Susan Faludi on Hillary Clinton
Male politicians have always cast themselves as rescuers to women. Clinton's also playing a rescuer -- but as a feminist!
Susan Faludi: Hillary Plays the Winning Gender Card:
New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd contended that Clinton was trying to show
she can break, just like a little girl. ... If she could become a senator by playing the victim after Monica, surely she can become president by playing the victim now.
I think it is very unattractive for a general election candidate, who wants to be the commander in chief of the free world, to be saying, 'They're ganging up on me!' I mean, this is the NFL. This is not Wellesley versus Smith in field hockey.
In so many ways, this all-women's college prepared me to compete in the all-boys' club of presidential politics. ... Fear is always with us, but we just don't have time for it, not now. So let's roll up our sleeves and get to work together. We're ready to shatter that highest glass ceiling.
The fact is, Clinton's opponents are mad because they feel robbed. Clinton hadn't acted the victim. The gender card she played was the one every successful recent male presidential candidate has played -- the rescuer card.
. . . .This year, as always, the presidential candidates must contend with the rescue formula, complicated by the fact that Bush has so devalued its currency. In this climate, Hillary Clinton can do what her male counterparts cannot. She is, indeed, reaching for the gender card, as her accusers claim. It's just different from the one they imagine. She is auditioning for the role of rescuer on a feminist frontier.
She returned to Wellesley to tell female undergraduates that she was there to free them; she was there to help them "roll up our sleeves" and "shatter that highest glass ceiling." As such, she latched onto a crucial element of presidential races past, and possibly to come -- that at the core of all American political rescue fantasies is a young woman in need.
In the general election, whoever the candidates may be, they will be tempted, perhaps required, to show just those bona fides. Clinton may be the only one who can do so without betraying the signature of a disgraced cowboy ethic.