Friday, 30 May 2008

What Women Want

In the spirit of mutual understanding discussed here, I found this E. J. Dionne article about how many professional women feel Hillary has been poorly treated on this campaign interesting.

Nonetheless, even these very pragmatic female politicians who very much want a Democrat to win the White House are looking for signs of "understanding and respect," said Kopp.

"It's a campaign, someone wins, someone doesn't win, that's life," she said. "But women don't want to be totally dissed."

And I have to say: fair enough. It's true, women don't want to be dissed or dismissed because of their gender. And, yes, I do agree that there was some sexism on display at various points during this campaign. None of it, in my view ever came from the Obama camp, but the media has been Hillary-bashing for so long they've gotten very careless about it. I don't like that sort of thing.

But actually, I thought from the beginning of this race, and I still think, that the most remarkable part of the story so far has been how comparatively LITTLE sexism existed. For the most part, Hillary was taken at face value and treated primarily as a politician - not as a a female politician. Being taken seriously meant that while she was the front runner, her opponents directed their arguments primarily to her. It meant that the media was focussing their attention on her. It also meant that when she fell behind, people generally understood that she was not losing because she was a woman but because she had been beaten by another candidate (who happened to be African American).

This is in many ways the best possible advance for feminism - the first prospective female President has not been treated with kid gloves, nor dismissed. The next female candidate to run can rightly expect the same tough but fair treatment, which is all to the good since that future women is unlikely to enter the race with the huge name recognition and party apparatus advantages that Hillary did. Future female Presidential candidates (of which I have no doubt that there will be many in my life time) will be better off because Hillary was taken seriously from the start.

And, as an added bonus, the party is about to nominate a candidate in Barack Obama who is in fact a huge supporter of women's rights, has stood up for choice throughout his career, takes seriously the problem of ensuring women are treated fairly in the workforce (especially during their childbearing years), and is so comfortable around strong women that he married the woman who had been his law firm mentor!

So women want respect and equal treatment, and they will get it. No worries.

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