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Hillary Shows Feeling, is Slammed | The Nation

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Katha Pollitt

Katha Pollitt

Politics, feminism, culture, books and daily life.

Hillary Shows Feeling, is Slammed

John Edwards just lost my vote. How dare he take cheap shots at Hillary Clinton for letting her eyes mist over (not "crying" as was widely reported) at a meeting with voters in Portsmouth NH earlier today? This is a man who has used his most private tragedies--his wife's cancer, his son's fatal accident -- in his campaign in a way that had a woman done the same she would surely be accused of "oprahfying' the lofty realm of politics. This is also the man who promoted himself early on as the real women's candidate, and who has repeatedly used his likeable wife to humanize his rather slick and one-dimensional persona. Today he deployed against Hillary the oldest, dumbest canard about women: they're too emotional to hold power. ABC's Political Radar blog reports:

"Edwards, speaking at a press availability in Laconia, New Hampshire, offered little sympathy and pounced on the opportunity to bring into question Clinton's ability to endure the stresses of the presidency. Edwards responded, 'I think what we need in a commander-in-chief is strength and resolve, and presidential campaigns are tough business, but being president of the United States is also tough business.'"

Ooh, right,we need a big strong manly finger on that nuclear button! Even if that finger has spent most it its life writing personal injury briefs in North Carolina, which, when you come to think of it, is not an obvious preparation for commander-in-chiefhood.

"When people say they don't want anyone's finger on the button who cries, I say I don't want anyone's finger there who doesn't cry," Pat Schroeder told me when we spoke by phone this afternoon. "Tears show someone is a human being." Schroeder ought to know. In 1987 she was viciously attacked for shedding a few tears while announcing her withdrawal from the presidential race. "Ronald Reagan used to tear up all the time," she said. " when John Sununu left the New Hampshire governorship to run Reagan's campaign he was crying so hard he couldn't finish his speech. Bush recently teared up. Dozens of male politicians cry. But when a man cries, he's applauded for having feelings. when a woman cries, she attacked as being weak."

Hillary Clinton, long criticized as cold, shows a bit of feeling and is attacked as overly emotional. It's the latest installment of the ongoing double bind in which if she wears a black pantsuit she's too masculine and if she wears a pink shell she's too feminine; if she's serious she's humorless and if she laughs she "cackles." (George Bush has a horrible heh-heh-heh laugh, Schroeder reminded me. But who, besides Jon Stewart, makes anything of it? ) When Hillary was First Lady she was attacked for being too involved in business of state; now, when she claims "experience" we're reminded that First Ladies are basically trivial. "I'm so sick about the way Hillary is treated I can hardly talk about it," Schroeder told me.

It's bad enough when the media goes after Hillary like a pack of addled lemmings. A few weeks ago it was her wrinkles -- would people vote for a visibly middle-aged woman? today it was her welling eyes. But Edwards is not some on-air airhead . He's supposed to represent "change," remember? You'd think he'd be more alert to sexist gender scripts, given that he's been dogged by accusations of effeminacy for (oh horrors) spending too much time and money on his hair.

I guess in his case metrosexuality only goes scalp deep, because today he sounded like quite the old-school bully boy.

Hillary Clinton has taken a beating in New Hampshire for tearing up in a conversation with a supporter.

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