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Keli Goff Headshot

Candidate Clinton Was Not a Victim of Sexism But Secretary Clinton Is

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About this time last year I was still having passionate debates with friends -- fellow feminists -- who were convinced that the reason Barack Obama was on his way to Denver to become the Democratic nominee for president, was because a savagely sexist media had served up the nomination to him on a silver platter.

I disagreed.

As I wrote on the Huffington Post, I believed that Hillary Clinton's problem was not sexism but Hillary-ism, as in the people who were criticizing her did not have a problem with all women, but they did have a problem with her. As proof of this I noted analysis during the primary indicating that while women as a whole were a stronghold for Clinton, younger women were not.

I was particularly incensed at the silliness (bordering on downright offensive) demonstrated by some Clinton supporters, most notably Gloria Steinem, who intimated that the 2008 primary was proof that sexism is worse than racism today. (I wonder how she and others have responded to the plethora of racist comments and jokes currently circulating about President Obama that have become so commonplace that they elicit the same reaction as GOP sex scandals now do -- a yawn.) So it comes as a bit of a surprise to me that now that Hillary Clinton has officially experienced an instance of blatant sexism there's no outcry.

Though we are embroiled in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and trying to avoid possible nuclear war with Iran and North Korea, the leading news story about the Secretary of State is that she informed someone that she is the Secretary of State, not her husband. The Associated Press described her as "snapping" and "incredulous." The New York Post and New York Daily News deemed the moment cover story worthy, with The Post blaring: "Blowing a Power Fuse" and the News proclaiming, "Clinton Loses Cool." All I could think when I read that is that she should have.

If someone had asked former Secretary of State Colin Powell what his lovely wife Alma thought of a particular policy issue, my guess is he would have been incredulous too. But the reality is no one would ask Secretary Powell that. I know some might argue that it is an unfair comparison, that Secretary Clinton is unique because she is married to a former president, but how many times was the most recent President Bush asked to articulate the policy positions of his father, the former president?

But what I find more disturbing than the question itself (which was blamed on a translating glitch although it now seems there wasn't one), is the reaction to it. Media outlets depicted Secretary Clinton as unhinged -- overcome with jealousy over her husband's recent return to the spotlight in North Korea -- but after watching the footage all I saw is a woman who has spent her entire life trying to be her own person and despite her best efforts, is being deprived of the opportunity to do so.

Secretary Clinton did nothing but tell the truth and if that makes critics uncomfortable then that is a greater reflection on their gender attitudes, than on whether or not she has an attitude.

This piece originally appeared on for which Goff is a political writer.