Hillary Clinton and the Sexism of American Politics

hillary clinton

By Ian Sullivan

Unless you’re living under a rock, in which case you probably wouldn’t be reading this anyway, you know by now that Hillary Clinton has declared her candidacy for the 2016 presidential election. Now that that’s out of the way, let me say up front that I’ve struggled with how I should write this blog post. In no way did I want to make this about my own political affiliations or beliefs. And I didn’t just want to write some high praise of Hillary Clinton and suggest that her gender should be taken into consideration for her candidacy for the next President of the United States. It shouldn’t. That job should always go to the most qualified candidate, and if that just so happens to be a woman, then that’s great. Rather, I would like to take a moment to address the problematic male-dominated political system in the United States, and examine some of the double standards a woman may face when running for political office that a male counterpart would not. Well-informed political debate should always be accepted and encouraged, but what should not (and is sadly the norm) is sexism and flat-out bigotry.

This past September, Bill and Hillary’s daughter, Chelsea Clinton, gave birth to the couple’s first grandchild. Even before the child was born, as illustrated in this Washington Times article from over a year ago, it was being speculated that the new role of grandmother would in some way burden Clinton, and hinder her political abilities and aspirations. But when Mitt Romney campaigned for the presidency in 2012, he was at the time grandfather to 18 children. George W. Bush was a grandfather while in office, and his brother, Jeb Bush, is currently setting his sights on 2016 as well, also with a number of grandchildren. Are the legitimacy and competence of these men being questioned for familial reasons? Of course not. If this isn’t a double standard, then I’m not sure what is. The idea that having a grandchild would inhibit Clinton’s abilities is preposterous and insulting. If anything, I believe that in our culture, which prides itself so much on instilling the importance of family, this should be regarded as a strength.

Political commentator Glenn Beck has called Clinton a bitch. Rush Limbaugh could compile an entire book of his ignorant tirades against her, most recently in March when he lashed out at Clinton, calling her “bossy” and “hysterical.” No self-respecting professional pundit would insult a male politician to this degree, and yet once again, Clinton falls victim to this double standard.

Let’s take look at this, the political gag gift that seemed to reach the height of its controversy this past November when Urban Outfitters made it available for purchase online for $60.00, although it was first made available during Clinton’s 2008 political campaign. Urban Outfitters is no stranger to controversy, however, as a couple months prior it was also selling “vintage” Kent State sweatshirts splattered with red dye. But that’s another story, so let’s get back to the nutcracker. It seems that some company is already gearing up to supply new and updated versions of this tired old joke. At the “Official Site of the 2016 Hillary Nutcracker,” you can see the slogan, “It’s crunch time!” across the bottom of the doll’s campaign pin. I’m not even sure what to say about this besides pointing out what I feel should be obvious, although clearly it isn’t obvious enough. I feel bad even addressing it, and giving this crude and lame attempt at humor any attention and time of day. Simply put, male candidates aren’t ever judged for the way they look or the way they dress. All that is taken into consideration for them is how well they could potentially lead the country. And that’s how it should be, for men and women alike. There is clearly an underlying issue regarding our sex-obsessed society in this nutcracker doll. Clinton is being targeted and bullied for her outer appearance, and whether it’s a joke or not, it is inappropriate, sexist, and dehumanizing.

These incidents involving Hillary Clinton are not isolated. Most notably, Sarah Palin has also had to face such sexist scrutiny. These two women lie on opposite ends of the political spectrum, but what they share in common is the injustices they face due to their gender in a hyper-masculine political arena. This post is by no means intended to be a political endorsement of Hillary Clinton. Vote for whom you’re comfortable voting, for whom you think has the most to offer to the United States. But please do’nt rule out Clinton on the grounds that she is a woman, and don’t for one second question her ability to lead. She has more than proven she has the credentials and the experience to be a viable presidential candidate.

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