Different standards

Gloria Steinem had a beautiful op-ed in the NYT  yesterday and I could not agree with her more.

She talks about the polarization of gender roles, how we treat women fundamentally different from men and how we hold Hillary Clinton to different standards from Barack Obama.

Unlike Gloria Steinem, I am not writing this because I support Hillary. But one of the things I have noticed as I follow the Presidential race is the unspoken sentiment that “Hillary can do no right”.

If Hillary is now criticized for choking up a little; in the past she has been criticized for laughing. If she cries, she is “emotional” and not the stuff that Presidents are made of; if she laughs, she is hysterical and the laughter is maniacal. Oh,  and both her laughter and her tears are part of carefully planned strategies.  She is not a normal human being, she does not have any feelings, so any emotions that do show have to be artificial.

Tom Toles in today’s Washington Post

If Hillary comes across as strong-willed, she is labeled various epithets. If she shows the slightest hint of emotion, she is weak, vulnerable, emotional and unfit to become President. If she tries hard every day not to show any emotion whatsoever, she is cold, calculating and ruthless.

Newspapers print long, detailed analyses when Hillary wears a blouse with a neckline perhaps an inch lower than usual. There are other voices which say that her usual attire these days, a pantsuit, is unfeminine.

Her hairstyle changes are analyzed in detail, her wrinkles are examined closely. If she looks tired one day, it becomes the stuff of radio talk show hosts and newspaper headlines. Apparently, only supermodels can become President.

In a presidential race, one would think people would look at the issues and pick the candidate they agree with. Why does this have to be a Miss Congeniality contest? The President, by definition, should not be someone who will do anything to remain popular. Presidents are supposed to take hard decisions that could be unpopular.

And why do we reserve our most detailed personal analysis for Hillary? Why don’t the other presidential candidates get comments about their gray hair, whether their shoes are shined and their clothes are pressed, and how ugly their ties are?

Why is it that people see fit to show placards to Hillary saying “Iron my Shirt” ?

Are we looking for reasons not to elect a woman as President? Is that what this is all about?

If Hillary is doing it all wrong, what is it that she is supposed to do?  If we were to elect a woman as President, what kind of woman President should we elect?  Perhaps it would help if someone stepped forward to enumerate the qualities they would really like to see in a woman President.

I am not here to voice my support of Hillary, Obama or any of the other candidates. I hope the best person wins. But I wish people would make their decisions based on the candidates’ stand on issues, and not based on whether they like their hairstyle or their shoes.

As a woman, I see the way Hillary is treated by the media and only wonder if it is not symptomatic of the way we treat women in everyday life. What does it say about us that we cannot bring ourselves to treat even a woman Presidential candidate with courtesy and dignity?

Technorati tags: Hillary Clinton, Presidential election, politics, campaign, women, crying

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8 thoughts on “Different standards

  1. I think that if you step back just a pace or two on this discussion you might be able to see that though commentary is not always as shrill as it is towards Hillary the other candidates are all being treated this way. The coverage is shallow and seems directed towards gossip and innuendo no matter who they’re covering. Edwards hair/looks/wealth/job, and Romney’s smooth looks/expensive clothes, it all is going on ad hominem.

    I, too, have yet to decide but I really am enjoying the turn outs and the interest and the time we have to really nail the eventual candidates down as to what he or she is going to do about the issues.

    Does the “we” in your post above mean that you were speaking for men as a man or were you speaking editorially and thus recognizing that it isn’t just one sex with an atttitude towards the other that are behaving this way?

  2. The American people are a very intellectual lot. Only lesser third world nations like India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka and a fifth world nation like Bangladesh have the cerebral shallowness to elect women premiers. What these countries don’t realize is that a woman can never be the equal of a man. She has way more maturity and strength than is required for the job of the President of the USA, and is thus grossly over-qualified.

  3. Well, if you were to believe The West Wing, everything IS part of a carefully thought-out strategy. And should be. In any case, this election is going to be a good thing by the virtue of just being held – anyone would be an improvement over Bush, I thunk!

  4. But I wish people would make their decisions based on the candidates’ stand on issues, and not based on whether they like their hairstyle or their shoes.

    … or whether they appear boring or that they sigh? welcome to america.

  5. In every election, every American Presidential candidate (and his wife) has been similarly scrutinised. Hillary is just another name, though with a more dangerous agenda of bringing in more intrusive Government.

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