(Photo by U.S Government [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2010. Photo taken at the State Department, in Washington, D.C.)
By John Kaufman
Though famed for its politically progressive tradition, Wisconsin does produce some notorious conservatives, colorful figures who draw the attention of the nation. Gov. Walker is a rather bland guy (bland but unintimidated by what he doesn’t understand) in comparison to, say, Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, the cowboy hat-wearing “people’s sheriff” or, as National Review calls him, “the sheriff as rebel.” ( Clarke seems to me more akin to the Sheriff of Nottingham.) There is, or was, the infamous Sen. Joseph McCarthy for whom the term “McCarthyism” was coined. Washington Post columnist George Will even dared to use McCarthy’s legacy to lambast the ongoing Wisconsin “John Doe” campaign finance investigation. And let’s not forget Wisconsin’s own John Birch Society, ever a vigilant and reliable source of political paranoia.
Lately, and more tamely, a Milwaukee County Board member, Supervisor Deanna Alexander, has caught the attention of the NY Times and the Journal Sentinel’s “watchdog” Dan Bice by referring to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton as “Ovary” in a public tweet. This attempt at political sarcasm upset some of Alexander’s fellow County Board members, who felt it was an inappropriate metaphor. You know, you shouldn’t use body parts to refer to public figures. But this seems to me a thin-skinned reaction. Alexander’s ovarian tweet was inappropriate not so much for nicknaming Hillary “Ovary” but for what Alexander claims Clinton is all about: running on being an ovarian person only.
Why Alexander, elected to public office for presumably more reasons than her gender, would want to reduce another woman attempting to be elected to public office to her sexual biology is hard to understand. Generally, when men verbally identify women as only their physical qualities, these men are accused, and rightly so, of being sexist. If Clinton were running on a platform of “I’m a woman, vote for me” there might be some truth in Alexander’s unusual label, but even then a woman, in totality, is far more than her reproductive tissues.
Even a brief look at Clinton’s early campaign material proves that Clinton is not making the case we should vote for her because she’s a person with ovaries. Her campaign so far seems focused on making Clinton out to be a progressive populist at heart, someone concerned about and willing to fight for improving the lives of ordinary Americans and, by the way, standing up to foreign threats. In fact, because she is a woman, I suspect there will be a good deal of having to prove how tough and masculine Hillary is, an ovarian person with enough “balls” (why are testicles a symbol for courage while ovaries are not?) to take on both Wall Street and terrorists. Given the general record of male presidents, especially when it comes to launching wars and drones, I would hope that Clinton, as a campaigner, will display a more feminine/motherly restraint when it comes to foreign policy. If having ovaries helped a leader choose nonviolent, compassionate policies, then there would be nothing wrong with voting for a woman because she is a woman, though, of course, we can think of all sorts of powerful women who have supported political violence and draconian economics in the past. But whether or not Clinton is a genuinely peaceable progressive, she so far is not playing up (as if she had to) her gender.
But this will likely be a Republican theme of the presidential campaign: Hillary Clinton, we will be told, is, as a politician, nothing but her gender, and the U.S. should not elect a female president only to elect a woman interested only in female issues. Instead of Hillary, we will be offered the Republican parade of misguided, mediocre men, except for former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, expected to launch her presidential campaign on May 4th, according to BostonHerald.com. This Fiorina quote is also via BostonHerald.com:
“Hillary Clinton desperately wants to run a campaign on being the first woman president. She desperately wants to run a campaign on the war on women. And I think Hillary Clinton should have to run her campaign on her own track record, or lack thereof.”
So Fiorina’s entrance into the race will make it a fair, woman-to-woman fight. Of course, Fiorina is far more lacking in political/governing experience than is Clinton, but corporate executives often have this sense that a nation can be governed as one runs a big business: ruthless power is all that is required. But CEO’s are appointed, not elected. And given that women remain a slight majority of Americans (roughly 5 million more women than men), running a campaign that highlights the real and ongoing political and cultural “war on women” is not a bad strategy.
Yes, Hillary Clinton has ovaries but that is not a good reason to vote for her, as she and her campaign are no doubt aware. But I do agree with Alexander’s tweet that Hillary should not be seeking to raise $2.5 billion to run a good campaign. The well-funded, overwrought, ovarian Republican campaign against her is probably all she needs to be elected.
P.S.— For another perspective on the same topic, see this post by Pamela Hill Nettleton.