Peggy Noonan writes for the WSJ’s Opinion Journal:
Hillary Clinton doesn’t have to prove she’s a man. She has to prove she’s a woman.
She doesn’t have to prove to people that she’s tough enough or aggressive enough to be commander in chief. She doesn’t have to show she could and would wage a war. She has to prove she has normal human warmth, a normal amount of give, of good nature, that she is not, at bottom, grimly combative and rather dark.
This is the woman credited with starting and naming the War Room. Her staff has nicknamed her “The Warrior.” Get in her way and she’d squish you like a bug. This has been her reputation for 20 years. And it is her big problem. People want a president to be strong but not hard.
This subject is quite fascinating. As far as I can tell, Hillary Clinton believes that, if a woman wants to become President, she has to be better than a man has to be, more intelligent, and tougher. As far as I understand, this is also why she does not want to publicly admit to having made any mistakes (of course she also learned from Kerry – Bush). One should – I think – not forget that Hillary created her own image very consciously.
Having said all that, there is certainly some truth to what Peggy says. I agree with Hillary – if this is what she believes, and my reading on her has led me to believe she does – that a female politician who wants to become President should be tougher than her male opponent(s). The reason: women are culturally regarded as being the weaker sex. Like it or not, that is the reality and that is what every woman who wants to succeed has to deal with.
It is not for nothing that women are still referred to – jokingly or not – as the weaker sex.
In other words, she has to make up for that prejudice. She can do so by being, one could say, overly tough. An example of a woman who did that: Thatcher. She understood this as well.
Being a tough woman has two unintended consequences (I’m sure there are more, but I only want to spend attention to the following two):
– people will consider you to be – please excuse the language – a bitch. They will not like you. Of course, they do not have to like you, but the majority should not hate your guts either
– people will consider you to be half-man, or not feminine enough
It is difficult – of course – to think of a good way to balance the ‘tough girl’ image, while at the same time not making people think you are a ‘bitch’ or not feminine enough. My take on how to do it is as follows: you have to create the tough girl image first. You got to go from there. Once you are considered to be weak, there is no chance in hell that you can convince people you are strong. When people – however – believe you are strong (even a bitch), you might, however, still persuade quite some of them that you are not just tough; you are also a human being. You do this by showing ‘your other side’ – during the campaign – every now and then. The further you are into the campaign, the more you show this ‘other side’ of yourself.
In Hillary’s case, this means that she has to spend attention to the work she did for children; she also has to emphasize that she is a mother and wife; lastly, she needs to show that she has a (good) sense of humor.
If we look at Hillary’s campaign right now, I believe we have seen the start of emphasizing this ‘other side.’
Example: the parody of the Sopranos.
Of course, I am only 23 years old and have never been involved in any political campaign, so what do I know?