A site of satirical musings, commentary and/or rhetorical criticism of the world at large.

My Photo
Location: Southeastern, Pennsylvania, United States

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Beyond Bitch

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) created a controversy recently when she asserted her femininity on the floor of the Senate. It seems that she wore a blouse with a plunging neckline that showed the tiniest hint of cleavage from beneath a suit jacket. Fashion editor Robin Givhan noted the cleavage in the Style section of the July 20th edition of The Washington Post. The Clinton campaign reacted with outrage at this latest attempt by the media to reduce their candidate’s work to a sexist photo op.

Okay, everyone. Let’s just take a step back and consider this from all angles. First let’s consider the source.

Robin Givhan is the fashion editor for The Washington Post. She is paid to write about how people look in public. She is not a national affairs writer concerned with the great troubling issues confronting our society. She writes about fashions, cosmetics, and physical attributes — it’s all about appearances. This writer will always be concerned with style over substance. In a perfect world, substance should be valued more, but, oh right, we don’t live in a perfect world.

Ms. Givhan’s article might have been noted by many as trivial, but the Clinton campaign ensured it would become front-page news. Obviously not subscribing to the old adage that any publicity - no matter how adverse — is good publicity, the Clinton campaign took the e-mail route and decried the media’s attitude to her supporters. Naturally, they were able to spin it so that the supporters sent lots of money to the campaign. The Clinton campaign should send the media a thank you note for dropping this moneymaking opportunity into their laps.

Otherwise, the Clinton campaign reaction seems much ado about nothing. After all, it’s not like she did a fan dance or something resembling a Las Vegas lounge act. Although, members of Congress should consider spicing up their speeches for public consumption. Perhaps the Democratic Black Caucus can do selections from Porgy and Bess or Scott Joplin’s Treemonisha. The Republicans could break up the monotony of speech after speech with a performance of Hamlet. Vice-President Cheney could make a rare appearance in the Senate talking about the success of the Bush administration; in other words, a comedy act. Ratings for C-Span would soar and people would definitely take an interest in government again.

We should all agree that substance is more important, even as we must begrudgingly acknowledge the fact that a candidate’s physical appearance plays a big part in how the electorate perceives them. The message the candidate sends is important, but if the candidate doesn’t measure up to the voter’s perception of the ideal candidate, then no one will stick around long enough to hear the message. I realize that this is a great challenge for a female candidate, particularly since the world of politics (and business for that matter) calls for them to act in a traditionally unfeminine manner.

Let’s look at our candidate. Hillary Clinton is ambitious, assertive, aggressive, and any other number of adjectives we can think of to describe her demeanor that many believe is overbearing. Yes, we have all heard people label her a ‘bitch’, most memorably in the classic television interview Connie Chung vs. Mrs. Gingrich (Newt’s mom). Now that was great television!

Also, we should bear in mind that Hillary does not obnoxiously flaunt her femininity like Ann Coulter. Talk about bitch, this woman’s message is poisonous and her methods are lethal to any sane discussion about the issues. No one would pay any attention to Coulter if it weren’t for the fact that the super short skirts she favors make her legs appear to be eight miles long.

Okay, so many people perceive Hillary Clinton to be a bitch. Now is the opportunity for Mrs. Clinton to show the world that she can be a leader, yet still exude that quality that makes her human. She was born a female. Deal with it, conservative right! If she can succeed in doing this, then she can take her image beyond the bitch label and redefine how a female politician is perceived in this country.

Perhaps this is what the Clinton campaign thought they were doing when they raised such a fuss over the Givhan article. Unfortunately, they risked doing what other feminists have done recently: not choosing their fights wisely. Case in point: last year two extremely conservative judges with pro-life views ascended to the Supreme Court. The National Organization of Women (NOW) did not get much media attention in fighting these nominations. They did, however, get media attention when they railed against Penn State football coach, Joe Paterno, for making a sexist joke when he was actually making a self-deprecating comment. Here feminists were seen as fighting the wrong fight at the wrong time and now women’s reproductive rights are being threatened.

Or perhaps the Clinton campaign is correct in blaming the media for any misconceptions people may have about their candidate. Still, we must bear in mind that the media are just the messengers, the carriers of whatever words and actions the candidate communicates to the people. Ultimately, the blame for failure and the credit for success rests on the candidate’s padded shoulders.


Post a Comment

<< Home