Peggy Noonan trains her sights on Hillary Clinton in this entry of the Wall Street Journal‘s online 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.
A longtime supporter of Mrs. Clinton’s spoke with candor some months back of her friend’s predicament. “We’re back where we were in ’92–likability. Nothing has changed.”
Back then, when the Clintons were newly famous, their consultants were alarmed to find the American people did not believe Hillary was a mother. They thought she was a person with breasts in a suit. She had a briefcase and a latte and was late for the meeting, but no way she did she have a child.
The gender-undertones here are fascinating to contemplate.
On one hand, Noonan understands one of the fundamental planks of regnant feminism: sexual differnces are merely and exclusively biological. Individuals are “persons,” some of whom have breasts (the women) while the rest have differently configured tender bits (the men).
On the other hand, Noonan’s trenchant analysis of Hillary’s campaign shows us that the electorate finds sex to involve more than a candidate’s sexual plumbing. Evidently the electorate still thinks that sex has non-biological dimensions well. Somehow notions of war and warriors and waging war and squishing bugs and aggression and being commander-in-chief are tied to masculinity, while femininity is still associated with human warmth, good nature, motherliness, and Celine Dion’s music. Hillary isn’t feminine, and people notice.
What a conundrum! Hillary’s campaign must not break faith with that monstrous regiment of persons with breasts who give continual trumpet blasts against The Patriarchy. And, yet, it appears Hillary’s campaign is waking up to this inconvenient fact: they must secure the support of sexual neanderthals who still think that women ought to be and to act in classical patterns of femininity, all of which are scorned by those whose fundamental identity is “person with breasts.”
Here’s the larger issue Noonan doesn’t even begin to engage: when women wield great political power in the public arena, particularly the executive power, it trips the sexual identity alarms in those who behold it. As much as I admire Lady Margaret Thatcher’s achievements in temporarily reversing Great Britain’s slide into socialist mediocrity, I would never want her for a grandmother.
Public executive power invariably masculinizes the women who wield that power, to greater or lesser extent that depends on the woman’s determination to retain some semblance of her femininity.
These issues are writ large in something like Hillary’s campaign to become America’s first female president. But, the same issues are alive and active in the workplaces, churches, families, and marriages of America’s Christians. Noonan is like the boy who says “The Emporer has no clothes.” Hillary has as much femininity as the Emporer had clothing. What’s comical and dismaying at the same time is the plight of America’s Evangelicals — the egalitarians, overtly, and the squishy complementarians, implicitly — who are still mired in the feminist fantasy of the Seventies, when the cry of persons with breasts was “We can do anything a man can do.”
That was never in doubt, of course. The question was this: may a woman do anything a man can do and still be a woman? If “woman” means “person with breasts,” the answer is yes. If “woman” means something more than biological factors, then Hillary’s campaign shows us the answer is no. Hillary and her campaign managers, bless their hearts, are nearer the Kingdom than most American evangelicals.