By the time you read this, it will be official: Hillary Rodham Clinton is a candidate for the presidency of the United States of America.
As I have said before, I view her candidacy with mixed feelings: hope and exhilaration, since I believe she is an unusually well qualified candidate who has the political skills to win and the executive skills to govern the country wisely and well; some misgivings, remembering 2008: if she does not win at least the nomination and probably the general election as well, for whatever reasons, it will be a very long time before another woman is permitted to run for president on a major party ticket. I also worry that her candidacy for the most symbolically powerful position in the world will unleash a torrent of misogyny and regression on gender equality, which could affect all women in unfortunate ways. On the other hand, if she wins and runs the country creditably, her work will be a powerful example of what women are capable of accomplishing.
Her victory is important in so many ways that her supporters must do everything to help her win both the nomination and the election. We cannot fall back on the familiar comfortable assumptions: that the opinion-makers and pundits will on the whole be fair and balanced, that she will be treated with as much respect (or as little) as any other candidate. The specter of a president of a new kind of gender will outweigh a lot of commentators’ intentions to be fair. Even though they were tested and found wanting in 2008, recent observations suggest that the commentariat has not learned a whole lot about how to think, speak, or write about candidates who happen to be female. Gendered remarks, seldom favorable, keep sneaking into the discourse, and biased discourse influences popular opinions and votes. Continue reading →