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How Hillary Clinton’s gender is playing out in the campaign

The issue reflects the changes over recent years on sexism and feminism.

Hillary Clinton speaking to supporters at the Human Rights Campaign Breakfast in Washington, D.C., last October.
REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Three excerpts from Nicholas Kristof’s column in the Sunday New York Times, about various ways that Hillary Clinton’s gender comes into the campaign picture and reflects the changes over recent years on sexism and feminism:

It’s a measure of how much the country has changed that these days Clinton is running as a feminist, after decades of skirting the issue. In 2008 she barely mentioned her gender; now it’s a refrain. “This really comes down to whether I can encourage and mobilize women to vote for the first woman president,” Time quoted her as saying. She even said she’d be open to choosing a woman as her running mate (go, Amy Klobuchar!).

And then…

When a Gallup survey first asked Americans if they were willing to vote for a woman for president, in 1937, only one-third said they were. By last year, 92 percent were willing to do so.

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Another Gallup survey found that what people liked most about a Clinton candidacy was her gender. Her chromosomes are, at least for Democrats, her biggest selling point.

Conversely, maybe it’s also a sign of progress that young women aren’t particularly inclined to support Clinton: They’re less likely to see their space defined by glass ceilings.

And lastly …

One way in which attitudes have changed has to do with sexual predation. Shaming women who make accusations — in short, the Bill Clinton campaign approach of 1992 — is much less tolerated today.

So today Hillary Clinton is scolded for turning on and helping to stigmatize the women who accused her husband of misconduct, which oddly means that she may pay more of a price for his misbehavior than he ever did. That irony would encapsulate the truism that whatever the progress, women are often still held to a higher standard than men.