Hillary’s Historic Run: Discuss

More of that “reckoning.”

Today, The New Republic asks: “As Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign approaches its end, what are the implications for feminism of the first major presidential campaign by a woman?” and “asked senior editor Michelle Cottle, who has been covering the Clinton campaign, and Amanda Fortini, a New Republic contributor who recently wrote about Clinton and feminism for New York magazine, to discuss her historic run.”

“The media” popped up from time to time during Cottle’s and Fortini’s discussion. For example:

[COTTLE]: The best way I’ve found to explain [a perceived lack of excitement for the historic nature of Clinton’s run] is through a contrast with the media’s reaction to Barack Obama’s candidacy. You have pundits like Andrew Sullivan waxing rhapsodic about how fantabulous it would be for America’s image, how great and glorious a morning it will be, when we have an African American taking the oath. You would never hear someone say that about a woman…


[FORTINI]: …now we have this situation where latent sexism has really been brought to the fore and people are surprised. It seems like we’re in the early ’70s, especially over at MSNBC where they’re calling her the “grieving widow of absurdity.”

COTTLE: I think Chris Matthews did more to help her campaign in New Hampshire than possibly anyone else in the country. …And from his perspective, he doesn’t see it as remotely a sexist kind of thing. He sees it that he doesn’t like the Clintons, and Hillary is a bad candidate, and it has nothing to do with what quite obviously is a weird, sexist strain going through his commentary.

And, a non-media-specific excerpt:

COTTLE: The thing that I worry about is that Clinton had certain advantages because of her celebrity that helped her to overcome certain other things—the charisma issue in particular. There are charismatic women, but when you’re talking about “presidential charisma,” or projecting both strength and warmth, overwhelmingly the people who tend to possess this are men…

FORTINI:…Even if we had a female candidate who had this ineffable, intangible charisma, I think it would be perceived very differently than it would be in a man. When you think about the kind of ease with which Barack Obama conducts himself, I don’t know if it would be received as well if he were a woman. The “I want to have a beer with him” factor that we look for in our male candidates—I don’t think we necessarily want that from a woman. I don’t think we know what we want from our female candidates, frankly.

An interesting idea, that we “don’t know what we want from our female candidates.”

(How about, “a lady?” Commenting this morning on footage of Hillary Clinton drinking from a beer bottle in Puerto Rico, MSNBC anchor Contessa Brewer said: “It was an awkward shot, when she takes the beer bottle and puts that up to her mouth. It’s not what ladies do anyway.” I want to have a beer with her — but make hers in a glass, thank you very much.)

Anyway, TNR’s is a thought-provoking discussion — or, at least, the beginnings of one.

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Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.