Monday, February 11

:: Invisible Woman

There has been some chatter lately about why a certain swath of the population really, really dislikes Hillary Clinton. I mean REALLY, to the point of distraction, without reason, dislikes a woman they have never met, who has never personally harmed them and who does not kill people or kick puppies. Stanley Fish spent several column inches detailing the kind of comments he gets when he opines about Hillary. It is the vicious and irrational nature of the comments that has him perplexed.

My mom has one explanation for the Hillary hatred. She thinks there is a huge latent discomfort, even hatred of Hillary Clinton, because she refuses to become invisible. Older women in our society, especially older white women, tend to fade into the background. They are no longer sex objects and are therefore supposed to take their rightful role as unobtrusive grandmothers. There are not many roles (or rules) for a woman who continues to be productive long after she has stopped reproducing.

She [Hillary] was never the "pretty" or "cute" one, and at this advanced age of hers as a woman, she has refused to become invisible. How dare she! She is going against the everybody-knows popular wisdom about what women in their 50's are supposed to be doing, looking like, saying. She is supposed to be INVISIBLE. And when someone, any age or gender, goes against what we know should be the proper role, it makes us uncomfortable. And when voters are uncomfortable, they instinctively vote NO. I've worked on many issue campaigns, everything from the ERA to zoning issues in a specific community, and the single consistent theme for something losing is the voter telling the pollster, "I just am uncomfortable voting for this...No, of course I don't understand it, but somehow or other it makes me uncomfortable; therefore I will be against it."

This phenomenon is not lost on the Clinton campaign – her very first campaign ad was titled Invisible.


zippy said...

Hmmm... interesting. Interesting because my sister was just saying yesterday that her mother-in-law was giving her a really hard time about voting for Hillary. She (my sis) was really surprised for the hatred that MIL felt -- deep dislike that seemed to have little to do with her positions on the issues.

I'm wondering if the invisibility is not just because she's a Woman of a Certain Age who refused to go away, but that she was never particularly quiet to begin with.

Ciccina said...

I don't know what prompts certain women to go around the bend with regard to Hillary. I don't mean to imply anything specific, but women have a lot of secrets - about their own hopes and ambitions, whether they "settled" for less than they wanted, marital issues, treatment they've faced and how they responded to it... it could be anything. Not that men don't have secrets too, but Hillary seems to be a real lightning rod for people's personal issues.

As I'm leaving (okay, I've left) the "young person" demographic, I've become acutely aware of the phenomenon of which Buffy's mom speaks. Throughout our culture, women who are not valuable as sex objects are simply not represented. I was dismayed to see Rachel Maddow, the new female pundit on MSNBC, wearing girlie makeup recently. She looks terrible in girlie makeup (pink lipstick, etc) - her look is totally, um, K D Lang. And she looks good that way. But it felt like someone had to make sure she was at least carrying some signifier that said "I want to be sexually valued by men." It wasn't enough to do her makeup just like they would any of the guys.