In the New York Times’ most recent “Sunday Review,” columnist Maureen Dowd continued her decades-long professional criticism of Hillary Clinton under the guise of defending female empowerment. Very brave!
In the piece, entitled “When Hillary Clinton Killed Feminism,” Dowd attempted to parse out the uneasy relationship between Clinton and young female voters who, according to the New Hampshire primary and recent polls, aren’t as into her as they are an old white socialist.
Hillary started, both last time and this, from a place of entitlement, as though if she reads her résumé long enough people will surrender. And now she’s even angrier that she has been shown up by someone she considers even less qualified than Obama was when he usurped her place.
Bernie has a clear, concise “we” message, even if it’s pie-in-the-sky: The game is rigged and we have to take the country back from the privileged few and make it work for everyone. Hillary has an “I” message: I have been abused and misunderstood and it’s my turn.
It’s a victim mind-set that is exhausting, especially because the Clintons’ messes are of their own making.
That reading of Clinton’s campaign is questionable, especially coming from a columnist co-opting an entire ideology as her main argument. Clinton’s campaign perhaps feels like that of a victim because Clinton has been victimized for much of her career, subject to grotesquely increased press scrutiny often because of her sex and the nature of her relationship to power, coupled with the responsibility of bearing the mantle of exemplifying American Feminism, whatever that means.
Later in the piece, Dowd condemned Madeleine Albright and Gloria Steinem, along with Clinton and her husband, for killing “the integrity of institutional feminism back in the ‘90s.”
Seeing Albright, the first female secretary of state, give cover to President Clinton was a low point in women’s rights. As was the New York Times op-ed by Steinem, arguing that Lewinsky’s will was not violated, so no feminist principles were violated. What about Clinton humiliating his wife and daughter and female cabinet members? What about a president taking advantage of a gargantuan power imbalance with a 22-year-old intern? What about imperiling his party with reckless behavior that put their feminist agenda at risk?
Dowd neatly requires women to answer for the sins of their male president, without even so much as a nod to the fact that they are the ones who ensured that women can even serve in the highest levels of government. What Dowd continues to ignore is the not-so-novel idea that women should be able to misbehave without destroying the credibility of the philosophy that says sexes should be treated equally.
Setting aside this particular festival of buzzword outrage, Dowd has been unabashedly attacking Clinton for years. Media Matters analyzed 195 of her columns since November 1993 that contain “significant mentions” of the candidate, and found that 72 percent (141 columns) were negative, and repeatedly invoke sexist tropes:
...Dowd has repeatedly accused Clinton of being an enemy to or betraying feminism (35 columns 18 percent of those studied), power-hungry (51 columns, 26 percent), unlikeable (9 columns, 5 percent), or phony (34 columns, 17 percent). She’s also attacked the Clintons as a couple in 43 columns (22 percent), many of which included Dowd’s ham-handed attempts at psychoanalysis.
In such a context, this particular piece is not much more than your aunt pulling you aside yet again to tell you about how her neighbors are letting their dogs shit in her yard.
As a nation, we have been temporarily suspended from invoking Albright’s special place in hell. Still, there is an equally dark place reserved for women who invoke the blessed name of Feminism to criticize another woman’s behavior.
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