Monday, June 16, 2008

New York Magazine: Hillary Clinton, Feminist Superstar

Here's Hillary Rodham Clinton, Feminist Superstar on the cover of New York magazine. Clearly, to millions of women and girls the woman has indeed risen to the status of feminist superstar. Like most people, I'm way too cynical to ever look up to heroes or heroines, but Hillary Rodham Clinton has changed all that. I am still processing this astonishing fact.

In one of the shorter (unfortunately) pieces in the magazine, Christine Stansell weighs in on the subject of Hillary Clinton's rise to the status of feminist superheroine:

The paradox, though, was that as the sexist rancor built, Hillary’s public personality took on charm and vitality. Rather than hunker down into her good-girl role, she stepped out. Belittled and mocked, she got bigger, not littler. “How does she look so good?” women marveled to each other. In Puerto Rico for the primary, she was radiant and shining; coming off fifteen-hour days on the campaign trail and facing inevitable loss, she looked like she’d just walked out of a spa. The woman who was fighting back tears in New Hampshire was, by May, belting back shots in Indiana and making sly jokes to young male reporters. She wasn’t likable, she was lovely and amazing, a superheroine.

. . . [A]s the party Establishment failed her, superdelegates deserted, black voters turned against her, Maureen Dowd’s hysterical jeers grew louder, and the “Clinton machine” let her down, the real Hillary emerged. For her detractors, she was always a monster of ambition and self-regard. But to supporters, she became an emblem of grit, resilience, and the ability to withstand the worst—qualities magnified and lit up in neon, inscribed on a female body.

I counted six stories about Hillary Clinton in this issue of the New York magazine. I'm sure it will not surprise you to hear that some of the stories by the mostly male writers are awful and horrible enough to be featured on MSNBC. And the cover story by John Heilemann has some less than stellar moments, but it also has some great and insightful ones. It is absolutely worth a read. Heilemann claims to have "the final interview of her campaign."

Here are snippets:

What strikes me as inarguable is that Hillary is today a more resonant, consequential, and potent figure than she has ever been before. No longer merely a political persona, she has been elevated to a rarefied plane in our cultural consciousness. With her back against the wall, she both found her groove and let loose her raging id, turning herself into a character at once awful and wonderful, confounding and inspiring—thus enlarging herself to the point where she became iconic. She is bigger now than any woman in the country.

. . . [M]ore soberly, [Hillary Clinton] goes on, “There’s a reason for the resentment. The level of dismissive and condescending comments, not just about me—what do I care?—but about the people who support me and in particular the women who support me, has been shocking. Shocking to women and to fair-minded men. But what has really been more disappointing to me is how few voices that have a platform have spoken out against it. And that’s really why you seen this enormous grassroots outrage. There is no outlet. It is rare that you have anybody on these shows or in a position of responsibility at major publications who really says, ‘Wait a minute! What are we talking about here? I have a wife! I have a daughter! I want the best for them.’ ”

“I didn’t think I was in a position to take it on because it would have looked like it was just about me. And I didn’t think it was just about me. So the only time we took it on was in the thing about Chelsea, which was so far beyond the bounds, I mean, what planet are we living on? But nobody said anything until I made it an issue. So I just want everybody to really think hard about the larger lesson here. I know you can’t take me out of the equation, because I’m in the center of the storm. But it’s much bigger than me. And women know that. Because if it were just about me, those who sympathize with me would say, ‘I’m so sorry.’ But instead it’s, ‘Wait a minute! This is not just about her! It’s about us! And when are we going to see somebody stand up and say, What are you doing here?’ ”

. . . If the call doesn’t come from Obama, Clinton will return to the Senate—where, in many ways, she will instantly become the first among equals. “She’ll be greatly, greatly enhanced,” says former senator Bob Kerrey. “She’ll have the most valuable e-mail list in the Senate. She’ll be the most heavily sought out person in the Congress as an endorser, a fund-raiser. Everybody is gonna want to have her come and campaign for them. She’s gonna be at the very top of everybody’s list.”

The endless, brutal, wrenching campaign of 2008 would have wrecked a lesser woman. Hillary tells me she feels just fine: “Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

Read more . .