"Why is it that the more Hillary loses, the better I like her?" This was the opening line of Susan Cheever's radio commentary last week on NPR. You'd have thought, or at least hoped, that after seventeen months of Senator Clinton running for the White House, the disconnect between men and the women who support Clinton would have gotten smaller. No such luck. Listening to Cheever, I decided that as the campaign has come down to these very last few primaries, and Clinton's shot at winning has traveled to the dark side of remote, the disconnect has grown even larger.
Cheever says that she'd always felt an affinity for Clinton because "she was never the pretty, simpering, long-legged blonde we were all supposed to be; she had to find another way to be a woman. Me too." I've heard that premise before and been a bit confused by it every time. If Hillary had the same smarts, resume and health care plan, but looked and talked like Gwyneth Paltrow, would Cheever be supporting Barack Obama?
How could I know? How could I appreciate sexism and the objectification that propels it? Hang on, I'll get to that.
What about the war vote? Some women Senators actually believed in the war, just as some male Senators did, neither group compensating for anything -- they got to being depraved the honest way. But Senator Clinton? She has preferred to go with the defense of criminal naivety, but I've never bought it. For that reason I believe that we are more likely to be obliterating Iran if Clinton is president than if Obama is, which was recently confirmed by... Clinton.
But, if it wasn't for sexist stereotypes, Clinton wouldn't have had to vote for the war in an effort to "look strong." But, she didn't have to. She could have voted "no" and then taken to the floor of the Senate and given a heart-felt speech, delving into the all the manifestations and ramifications of sexism, just as Obama did with racism. It could have ended with the words, "I say this because I want Susan Cheever to be even more proud of me than if the only blow I struck for feminism was never giving up on superdelegates."
But again, what do I know of sexism? Okay -- before we get to the most recent incarnation of the woman/man disconnect -- I'll say this:
If you are looking for a guy who has made an effort to put himself in a woman's shoes, look no further than me. And, I can say that in a literal sense. Recently, I walked in "the International Men's March to Stop Rape, Sexual Assault & Gender Violence," subtitled "Walk a Mile In Her Shoes." As a participant I marched with other men for a mile, all of us wearing high heeled shoes.
Hold the applause.
After participating, I never told any woman I know. It would have been a no-win situation. Because there might have been women who congratulated me for being liberated and evolved. They might have thanked me for my solidarity. Maybe, I would even have had the opportunity to show off all the concepts and quotes I've picked up reading Virginia Woolf, Germaine Greer, Andrea Dworkin and John Stoltenberg.
But if their appreciation of me was based on an assumption that I was a man who did not objectify women, I would have felt compelled to admit that I objectify women like Hugh Hefner on spring break. No one wants to hear that. Even Cheever doesn't want to contemplate the full feralness of men. Women "get respect for having good legs" she says. Respect is much too lofty a sentiment.
Not that we men are completely unfamiliar with being judged for our beauty. Cheever herself tips that when she says, "when I tell a handsome man at a party that I support Hillary..." he says, "'that figures, you're an older woman'" Handsome? Why not "a man?" She's probably right -- just after my 29th birthday I experienced a brief period of handsomeness and I distinctly recall being incapable of empathy.
Nonetheless, it would be ludicrous to deny Cheever's implied point that --
unlike women -- an average looking guy, even a less than average looking guy, even a ferret-faced troll with a hunchback, can derive sexual power from having... well, power.
And, of course, we know it.
Take Hillary's husband, Bill. There he was, average looking, immersing himself in the arcanary of the federal tax code. Never would have happened if he thought he could be McDreamy in Hollywood, dating a different starlet every night.
And, I'm not picking on Bill because he got caught with an intern. I'm picking on Bill because he cemented his claim on the White House by signing the death warrant for the execution of Ricky Ray Rector. Rector was the effectively mentally retarded fellow back in Arkansas who was so incapable of understanding his imminent execution that he left the pecan pie from his "last meal" on the side of the tray, telling the guards he was saving it "for later." You don't do what Clinton did because you are thinking, "yes, but once in office, think of all the good I can do." You do that because you are thinking, "I'm gonna' get me mine."
And that brings us back to Hillary and her version of throwing the switch on Rector -- voting for the war -- and Cheever loving her the more she loses.
Shouldn't a leader have to earn your love by doing more than being just like you? Shouldn't that leader be proceeding as if -- to paraphrase Henry Hassett Browne & John Donne -- all men and women are born brothers and sisters and anything that diminishes either of them, hurts me? I'd claim that. That is why I marched.
But Clinton diminishes us all. How can Cheever, or anyone else, say that Clinton is expanding the boundaries of what is possible for women when she keeps defining her legitimacy by claiming that other women will never expand theirs? Older white women will not, no never, vote for Barack? With that sort of limitation on the possible, one could be forgiven thinking that handsome men will not, no never, get beyond saying, "that figures" when speaking about her.