Rebecca Traister’s Not Sad

And she made me smile, too. Though I’m not sure I agree with everything she says, it was a good– and different– read. (Now back to the marking!)

And, yes, it’s terrific that generations of little girls will grow up knowing that women can run for president. But count me as gratified that those who do so will also know they are not responsible for bearing the highest expectations for their gender’s morality and politesse, because one hell of a difficult dame has been there before them and knocked everybody around pretty hard.

But the fact that she did it her way, and still managed to break voting records, recalls another lesson of this campaign: that change is, after all, not so hard to come by. It can happen quickly, almost silently. Remember that stage when Clinton was the presumptive candidate for president? It’s a stage she’s paid for ever since, but what I intend never to forget is the brief moment when her inevitability wasn’t questioned, when I could feel free to prefer other candidates because she — a woman — was the status quo choice, and no one was batting an eye about her gender. Sure, it’s now clear that, all along, people were seething at her presumption, her gall. But we saw in those months what it might feel like to have a woman lead us. We didn’t make it real, but we imagined it — positively or negatively — with less kicking and screaming than I ever would have thought possible, and that, by itself, is a step. It’s change…

As each primary approached — from New Hampshire to Super Tuesday to Ohio to Pennsylvania — I was sure that Clinton was toast. But Tuesday after Tuesday, there came the vertiginous thrill of watching the pundits collapse into paroxysms of frustration at this goddamn woman who would not quit and, even worse, kept winning in unexpected places and by unexpected margins, even when they said it was impossible, even when they were hollering for her to get out of the race. I think memories of Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann going apoplectic will make me smile for years to come. Male pundits from Jonathan Alter to Howard Fineman to Carl Bernstein to Matthews and Olbermann were licking their lips, salivating for the moment at which she would lay prostrate and beg their forgiveness for her sins of ambition — and she never gave it to them! I wasn’t alone in my giddiness. After one particularly wild election night, perhaps it was Ohio, I got an e-mail from a cousin, a Clinton skeptic who had come to appreciate the senator’s dazzling ability to piss off jerks. “I hope she never stops running,” the e-mail read. “Even after he’s elected.” I knew what she meant. It had nothing to do with Obama. It was about the sheer fun of watching a woman refuse to concede to anyone’s expectations.

Clinton was such a hard-ass that she turned her butchest male critics into the hysterical harpies they accused her of being. What fun, during that final debate, to hear Obama grouse (justifiably) about the ludicrous questions he was facing, while next to him, the broad who had, in an earlier debate, been asked about the fact that nobody liked her cheerily removed the shiv from her thigh and used it as a toothpick.

6 thoughts on “Rebecca Traister’s Not Sad

  1. “And, yes, it’s terrific that generations of little girls will grow up knowing that women can run for president.”

    And all they have to do is have a powerful husband. Yes, what a victory for feminism.

  2. Anonymous, it’s useful to ask whether something comparable holds for the guys. And in enough cases, it does. Politically powerful families or even, goodness sakes, fathers have helped men get into politically powerful positions.

    And women are just at the beginning. We haven’t had the access to powerful positions that have gotten other men the notice often needed.

  3. I think another question we might want to ask, is: Did Hillary Clinton lose because she is a woman or because of her politics? I think that the presumption that Hillary Clinton lost because of her gender is dangerous. It ignores her politics… It would be very difficult, of course, to untangle the two but it might be worth looking into…

    (And in response to Anonymous: And W was elected on his own merit?!?)

  4. Rachel, I’m wondering about looking at causes. The popular vote was at least close. Isn’t there a pretty good sense in which the nomination was decided by the super delegates?

  5. I wonder just how Hillary Clinton is a feminist? Perhaps I missed the discussion but what is it, besides her being female, that makes her feminist? I couldn’t support her because she was willing to send other women’s children to Iraq to kill other women’s children. I don’t see that as feminist at all.

  6. Of course W wasn’t elected on his own merit. (You can’t be elected on properties you don’t have.) I agree that there are problems facing men as well as women! I just get tired of seeing “Oh, how great it is our daughters now know they can run for President. A glass ceiling has been shattered”. Ordinary women don’t have much to take comfort from the fact that marrying into privilege now means that you too can be privileged. The fact that similar issues face ordinary men doesn’t, as far as I can see, pose a counter-example to that claim.

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