You would think that Hillary Clinton, after a long and illustrious career in politics, would be done having to respond to questions that are seeped with sexist insinuations. You would think that after two presidential campaigns and a strong tenure in the office of the secretary of state, Hillary Clinton would not have to battle sexist stereotypes. You would think that after all this time, the discourse on Hillary Clinton would move beyond “But you’re a woman. Can you really do this?”
If you watched the democratic debate hosted by CNN a few days ago with the idea that Anderson Cooper would not drag Clinton through the mud of misogyny because you expect the world to have evolved, you might have missed the sexist undertones in some of his questions.
Cooper asked Clinton,
“Plenty of politicians evolve on issues, but even some Democrats believe you change your positions based on political expediency. You were against same sex marriage. Now you’re for it. You defended President Obama’s immigration policies. Now you say they’re too harsh. You supported his trade deal dozens of times. You even called it the ‘gold standard’. Now, suddenly, last week, you’re against it. Will you say anything to get elected?”
Now consider what TI had to say about Clinton in a radio interview a few days ago:
“… Every other position that exists, I think a woman could do well. But the president? It’s kind of like, I just know that women make rash decisions emotionally – they make very permanent, cemented decisions – and then later, it’s kind of like it didn’t happen, or they didn’t mean for it to happen.”
Can you sense the resonance in the two statements?
They are both essentially predicated on the sexist notion that women are indecisive, rash and unable to commit to a particular decision.
One of the statements is blatantly exhibiting it, and the other is well shrouded.
It is significant to note that none of the other candidates, who were all men, were questioned about their changing positions on different subjects in such a manner.
Governor Lincoln Chafee, who should have been accused of indecision for repeatedly swapping party labels, was lightly admonished by Cooper for switching parties. On the other hand, Clinton was robustly targeted again for her alleged indecision on the Keystone Pipeline.
The consistent insinuation that her position and policies were irresolute prompted her to say,
“Well, you know, everybody on this stage has changed a position or two. We’ve been around a cumulative quite some period of time.”
The camera at that moment took a shot of the stage where Clinton stood strong in a line-up of four men.
“You know, we know that if you are learning, you’re going to change your position. I never took a position on Keystone until I took a position on Keystone.
So I’m not taking a back seat to anybody on my values, my principles and the results that I get.”
The democratic debate revealed that sexist rhetoric these days exists in several forms. The form presented at the democratic debate is the type we need to be especially vigilant of because of its institutionalised character, its ability to permeate all discourse on women and, most importantly, escape notice. If we are not quick to identify the shadow of gender bias in political rhetoric, then the next Hillary, who stands up on a stage with four powerful men, just might not win.