Emails. Bernie. Sex scandal. There must be countless words that make Hillary Clinton wince, that when she sees or hears, make her squirm. But surely, the very worst word of them all must be “likeability”. For months and months now, the accomplished, the impressive and the likely-to-be-the-next-US-president Clinton has had to contend with people – pundits, her own advisers, the public – judging her in terms of her likeability, and throughout it all, it’s been clear (perhaps more clear to women than men): we wouldn’t talk about a man this way.
The chat about Clinton’s likeability has been sexist from the off, and this week when American conservative journalist David Brooks wrote a New York Times op-ed entitled plainly “Why Is Clinton Disliked?” exploring the “problem”, the misogyny was glaring.
After recounting her poor popularity ratings, Brooks asked “what exactly do so many have against her?” before answering the question for himself. (Strong mansplaining ahead.)
“I would begin my explanation with this question: Can you tell me what Hillary Clinton does for fun? We know what Obama does for fun – golf, basketball, etc. We know, unfortunately, what Trump does for fun. But when people talk about Clinton, they tend to talk of her exclusively in professional terms.”
And on reading that, women everywhere rolled their eyes and laughed mockingly and then actually felt a bit weird because WTAF?
Clinton should apparently take up golf, which is just men walking around really slowly, sometimes hitting at very small balls with metal sticks
Talking about yourself in professional terms is somehow not good enough when you’re applying for, oh, the world’s biggest JOB, and you have to get yourself some hobbies to distract from your work-y achievements.
Like taking up golf, which is just men walking around really slowly, sometimes hitting at very small balls with metal sticks. (And yes I know some women like it, but when they do, they are often forcibly kept out of clubs.)
Or you should sit down and watch some other men run up and down a court, popping a ball through a hoop.
Or you should “etc”, whatever “etc” is. If Obama is allowed “etc” as a hobby, surely we could have had *something* for Clinton, but no, Clinton is too joyless and professional even for vague pastimes like etc-ing.
Brooks continues: “Clinton’s career appears, from the outside, to be all consuming. Her husband is her co-politician. Her daughter works at the Clinton Foundation. Her friendships appear to have been formed at networking gatherings reserved for the extremely successful.
“People who work closely with her adore her and say she is warm and caring. But it’s hard from the outside to think of any non-career or pre-career aspect to her life. Except for a few grandma references, she presents herself as a résumé and policy brief.”
This seems like straightforward nonsense. Sure, Donald Trump had a colourful pre-politics life because he’s, um, not really a politician. And yeah Ronald Reagan used to be a B-movie actor. But most of the time, we expect and reward commitment and seriousness in our politicians, especially above playing golf and appearing on the Howard Stern show. It’s also unclear as to what kind of hobby would work for Clinton. Would knitting be too womanly? Would colouring-in be too frivolous?
Yes, sure, we expect our politicians to also kiss babies, and Obama is very good at that (he is very likeable, it is true) – but Clinton has got that down too. Clinton is just as good at kissing babies as either Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump. But some men will find any reason to stick it to women, and this week “not watching basketball” became a valid New York Times-worthy criticism.
As if in response, Hillary Clinton sat down on Ellen’s sofa this week, and showed just how likeable she can be. At one stage, she implored Ellen to become her vice-presidential running mate, saying “I would make you really be in charge of returning kindness to America… And try to lift people’s spirits, you know give them something to be happy about because your show every day does that for millions of people.”
Hillary and Ellen: would that be likeable enough for you, David Brooks?