October 09, 2007

Hillary Clinton's a Feminist?

Not according to Andrew Sullivan.

While I'm at it: Several of you have emailed claiming that my antipathy to the Clinton Restoration is a function of my discomfort with women in power. This argument is a little weak since my entire interest in politics was born out of an unhealthy devotion to the career and achievements of Margaret Thatcher, a truly powerful woman and a far more impressive feminist than Hillary Rodham Clinton. Thatcher was not a willing and knowing accomplice to a man who routinely sexually abused and harassed the women in his orbit. Nor was she fully involved in the subsequent smearing of such women. Hillary was. Her feminism extends only to the extent that it advances her and her husband's power.

My. Though Thatcher is about the last person I'd think of to describe as a feminist. The picture I always think of when I think of her is one of her sitting at the center of her hand-picked cabinet - the only woman in a sea of 20-odd men.

Posted by armand at October 9, 2007 05:46 PM | TrackBack | Posted to Politics


So being a feminist requires adherence to quota-driven identity politics? Yawn.

Posted by: jacflash at October 9, 2007 07:54 PM | PERMALINK

i'm sure i'm going to get trashed for this, but in all sincerity, when we're talking about the rarefied air of the inner circle of one of the five most important world leaders at any given time, must she appoint a woman to a position she thinks a particular man would better fill to demonstrate her feminist bona fides? wouldn't it be more apt to ask after her specific policies (which may fail any fair test, and i'm not well enough versed to common), which directly affected millions of brits and untold others, then to worry about with whom she kept intimate counsel, her choice of whom affected almost no one directly as a function of their gender, but only as a function of their contributions to government policy?

Posted by: moon at October 9, 2007 08:07 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, and I'm totally on board with AS's "Nixon in a pant suit" characterization. I mean, dude, Sandy Berger?

Posted by: jacflash at October 9, 2007 08:36 PM | PERMALINK

Well let me respond this way. I forget how many ministers were in the photo - but the big reason why it stays in my mind is that there were so many. So let's say that there were at least 25 of them as I don't remember the exact number. Don't you find it kind of odd that not one of them was female. Surely it's not that in the 1980's the people best qualified to fill every single one of those positions was male. I mean I guess it's possible - but what are the odds? I'm not advocating a quota by noting this - I'm 1)just noting that it's really weird, and 2) as feminism is often associated with helping women break glass cielings, well that's something Thatcher seemed remarkably disinterested in pushing.

Posted by: Armand at October 9, 2007 08:37 PM | PERMALINK

Well remember that according the to psychologists' studies I saw at the International Society of Political Psychology meeting this summer the personality group that both Senator Clinton and Mayor Giuliani fall in puts them closest in personality to the "dominator" presidents - and the most prominent of those is Richard Nixon.

Posted by: Armand at October 9, 2007 08:42 PM | PERMALINK

the personality group that both Senator Clinton and Mayor Giuliani fall in puts them closest in personality to the "dominator" presidents

Oh my. I'll bet the republican base would love that! Or at least some of them might.

Posted by: binky at October 9, 2007 08:49 PM | PERMALINK

Ewwww. Things I'd rather not know. But if we're going in that direction Giuliani is more likely to be extreme on such points. His ratings on a set of traits tied to "agreeableness" was so remarkably low that they actually used the word disorder. And as that's tied to being a dominator ... hmmm, I don't want to know what him and Judith are up to, so I'll leave it there.

Posted by: Armand at October 9, 2007 09:10 PM | PERMALINK

But Hillary's a namby-pamby eat-your-vegetables dominator, not one of those sexy high-heeled ones.

Posted by: jacflash at October 9, 2007 09:15 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, I bet Judith dresses him up in pink lingerie and canes the crap out of him several times a week.

But really, I'd rather not know for sure.

Posted by: jacflash at October 9, 2007 09:18 PM | PERMALINK

Wow. Thatcher's exclusion of women from high office was even worse than I thought. Having looked it up now, over the course of her leadership, which lasted for over 11.5 years from 1979-1990, she only ever named 1 woman (Baroness Young) to her cabinet. And Baroness Young only served in relatively minor positions from 1981-1983.

Posted by: Armand at October 9, 2007 10:43 PM | PERMALINK

Obviously, there is a difference between being a powerful woman and being a feminist.

Posted by: binky at October 9, 2007 11:01 PM | PERMALINK

Armand: C'mon, you don't get to call it "exclusion" unless you can establish that there were equally-qualified female Tories available for these positions. I have no clue what the evidence shows on that front. Do you?

Posted by: jacflash at October 10, 2007 07:50 AM | PERMALINK

Well no I don't. But given that she always had at least around 339 members of the House of Commons to choose from (and her party won 397 seats in 1983, after the war), plus the Conservative members of the Lords (so hundreds more), and that she formed 5 governments (plus the occasional shifts during the governments) of 20-something ministers each during her leadership, it seems quite odd to me that given all those slots and all those people there wasn't even a second female appointed in all of that time. Now it wouldn't surprise me if there weren't tons of Conservative women in the Commons in the 1980's (though that could also say something about her leadership right there). But given the overall numbers, promoting no other women in all that time still looks really odd to me.

Posted by: Armand at October 10, 2007 08:17 AM | PERMALINK

maybe she despised working with women, and maybe that's pathological (and given the evidence, that seems likely, in one sense or another), but i still haven't heard anything addressing whether her policies were feminist.

a woman can ascend to great heights and not be terribly feminist. granted, she wasn't a world leader, but my grandmother, who was widowed young with at-home children, ended up climbing pretty high in a state utility's executive hierarchy. but then and now, feminist is not a word one would apply to this daughter of the south, who grew up in north carolina.

similarly, a woman can choose not to surround herself with women, just as she might choose not to surround herself with people of a different party or people who like to listen to country music in their cubicles, and yet still be a feminist with her policies, where the rubber meets the road.

i'm guessing, since she's so often associated with reagan's policies, there's good reason to believe she wasn't a feminist policy-maker. but none of the people here who know better than i hav suggested as much.

Posted by: moon at October 10, 2007 12:37 PM | PERMALINK

Don't you think someone who despises working with women because they are women is automatically disqualified from being a feminist?

Posted by: binky at October 10, 2007 12:57 PM | PERMALINK

Just a bit of history. When Thatcher took office, only 3% of the MPs were women, and it reached 6% in the last election she won. I don't have the breakdown Labor vs Conservative for back then, but at present only 9% of Conservative are women vs 28% of Labor.

Cabinet ministers are selected from among the more powerful of the MPs and Lords, so she had a very short list of female candidates. The short list plus the need to keep internal party peace would interfere with picking women. A representative sample of 100 ministers from a Parliamentary population would only be about 5. The need to pick Conservatives with suitable seniority would push that number close to the one that she picked. It might have had nothing to do with any personal preference on her part.

Posted by: rjh at October 10, 2007 03:48 PM | PERMALINK

if she shephered a guarantee of equal pay to women for equal work, she'd have eclipsed plenty of american "feminists," hillary included, in effectiveness as such.

Posted by: moon at October 10, 2007 04:30 PM | PERMALINK

Thank you rjh! Just the kind of facts we needed.

Well if that's the case then I guess her actions aren't that surprising (though 1 still seems awfully low). Though I think my point might still hold a little bit if she did such a poor job of increasing the number of female conservative MPs. I mean given her position, you'd think that at least by the 1987 election she could've gotten more women elected, if that was a matter that concerned her.

And Moon, sure. But I'm unaware of her sheperding anything of the kind through parliament.

I guess I'm still confused as to why Sullivan would consider her a feminist icon.

Posted by: Armand at October 10, 2007 04:39 PM | PERMALINK

Whether she eclipsed them or not, it still doesn't make her one. And then there is whether or not she considers herself one, which (though I am not sure about) I have not seen much mentioned.

Posted by: binky at October 10, 2007 06:46 PM | PERMALINK

armand, i'm positing a hypothetical, in part because of the obvious deficiencies in my relevant knowledge. the question remains: is a feminist someone who advances the cause of women, or someone who pays prominent lip service to advancing the cause of women. i'd think, were i a woman, i'd be far more concerned with the realities on the ground than the rhetoric on tv or on the floor of parliament.

Posted by: moon at October 11, 2007 11:55 AM | PERMALINK

I get what you are saying.

And I'm saying that I think putting more women in power would seem a feminist way of advancing the causes of women.

Posted by: Armand at October 11, 2007 12:45 PM | PERMALINK

Well, there's always reading, if thinking about the utility of rhetoric is too off-putting.

Posted by: binky at October 11, 2007 12:56 PM | PERMALINK
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