Dowd: Are (Hillary's) women necessary?

MoDo ponders the frivolity and fashion blunders of the Clinton set.

By Rebecca Traister
March 6, 2008 4:08AM (UTC)
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In the wake of Hillary Clinton's Tuesday victories in Rhode Island, Texas and Ohio, political tensions are running high, and some Obama fans are (quite naturally) pretty steamed. Chief among them is New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, driver, navigator and chief mechanic on the Hillary Hate Bus.

On Wednesday, Dowd wrote a column in which she flipped her lid over the identity politics that she claims are driving a wedge between Clinton's female supporters and Barack Obama's African-American supporters.


In the little theater in Dowd's mind, female voters are getting bossed around by "old-school feminists trying to impose gender discipline and a call to order on their sisters." Making reference to what apparently "some women ... who favor Barack Obama" are calling Clinton's lady base, Dowd coins a jaunty phrase, "shoulder-pad feminism," and paints a deeply evocative, if not particularly original, picture of the hirsute retro feminazis holding America hostage with a speculum until it elects Clinton, as Helen Reddy plays in the background. (Actually, Dowd writes that Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive" is playing in the background, but if it looks like an easily mocked feminist anthem and quacks like an easily mocked feminist anthem, then it probably doesn't matter which feminist anthem Dowd is easily mocking.)

Anyway, Dowd believes that these militant Hillary-ites -- who she clearly believes should have been put out to pasture near the Moon Blood tent at the Womyn's Festival by this time -- have been all riled up by the Clinton campaign's reliance on a "men are pigs, woe is me, sisters must stick together, pantsuits are powerful" school of thought that is buoying their candidate to victory (or more accurately, not defeat) "on the padded shoulders of the older women in Texas, Ohio, and Rhode Island." In case you have missed the subtlety of Dowd's points so far: These Clinton chicks are simply not attractively dressed! And also, kind of ancient! And not hot!

The feminine sin most likely to land Clinton on Mr. Blackwell's worst-dressed list, Dowd argues by quoting an unnamed acquaintance, is that Hillary "doesn't make it look like fun to be a woman." Oh no! Not fun to be a woman? How could we elect a president who fails to demonstrate the giddy pleasures of accessorizing and of coping with a monthly flow!? Especially in light of how our great leaders, from Lincoln to Roosevelt, earned their place in the political firmament by pointing out the kicky fun they had as possessors of penises.


The irony, of course, is that it is Dowd -- with her hoary visions of feminist succubi, coming to crack your nuts and drain your sex life of its mystery -- who seems unable to find joy, or even simple pleasure, in womanhood, the unfortunate condition from which she is so eager to retreat.

But before she scampers too fast, perhaps she should consider that, as anyone who watched Clinton's Ohio speech on Tuesday could tell you, this was a presidential candidate who was having some fun. Was it about being a woman? Being a winner? Who cares!

As close and tense as this race has become, many of us -- perhaps Clinton included -- are having a ball in this exciting, electric election season. And before we go assuming that the thrills are being generated only by old trouts in pantsuits, let's remember that some of the biggest boosts Clinton has received so far have come not from the Centrum Silver crowd but from a younger comedy circuit -- "The Daily Show" and "Saturday Night Live," where ladies like Amy Poehler and Tina Fey, shoulders defiantly unpadded, have been having a hell of a lot of fun with Clinton.

Rebecca Traister

Rebecca Traister writes for Salon. She is the author of "Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election that Changed Everything for American Women" (Free Press). Follow @rtraister on Twitter.

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