Sunday, May 20, 2007

Anna Quindlen on Hillary

Revealing piece in terms of its honesty from a woman speaking to & for other women on their vision of a woman president.

Here's the key piece:

When we imagined a woman president we imagined a new day, a new strategy, a new vision and new tactics. Even when we said it was unfair to hold women to a higher standard than their male counterparts, in our hearts we did, whether they were running companies (more family-friendly policies and humane workplace conditions), editing newspapers (human-interest and service stories) or practicing medicine (patient contact and engagement).
I find the common thread of touch/relationality intriguing in all three of her examples. And especially the line about how the head knew one thing which the heart didn't go along with.

Quindlen's point as you might guess is that Hillary is none of those but rather a product of the system: well-oiled machine; army of pollsters; lacks honesty/sincerity.

I still think woman would vote in droves for Hillary. Even if they do feel this way--and I do believe Quindlen has hit upon a common enough feeling.

One point I would disagree with her (or rather seek to see the other side) is in the following line:
And every time Clinton is described as calculating or ambitious, you realize that such words are never used for male politicians because for them both traits are assumed—and accepted. Old habits die hard
The use of calculating and ambitious may be assumed for men. But there is a corresponding term used for male politicians (meant to attack their manhood) that Clinton doesn't face with the same sting: flip-flopper.

Masculine energy (as opposed to men) is based on the ability to be unmoved. Courage under fire, etc. Unmoved in the face of external change. To see the end point and come hell or high water to achieve that end.

It is unfair that Clinton (and not others) gets the ambitious label. Just as it is unfair to give the flip-flop wimp label to men. But like it or not this is how it is going to go. As long as most people continue to confuse the energy (masculine/feminine) for the individuals (male-female).

I think also while Quindlen is basically right that Clinton is a product of the system and it is irrational (but still pulls on the heart) to imagine a woman somehow would change the system just because she is a woman, there is a difference between Clinton and a Margaret Thatcher, Golda Meir, Indira Gandhi. They ran and governed as purely Masculine in women's bodies.

Clinton while she certainly has plenty of Masculine in her (just as Bill had a great deal of Feminine), she does have through her experience of the 1960s, however weirdly it can come off at times (i.e. on The View) Feminine energy-identity. She would be the first major power woman leader (except maybe Angela Merkel? although she's pretty dour German Masculine herself) with a strong touch of the Feminine in a post-60s sorta way. For better and/or worse. But it's not going to change the whole system overnight.

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At 1:29 PM, Blogger Shannon said...

I am so obsessed right now with the way that different standards and descriptors are used for men and women, how idea/ls of gender norms are assumed under so much that goes on in popular media and popular culture.

I like how you name it as the convolution of the masculine/feminine energies with the actual male/female persons.... although I can't help but think it is still tricksy to name even the energies as masculine/feminine.

I really wonder if there is a better way to name the differences that we sense in the world, the binaries of balance that seem to operate in all our lives, a better way than "masculine/feminine".

As a Christian disciple I wonder how much of my discipleship ought to be about helping to break down those gendered divisions (i.e. "in Christ... neither male or female").

I've posted on this same topic on my blog today actually, there must be some gender-questioning energy moving in the universe this week.

At 3:04 PM, Blogger CJ Smith said...


I saw your post. I think your comments are turned off.

There are problems with still naming the energies masculine/feminine. Because people will often equate that with men/women.

I think it is generally true nevertheless to say that most men tend to be mostly Masculine and most women tend to be mostly Feminine.

I choose those words carefully. Nobody is ever 100% one or the other. And of course men can be feminine and women masculine. Predominantly I mean.

What needs to happen is have these discussions without the baggage of Feminine=Weak. Feminine energy can be powerful, even frightening at times.

Or without the postmodern inability to ever criticize any attitude/belief from some one/group who identifies themselves as victims. Or the notion popular in PC crowds that only someone from within a group can criticize. So I'm a man, hence I can't criticize any feminist notions because that makes me an oppressor and androcentric misogynist.

My main issue is that we don't let the Feminine be expressed in its Dark Fashion. Like Kali. Hence a great many women let that energy out in very destructive ways: carping, bitchiness, or hold it in and become resentful and self-loathing.

When the Dark (not Evil) side of the Feminine is not expressed than the Light side becomes "soft". And I see too many so-called liberated women reflexively repress their own Light-side Feminine natures for this reason.

They end up becoming too Masculine as a result and are deeply unhappy. Particularly in the work world.

And in my thinking more importantly there are levels to each. Better levels of Masculine and Feminine. Instead of a purely horizontal analysis where it's Masculine v. Feminine.

On the other hand, I don't know what other words to use. I think it is true that at higher levels, particularly spiritual ones (a la Paul) these two energies in us reach a new sort of togetherness. So that we are not really exclusively identified with either.

I mean that in Christ it's obviously not that our bodies disappear. Or that our predominant tendencies disappear. But they no longer define us. And their opposites in others no longer become sources of friction, fear, and pain but rather joyous expansion.

Same with races, cultures. It's negating the exclusivity which frees our limitations/incarnations to be what they are with others. Not against others. No longer as a problem but as a source of creativity and play for the sake of God's beauty-making, diversity loving artifice.

Just one man's thoughts. Peace.


At 6:29 PM, Blogger Shannon said...

Thanks for the reply (and thanks for letting me know the comments were off, not sure what happened there but it's fixed now).

As I contemplate my discomfort more I think my frustration is that even though we give a fair amount of lip service to "softer", "feminine" qualities being just as important as "harder", "masculine" qualities, in the final count there is still a hierarchy of privileging the "masculine" qualities, it is so deeply built into our social constructions. And here I reach a frustrating block where I'm not sure what to do next.

The best I can do right now is to be as authentically me as possible, honouring all my energy flows and try to let that "be-ing" speak for itself.



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