Tuesday, January 8, 2008

trail of tears? gender's campaign 8-ball

Crying on the campaign trail emerged for real yesterday, as tears came to Hillary Clinton's eyes when she described the pressures of her campaign. Note that this passage from the Times' story emphasizes that she did not cry:
Her eyes visibly wet, in perhaps the most public display of emotion of her year-old campaign, Mrs. Clinton added: “I have so many opportunities from this country, I just don’t want to see us fall backwards. This is very personal for me — it’s not just political, it’s not just public.” Mrs. Clinton did not cry, but her quavering voice and the flash of feeling underscored the pressure, fatigue, anger and disappointment that, advisers say, Mrs. Clinton has experienced since her loss on Thursday in the Iowa caucuses and that she continues to shoulder at this most critical moment.
And on the Times op-ed page today, Gloria Steinem tackles the issue of why women "are never front-runners." She describes a mixed-race female candidate--one with the same qualifications and family as Obama, then notes:
If the lawyer described above had been just as charismatic but named, say, Achola Obama instead of Barack Obama, her goose would have been cooked long ago. Indeed, neither she nor Hillary Clinton could have used Mr. Obama’s public style — or Bill Clinton’s either — without being considered too emotional by Washington pundits.
Steinem's piece offers a strong reminder that issues of gender and race shouldn't be pitted against one another, yet are, to the detriment of both. In an eloquent passage, she asks:
So why is the sex barrier not taken as seriously as the racial one? The reasons are as pervasive as the air we breathe: because sexism is still confused with nature as racism once was; because anything that affects males is seen as more serious than anything that affects “only” the female half of the human race; because children are still raised mostly by women (to put it mildly) so men especially tend to feel they are regressing to childhood when dealing with a powerful woman; because racism stereotyped black men as more “masculine” for so long that some white men find their presence to be masculinity-affirming (as long as there aren’t too many of them); and because there is still no “right” way to be a woman in public power without being considered a you-know-what.
Steinem -- who supports Clinton -- also speaks highly of Obama's approach and policies. What are your thoughts about the passage above? I'm especially interested in hearing your examples and experiences related to women in public settings.