Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Let Me Ask You Something

Let me ask you something, how do you feel about Hillary? You know, Hillary. The woman that a significant portion of my surrounding population thinks was possessed by a demon at some point and has been wrecking havoc ever since.

I barely missed being able to vote in the 1992 election. My teenage self didn’t quite understand the ardent angry fervor people seemed to ascribe to Hillary. When her husband said that they always ran as a team, as “two-for-one,” I remember people being very angry. I found that reaction to be strange.
During the campaign Hillary got in trouble when a newsman queried her about her law career and she ended a statement with saying “I could have stayed home and baked cookies, but I didn’t.” This made women angry. Thing is, she worked, raised a child, AND made cookies. She was being punished for being a working mom. This is when I first knew that no matter what choice I made, or what my circumstances would dictate regardless of where my heart laid, I would be second-guessed, judged, or told that I should have stayed in one place.

When Clinton assigned her to look into the healthcare reform in 1993 people were incredibly angry. How Dare She. How Dare She. She hasn’t been elected to anything!
This is when I first understood that women were not truly considered a team with their husbands out in the world. Women were to be seen and not heard. Women could never be a partner to their spouse, even if they were as intelligent, as educated, as capable. It wasn’t to be Done. The proper role of a woman in a political relationship is to throw parties and campaign for some child-related cause, nothing else would be appropriate. There should be No Opinion of major issues. If I wanted to affect change in East Timor, or address a campaign finance reform--stop, stop, why should I worry my pretty little head?

I was a waitress in 1994. During the morning shift I would serve old men their coffee or breakfast platters. That was when I learned that Hillary was the first sign of the apocalypse. This “Bitch” was ruining the country. She couldn’t keep her “mitts” off of “Men’s Business.” I understood that I could serve these men their coffee, but I could never serve them as a public servant.

Two years later the attack machines really kicked into high gear. Books poured out of publishers containing exaggerations, conjectures, speculations, and outright lies. The same old men to whom I served coffee bought those books from me at the store. Surely, if something wasn’t true you couldn’t print it in America. Angry men on radios used her as an example of everything wrong with America. She was uppity. People believed those lies; spread them from coast to coast. They said she murdered an old friend, was involved in conspiracies most heinous. Other women spread those lies, forgetting our sisterhood. One of us, a modern woman, was in a place of power, and we couldn’t support that. What does that say about us?
When I got married in 1997 I had a choice whether to take my husband’s name. You can bet I remembered what happened to Hillary because she didn’t want to take her spouse’s. I had learned that if I wanted to succeed in public office, I'd better have his name to back me up. I figured I’d give his name a shot. If I had to do it over again, I probably wouldn’t. Did it make you upset that a woman kept her name?

Let me ask you, is it because she seems abrasive? Because she is ambitious, has opinions, refuses to be pin holed? Why are those qualities I am not allowed to posses? Must I be retiring, shy, sweet, quiet, and content with vacuuming my floors (when any woman's soul could die every day to be in a narrow display box?) Wouldn't anyone's soul die if that was it?
Her law degree from Yale Law was in Family Law; she crusaded for the rights of children and families. Can you even imagine what it was like for a female lawyer in Arkansas in the mid 70s? Do you even remember a time when a woman wasn’t accorded the same privileges as a man in the public sphere? Well, Hillary’s generation, my mother’s generation, faced incredible prejudices at work and in society. Would you have become hardened as well facing that kind of rejection from coworkers everyday? How can we fault her for her ambition when she had to push every step of the way?

Did you know that Bill pursued her? She demurred and demurred, but he desperately wanted to marry her. She matched him in intelligence, his logical counter-part. Should she have put aside her life when Bill was elected president, although they had been equal partners since the day they married? I learned that if a man chooses an intellectual equal he will be the object of ridicule. A wife should be for ornamental purposes only.
I can’t help but think Hillary’s crime was to be public in her role. Did you know that when President Wilson had a stroke Mrs. Wilson ran the country? Other first ladies have done extraordinary things, why did you fault Hillary for having her own office in the White House? It was not unprecedented, but it was reported as if it was tantamount to treason. Eleanor Roosevelt was hated in the same ways as Hillary while she was the First Lady. Today she is revered for her heart-felt involvement; will Hillary be viewed the same way?
Are you angry that she ran for the senate in a state that she was not raised in nor lived in for a long time? Were you angry at Orrin Hatch for doing the same thing? Why is she the exception? Are you angry that her husband cheated on her? Do you think it’s her fault? Or are you angry that she stayed? How can you judge what you’d do?

I’m not writing this because I think she’ll run for president in ‘08. I am writing this because I want to be prepared when she, or any other woman, runs for president. Will we criticize that woman? Will we take her apart line by line? Scrutinize every choice, every detail of her life in a way that male candidates don’t face? Will you fault her, whoever she’ll be, because she didn’t stay home? Will you fault her if she, like Sandra Day O’Conner, took some time out and raised kids? It’s almost as if we can’t win in each other’s eyes. No matter what we do, the other camp will be angry with us. Would you stand for bald faced lies to be spread? Spread them yourself without investigating the truth? I’m asking because I want to know, how, in good conscience, can you hate Hillary?


Jon said...

Um . . . where to start. I think any woman candidate for president would be scrutined more and in ways a man would not be. I think that if Hillary ran she would not win and that one of the major reasons would be becuase she is a woman. Sadly, I don't think America is prepared to elect a woman president, Republican or Democrat.

I also think you have a different experience in Utah. I can just picture the breakfast crowd you were serving. She is not viewed so negatively here, I don't think.

So when can we vote for you?

Kiki said...

I secretly admire Hillary. That's not to say that I ever talk smack about her...because I don't. Here, it's not popular to like her because of all of the criticisms you've raised and because she's a democrat. She is dominant and voracious, she's incredibly smart, and despite everything we do know (and don't) she has kept her family together...something that should be admired by the "religious" right. She has a powerful voice: one that we are going to have to hear for a long time.

I'm a pretty antsy person in that I travel a lot and I play a lot. I'm preparing to go to medical school. I'm not doing that so I can be a good stay-at-home mom. Right now, I get some criticism because, "Isn't it about time [I] settle down, get married, and have children?" Does it ever occur to people that I don't want children? That I love what I'm doing? That I think I know what makes me happy? That I know being a stay-at-home mom would grant me the Andrea Yates Mother of the Year award? That science excites me? That I can contibute to the nurturing of society by educating people about their health?

I want to go further with this, but the hot button has been tipped, and I can't even think straight about where I want to go next. I'll be back later.

Bek said...

Lots of thoughts...I will get back to you....after I think it through.

lisa v. clark said...

Great post. I liked what you said:
"It's as if we can't win in each others' eyes. . ."
You proved that point when you described ". . . shy, content vacuuming. . . in narrow display box. . ." which insinuates what stay-at-home moms are all about. Now I KNOW YOU and I'm pretty sure that's NOT what you meant, but the stereotype is out there nonetheless. I may get some satisfaction out of vacuuming (that's another issue all together), but I"m anything BUT shy, quiet, and content to hold my tongue. But shouldn't we be supportive of women who are shy, who love to stay home and find bliss in domestic areas? I know that's not what you're saying, but it seems that I"m reading everywhere lately how "that's the norm" (everyone expects me to be June Cleaver, etc), how "that's what everyone expects," and I don't think it IS the norm. I think it's what people DON"T expect anymore.

This is my hot button because my mom was all with the feminist movement in the 70's which said a woman could do anything she wanted to. . . oh, EXCEPT be a stay-at-home mom. She felt abandoned by the movement. The fact remains that we ALL benefit from the women's movement and even if I don't agree with Hillary's politics or ideology, I can agree that she's received harsh criticism for her sex.

The fact is women are always judged more harshly than men because we do more. You may feel judged harshly and feel second-guessed because you work outside the home, and I will feel judged harshily and seconded-guessed because I have a degree and I choose to not work outside the home OR because I have more than 2 kids, OR because sometimes I take day jobs here and there and leave the home. We women are our worst enemies.

Great post--it's a great journey into your line of thinking and reasoning. It reminds me how important it is to support other women in their passions, and not to be so offended by our differences.

Kiki said...

I'm not back to finish my thoughts yet, but something else that bugs me...

I am in the Young Women presidency in my (Mormon, Latter-day Saint, whatever you want to say) ward and in my stake. Since our ward is small, that also means that I'm a teacher. That means that I am often faced with the challenge of teaching lessons to the teenage girls about how it's our destiny to be good wives and mothers. I wasn't kidding up there about not wanting children. How in the WORLD am I supposed to teach that when I don't sign on to it for myself? There are a lot of things about being wives and mothers in those lessons that I don't agree with for me. I become a very frustrated teacher sometimes. I'm glad that the other two in the presidency gladly take over those lessons (most of the time) for me when they come.

Azúcar said...

LVC, THANKS, I hope it doesn't come off that way because I didn't mean it that way. To tell you the truth, I've never met a SAHM who did fit the stereotype, it's just as big of a misconception of "the other side." You shouldn't feel as if vacuuming completes you either. You know? That June Cleaver "ideal" is used to beat you about the head as much as it is me. WE will never live up to it because it's false.

I don't ever look down on SAHMs, I wish I could be one, but it's not in the cards right now, and it may never be. The original aim of the women's movement was to expand all our options--to not allow the "option" of working at home as fitting into that picture was wrong and harmful, and I think turned alot of women off (like your mom) to the movement. Like that crazy lady (i think I read about her on Queen Scarlet's blog) who said we're all doing a disservice to "The movement" by not working. As if working outside the house is any better than working inside the house--it's NOT.

It's fascinating how Hillary became the bad poster girl for all the people wished to reverse the clock on the accomplishments as women. Think of the vitriol poured on her by Rush and his cohorts, it's APPALLING. I may not always agree with Condi Rice, but I am always impressed by her. I don't fault the decisions she's made (like not having children) because they were hers to make. The very idea that she has accomplished so much in her life is worth applauding. Do I think she missed out? Sure, but look at her successes, who am I to judge? I'd rather engage in a argument over multi-lateral talks vs. unilateral talks with her than to tear her down over her decisions. I think people on the left who judge Condi as harshly as Hillary was judged by the right are just as wrong.

Carrie--you can be my Dr. anytime.

Jon- your Chi is a lucky-lucky. Answer: as soon as I've convinced my spouse that being a political husband is what it's all about.

Mostly, I'm still puzzled about why women hate Hillary. I hope it's about her politics and nothing else.

Jon said...

Maybe you and your husband could be a team when you are elected. After all, it may be okay for a political spouse to speak up, if it's a he.

~j. said...

Uh, I hate Hilary because she's a politician. Because she said, "I won't run to be a senator..." and then she picked a state...any state...MY state. (Well, where my family is, anyway. My dad told me about a great billboard when she was running which showed a group of puppies and read, "They have lived in New York longer than Hilary has" or something like that. tee-hee.)

A friend's seminary teacher (in Indiana) taught that Hilary was the Anti-Christ. But I like the story of when the Lewinsky scandal was made public and Hilary repeatedly smacked her husband in the face while chanting, "You STUPID, STUPID bastard!"

It's like cjane has said...the adversary's greatest weapon is that of pitting women against women. I agree with Lisa - it's not fair to honor every option EXCEPT the choice to stay home.

But...back to the point. I just don't like the politician.

The Duke said...

I would certainly vote for a woman, even Hil. Sadly I think (as jon) it is impossible for any woman to win in 08.

What I don't understand is why some women feel they need to take on the pains of every woman in the public eye. i.e. you serve coffee to someone who knocks Hil, and you take that knock personally to yourself and let it affect every decision in you life thereafter. Do you think that nobody knocks the little old men politicians? That all the boys are in the boy's club? You talk of people hating Hil because of your location. Do you think that there aren't places (like my town) where W would be burnt at the stake just for walking down the street? This seems to me to be akin to "missing pretty white girl syndrome" only it would be something like "politician pretty white girl syndrome."

The Duke said...

"I’m not writing this because I think she’ll run for president in ‘08. I am writing this because I want to be prepared when she, or any other woman, runs for president. Will we criticize that woman? Will we take her apart line by line?"

To Repeat: ????????Isn't this what happens with ANY politician???????????

Azúcar said...

Duke, it's not that I consciously thought that the reaction to her choices held back my choices, but I do think that it acted on a subconscious level to remind me, and other women, what was appropriate and what was not.

You only need an example being made of someone like you to be made so many times before you know where the boundaries lie. I wouldn't let it hold me back, but you can believe I learned what I could expect. Maybe I should be thanking her for preparing me and other women who would like to hold office.

I think the difference is that I've never, ever, heard of a male politician being made to answer as a father, while women in politics are made to answer as mothers all the time. I'm not saying it hasn't happened, but I can't recall a time in my memory. Have you ever heard of a male politician critizied for his nannies, for not spending enough time at home, for missing soccer games or camp-outs? Why should a woman be criticized for not baking cookies or for pursuing a public rather than exclusively private life, when it doesn't seem like their counterparts face the same pressure. And that pressure often comes from other women.

As for Missing White Girl Syndrome, you couldn't have found a more receptive audience in complete agreement with you--I despise the phenomenon as class-based and racist, and it drives me batty.
I don't wish to cast Hillary as the only woman who faces these challenges (although she is one that exemplifies the most divisive rancor.) ~J and I saw an incredible documentary at Sundance about a single African American mom who is a congressperson for a district in Georgia. You would not believe the allegations piled on that woman, although none of them rose to Hillary-type levels in duration.

At least in living in my area, Hillary was like a swear word. I guess I never understood how one woman could represent the "Femi-Nazi" threat as outlined by Rush and his compatriots. Her name is still used to stir the pot of fervor to motivate the GOP's base. It's bizarre.
I hate the knee-jerk reaction that so many people have when she comes up, it makes me upset because they've allowed themselves to become a tool of a machine that I've come to equate with near facism--without really thinking of her accomplishments or her trials. If women would stop tearing each other down we could accomplish a great deal more.

~j, fair enough, fair enough. I am always willing to listen to another perspective and I'm grateful for yours.

c jane said...

Was Hillary mad that her husband cheated, or mad that the media found out? Lied under oath? Got empeached?

Why did she call him a stupid, stupid bastard?

I guess I'll never know, and it's not my business to know either.

Azúcar said...

Yes, yes, yes, and yes?

Cause weren't we all thinking the same thing?

La Yen said...

I hate Hilary because she breast-feeds and has plural wives. I'n Jus' Keeding!

I don't care about her either way, although her mannerisms and her face kind of bug me. And her voice is grating. But I don't like Orrin Hatch because he writes GAY GAY GAY songs. I am pretty shallow.

What really chaps the hide is the whole mis-interpretation of "feminism." It is not bad, it is not bra-burning, it is not staring at your clitoris while chanting "lesbians rule, boys drool" or only allowing yourself to listen to Ani DiFranco. It is about women being free to choose between good and good and good, and being ballsy enough to accept the consequences that come if one of those goods turns out to not be so good. What is a femi-nazi? A woman who hates jews and works 70 hours a week? So she only has one kid. So she doesn't make cookie. So she married the world's most charismatic jack-hole ever. She needs to do something with her wardrobe and take some diction lessons.

~j. said...

"What's a ballsy?"

Rachel said...

~j, if i know what you're talking about (which i think i do? kp?) then you're brilliant. not that i thought you weren't before.

long live hil!

The Duke said...

OK I think I get what you're saying, but I still think some things don't quite match. Our Man Orrin did go to school in UT and spent fourteen years in and out of UT before running for office there. Etc.
While Hil. Well...

Fig said...

Let me ask YOU something - if you had kept your maiden name (and actually I really like your married name though, granted, I don't know what your maiden name was), what would you have done with your kids? Hyphenated?

I thought briefly about keeping my maiden name, or at least I would have if I didn't think it was hideous. Ultimately I thought it would be a lot of hassle with babies, but the Jolie-Pitts seem to be doing just fine with it.

Mandee said...

Enlightening. And way ahead of the political game.

I want to clarify. I don't hate Hilary. But I don't like her, and it's not because she's a woman.

I just wonder why democrats would want to put the Clinton's back in the White House. Especially if running the White House and the country was a team effort back in the day of Bill, just as they claim it will be if they win in November.

I've hopped on the "change" bandwagon that all the politicians are claiming to be driving. And I have to agree with Mitt- that having the same people back in DC, sitting in different seats isn't going to cut it.

But then again, if Mitt were to win, who knows if he could actually work through all the red tape himself.

Super Tuesday is just around the corner? Do you think you'll be decided by then?

Azúcar said...

Thanks for your perspective, Mandee!

I am not saying I feel this way at all, but some people would be thrilled to have the Clintons back in D.C. because they felt they were more prosperous back in the 90s than they are now. I think they are hoping that if Hillary gets elected we'll be instantly transported back to good times. Of course, it doesn't work that way; the electorate often votes emotionally, not logically.

I sure hope I will have decided by Tuesday, I only have a couple days.

What a great time to be able to pick from among so many great candidates on both sides.