The Bold and the Ball-less
On Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, James Carville recently quipped: “If she gave him one of her cojones, they’d both have two.”
It was far from the first time that a political pundit used testicles as a metonymy for power, courage, boldness, or guts. In fact, Hillary’s “balls” have been the subject of much praise (and disdain) throughout the course of this exhausted Democratic primary.
Introducing Clinton at a rally in Indiana, Paul Gibson, president of a steelworkers local union, proclaimed that the nation needed a leader like Clinton with “testicular fortitude.” Clinton thanked him for the compliment, though she did note that women, too, can have fortitude.
Reporting on the incident, Salon editor Joan Walsh wrote, “Clinton does indeed have … fortitude. Hell, she has balls.” Walsh says that Clinton handled the situation as best as she could and did not employ a double-standard by accepting this incredibly sexist “compliment.”
But it goes beyond testicles and chauvinism. Governor Mike Easley [D-NC] recently declared that Hillary’s determination made even Rocky Balboa “look like a pansy.”
If Barack Obama gets slammed for any incident in which he over- or underplays his blackness [most recently, reports that his denunciation of Rev. Wright marks a betrayal of the Chicago black community], why aren’t we faulting Hillary for accepting this blatantly sexist discussion of her balls and manliness? Power has long been equated with heteromasculinity, but Hillary should shatter that, not accept it.
Women in power have, throughout history, been forced to embrace masculinity in order to attain their positions. Most famously, Queen Elizabeth the First is reported to have made such statements as, “I have the heart of a man, not a woman, and I am not afraid of anything,” and, “I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king.”
Conversely, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (though her politics left much to be desired) embraced her identity as a woman and a leader. She declared, “The woman’s mission is not to enhance the masculine spirit, but to express the feminine; hers is not to preserve a man-made world, but to create a human world by the infusion of the feminine element into all of its activities.”
Hillary cannot be blamed for the mistakes of many in praising or discussing her “balls.” But I find it odd that she overlooks such ignorant comments while consenting to answer such pitiful questions as that which closed the Las Vegas debate in November: “Senator Clinton, diamonds or pearls?” Both, was her answer, and it’s a telling one at that.
Clinton is a woman who wants the best of both worlds. She wants Gloria Steinem to speak on her behalf, and she wants to throw back boilermakers with the big boys. She wants the vote of her female compatriots, and she casts herself as a feminist, but she has worked long and hard to craft for herself a hawkish, masculine identity.
But since Hillary clearly has had no desire to act in accordance with my wishes throughout this campaign [Drop out! Drop out! Drop out!], I’ll address this motion to you all, instead: let’s try to divorce power from gender, shall we? And if we have to gender our political support, I’d prefer that we do it with style, as did Tina Fey when she said, “Bitch is the new black,” although, frankly, I preferred Tracy Morgan’s reply: “Bitch may be the new black, but black is the new president, bitch!”