So many journalists and pundits have turned a laser focus on the issue of race, but, as Marie Cocco pointed out in her Washington Post piece last week, even the Democratic party isn’t doing a lot to help the first “viable woman candidate for President” put an end to the seemingly endless stream of sexist comments about Hillary Clinton.
Many loud voices continue to claim there IS no gender problem in America — look at all the women in law school and medical school! See, there are women in every profession — you’ve come a long way, baby, so we don’t have to worry anymore. Yup, check that one off the list. No one is trying to suggest that a woman can’t be President. That notion is just a confused one in your pretty little heads!
But as Hillary’s voice gets quieter in this campaign, I’m wondering where we, as political women, go from here? Three articles in New York Times in two days have raised the question. But what’s the solution?
I’m still working on that one, but one thing occurred to me this morning as I was reading these articles that might be important in getting to the answer:
Men are takers, women are askers.
If Hillary Clinton was, as Barack Obama is apparently going to do regardless of vote and delegate count this week, proclaim himself the winner of the Democratic presidential nomination, there would be an uproar of incredible proportions. We’d hear plenty of, “Who does she think she is? What gives her the right to just march up there and ignore the rules?”
Yet, few seem to have a problem with Obama doing that. And I’m sure we won’t hear much criticism of the fact that he has no problem taking something that isn’t his quite yet. Granted, it’s likely that will be the ultimate outcome, but few seem bothered by the fact that he’s not playing by the rules. When a women steps outside the rules of a game, she’s slapped down — men just get slapped on the wrist.
When I was still a naive junior associate in a large law firm, I learned that lesson the hard way more than I’d like to remember. The guys would march into senior lawyers’ offices, plop themselves down in a chair and start chatting, until they got assigned to the juiciest cases. Us gals? We generally knocked first, and got told to come back in things weren’t so busy.
We’re never going to convince men that they should be more polite in how they achieve their goals, so women are going to have to adjust their approach and take a lesson from the “takers.”
Clinton may be the imperfect example to illustrate how much further we all have to go in having more of a role in all aspects of politics and life in general, and how we can achieve that, but that doesn’t make what has happened to her less true. We still face accepted sexist attitudes and comments every day, like one reporter did recently did when Barack Obama referred dismissively to her as “sweetie.”
Let’s put our heads together and figure out how we start today to keep the next “viable woman candidate for President” going through the same treatment as Hillary Clinton.