Friday, August 22, 2008

Hillary harridans?

Are US women so angry that they would allow McCain to take the Presidency? A recent poll (sorry, no source) reported as many as 21% of Senator Clinton's supporters plan to vote for McCain.

Dahlia Lithwick writes that this phenomenon is not just about one election: her slate column says that such women are playing into an age-old trick of stereotyping strong women as insane.

Her excellent column includes this paragraph:
"These disgruntled women—whether they plan to vote for John McCain, sit out the election, or simply gobble up airtime—are tacitly working toward electing McCain; a candidate who claimed last week at a presidential forum at Saddleback Church that life begins 'at the moment of conception' and who voted against legislation ensuring equal pay for women. These women must be well aware that a vote for McCain is a vote to overturn Roe. I assume they don't care. But my real problem with the Hillary Harridans—and the media's relentless focus on them—is that they give new life to Paleozoic stereotypes about irrationally destructive older women."


At 11:06 AM, Blogger Bill Baar said...

What does begin at conception than if not life?

And when does life begin?

One can believe life begins at conception and still understand abortion as a clash of rights (as are many hard choices) and that one must think awfully hard about removing a women's right to govern her body and not carry the risks of child birth.

Check the Economist from 2005 on why Democrats would be much better off without Roe v Wade.

At 11:17 AM, Blogger Chalicechick said...

(sorry, no source)

Sigh. It was the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. Just google "Clinton McCain 21 percent" and it pops right up.

FWIW, Lithwick's article linked to
An article from Columbia Journalism Review debunking the trend that takes a more sophisticated look at the polling numbers and lead even Lithwick to concede "Polls suggest there isn't a deep pool of Obama-hating women who could derail his election," which leads one to wonder why she bothered to write the column at all if she was so concerned about the media's "relentless focus" on this sexist trope.

From the Columbia Journalism Review article "Yes, 37 percent of Clinton supporters were considering voting for McCain or staying home on election day. However, this was not because anger about the campaign’s gender dynamics. “Obama is not disproportionately weaker among Clinton supporters who comprised her core groups, such as women, seniors and working-class whites,” it found. “Instead he’s losing those who value strength and experience over change, who doubt Obama’s qualifications and who see him as a risky choice—mirroring his challenges among all adults more broadly.”

who is really, really sick of the "Oh, those crazy women who liked Hillary" stereotype and the whole "Let me write about this huge trend that I have no statistically significant numbers to support" articles that perpetuate it.

At 11:21 AM, Blogger Chip said...

This was not intended to be a debate about abortion, nor when life begins, but since you bring it up, I do *not* believe that so-called "pro life" supporters would stop bombing abortion clinics if abortion were made--legislated and voted--legal, as the Economist article you cite seems to suggest (the full article is only available to subscribers).

In fact, that is an example of the point I was trying to make, from the other side of the political spectrum: just as some angry liberals are allowing their emotions to harm their long-term interests, so do angry conservatives undermine their own message, with some of their violent and/or obscene tactics.

At 11:39 AM, Blogger Chip said...

thanks for the sourcing, Chalice Chick.

I think Lithwick wrote about it--and I know I did--because the mainstream media continues to churn it out. Debunked or not, the NBC/WSJ poll continues the meme, and I heard it on NPR (the supposedly *liberal* media).

And this PUMA site refers to Obama as an "illegitimate candidate for president." That isn't a poll, it is a large number of people preparing to cut off their nose to spite their face.

At 12:08 PM, Blogger Chalicechick said...

Wow, so ignoring the fact that it's not true, Lithwick writes about it because other folks write about it, you write about it because Lithwick writes about it.

And the stereotype goes on and on...

At least when I wrote about it because you wrote about it, I thought the data that these women don't exist in significant numbers was worth mentioning.


At 12:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

But my real problem with the Hillary Harridans—and the media's relentless focus on them—is that they give new life to Paleozoic stereotypes about irrationally destructive older women.

This is the meat of the quoted passage, and worth discussing.

There are two older women in my family who are extremely angry about what happened in the primaries, and also at me for not supporting the female candidate just for being female. And some of the things they have said for being reluctant to support Obama DO play into these stereotypes, though neither of them are able to stomach voting for a republican.

And honestly, I'm not sure what I would be doing if Hillary were the nominee, because I would not be able to support her candidacy because I think she'd be an absolutely horrific president.

At 12:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That was me -- I hit "enter" instead of a / and it posted. :-)

At 1:10 PM, Blogger Chalicechick said...

BTW, you guys do know that PUMA was founded by a guy, yes?

And not just that, a guy whom some people seriously believe to be a total fraud?

I don't know that I believe Bower to be a fraud. I do know that for a guy with the time and money to have started a national movement to help a candidate to have given either nothing or less than three hundred bucks* to said candidate is very strange.

And, Darragh Murphy, who runs the PUMAPAC site linked to above gave to McCain's PRIMARY and not Clinton's.

And every destructive steretype has some examples.

Still destructive.

Still a stereotype.

* Depending upon which serach tool you use. has him giving nothing, Huffingtonpost's has him giving the $261 figure.

At 3:07 PM, Blogger Bill Baar said...


As minister and ML grad you ought to have a better answer to the moral status of a human being from conception to death (does it change from stage to stage or is a blastocyst of lessor status than a newborn or child, or corpse for that matter) than a reference to abortion clinic bombers.

You dodge, Obama bucked it to a higher pay grade--- it makes not just women angry when Obama does this.

I had no idea the connection between women and unborn until my wife miscarried. Believe me she mourned after that in a way I could not feel --we reacted very differently-- I fearful for her, she suffered feeling she had failed a life... and both of us far from pro-life fanatics. She suffered a loss and it was tough for her to deal with.

It's the dodge Obama did at Saddleback on tough personal issues that makes some people...male and female... very distressed about the guy.

At 11:25 PM, Blogger Cynthia L. Landrum said...

Hey, Chip,
Been thinking about this since you posted it, and even more so after Hillary Clinton's speech tonight...
And thanks, Chalicechick, for the link to Columbia debunking this myth.

Har"ri*dan\, n. [F. haridelle a worn-out horse, jade.] A worn-out strumpet; a vixenish woman; a hag.

Explain again exactly how Lithwick thinks use of the word "harridan" to describe Hillary supporters really helps break down the stereotype of "irrationally destructive older women"?

79% of Hillary supporters, presumably some percentage of which were "older women" support Barack Obama.

21% of Hillary supporters do not, only some of which were "older women."

Yet we have the sterotype being perpetuated over and over again that this 21% are pretty much entirely "older women," and, presumably, haggish, feminist, older women who hate men. (And why don't we get to hear about haggish, feminist, older women who support Barack Obama? Truly your radical feminist is more likely to vote Obama than McCain. Why don't we get to see that poll?)

I know lots of Clinton supporters who now support Barack Obama. I also know one who doesn't. She happens to be a woman. And she's a moderate who sees Obama as much further toward the left than she is. Hmmm... that's clearly irrational, destructive and emotional of her.

Sure, there are women who seem to fit stereotypes of the "Hillary Harridan." There are people who fit all sorts of stereotypes. That doesn't make stereotyping better, though.


Lithwick starts off strong, showing how this stereotype has been used against women, but then falls into the trap of blaming women, saying that women are being like this sterotype thus its being perpetuated. Um... No. Most women are not, yet it's perpetuated anyways. That's what makes it sexism and a stereotype.



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