Clinton has "Girlfriend posse" to thank?

Judith Warner angrily embraces that favorite narrative of the candidate's New Hampshire win.


Tracy Clark-Flory
January 12, 2008 7:15AM (UTC)

I realize that the two most recent Broadsheet posts mention Hillary Clinton. I'm also burned out on talk of how her fabled "tears" won her New Hampshire, I really am. But Judith Warner's column on the topic absolutely demands comment.

Marianne Pernold Young -- the woman who asked that infamous question in a Portsmouth coffee shop -- says she simply wanted to know "woman to woman" and "as a friend," how Clinton manages to get up every morning on the campaign trail. But Warner projects what this "emissary of the 'Girlfriend' posse" truly wanted answered: "Could she 'relate' to Clinton? Was she likely to find a 'friend' in a woman with a camera-ready helmet of hair? Could she learn from Hillary? Could they share beauty tips? Would her gesture toward female bonding be well-received and perhaps met with the kind of positive mirroring of which Best Friendships Forever are made?" Yikes.

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That uncharacteristically catty swipe is just the start of it. Warner goes on to say:

If victory came for the reasons we've been led to believe -- because women voters ultimately saw in her, exhausted and near defeat, a countenance that mirrored their own -- then I hate what that victory says about the state of their lives and the nature of the emotions they carry forward into this race. I hate the thought that women feel beaten down, backed into a corner, overwhelmed and near to breaking point, as Hillary appeared to be in the debate Saturday night. And I hate even more that they've got to see a strong, smart and savvy woman cut down to size before they can embrace her as one of their own.

You know what I hate? That Warner actually buys into that dangerously appealing media narrative, the one that holds everyday women as too simple, too dumb and too frivolous to vote on actual issues; that the moronic soccer moms of America are easily wooed by a show of frailty and exhaustion because that's something they understand. Alternate theories (like that female voters revolted against cable news' delighted and premature announcement of Clinton's political death) be damned, we keep returning to the narrative that allows us to cozy up to familiar and reassuring sex stereotypes. It seems that many of us want to believe women voters were swayed by a show of emotion, instead of by their outrage at the media response to Clinton's slightest show of emotion or, say, actual campaign issues.

The truth is, as Rebecca Traister put it in her recent Salon story, "We'll likely never really know what electoral alchemy landed Hillary Clinton an unexpected victory." But, just as recent history has been rewritten to show Clinton crying her eyes out, the tale of how she secured a New Hampshire win remains equally unhampered by reality. I'm shocked to see Warner so eagerly -- not to mention angrily -- embrace that imagined reality.


Tracy Clark-Flory

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2008 Elections Broadsheet Hillary Rodham Clinton Love And Sex

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