June 30, 2014

Women full of binders.

"Talk to Obama veterans about Clinton’s first few months in office, and one memory stands out: She plainly embraced the role of sidekick. She devoured White House briefing material. 'Hillary Clinton would walk in with the thickest binder on the table,' says a former Obama staffer. She mastered the art of the small gesture, plying Obama aides with personal notes and mementos. One received an official State Department sling for his injured arm, Allen and Parnes report. Day in and day out, she was unfailingly gracious. Among the less glamorous duties of a Cabinet secretary is waiting outside the president’s office when he’s running late. 'No one will judge you if you sit there and answer e-mails on your Blackberry,' says Katie Johnson, Obama’s former personal secretary. 'She did not do it. ... She was very friendly and warm. She talked to people.'"

From Noam Schreiber's TNR piece: "How Hillary Won Over the Skeptical Left/The surprising source of Clinton's invincibility."

I haven't read enough of that to know what the "surprising source" is. I just wanted to flag the sexism in that one paragraph. I'm not going to comb through the whole thing looking for trouble. But that paragraph jumped out as full of sexist detail, and I couldn't resist the opportunity to allude to the great War on Women Battle of 2012 over "binders full of women."

So, first, there's this Tracy-Flick-style image of the over-earnest, over-achieving, straight-A student with her big binder — the thickest binder on the table.

But look at the rest of female-subordinating language: sidekick... the small gesture...  personal notes and mementos... sling for his injured arm... unfailingly gracious... very friendly and warm... talked to people.

These are all intended to be compliments. Why?! The subtext is that Hillary is not feminine enough. She's judged against a female stereotype and found wanting, so it's imagined that her image is bolstered by detecting stereotypically feminine attributes in her, caring for the little people, for the injured, being humble and small, evincing warmth and graciousness.

I'm sure she herself has noticed all this trouble and — as part of her earnest over-achieving — has generated a binder full of feminine-seeming small gestures to be done to push back the not feminine enough perceptions without triggering a too feminine to be President reaction.

Hard choices! Sometimes it's hard to be a woman....

34 comments:

Mark O said...

Ew.

St. George said...

But will she bow to kings?

J Lee said...

Judging from the hopes expressed by some on the 'Skeptical Left' for a Liz Warren candidacy, or even Bernie Sanders, I'm not sure that The New Republic writing headline saying Hillary's won them over means Hillary's won them over. It's more like they'll take her in 2016 if she's the end choice, but they're still hoping for now someone else catches lightning in a bottle like Obama did in 2007-08

Brando said...

I didn't really pick up on that excerpt as being sexist--maybe the whole article has a different read--but rather an attempt to humanize her. One of Hillary's big weaknesses is that she has an image of being cold and calculating--not the sort of person anyone would want to hang around with. And the idea behind these anectdotes of her being thoughtful and kind (with gifts! Big binders to show respect! Not checking e-mail while waiting for an appointment!) are supposed to counteract that.

The problem is--and perhaps the challenge has to do with overcoming a hardened first impression--these anectdotes still feed the image of Hillary as constantly calculating, using these small gestures and strategic leaks about such gestures to bolster her image rather than being done for their own sake.

At this point, if I were advising Hillary, I'd not bother with this crap--anyone who thinks Hillary is cold and mean and calculating and vindictive isn't going to be won over by such stories, and anyone who would be won over is already on her side anyway. Instead, I'd focus on bolstering the (undeserved, in my opinion) image she has as a pragmatic centrist problem solver with plenty of solid experience to draw upon and moderate policies that should be preferable to the populist left or the far right. That, and concentrate on simply not saying or doing anything stupid. No unforced errors.

If Hillary's able to do that, and play hard offense against any opponent who gets in her way, she'll be our next president. It'll be a long wait for 2020.

richard mcenroe said...

Sounds a far cry from the Hillary documented in her First Lady days as a china and furniture stealing virago who demanded uniformed military personnel stay out of her sight, ordered staffers not to make eye contact with her, chucked Bibles at the Secret Service and ash trays at her husband, and went on to abandon her subordinates to a bloody, demeaning death and then lied about it to their bereaved families over the coffins.

Maybe someone sat her down and explained the old Hollywood saying to her: "Sincerity is important. Once you learn to fake that you're golden."

richard mcenroe said...

J. Lee, with Democrats that's not lightning, it's glowsticks at a rave. Not much useful light and no practical warmth.

Hagar said...

I think Althouse got overly sensitive here. It is Hillary! we are talking about here, not some unknown quantity to be scrutinized for classification.

SomeoneHasToSayIt said...

You're starting to see sexism everywhere you look. It's getting old.

How about giving it a rest?

Men and women are different. Different terms will be used to describe each. Live with it.

And after the life she and Bill have lived, and judged on the content of their respective characters, they should thank the gods every day they are still in national conversations that don't deal in deserved punishments and shunning.

Bill is an impeached, disbarred, credibly accused rapist, and serial sexual harassment predator.

Hillary is at least an unconscionable enabler, guilty of dereliction of duty that lead directly to the deaths of innocents, and a likely multiple felon (cattle futures, Rose law firm, etc.)

The last thing we should be doing is worrying if she is being condescended to.

What's wrong with you?

The Crack Emcee said...

"I couldn't resist the opportunity to allude to the great War on Women Battle of 2012 over 'binders full of women.'"

But you should. I can't tell you how trying it is to watch white people's distractions, because they "couldn't resist" getting cute about something irrelevant, compared to the important issues before us. Why bother comparing Mitt and Hillary on feminism when they're not even CLOSE to the same politician - obviously? Here, let me try:

Joseph Smith Vs. Susan B. Anthony - who was the greatest thinker?

Hillary's no Susan B. Anthony? Fine:

Joseph Smith Vs. Serena Williams - think the result's going to come out any different?

Stay on point:

RACE,...

MadisonMan said...

I try to imagine a male candidate wanting to be described thus.

"Mitch Daniels was friendly and warm...he talked to people. He gave an official Purdue sling for an injured arm to a colleague"

(Or is he at Indiana?)

Anonymous said...

Somewhere in her past there is a Pee-Chee folder with variations of "President Hillary" written on it in careful script, over and over.

AJ Lynch said...

Speaking of the book, can anyone who read the book please list the Top Five hard choices in the book? In your opinion of course since I have not seen an official Top Ten anywhere. And none of the interviewers on the book tour seem to have asked Hillary to discuss her Top Five or even her Top Three.

traditionalguy said...

Clinton wine was an acquired taste that blended Bill's confident boyish charm with hints of Hillary's tough broad that has positioned herself to attack you back first.

Food parings with the pure Hillary vine seem only to be bitter herbs and self pity.

So the Clinton Media Industry is trying to sell her in a new pink bottle labeled with butterflies and hearts, but leaving off the BRUT word.

Sam L. said...

Why are there official State Dept. arm slings?

n.n said...

The "war on women" is complemented by the "war on men," which are subtexts for war on humanity. It's exceedingly difficult to be a woman, or man, today. Everyone seems so confused by the physiological and cultural differences, both intrinsic and desirable.

CWJ said...

"caring for the little people,"

Until recently, our neighbor worked for the downtown Kansas City airport which handles nearly all of the VIP arrivals/departures. She saw most of the passing parade and how they treated the little people when the cameras weren't on.

She has lots of stories in that regard but saves her greatest contempt for Hillary!

SGT Ted said...

No mention of the press carrying Hillary's! water 24/7/365.

Michael K said...

"strategic leaks about such gestures "

"So the Clinton Media Industry is trying to sell her in a new pink bottle labeled with butterflies and hearts, but leaving off the BRUT word."

This all sounds like a ploy. "Strategic leaks" from old Hillary hands.

I call bullshit.

tim maguire said...

My first thought jives with Richard McEnroe--the obsequious State Department Hillary contrasts pretty starkly with stories of how horrible First Lady Hillary was to people who worked for her when she was closer to the top of the heap.

Strelnikov said...

So, she's "invincible" again, eh?

I do not think that word means what TNR thinks it means.

MadisonMan said...

Why are there official State Dept. arm slings?

Because a bureaucrat with nothing better to do took it upon himself (herself) to order them? Thus, you not only paid for the slings, you paid for the person making the decisions to get them.

Drago said...

Madisonman: "(Or is he at Indiana?)"

Gasp!!!

Blasphemer!!

Stone the outsider!!

Drago said...

Crack is in wonderfully incoherent form today!

Shanna said...

Can I just mention that Tammy Wynette left George when he couldn't get it together? That clip infuriates me!

Skeptical Voter said...

Well she may, or may not, be "feminine enough". Or with an Obama sneer, she's "likeable enough".

But for danged sure she's obnoxious enough.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Does the Secret Service bring the chiecken wire?

www.youtube.com/watch?v=Psm96Dn9KII

Christy said...

Althouse, I didn't read that as sexist. The bit about the personal notes reminded me of George W. Bush writing personal notes to the families of fallen soldiers.

Saint Croix said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
mikee said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Michael said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

It is beginning to like Christmas!

TNR first destroyed Scott Walker.

TNR is pumping up HRC. She has no portfolio of actual accomplishments. But, TNR wants you to know that she is better than the Committee of Five who wrote the Declaration of Independence (Jefferson, Adams, Franklin, Livingstone, and Sherman).

HRC is the Goddess, that we all have been waiting for.

The Take-back-the-White-House Campaign has already started.

You all have already voted.

I told you before: POTUS HRC.

Learn to say it now. POTUS HRC.

Ann Althouse said...

Saint Croix said (and I accidentally deleted):

I think Althouse nailed it in part, and missed it in part.

The article is definitely trying to humanize HIllary and make her seem feminine.

But look at the rest of female-subordinating language: sidekick... the small gesture... personal notes and mementos... sling for his injured arm... unfailingly gracious... very friendly and warm... talked to people.

That is not the way we would talk about a man, or a President. It does not convey strength, or leadership.

But many of these are positive qualities. I would not get mad if somebody said I was "very friendly and warm," or "talked to people" or "unfailingly gracious." Men in the South are actually trained to act this way. These are all compliments.

And why criticize the reporter for "sexism" if it's HIllary who is adopting this persona? What if she has decided to act more feminine, to distinguish herself from the old boys network?

I think it's a pose. Hillary is not feminine, in my opinion. Certainly not in the classical sense. When she was secretary of state she would forget about her own appearance. Her hair and her clothes often looked bad, like a student at MIT who forgets to shower. That is not feminine at all!

If Al Gore once hired Naomi Wolfe to teach him how to be alpha, then why can't HIllary take instructions on how to be feminine?

I do not think this is sexism from the reporter. I think Hillary has made a political decision to appear more feminine to people. Why?

I'll bet you she was polling bad with women. She's adopting a feminine mask to hide her pompous ego. Maybe women like sensitive man Presidents, because they are not pompous. They are not authoritative or domineering in style.

If this is what women like, Hillary is in trouble. She does have a domineering persona. She does not come across as gentle. She comes across as harsh, as hard.

I'm just speculating, I haven't done any polling! But if HIllary has high negatives with women voters, she is in big, big trouble. Women are the Democrats bread and butter, and if Hillary doesn't appeal to them..

Anonymous said...

Ann, you clearly need to read "How To Win Friends and Influence People." Hillary has, and her actions are pretty much straight out of the book.

Not everything is about sexism.

stlcdr said...

On the one hand, we need the President - come on, who doesn't think she's aiming for the whitehouse - to be personable, likable and 'one of us'. That means being a person, and a persons identity is their sex, clothes they wear, race, and so on. We choose our president as individuals, in the hope that our state contributes.

On the other hand, the President needs to be tough, decisive, both neutral and partisan on many high level issues that affect the country as a whole ( not individuals; remember President of the United States). Make the Hard Choices.

We are basing a lot of our presidential selection - quite wrongly - on the former and not their capacity in the latter. When the president makes decisions and takes actions which directly affects as individuals, it immediately imposes a segregation.