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Linda Keenan Headshot

Am I a Hillary-Hating Sexist? You Tell Me

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My brilliant artist friend Jackie knows a woman who filmed her own cervix for her MFA thesis, and I can't think of a more rigorous feminist self-examination than that.

I don't plan to show you my cervix here (though, as of my last colposcopy, I can report happily that it is pink and shiny and healthy, yay!) But I thought I might do my own rigorous self-examination of my personal attitudes and public utterances here on the Huffington Post toward Hillary Clinton.

I know I'm late to the game on the whole Hillary vs. sexism thing (I've been busy taking that "10-year nap" of toddler childcare, and have the bruises to prove it.) Still, I was compelled to write after hearing the comment this week from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. While agreeing that Sen. Clinton had indeed been hindered by sexism, Pelosi also said that she herself has been a victim of it, "all the time. But I just think it goes with the territory. I don't sit around to say, but for that..." She might as well have added "you don't hear me bitchin' and moanin' about it!"

I think this is a pernicious and competitive attitude held by many successful women. It's just part of the atmosphere, ladies, deal with it, see, I did! So I began to ask myself: as an early Obama supporter, did I have insidious attitudes that colored my attitude towards Sen. Clinton? You tell me.

- I found myself saying, "give it up, already!" under my breath numerous times, well before the primaries were finished. Sexist?
Answer: Yes.
I strongly believed that the protracted primary battle served as sloppy wet kiss to the Republicans, but would I have been so quick to say 'give it up, already!' about a man? I don't think so. This is the exact phrase I had in my head, and it suggests irritation with someone I viewed as a pesky annoyance, not a real contender for the candidacy who had garnered millions of votes.

- I had done due diligence on both candidates and decided Sen. Obama was as strong a candidate, had a better chance in the general election, and didn't come with the baggage of the Clinton years. But at some level, I think I was inevitably drawn in by the glamour and youth of the entire Obama family.
Sexist?
Answer: Yes.
Older women (as I'm starting to realize myself) become invisible to the world, unless they force you, by sheer will, to see them, as Senator Clinton did. The Obama family fit the archetype buried in my head for the perfect young family in the White House, and I can't deny that this must have added to my enthusiasm for the candidate.

- I refused to countenance Senator Clinton's experience in the White House or as Governor's wife as true experience, and wrote about wanting my first woman President to be wholly uncompromised by male power.
Sexist?
Answer: Perhaps, or at the very least, too idealistic.
In my eyes, the soft power of a politician's spouse, even a formidable one like Sen. Clinton, is unaccountable power, and far from transparent. It's impossible to subject that kind of power to the intense scrutiny that lawmakers, governors and the like should face as they run for office. I still believe this. But beyond that, I argued that the first woman President should ideally be one who didn't come in on the coattails of a man. The fact is, however, that women were excluded from most venues of power only two generations ago, or less. Is it realistic to expect a female leader at this moment to be perfectly cleansed of male power? And why do I expect this sort of purity from women, but not men? I certainly don't support Sen. McCain, but I've never put much, or any thought into the idea that he was compromised as leadership material by his wife's mighty economic power, even though I knew she was the money bags in the family.

- I was drawn more to the life-story of Obama's mother as the model of a feminist icon than I was to the life of Hillary Clinton. Sexist?
Answer: Maybe/Yes.
I wrote recently about the globe-trotting, rule-bending way of life led by Ann Soetoro, Obama's mother, and was greatly impressed with her apparent tireless work as a backer of microfinance in poor countries. I was also drawn in by the quote of a colleague that said Soetoro was not personally ambitious or one to seek power. It was grass-roots policy work that fired her up. At first, I thought, "this is a woman who inspires me" (and still does). But I think there was an element of preferring a woman who didn't seek recognition or personal power. I don't fault her son for seeking personal power. But by celebrating Ann Soetoro and her chronic self-effacement, I think I was implicitly scolding Hillary Clinton for relentlessly seeking power of her own.

- I was apoplectic that Sen. Clinton made those ghoulish comments about staying in the race, because, well, look what happened to RFK? Was my reaction disproportionate to the offense, because I expect a woman to be more careful, nicer? Was that sexist?
Answer: Maybe/Yes
My gut reaction to these highly troubling statements was this: she either has ice water coursing her veins or is stupid for thoughtlessly voicing the terrible assassination implication. And no one has ever accused Hillary Clinton of being stupid. But do I ever care if male politicians are cold-blooded? Maybe a tiny bit, but I surely hold women to a far higher standard in this department. Women can only be so tactical before I instinctively recoil. In my defense, the satire I wrote about the Senator's comments also took aim at that double-standard imposed on Senator Clinton, by myself and others.

So what do you think? Fire away, I'm a big girl, I can take it. You don't hear me complaining. I'll probably get some big, ugly, screeching, chortling belly laughs out of it. Now back to my 10-year nap.