The Why and Wherefore

Happy 88th Anniversary, 19th Amendment

Posted on: August 27, 2008

Yesterday was a semi-historic day, as Susan Faludi depressingly pointed out in the NY Times. On the 88th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote, Hillary Clinton took the podium at the DNC Convention to basically give a second concession speech.

All week, the media has been flogging the PUMA movement and waiting desperately to see if Clinton will somehow disrupt the convention with some kind of power grab, despite the fact that she has been nothing but gracious and enthusiastic for Obama since she suspended her campaign.

Powerful women. They’re so scary, aren’t they?

A friend of mine emailed me wanting to know why this was such a painful moment for Clinton voters everywhere. Actually, he Twittered me, but I realized there was no way I could answer in 140 characters. 🙂

My answer:

If i had to characterize the PUMA movement (which I am not a part of btw), I would say it’s twofold:

1. Women have a very, very long history of getting passed over for positions they’re qualified for, often by younger men. This has happened personally to a great many older women in the US and I think it’s probably a painful reminder for them. There are many voters, myself included, who not only want to see a woman in the White House but also think that she is the better person for the job.

In particular, it’s also hard to see Obama choose a VP who shares two of the traits that he lambasted Clinton for–a vote for the Iraq war and Washington Insideriness. So in that sense, I think many women feel that the party did not give Clinton a fair shot once Obama won Iowa, and they’re mad that he didn’t even consider her for VP even though he can’t seem to close the deal with her demographic.

2. Hillary faced overwhelmingly sexist coverage in the media, and I don’t just mean Chris Matthews. The talking heads, Obamamaniacs and Democratic officials alike started beating the drums for her to bow out (eg ‘get out of the man’s way’) WAY before it was appropriate to do so, given that they ended the race only a few thousand votes apart. I also believe that she suffered from the common perception that leadership qualities are masculine qualities, and so behavior that would be tolerated or celebrated in a man were vilified in her. This is getting stirred back up right now because everyone seems to think she is a bitter hag who is just waiting to ruin the convention and destroy the party so she can run again in 2012. This despite her absolutely unrelenting and incredibly gracious efforts to get her supporters under Obama’s banner.

There’s a lot of ‘get over it’ in people’s attitude today, but one has to see the historical context (which is also true for other historically disadvantaged groups). For millennia women have been told to get over it, to sit down and shut up, to get out of the way, to not worry their pretty little heads about it. They’ve also been called hysterical, nagging harridans who remind people of their first wives waiting outside probate court. So, you know, they get a little touchy.

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1 Response to "Happy 88th Anniversary, 19th Amendment"

Whoo boy, can I not *wait* to talk Sarah Palin with you, when you get back from Greece.

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