Does Hillary have a woman problem? Cast your vote in the Nation Poll.
“I love [Hillary Clinton] so completely that, honestly, she would have to burn down the White House before I would say anything bad about her!” exclaimed Nora Ephron in a 1993 Newsday interview. Three years later, she told the Wellesley class of 1996, “Understand: Every attack on Hillary Clinton for not knowing her place is an attack on you.” Come late 2006, however, Ephron was the one on the attack as one of the self-described “Hillary resisters”–those who believe that “she will do anything to win, who believe she doesn’t really take a position unless it’s completely safe,” as she wrote on her Huffington Post blog, “who believe she has taken the concept of triangulation and pushed it to a geometric level never achieved by anyone including her own husband, who can’t stand her position on the war, who don’t trust her as far as you can spit.”
This rather dramatic change of heart encapsulates one of the great ironies of Hillary Clinton’s bid for the presidency. Many of the very same feminists who were her most ardent supporters as First Lady are now fiercely opposed to her historic bid to become the first female President of the United States. The woman once described by Susan Faludi as a symbol of “the joy of female independence” now evokes ambivalence, disdain and, sometimes, outright vitriol. The right wing’s favorite “femi-nazi” now has to contend with an LA Weekly description of her as “a ventriloquist for the patriarchy with a skirt and a vagina.”
So what’s up with the Hillary-bashing? “Women don’t trust Hillary. They see her as an opportunist; many feel betrayed by her,” wrote Susan Douglas in a May In These Times article titled “Why Women Hate Hillary.” A month later, in her Newsweek column, Anna Quindlen declared, “The truth is that Senator Clinton has a woman problem.”
Not exactly true, as it turns out. Hillary Clinton was the number-one choice of 42 percent of likely Democratic primary women voters in a recent Zogby survey, compared with 19 percent for Barack Obama and 15 percent for John Edwards. And her favorable rating among independent women is a whopping twenty-one points higher than among independent men.
Let’s be clear: Hillary has a “feminist problem,” and more so with those who lean left.
At first glance, the fault line dividing feminists in their view of Hillary Clinton is merely a matter of ideology. On one side are the mainstream moderate women’s organizations such as NOW and EMILY’s List, facing off against more radical progressive feminists, especially those opposed to the Iraq War. Some of her supporters claim that much of the anger is inspired by her now-infamous 2002 Congressional vote. “It’s about this one vote, which was not to invade Iraq but to authorize the President to wage war. I can’t understand how this can be held up against a lifetime of important political work,” says NOW president Kim Gandy.