Thursday, August 05, 2004


Andrew Sullivan on "The Teresa Problem," in reference to Mrs. Kerry: "It is not a feminist achievement to use your marriage as a device to gain political power. Hillary is now a respectable pol because she got elected. "

I have long been mystified by why Hilary Clinton, who is visible--and was thus electable--as a result of marrying a rather well-known and famously charismatic man, is considered a) a feminist icon, and b) any different from President Bush, at least with respect to the dynasty factor. A woman whose fame follows that of her husband can at best be highly flawed as a role model for feminists. The senator may well be smart, talented, ambitious, and hard-working... but so are a whole lot of people who didn't think to marry Bill Clinton. And, not to get too Naderesque here, but both major parties are guilty of loving their dynasties.

Sullivan's point, which he makes once again in The New Republic, just doesn't make sense--if, as he correctly asserts, "It is not a feminist achievement to use your marriage a device to gain political power," then how can Senator Clinton, whose very visibility and electability were a result of her marriage, not be faulted for the same thing as Teresa Heinz-Kerry? That Sen. Clinton is "a respectable pol" does not imply that she got to be one entirely through feminist achievements.


Spencer said...

I'm not particularly comfortable with 'feminist achievement' (though I'm comfortable with 'feminism' as a mode of critique) or 'respectable pol'. First, because THK has never claimed it a 'feminist achievement' or even an 'achievement'. I think she refers to it as her 'life'. Second, because everyone knows that in D.C. power is power -- no matter how you get it. Having had the ear of two prominent senators & one potential President means she has it. Wise counsel to two prominent politicians is a great deal more respectable than the behavior of many past & present on Capitol Hill.

Feminist achievement seems a bit of a strawdog (my overused phrase of the week); afterall, is the rise of a Conservative, anti-fem, female politician a 'feminist achievement'? Or does he mean an achievement of feminism?

Politics works the way it always has...folks want power, grab power, use power. Those most likely to do so are those who are already close to it. So you end up with a litany of dynasties & very few Mr. Smiths.

Is THK 'admirable'? No more so than any other First Lady or potential 1st. She is kind of funny, though.

Phoebe said...

I guess what got to me most was that Sullivan's hostility towards THK would disappear instantly the moment she became an elected official. HRC is acceptable to Sullivan because she was elected, as though that meant, in some pure and simple way, that the people had spoken, and had nothing to do with her having achieved a high profile after her 8 years as first lady.