January 15, 2008

What Women Know

Susan Faludi nails it in this LA Times OpEd

As it happens, I'm not alone in wishing for a nation run by someone whose desire for our well-being is passionate but whose actions on our behalf also exude bedrock competence, someone who lacks any flash whatsoever except the flash that keeps a person assiduously doing the hardest things in life. In New Hampshire and all across the country, many female voters seem to be thinking along the same lines.

The media, punditry and pollsters have been viewing this historic female candidacy, and the candidate herself, through the Madonna-Medea prism they've applied since at least the Victorian era to women who venture into American public life. In so doing, they have ignored a whole other model of womanhood that is central to female experience. If they are determined to think of Hillary Clinton in stereotypical female terms, at least they should get the stereotype right.


The woman caring for her aging parent isn't being asked to bolster a juvenile ego with the necessary dollops of cooing, mirroring and inspirational atta-boys. The availability that a child asks from a young mother is not the quality most required in a middle-aged woman caring for a mature parent -- or a mature nation. Competence is. If that competence is backed by the humanizing force of tears, that is lovely and appreciated. But as those women at Kaiser knew, the moment called most of all for practical solutions and a reliable problem-solver.

The greatest show of nurturance those women could possibly evince was steeling themselves to stand in that line all over again and make that hectoring phone call to yet another doctor, even if they were perceived as a "bitch" by the receptionist on the other end.


If pundits ever tried to understand what some female voters know about the complexity of women's lives, they might begin to comprehend the appeal of a female candidate whose ethic of caring and whose posture of femininity derive from responsibilities beyond the maternal. And then they might begin to understand the affection of women in New Hampshire who put her over the top.

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