Thoroughly Human Hillary

[Content Note: Misogyny.]

Hillary Clinton is a monster who must be destroyed.

At least, that's what we're meant to believe. And I could (literally) spend a decade documenting the misogyny unleashed upon her with the explicit objective of monsterizing her, and still fail to convince people who refuse to see her any other way.

Even despite the fact that, if she were not reflexively regarded as a monster, there would be no demands on her to "humanize" herself.

As if dehumanization is a thing we do to ourselves.

screen cap of partial Google results for 'Hillary humanize'
A small selection from 'Hillary humanize' Google search results.

Earlier today, I noted that, immediately following last night's Democratic debate, CNN's Anderson Cooper referenced the moment Clinton described herself as "not a natural polician," and said it will have "humanized" her to her supporters.

At that very moment, Clinton was in the audience, speaking with Guatemalan immigrant Lucia Quiej, who had asked the candidates during the debate what they would do, if elected, to help reunite her family, and families like hers.

It was not Clinton having a personal moment with a woman seeking her help that was offered as evidence of Clinton's humanity, but her (seemingly) self-deprecating comment about not being a natural politician.

Women, of course, are expected to be self-deprecating about our talents, because too much feminine confidence gets read as arrogance. We demand self-deprecation of ourselves, because we are keenly aware that demonstrations of feminine pride are received as an invitation for destruction.

When Clinton describes herself as "not a natural politician," I am sure she says it because she genuinely believes it; it isn't a false humility, but an honest assessment of what she perceives as her own limitations.

I suspect she also says it as a self-defense mechanism, to undercut charges of arrogance and to deflect other criticisms about her stage presence, voice, delivery, demeanor.

She says it for a lot of reasons, purposefully and thoughtfully.

Which itself is an indication that, even if she is not a natural politician, she is nonetheless a good one.

Because although Clinton saying she is not a natural politician is received as self-deprecating, embedded within it is also an imploration to consider what she has achieved despite not being a natural politician.

Here she stands before us, the first female contender with a real shot at the US presidency, and she has gotten to this place not because of innate talent as a politician, but because she has worked her ass off.

Because she has practiced becoming a speaker, when she was not by nature someone who could command a room. Because she has studied until she has an unfathomable breadth of policy knowledge, when she cannot charm her way through not knowing something. Because she has mustered the courage to overcome her discomfort with campaigning, when campaigning is a part of the job.

I'm not a natural politician...and here the fuck I am anyway.

If there is anything that speaks to the humanity of Hillary Clinton, it is that. She isn't a politician because it came naturally to her. She's a politician despite the fact that it didn't.

And then there is this: Clinton is only not a natural politician according to expectations and standards of politicians defined almost exclusively by men.

She is not naturally a traditional politician.

Not like her husband. Not like President Obama. As she is wont to say.

I am reminded again of that quote from former Obama speechwriter Jon Favreau: "Her husband charms by talking to you; Hillary does it by listening to you—not in a head-nodding, politician way; in a real person way."

She's a politician powered by empathy rather than charisma, who makes people feel like they're standing in the sun rather than staring at it.

Maybe that just makes her a natural politician of a different sort. Of the sort who can challenge our expectations of what natural politicians look like altogether.

Hillary Clinton isn't a natural politician, but she just might be a revolutionary one.

Yes, even despite her policy errors, and her rhetorical mistakes, and her various missteps of myriad stripes. Even despite the fact that, as she campaigns on protecting and expanding significant pieces of President Obama's agenda, she is largely promising to maintain the status quo.

She can simultaneously be a person who has gotten things wrong, a person who has gotten things right, a person who is not politically radical in some ways, and a person who is politically radical in others. Her candidacy is complex. She is complex.

She is, after all, human.

Shakesville is run as a safe space. First-time commenters: Please read Shakesville's Commenting Policy and Feminism 101 Section before commenting. We also do lots of in-thread moderation, so we ask that everyone read the entirety of any thread before commenting, to ensure compliance with any in-thread moderation. Thank you.

blog comments powered by Disqus