Postfeminism: Lindsay Lohan or Hillary Clinton?

Lydia Gottesfeld

For college age women, life is pretty great. We are living in a so-called “postfeminist” world where we have just as many opportunities as our male peers and we are taking advantage of them. There are more women in college than men; women are entering typically male careers in overwhelming numbers, and women are more and more able to make their own choices about sex, reproduction and marriage. Thanks to our mothers and grandmothers who led the fight for women’s rights, we can now enjoy the results of the feminist movement of the 70s and 80s and take advantage of our newfound opportunities.

In fact, we are so removed from those days that the fact that we have the first serious female presidential candidate is taken for granted by many young women. Young women would rather read stories about Lindsey Lohan and Britney Spears in tabloids than take a few minutes to read about the Historic nature of Hillary’s life and candidacy for women. When hecklers at Clinton rallies yell “Iron My Shirt!” or the news media spends twenty minutes discussing her cleavage or she is asked the question of why she isn’t likeable in a debate, we all laugh. In today’s postfeminist world sexism is funny, feminists are man-hating lesbians, and Hillary Clinton’s candidacy is not very exciting. There are over 40,000 members in the facebook group “Hillary Clinton: Stop Running for President and Make Me a Sandwich.” So I have to ask the question, do we really think sexism is dead?

Don’t get me wrong, I too believe women have made huge strides in the last 40 years, but I am also outraged by the blatant and virtually unacknowledged sexism taking place in this election. Why does the media and general public focus on Senator Clinton’s hairstyle, her laugh, her cankles, and her pantsuits? Why do so many jokingly refer to her as “Hilldog?” Why is she referred to as “shrill” “calculating” and “cold”, words never used to describe male candidates?

Why not instead focus on her lifelong devotion to children and families, her excellent work as a lawyer, and the groundbreaking work she did as first lady? Did you know that Hillary ran a legal aid clinic, that she was twice named one of the most 100 influential lawyers in America, that she has served on numerous boards for organizations dedicated to children and the poor, or how about the work she has done in the Senate? She has been an enormously successful Senator working to make healthcare more affordable and expanding coverage, working to fight AIDS, and responding to manufacturing job loss in NY. Did you know she received 67 percent of the vote in New York to get reelected in 2006? Her work has been recognized by her constituents and yet many Americans remain blind to her successes. Today men and women alike are turned off by her and claim she is divisive and unlikable. But when I ask question of why she is so controversial and divisive, no one really has an answer aside from the favorite of college age males, “because she’s a bitch.” For many people she invokes within them a very personal feeling of extreme dislike and distrust. But really, how does anyone who has ever met her know that she is a bitch, evil, or cold? In actuality, the reason Hillary Clinton rubs many people the wrong way has to do with her ability to straddle the gender line in order to achieve political power, a feat few women have achieved at such a high level. Along with many modern women Hillary Clinton faces a double-bind; she has to “do” masculinity in a man’s world of politics, while also honoring her status as a woman and not abandoning her femininity. Because of her gender she has had to work twice as hard as her male counterparts to get where she is today. Instead of viewing that as a positive thing, people use her diligence and persistence as a method of attack claiming she is calculating and conniving.

People continually say to me, “We are ready for a woman President, just not her.” When is “she” going to be the right woman? It is imperative that women and men at least consider Hillary Clinton as a viable candidate. Because if we do not give her a chance, when will any woman get the chance?