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Margaret Heffernan Headshot

Disunited We Will Never Stand

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Last week, it was my turn to drive the carpool. With three nine-year-olds in the back of the car, I listened as they tore their 'girlfriends' to shreds. Miranda is just too skinny. Imogen will never learn to sing in key. And did you see that awful coat Emily was wearing?

If I were a man, I'd be laughing. Women rule the world? Never in a million years. Because they still haven't figured out how to stick together.

Look at Hillary Clinton's campaign. Women -- not men, women -- attack her because she isn't feeling enough, then because she's too emotional, and then because her emotion is fake.

Women -- not men -- attack her because, they say, they don't want to vote for someone who's married to Bill Clinton. In other words, it is women who can't see Hillary as anything except a wife. I always thought it was the guys who were supposed to be that narrow minded.

Women -- not men -- make catty remarks about her cheeks, her makeup, her dress sense, her voice. Not men, women.

Women -- not men -- pass judgment on her marriage as though this has serious bearing on her performance as a legislator. If men did this, they'd be instantly castigated as trivializers. But they don't need to do it, because we do it for them.

Supporting Hillary isn't the issue. Since time immemorial, we have been socialized to compete with each other for the attention of men. Think of all those Jane Austen novels, of Scarlett O'Hara competing for Ashley Wilkes, Margo Channing in All About Eve or Alex Forrest in Fatal Attraction. This ancient behavior persists to this day, hobbling what chances we might have for progress."United we stand"? That simple phrase alone could explain why we've made such feeble inroads politically. The divided never rule.

Driving my carpool full of the future, I turned around to my 9-year-old passengers and read them the riot act. Every time they attack their girlfriends, I said, they attack themselves. Let's call it displaced self-harm. Then we can see it for what it really is.