics, I wouldn't vote for her, period.

Okay, okay, maybe if it were a "lesser of two evils" situation, if I were stuck with two candidates I loathed, I might vote for the woman based on gender alone. Might.

Fortunately for me, I like Hillary's politics--most of them (hey, no candidate is perfect). So I escaped the female guilt bubble on this one :)