Is Britney Spears bad for Hillary Clinton's campaign?

Or, does one woman's bad behavior ruin things for all women? The Associated Press says maybe.

Published March 13, 2007 12:48AM (EDT)

In these post-head-shaving days, there seems to be nothing that can't be blamed on Britney Spears (and other overexposed starlets of the current era). This week, Spears stands accused of harming Hillary Clinton's chances at the White House. In the Associated Press today, Lynn Elber opines that by making a spectacle of herself, Spears may well be compromising Clinton's electability. Elber suggests that recent glass-ceiling-shattering accomplishments by Nancy Pelosi, Katie Couric and newly instated Harvard president Drew Gilpin Faust are sullied somewhat by the very public misdeeds of Spears, Lindsay Lohan and quite-probably-criminal former astronaut Lisa Nowak, among others. "One group is channeling their energy and ambition into shaping the world. The other is focused on whether panties are necessary apparel for a night on the town or if Depends is a road-trip must," Elber writes. "It's a mind-boggling split between the levelheaded and girls gone wild."

Elber notes that the media fixation on "pretty girls in trouble" is annoying for many regular people, but "for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, making the most serious bid yet by a woman for the White House, it could be far worse. She may be vulnerable to damage from a 'bimbo eruption' and this one, ironically, not of her husband's making."

Elber cites Bill Maher, who (reportedly, as I don't get HBO) has said that "Hillary Clinton will never be president as long as women keep acting crazy ... I know it's not fair, but there are too many misogynists out there who are looking for any excuse to not vote for a woman, such as 'women are ruled by their hormones.'" Based on Maher's assessment, Elber wonders, "Is Britney the future of America in ways we never could have imagined? A kingmaker? A queenbreaker?"

So: Sure, it's likely there exist some number of misogynists looking for excuses not to vote for a female candidate, though how many voters actually fall into that category is subject to debate -- recent studies have shown that Americans are pretty receptive to the idea of a woman president, but some pollsters suggest that those poll results may say more about political correctness than actual voter attitudes. But it's still sort of fascinating that in the minds of some, a few underpants-needing bad apples could damage the credibility of 150 million American females. I could dwell on the depressing contradictions here -- that the entertainment industry alternately rewards and censures starlets for their bad behavior; that in our society, more women are famous for being sexy than for most any other accomplishment; that no one is accusing Kid Rock of ruining John Edwards' White House bid -- but I won't, because I'm too busy refreshing Google News in hopes of seeing a particular story pop up: The one where, in addition to everything else, Spears has also been determined to have been responsible for exposing Alexander Litvinenko to polonium-210.

By Page Rockwell

Page Rockwell is Salon's editorial project manager.

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