(Note: This is a true story, but due to the serious and potentially embarrassing nature of the subject matter, the names in this posting have been changed.)
To the casual observer, Susan could be Hillary Clinton’s philosophical twin. She’s 57, a professional woman who earns twice as much as the average man, well-educated with an advanced degree, liberal on most social issues and, in her own words, a “highly ambitious” over-achiever. She’s also intelligent, attractive, confident, assertive.
As we sit down to dinner one night, the conversation inevitably drifts from idle chatter to a discussion of a certain New York Senator who has just announced her candidacy for the presidency of the United States.
“Hillary,” I say to Susan, “was simply brilliant.”
“Hillary,” responds Susan, “is a cold bitch.”
“What?” I mumble through my food.
“You heard me,” asserts Susan. “She’s a cold bitch.”
I look up and the glare in Susan’s eye tells me she really means it.
A day later, my telephone rings. It’s a woman from Washington. She’s an attorney, she tells me. She was in the Peace Corps. She’s a child of the Sixties, a feminist, a world-traveler, a woman who’s done battle on the front lines of justice.
Who the hell does Hillary Clinton think she is, she wants to know, leaving so many dedicated professional women like herself stranded on the beach of life unnoticed, unrecognized, unappreciated? Who the hell does she think she is, she asks a second time, that privileged Park Ridge–Wellesley College–Yale Law School–over-achiever?
“I know it sounds like I’m whining,” says the woman.
“Yes, it does, a little,” I admit.
“But she’s not the only woman who’s done anything worthwhile.”
“No, she isn’t.” It’s hard to disagree.
The next day I have lunch with Becky. Becky is a psychotherapist. She manages her own group practice. She’s as liberated a woman as you’ll find in these parts. She’s earned her way. She’s struggled and continues to struggle. She’s well-known for her group seminars for women.
While not as vicious as Susan in her condemnation of Hillary, Becky nevertheless makes it clear that in her professional opinion, anyone who spends more than five minutes thinking or speaking about Hillary is “obsessed.”
“She doesn’t walk on water,” I am reminded. “And, besides,” Becky says, “Bill’s a much warmer person than she is.”
I’m sure Bill is. I’m also sure Hillary would agree with Becky.
Later on, I’m about to say something about Hillary, and catch Becky’s eye. It’s a warning: say the “H” word again, buster, and you’re dead meat.
The reaction of these women to Hillary Clinton is certainly fascinating. But what is really fascinating is how they respond when I play back what they’ve said about Hillary.
“I never said that.”
“Yes, you did.”
“No, I didn’t. And, really, I don’t hate Hillary.”
Hate? Did I say hate?
Clearly, these women are in a profound state of denial.
It was just a matter of time. Given Hillary’s roller-coaster ride in the hearts and minds of Americans over the last 15 years or so, the appearance of a new Hillary backlash is not surprising. What is surprising is that the backlash appears to be coming from women. Which raises the question: what kind of women hate Hillary, and why?
Why professional women hate Hillary.
If you’re a professional woman, it doesn’t matter how smart you are, how much money you make, how many men you turned into sawdust to get to the top, Hillary is smarter, earned more, and mashed more men than you have. Professional women have started to hate Hillary because their roar of accomplishment sounds like a pathetic “tweet, tweet” when compared to the Senator.
Of course, these are the same women who were supposed to be Hillary’s natural constituency. But Hillary blew it: she turned out to be much too competent, too attractive, too savvy. I mean, how can a woman feel proud that she’s the first female CEO of a Fortune 500 company when Hillary’s out there making decisions about war and peace and being compared not to Eleanor, but to Franklin Roosevelt?
How can Hillary win them back? It’s easy. She needs to make a mistake, a big one, preferably on national television. If she can look temporarily flustered or at a loss for words, all the better. She needs to stop appearing so damned competent and in control all the time. Bill Clinton can then schedule a prime-time news conference to say Hillary’s still got his trust and confidence, despite her “errors of judgment.” America will love Hillary again. Professional women will welcome her back as one of their own.
Why feminists hate Hillary.
I’m not talking about part-time suburban feminists — you know, the kind that wear flannel shirts on weekends and pick up their groceries in four-wheel drive Ford Explorers. I’m talking about women who know how to spell misogyny and still have Anita Hill posters in their bedrooms. For them, Hillary is living proof that the only way for women to succeed in this country is to subrogate yourself to the white male power structure. They hate Hillary precisely because — like most men — she is willing to do whatever it takes to succeed, whether it means changing her name, her hair, her clothes, her values, or her disdain for certain members of the Republican party. Or at least that’s how they see it.
Why poor women hate Hillary.
Why black women hate Hillary.
Does anyone remember Lani Guinier? She was the “radical” black woman that the media said wanted to relocate parts of the Bronx to South Carolina so there’d be more minority congresspersons. Lani Guinier, given her activist agenda and legal background, is really a black Hillary Rodham Clinton — Hillary without the conservatism of Park Ridge, without the compromise of whiteness. She was also the black woman that Bill Clinton forgot to fight for. So while Lani got the rope, Hillary got the pedestal. Don’t expect black women to sing Hillary’s praises in the foreseeable future.
There’s also the small matter of someone named Barak Obama. Maybe black women are now ready to respect black men. Maybe.
Why country-club Republican women hate Hillary.
These are the women with expensive degrees from Smith, Vassar, Mount Holyoke, and Wellesley who for years coasted along, living off their inheritances or their husbands, who joined a few community groups, dabbled in the arts, and thought they were making the most of their talent and education. For a time, it was fashionable to be a highly-educated female under-achiever.
Hillary’s changed all that, and these women are pissed. A large number of them are doctors’ wives, which explains the venomous hissing whenever Hillary’s name is mentioned.
So who really likes Hillary?
The people who were supposed to hate her the most, as it turns out, have become her greatest fans. Of course, we’re talking about white, middle-aged, middle class men.
It took a few years, but Hillary’s proven herself and they like what they see. Cooped up all day in corporate offices, surrounded by incompetent young MBAs (male and female), these men love the ever-competent Hillary. She’s the woman they thought they were marrying twenty years ago. As the joke goes, if they had married her, they would be President. And she’s far less threatening than their wives, who not only insist that they help out in the kitchen, but are statistically likely to take off with their children, their homes, their bank accounts.
There’s a bonus, too: they Hillary find sexually appealing. (Decency precludes too much detail about this. Let’s just say that for these men, Hillary is a combination of a post-Botox Sharon Stone and Rebecca DeMornay, with brains.)
As I sit at my desk trying to come up with a clever way to end this article, Susan comes over and puts a hand on my shoulder.
“What are you writing about?” she asks, peering down at the computer screen.
“It’s a story about women who hate Hillary Clinton.”
“Get used to it.”
“Can I see what you’ve written?”
“You told them what I said about her, didn’t you?”
Susan abruptly pulls her hand off my shoulder and is about to leave the room when she turns around. “I never said that I hated Hillary.”
“No, you didn’t. Not exactly.”
“Well, I don’t hate her.” Susan is on her way into the next room when I hear her mumbling “. . . what a bitch.”
As I said, these women are in a profound state of denial.