Sunday, January 06, 2008

Hillary: Shrill or Just Assertive

I watched the entire debate last night. In truth, I thought all the Democratic candidates did well.

Barack Obama seemed a bit tired and his voice was hoarse and somewhat weak at certain points. But he stayed on his message of hope, inspiraton and inclusiveness, which worked so well for him in Iowa.

In addition, when attacked, he remained calm and stood his ground. All and all, he gave a solid performance.

Edwards was articulate and impassioned as he insisted that the only way to bring about the change that voters want is to stand up and fight the special interests.

While both Obama and Edwards are claiming the titles of "agents of change," their styles are very different.

Hillary seems to have stayed with the message that her candidacy offers change through experience and insisted that she has spent a lifetime accomplishing real change.

Now, I'm not a big Hillary supporter, but I am frankly surprised that this video clip, above, is going around as an example of her shrillness.

It's sound byte taken out of context. She was responding to an attack on her by both Obama and Edwards. At the time, she interrupted to correct the record because Bob Gibson, the moderator, was getting ready to move on.

She did what any good candidate would, and demanded time to respond.

I guess it's a matter of perspective but what some would call her "angry style" or shrillness, I saw as assertiveness.

I also think it goes back to an old and very real problem of perception that all professional women face, and not just from men but from other women too.

When a man stands his ground aggressively, it's seen as strength. When a woman does it, she's seen as being a bitch.

It makes me wonder how a woman can run for office and get a fair shake.

Obviously, lots of times she can and does. We have many successful women candidates who have run at the local, state and national level. Indeed, Hillary has run two successful Senate campaigns.

The difference between running for the presidency and those other offices, however, is that the balancing act for a woman is particularly difficult.

More than any other office in the land, the presidency absolutely requires a person who will be strong enough to be able to protect our national security. Voters need to know that the person they elect to lead them will be tough enough to respond to any national threat. But a woman who strikes a tough stance is still disliked by the public, even the liberal voting public.

This, then, begs the question: Is America ready yet for a woman president?

I think so. But I'm not sure Hillary, for all her obvious intelligence and competency will be the one.

But I don't think it will be because of clips like this, likability or perceived shrillness.

I suspect it will be a mixture of Clinton fatigue and a desire to move beyond the battles of the past.

But tapes like this are beside the point. They are just campaign fodder by opponents. In truth, Hillary did as well as any of the other candidates last night in articulating her message. And she struck the proper note of assertiveness that would be needed in a President of the United States. She is not, after all, running for Magnolia Queen or Miss Congeniality. She's running, like all the others, to be leader of the free world.


tx2vadem said...

Wonderfully stated!

This accusation of shrillness is just nonsense. And it speaks to the double standard you describe. She was defending her record.

I thought her performance was great. I especially loved when she stopped Charles Gibson to defend Bill Clinton's record. She was taking on all of these quick, unsupported assertions that people just thow out there and the media passes over without a second glance.

Aimee Fausser said...

You're right. This double standard is so rooted in how we view everything that we are for the most part unaware of it. It's truly a problem--and I know every time she mentions Bill Clinton, there is a segment of the population that cringes and says she is trying to run on Bill's record. While I feel she has done this some of the time, the average voter does not seem to be able to separate those specific occasions from when she is referring to something that occurred during the Clinton presidency. It is the last time we were in the White House, and we accomplished many things. Times have changed, but the Clinton administration is certainly still something we should be discussing.

AnonymousIsAWoman said...

You're right Aimee, especially since it was actually the last successful administration where economic prosperity was enjoyed by the vast majority of the middle class not just a few people at the top. And it was the last time we actually had a successful foreign policy.

AnonymousIsAWoman said...

BTW, I've just cross-posted this at the Women's Post here:

There's been some activity over there lately, so go check out the site.

The Green Miles said...

If women don't act tough enough, they're dismissed as not strong enough to lead. If they act too tough, they're derided as bitchy. The reaction to this segment of last night's debate is the perfect example. It's one of the reasons men still dominate elections in this country.

The Green Miles said...

If I didn't make it clear, I think the weak/bitchy paradigm that women are held up to is an absolute disgrace.

AnonymousIsAWoman said...

Heard you loud and clear and thanks green miles!