Thursday, December 20, 2007
Is America Willing to Watch a Woman Age in the White House?
Are Americans so obsessed with physical perfection and female beauty that they don't want to see a woman age in the White House? This question was posed by radio talk host Rush Limbaugh and drew much comment. I think it's a real question--his point was that unlike England (Margaret Thatcher) and India (Indira Gandhi) or Israel (Golda Meir), America in the 21st Century has become so focused on physical beauty, and has set the bar for acceptability so high, that where men can scrape by with an "interesting" face but towering intellect, a woman can't.
I think he's scrambling a bunch of questions, each of which is worth contemplating. In our Botox environment, where Boomers don't really have to look whatever "their age" once was, we do somehow, unconsciously, equate public figures' exteriors with their interiors. Is it fair? Is it correct? Obviously, no. But is it TRUE?
The photo above, by the way, has circulated all over the Internet, supposedly portraying Hillary on the campaign trail. It's been suggested, however, that some non-friend photoshopped it.
But I think another question is really the issue here, and that has to do more with politics than feminism or superficiality. The issue is Hillary: if she were perceived as selflessly and sensibly conveying honest proposals for the betterment of the country, her "kankles" and folding face would mean far less. We loved Barbara Bush; granted she was not the candidate. But we loved her because she was sincere; she projected niceness, and the Bushes clearly had a love and a marriage all admired.
Hillary emphatically does not. Her "negatives" are as high as her forehead because she comes across as hard-edged (those pantsuits don't help) and sharp-tongued and even at times, mean. She comes across as morally questionable, given the Rose Law Firm and the "deal" she has going with her husband. She seems to me an opportunist trying to capitalize on her husband's popularity and wants the nation to "count" being married to Bill as "White House Experience."
Then there's Bill himself. With the Mrs. behind the desk at the Oval Office, we're reminded what went on in that august space when she wasn't in the room. It's downright skanky. And yet, millions of people still hold a torch for the guy--who will definitely upstage his wife unless they have some iron-clad arrangement not to appear within camera-shot of each other.
And all THAT, I think, is what feeds into the question of our nation's willingness to see "a woman" in the presidency in 2009. If she were Margaret Thatcher, sure. But as the wife of Bill, as the pathetic "I love him anyway" wronged woman who, tabloids continue to remind us, watches as her husband enjoys a series of extramarital affairs--she ages before our eyes
Women feel for her--cheer her on--because they want her to survive and prosper despite her cheating husband. But not as our president. Hillary is pathetic to women because in the area we wives, mothers and daughters care about most--a happy family and solid marriage--she's a failure. To see her wrinkly and bleached-blond and stammering and poorly dressed in her public appearances is disheartening. Even if we share her political beliefs, we don't want to see her age in the White House. Because, perhaps, she's too much like we're afraid we could be.