Hillary Clinton: The Naughty Desirer
Kevin Drum at the Atlantic Monthly has a post up discussing Meghan Daum’s article in the LA Times regarding public perception problems that Hillary Clinton may have and which may be working decidedly against her. Daum has a point, I think. She suggests that:
For a lot of people, Hillary Clinton just wants this too badly. Her Achilles heel is not that she cries (or doesn’t) from disappointment, but that she is visibly salivating from hunger. That may be OK for male candidates, whose appetites tend to be selling points. But if there’s anything that’s drilled into women’s heads before we’re old enough to even ask for something, it’s the importance of playing hard to get, of pretending we don’t want anything at all.
There’s something to this in general, for sure. Whether it applies to Clinton, I don’t know. But I think it is true that socially, we see women as the pursued. We don’t like women to be what Sara Ruddick calls “active desirers” (she’s thinking of sex, but the point can be made more generally). Specifically, in sex, we want women to feel wanted, but we don’t necessarily want them to want on their own. They aren’t supposed to have identities as desirers — that’s for men. I think Ruddick has a point — men are typically threatened by women with independent status as desirers. Men like to be in control of the active desiring. Women are just supposed to respond to desire.
Now Clinton. Daud’s point is similar. Clinton shows that she wants to be president too much. It bugs us. It even bugs me sometimes. You hear it in the papers and talk shows — she’s too ambitious. But what candidate isn’t? As a matter of fact, it strikes me that the only reason I really see this in Clinton is because she’s a woman. It could well be that all of the men are too, but I wouldn’t know what it would look like, mostly because it’s a normal feature for men to have. So it doesn’t stick out. Daud says that Clinton needs to play an impossible game — she has to run for president as if she’s not interested in it.
Similar to sex, perhaps. Many men like women to pursue sexual encounters while all the while not really acting as if they are particularly interested as desiring individuals on their own (separate from wanting to fulfill the desire of the man, say).
Whether it’s true, I’m not sure. But it’s interesting.