Clin­ton plays the misog­yny card

The Globe and Mail (Alberta Edition) - - GLOBE FOCUS - MARGARET WENTE mwente@globe­and­mail.com

Do you want a fe­male politi­cian to ad­mire? Try Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel, the West’s most suc­cess­ful leader

Why did Hil­lary Clin­ton lose? Check out the talk-show cir­cuit and she’ll be glad to tell you. Her new book, What Hap­pened, is less of a mea culpa than a j’ac­cuse, at once hurt, baf­fled and out­raged. The vil­lains are James Comey, Bernie San­ders and Don­ald Trump, more or less in that or­der. And yes – she also lost be­cause she was a woman.

“I started the cam­paign know­ing that I would have to work ex­tra hard to make women and men feel com­fort­able with the idea of a woman pres­i­dent,” she told Jane Pauley.

Many fem­i­nists agree that ram­pant sex­ism did her in. “What ac­tu­ally hap­pened to Hil­lary Clin­ton reeks of misog­yny,” Rachael Revesz wrote in The In­de­pen­dent. “It reeks so badly that you can smell it stronger than a snif­fer dog can suss out crack co­caine.”

Ac­cord­ing to Ms. Clin­ton, mi­nori­ties will stick to­gether but women won’t – which ex­plains why Barack Obama could be elected but not her. “Race is a much more mo­ti­vat­ing fac­tor for vot­ers than gen­der is,” she told Matt Lauer.

Also, women let them­selves be pushed around by men. Her friend Sh­eryl Sand­berg told her so. In a con­ver­sa­tion with NPR, Ms. Clin­ton said Ms. Sand­berg had ad­vised her that “women will have no em­pa­thy for you, be­cause they will be un­der tremen­dous pres­sure – and I’m talk­ing prin­ci­pally about white women – they will be un­der tremen­dous pres­sure from fa­thers and hus­bands and boyfriends and male em­ploy­ers not to vote for ‘the girl.’ ”

The coup de grâce, ac­cord­ing to Ms. Clin­ton, was for­mer FBI di­rec­tor James Comey’s an­nounce­ment – just a few days be­fore the elec­tion – that her e-mails were un­der fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tion. Why? Be­cause women were scared off. “I have so much anec­do­tal ev­i­dence for this,” she told Ezra Klein. “You know, all of a sud­den the hus­band turns to the wife: ‘I told you, she’s go­ing to be in jail, you don’t want to waste your vote.’ The boyfriend turns to the girl­friend and says, ‘She’s go­ing to get locked up!’ All of a sud­den it be­comes a very fraught kind of con­flict­ual ex­pe­ri­ence. And so in­stead of say­ing I’m tak­ing a chance, I’m go­ing to vote, it didn’t work.”

To which one is tempted to re­spond: If women are such spine­less wimps, they re­ally don’t de­serve a fe­male pres­i­dent.

Women in pol­i­tics are doomed by male testos­terone, we’re told. So goes the con­ven­tional moan­ing. It is as­ton­ish­ing that fem­i­nists con­ve­niently ig­nore that other fe­male politi­cian – An­gela Merkel. She has been in power for an as­ton­ish­ing 12 years, and will al­most cer­tainly win an­other term this fall. She is the most suc­cess­ful leader in the Western world. Now that the United States has been hi­jacked by a rogue Pres­i­dent, she is its moral leader as well.

In many ways, Frau Merkel is the anti-Clin­ton. She never plays the women card. She doesn’t like the word “fem­i­nism.” As Nel­lie McClung once coun­selled, she just gets the thing done and lets them howl.

Ms. Merkel’s bland de­meanour and so­porific speak­ing style con­ceal a su­perbly an­a­lyt­i­cal mind. She also has what one jour­nal­ist called “a per­fect in­stinct for power.” (Ge­orge Packer’s de­fin­i­tive New Yorker pro­file is a gold mine of in­sight into this ex­tra­or­di­nary woman.) As a woman, a sci­en­tist (quan­tum chem­istry), and a prod­uct of East Ger­many, she was a triple out­sider in Ger­man pol­i­tics – and also a stark con­trast to the chain of preen­ing, ma­cho men who pre­ceded her.

Ms. Merkel breaks all the rules. She never tries to charm. Her hair seems never to have met a stylist. She re­sem­bles a frumpy Ger­man house­wife, not a cor­po­rate CEO. She doesn’t care about work­ing women or gay rights.

One other thing. She’s ruth­less. Ms. Clin­ton bit­terly com­plains that she was “shiv­ved.” By con­trast, Ms. Merkel wields the shiv. “If you cross her, you end up dead,” one source told Mr. Packer. “There’s a whole list of al­pha males who thought they would get her out of the way, and they’re all now in other walks of life.”

Ger­many and the United States are two dif­fer­ent worlds, of course. The United States is in­tensely po­lar­ized, and Ger­many is not. My point is that there are many, many ways for women to suc­ceed in pol­i­tics, and Ms. Clin­ton’s way is only one of them. Fem­i­nists have an ir­ri­tat­ing habit of as­sum­ing that only fe­male politi­cians with overtly fem­i­nist agen­das are le­git­i­mate, and that all oth­ers (Margaret Thatcher, for ex­am­ple) are gen­der traitors and/ or pseudo-men. Maybe that’s why they are obliv­i­ous to Ms. Merkel.

Hil­lary Clin­ton is right when she says that women in pub­lic life face ex­tra chal­lenges. But she’s wrong when she im­plies that a de­feat for her was a de­feat for women. And it’s dou­bly in­sult­ing for her to sug­gest that women are so weak-minded that they stayed home or voted against her just to ap­pease their men.

She didn’t lose be­cause she was a woman. She lost be­cause she was the wrong one.

Hil­lary Clin­ton is right when she says that women in pub­lic life face ex­tra chal­lenges. But she’s wrong when she im­plies that a de­feat for her was a de­feat for women.

CARLOS BARRIA/REUTERS

To say that women in pol­i­tics, such as Hil­lary Clin­ton, are doomed by male testos­terone would be to con­ve­niently ig­nore ac­com­plish­ments of other fe­male politi­cians such as An­gela Merkel.

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