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

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

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.

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.

Comments (6)

  1. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 01/25/2016 - 10:01 am.

    In many ways

    …that glass ceiling hasn’t disappeared, or at least it seems that way to me, and the final paragraph of Kristof’s that Eric has quoted seems possibly true, and thus interesting, though not in a good way. That also has some bearing on the glass ceiling that young women may regard as irrelevant or nonexistent, but which still seems both present and relevant to this elderly white male observer.

  2. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 01/25/2016 - 11:37 am.

    Gender-based hypocrisy

    The people who support a woman for president because “it’s their turn” lose all credibility when they are also the same ones who ridicule Sara Palin or Michelle Bachmann.

    Because as soon as you start to say “Yeah, but Palin’s an idiot who doesn’t support my views,” then you’re no longer supporting candidates because of “gender equity” or “glass ceilings,” but you’re supporting a candidate who’s specific views could be just as easily be those of a man’s. In other words, her appeal has less to do with her gender and more to do with her point of view.

    Kristof’s comment that “her chromosomes are, at least for Democrats, her biggest selling point” is amusing and instructive. In other words, lacking any other rationale for supporting her, her gender becomes her last best hope for victory.

  3. Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 01/25/2016 - 06:49 pm.

    So who knows more about “glass ceiling” nowadays: young women or older men? I should also say that in this case Hillary knows best: if she emphasizes her gender, then she sees this as an advantage and the glass ceiling is now above the US President position. Of course, it is also sad that for Democrats it matters…

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 01/26/2016 - 09:41 am.

      Older men know more

      since they’re the ones who set them.
      And it’s really sad that some people don’t think that they exist, or if they do that it doesn’t matter.
      .

      • Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 01/26/2016 - 07:59 pm.

        Older men failed

        So maybe the older men created it but it is so meek that younger women now do not notices it… meaning that for all practical purposes it doesn’t exist.

  4. Submitted by joe smith on 01/26/2016 - 09:44 am.

    No chance for an open discussion about hypocrisy of Hillary in the 90’s calling the women, who her husband was accused of sexually assaulting, not credible and her now stance on being a feminist? In the 90’s she said not to believe the accusers of her husband but today she says every woman needs to be believed in every case of sexual assault. Did she change her mind or is it just more beneficial to be a feminist in 2016? Very hard to get a discussion going with this thread on this subject, moderated steady…. Welcome to Minnpost if you have a different view.

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