Another reason to hope Hillary Clinton doesn’t get the nomination
Four+ years of enduring Maureen Dowd write columns like this one:
When men want to put down a powerful woman in a sexist way, they will say she’s a hag or a nag or a witch or angry or hysterical.
First, the Republicans tried to paint Hillary as angry, but that didn’t work because she has shown a steady composure and laughed a lot (even if the laughter isn’t always connected to people saying anything funny). She has kept her sense of humor — which has a tart side — mostly under wraps, so she won’t be accused of being witchy.
But some conservative pundits who disagree with a woman on matters of policy jump straight into an attack on the woman’s looks or personal life.
And so the inevitable came to pass this week when Rush Limbaugh began riffing about an unflattering picture of Hillary in New Hampshire that Matt Drudge put up on his Web site with the caption, “The Toll of a Campaign.”
“So the question is this,” the radio personality said. “Will this country want to actually watch a woman get older before their eyes on a daily basis?”
Observing that Hillary is stuck with a looks-obsessed culture and that the presidency ages its occupants, including W., Limbaugh observed that “men aging makes them look more authoritative, accomplished, distinguished. Sadly, it’s not that way for women, and they will tell you.”
And Hillary, he noted, “is not going to want to look like she’s getting older, because it will impact poll numbers, it will impact perceptions.” So, he added, “there will have to be steps taken to avoid the appearance of aging.”
He said that voters lean toward attractive men, too, and that since TV, it’s less likely that a bloated “fat-guy” president would get elected — recalling that some were gauging whether Al Gore would run by checking his weight.
Limbaugh finished up with this: “Let me give you a picture, just to think about. … The campaign is Mitt Romney vs. Hillary Clinton in our quest in this country for visual perfection, hmm?”
Now if I had written this column, I’d use it to expound on the sexism of evaluating even a presidential candidate on the basis of her “fuckability” if she’s a woman. Or I’d have taken note of Limbaugh’s oddly homoerotic description of Mitt Romney’s “visual perfection.” I mean, have YOU ever heard a straight guy talk about another man that way?
But because this is Maureen Dowd, instead we get this:
Hillary doesn’t have to worry about her face. She has to worry about her mask. Back in the ’92 race, Clinton pollsters devised strategies to humanize her and make her seem more warm and maternal. Fifteen years later, her campaign is devising strategies to humanize her and make her seem more warm and maternal.
The public still has no idea of what part of her is stage-managed and focus-grouped, and what part is legit. It’s pretty pathetic, at this stage of her career, that she has to wage a major offensive, by helicopter and Web testimonials, to make herself appear warm-blooded.
…which reads as if Maureen Dowd got up to go to the bathroom and when she got back, started to write a different column.
We know that the way our society treats older women is vexing to Dowd, who continues to behave in interviews with men as if she’s the cutest girl at the malt shop and can’t understand why they treat her like a columnist for one of the most prestigious newspaper in the country instead of like the cheerleader they want to take up to Lookout Point. It’s sad, then, that Dowd, whose Hillary-loathing probably outdoes even Limbaugh’s, can’t even put that away long enough to recognize that the furor over “Teh Photo”:
…represents the very ageism that has MoDo, who is a good-looking woman for any age, having difficulty getting a date. Yes, Hillary Clinton is lined. It happens, as any woman over the age of 50 who hasn’t immobilized her face with Botox will tell you. And the harsh winter winds of Iowa and New Hampshire aren’t exactly aging skin’s best friend. But if MoDo could get past her loathing for five minutes, she too might be appalled that the very men (because it IS men, and the wingnut fembots who try to please the boys by being as shallow and dick-obsessed as the men are) who seem to think that a woman president should look like Pam Anderson are the ones who look right past her, no matter how fetchingly she crosses her legs or tugs on her skirt.
Rebecca Traister addresses “Teh Photo” in an article entitled “Campaigning While Female”, which really ought to be “Campaigning While Aging”, because let’s face it — Uma Thurman running for president wouldn’t have Rush Limbaugh complaining about how he doesn’t want to have to watch her age in office. This isn’t to say that Uma Thurman wouldn’t be subject to the same scrutiny; after all, Thurman is thirty-six years old and would be forty-two after four years and pushing fifty after eight.
For some reason, a woman’s aging holds up a mirror to men’s own aging in a way a fellow man’s aging doesn’t. I’m always reminded of the clip from the trailer for About Schmidt in which Jack Nicholson says “What is this old woman doing in my house?” — a clip that so turned me off that I refused to see the movie. But a lined and mature Hillary Clinton is even more terrifying than the hypersexualized vagina dentata that has always seemed to be behind the right’s hatred of her. Perhaps it’s the reproach that the way the biggest babe magnet in the country looks at her sends to other men; that however much of a dirty dog Bill Clinton may be, and however much Little Head sometimes does the thinking, Cranial Head is still nuts about her. Perhaps it’s that an aging woman in the White House, like the aging wife in the house, hits men over the head with a sledgehammer that they aren’t kids either. Or perhaps it’s as simple as a closet case like Matt Drudge letting out his inner Carson Kressley for a moment — and the rest of the Hillary Haters taking advantage of Drudge needing to offload some of the pressure of being in the closet.
Regardless of the motivation, it’s just another reason why it grieves me so much that the first viable woman candidate is a corporatist warhawk that I can’t support. Because it would sure be nice to join a kind of Crone Power movement that says, “We’re here, we’re old, and if you don’t like it, close your fucking eyes.”