Feminists: The Hillary Divide

Oconomowoc, Wis.

Thank you for Betsy Reed’s intelligent and perceptive “Race to the Bottom: How Hillary Clinton’s Campaign Has Divided the Feminist Movement” [May 19]. She quotes Frances Kissling as saying, “If Clinton wins, the older-line women’s movement will continue…. If she doesn’t win, it will be a death knell for those people. And that may be a good thing–that a younger generation will start to take over.”

But there’s another possibility. If Hillary Clinton were to win the nomination but lose the general election, the backlash would be unrecoverable in our lifetime. It took years to get past Geraldine Ferraro’s stinging loss in the VP slot–years, and a woman who could position herself as a near-incumbent.

Clinton’s choice to run as someone who shoots whiskey and will obliterate Iran is unfortunate for many reasons, but the biggest problem with this approach is that she will not be able to out-cowboy McCain. Many are worried that her actions are tearing the Democratic Party apart, but I fear she is doing far more damage to the feminist movement. Perhaps merely having a woman on the ballot is a large step forward, but her approach to this race continues to be an even larger step back.

STACI LEIGH O’BRIEN


Walnut Creek, Calif.

With regard to “How Hillary Clinton’s campaign has divided the feminist movement”: I believe it is Obama’s 2008 bid for the presidency that has divided us. He should have waited until 2012. I support Hillary because I admire her brilliance and fortitude. I think that she can better rectify the Bush/Cheney disasters and lead us through these daunting times most effectively.

CELIA MENCZEL


Santa Cruz, Calif.

Betsy Reed’s “Race to the Bottom” is a wonderful article that well explores the difficulties of feminism inherent in the choice for Obama versus Clinton. It is only missing one thing–Obama has been subtly working the gender angle as deliberately as Clinton has been working the race angle. Check out his sly sexist messages, such as talking about the wives of male officeholders (“X and his lovely wife, Y, who is his true asset”) and how he pulls out chairs for Clinton at debates and speaks to her with the barely concealed ridicule of men in power–“You’re likable enough, Hillary.” These behaviors make it clear that women are not yet fully accepted in positions of power. And that Obama is continuing that tradition.

ANDI THOMAS


Medford, Mass.

Betsy Reed’s “Race to the Bottom” disturbs me to the core. Hillary Clinton did not engage in a unilateral character assassination of Barack Obama, nor did she play the race card any more than his campaign played (brilliantly and seamlessly) the misogyny card. And the left-wing press bought his strategy hook, line and sinker. Not a scintilla of examination of the tactics of Axelrod and Plouffe–his senior advisers. Who among Obama’s senior team is African-American, or Latino, or a woman? He is as mainstream a male politician as any. But the media swoon over him like a teenager with a first crush.

I find myself rooting for Clinton not because I am an “old” feminist, not because I am an old lefty but because I believe that she would do an infinitely better job as President in this incredibly dangerous and complex world that the Bush/Cheney years have deeded to us all. Smooth words and good looks are not enough for me. Give me the experience, the toughness, the brilliance, the depth and the historical significance of Hillary Clinton, who–oh, by the way–happens to be a woman.

AUDREY ROTH


Albuquerque

I agree with Betsy Reed. However, I have to take issue with her about Hillary Clinton “threatening to ‘totally obliterate’ Iran after being asked how she would respond [to] an Iranian nuclear strike against Israel” because of her supposed “desire to compete on a macho foreign policy playing field.”

I believe that early in the campaign, Senator Obama was asked a similar question and said flatly that he saw no reason not to authorize strikes inside Pakistan. Why is that kind of macho pandering ignored while we seem never to give breathing room to Senator Clinton?

I have no love for the way Senator Clinton is conducting her campaign. (This, after a fondness–outright crush–for her during her husband’s administration.) I also happen to be a black man. Senator Clinton does allow the “race card” to be played to her advantage. Frankly, I’m dismayed by the tone of the entire campaign on both sides of the Democratic race.

NIGEL D. HENRY


Newport, R.I.

Given the almost identical positions of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama on practically every issue, why has the feminist movement been split by this primary contest? Except for her initial vote for the war, Clinton and Obama have voted almost identically on the war, and their withdrawal plans are very similar. In terms of intellectual competence they seem to be on an equal footing.

So why isn’t the feminist movement

90 percent behind Clinton, as the black vote is 90 percent for Obama? Evidently, racial relationships are much stronger than gender relationships.

But I think there’s another reason. It has to do with the relationship between men and women, and it essentially dooms the feminist movement to be split in any contest between a relatively young, attractive man and an older woman. All else being equal, younger women voters consciously or unconsciously are attracted to the man, whereas there is no attraction between men and the older woman candidate. This is borne out by polls that show a large majority of the women supporting Obama are young, whereas those supporting Hillary are older.

SAM PHELAN


Seattle

It is not gender or race that matters. The politics of those seeking my vote matter. This 59-year-old Jewish feminist former Edwards supporter has not been enamored of either of the remaining Democratic choices. I resent the thinking that because of my age, race and gender I should support the woman–especially when I’ve never agreed with her politics.

Has Hillary Clinton been the victim of our sexist, misogynous culture? Definitely. We cannot accept and don’t know how to deal with strong women. Would she make a good President? Probably. Better than Barack Obama? Doubtful. When the issues are similar, one has to look at management style. Hers is top-down. Very male. His community-organizing background lets him entertain a more diverse/possibly bottom-up style, allowing people to disagree with him then come to the best decision. I will vote for the Democrat in November. I hope it is someone I can trust.

JEAN COLMAN


Olathe, Kans.

Thank you, Betsy Reed. This was the best analysis of the feminist view of Hillary I have read. I have felt increasingly that Hillary is not a good representative of women, and Reed helped me to understand why. I hope Obama can move past this unethical way of campaigning!

MARILU GOODYEAR