09 January 2008

Big Girls Don't Cry...or Should They?

Primary Election Season is upon us and the hope of change (everyone else is throwing it around, why can't I?) for our country just over the horizon. I have been somewhat lackadaisical about keeping up with the campaigns up until this last couple of weeks. As you probably know by now, Obama won the Iowa Caucus for the Dems. Today, Clinton gave a huge "BOOYAH!" to all the media pundits out there, defying projections to take the New Hampshire Primary. Analysts say that a major reason for this is the support of female voters. Some have postulated that Clinton became more of a sympathetic, likable candidate after her uncharacteristic display of emotion the day before, in response to a question about how she manages to campaign every day.

Alright, I am definitely in support of having our candidates be human, authentic, and empathic. But this kind of standard for a female politician bothers me quite a bit. Clinton is often criticized for her tough exterior and for not showing her emotions. Male candidates have been similarly lambasted in the past (Al Gore, John Kerry). Now that Hillary Clinton has shown some vulnerability (postulated by some as a calculated stunt...to me, it does seem a tiny bit stilted in emotionality, but perhaps that is because it is not her usual style), there are critics out there calling her a "cry baby" and label her as becoming "emotional." Would a male get the same criticism? I don't think so. And why is her likability predicated on her appearing more soft (and more "feminine?").

This campaign captures my attention because of the interesting gender and racial dynamics that are at play. For example, I have been reading some comments on YouTube about the two Dem candidates...and one person said that Obama was "preachy, melodramatic, and self-righteous." Clinton has even accused Obama for giving Americans "false hope." To me, Obama is inspirational and evokes the type of rhetoric of civil rights leaders and (interestingly), preachers. Would a White candidate with the same rhetorical style be criticized in the same way? I've heard many say that Obama reminds them of JFK, who was also a young candidate that evoked a similar sense of hope for the future. On another note, my dad was saying that he doesn't think that Obama would be elected if he were the Democratic nominee because he believes that there are enough prejudiced (mostly older, White, moderate) Democrats out there who would either abstain from voting or vote some other way. I see his point, and it really saddens me. My dad guesses that maybe in two or three more generations, that won't be the case. I hope that the American people prove us wrong.

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