Monday, June 2, 2008

Hillary Clinton and the Negative Reviews of Sex and the City: The Same Failure to Understand

So this weekend I joined 10s of 1000 of other women and went to see Sex and the City. I have been on the phone talking to women who went and hearing their assessment and what they heard around them in the threatre.

While everyone had something they might not have liked -- an outfit, a scenario, etc. -- the general consensus was positive. Some are talking about going to see it again. Others said it felt like "visiting with old friends." Yet others said the whole thing is a fantasy, except for the strength of the relationship: that's real. The reason that they know it's real is that they have friends like that.

Let's be honest. Most men don't have friends like that. They may have sports or poker buddies but they don't have friends who understand them to the depths of their hearts.

Yet the reviews have been mixed. Some have been by women. But it's the reviews by men which have been particularly mean and snippy. They miss the point. For an example read John Podhoretz in the print edition of the Weekly Standard.

Now here is the Clinton connection. Just as men don't get the essence of friendship. The men just don't get how mad so many women are about the treatment meted out to Hillary Clinton. The comments about her whining, her shrillness, her pantsuits, her ankles, her voice, her laugh.... None of the things we have heard about male candidates. Does anyone know how Obama, McCain, or any of the other close to a dozen men laugh? What their ankles look like?

And here too the male commentators don't get it. Maybe the connection is a bit of a stretch but it just seems real to me.

We used to say "We've come a long way." I am really beginning to wonder.


Izgad said...

"men don't get the essence of friendship."

I assume that it would be sexist of me to say that "women don't get the essence of friendship." Why are your words not sexist as well? If you are interested in learning more about this strange concept of male friendship, I would suggest that you read C.S Lewis' essay on friendship in his book Four Loves. While you are on the subject, may I also recommend Cicero's famous work, De Amicitia. Over the past few thousand years of Western Civilization, a fair amount has been written on the topic of close male friendship. How could it be anything less than sexism for you to ignore it? You are a historian and if I may say so a very talented one.

This is a good example of how many women seem to fail to understand what bothers so many men about Hillary and her campaign. As a man living in the early 21st century, I accept that sexism is wrong and that I need to think in larger terms than my male brotherhood. Not that men are perfect in this regard but at least they have a concept of not being sexist toward women.
John McCain and Barack Obama are not running as men. Hillary is running as a woman. The moment someone throws out the accusation that people who oppose her are sexist than the campaign becomes one about sex there is no way around that. Why should any man trust Hillary to think in larger terms than her female sisterhood? As long as women are not trained like men to avoid sexism and think outside of their tribal box than it is going to be very difficult to for women to get elected into public office.
A similar criticism could be made of Obama in how he handles the issue of race. Why should anyone who is not black trust him to transcend the interests of his own "tribe?"

In general I am a big fan of your work and love your blog. You are one of my personal heroes.


P.S Have you seen Pat Buchanan's new book. He is an apologist for Nazi Germany. He claims that Germany had a legitimate claim to the Sudetenland and blames Poland for the start of World War II. I guess technically speaking this is not Holocaust denial, but, as I see it, such a position amounts to pretty much the same thing.

Hume's Ghost said...

What in the world is John Podhoretz doing reveiwing Sex in the City for in the Weekly Standard anyway? What's next Noam Chomsky reviewing Speed Racer for The Nation?

Deborah Lipstadt said...

No idea what John Podhoretz is doing reviewing SITC. Maybe he had nothing better to do... Maybe he couldn't pass up the chance to diss some women...

And Izgad you are absolutely right. My statement about men not getting it was way too sweeping and a form of reverse sexism.

Let me edit myself and say: A lot of men -- those in the media who talked about Hillary's ankles, outfits, laughing style, and shrillness -- don't get it.

And those men and women who don't get the essence of the friendships in SITC... also don't get it.

BTW, i am not suggesting you had to love the movie. There are people who are put off by the materialism, the emphasis on clothes etc.

Their [Carrie et. al.] style is certainly NOT my style. But their love of one another and commitment to each other is something I love.

Toby said...

As the campaign continues from today, you will no doubt join in condemning sexist attacks on Michelle Obama (or Cindy McCain for that matter, should they occur).

Some of the defences of Hilary against sexism were veiled attacks on Obama. By drawing attention to unfair treatment of HC, he inevitably looked bad. However, I admire how respectful he has been, and has not shown hardly a wisp of irritation at his opponent. The reverse has not been true of the Clintons.

Obama has lost traction with white female votes because of this factor. Hopefully, he and Hilary can get it together to win back that key demographic for the Democrats.


Havnt' seen SITC, but then I never watched the TV series either.

Deborah Lipstadt said...

The media gave her a very hard time and the treatment it gave him... well did you see the SNL segment...that said it all.

There has been criticism of Michelle Obama and lots of praise [the NYT]. She has said some things which are terribly destructive of her husband's campaign [e.g. first time I am really proud of this country].

Izgad said...

Dr. Lipstadt
You acknowledge my minor point, while ignoring the larger issue. I personally could care little about the semantic issue of saying “men” as opposed to “some men” or “many men.” The charge of sexism is not particularly important to me. What I care about are things like tribalism, to use Karl Popper’s term, and, most importantly, hypocrisy.

To get back to the issue of friendships in literature; as a man I can point to the models of Achilles and Patrolocus, Roland and Oliver and Sam and Frodo as models of male friendship. You hold up Carrie, Samantha, Miranda and Charlotte and seem to think that you have some sort of high ground. Something about that strikes me as off.
With the Greatest Respect

Deborah Lipstadt said...

Your examples are compelling but i stand my ground that in today's society women generally -- not always -- have deeper more personal friendships.

Their friendships are rooted in talking about their feelings, disappointments, joys, etc. They don't generally spend time bonding over ballgames etc.

It's a different way of building a friendship...

this, of course, is all quite subjective... but I think I am right!

Roman Werpachowski said...

"She has said some things which are terribly destructive of her husband's campaign [e.g. first time I am really proud of this country]."

Is there a duty to be proud of one's country?? I'm not proud of Poland.

"Their friendships are rooted in talking about their feelings, disappointments, joys, etc. They don't generally spend time bonding over ballgames etc."

You obviously know few mean, if you think that this is how males bond. Ballgames etc are superficial.