President Obama has been touring the nation, campaigning with Democratic nominee for President, Hillary Clinton. On Sunday, while speaking at a fundraiser in New York City, President Obama said Clinton could lose some votes because some people have biases against women. In other news, water is wet and the sky is blue. Sexism is as is American as apple pie and racism–so why is it “news” that Obama recognized it in this election cycle?
According to President Obama, this election will be close, “but it will not be because of Hillary’s flaws.” The President explained, “There’s a reason we haven’t had a woman president. We as a society still grapple with what it means to see powerful women and it still troubles us in a lot of ways, unfairly.”
While it is certain that Clinton has her flaws (which have received a heap of appropriate criticism), President Obama is absolutely right that some folks will simply not vote for Clinton because she is a woman. The criticisms lodged at Clinton are often steeped in implicit (or even explicit) sexism–including Donald Trump’s argument that Clinton does not have the “stamina” to be President, as well as the broad suggestion that she is untrustworthy or unable to lead.
The fact is, Clinton is the most qualified candidate for President in our lifetime: she has served as First Lady, Senator of New York, and Secretary of State. Clinton has represented Americans both nationally and internationally. Critiques on Clinton’s record are appropriate and justified; however, critiques on her character, or the critique that she shouts when she speaks, are blatantly sexist, as she is painted as the conniving, unfeeling, un-ladylike shrew dedicated to achieving power.
Voters may not know how to think about this woman who wishes to govern: she is clearly dedicated to her family, but chose not to leave her famously unfaithful husband. She has admitted that she is not a natural politician and has to work at inspiring voters, likely because the attributes of a successful politician are often considered to be “masculine” traits (i.e., appearing to be strong and decisive). As Ezra Klein has pointed out, most of the people close to Hillary note her ability to listen to others–a less dominant, masculine characterization, to be sure.
Clinton has been through the ringer of sexism this election cycle, and, President Obama is right, it will likely cost her votes. She is seeking the highest office in American politics and is closer to that goal than any woman who ran before her. Clinton has a long record that is up for debate, as it should be. Yet, the unmitigated, unwarranted attacks on Clinton for being herself, or for not conforming to traditionally masculine conceptions of a political leader are disgusting and a major distraction from the real issues this election season.
Photo Credits: AFP / Nicholas Kamm