Calling Sexism by Its Name: When 'Clinton' Becomes 'Hillary'

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Hillary Clinton supporters at a campaign event in Fairfax, Virginia, Feb. 29, 2016.
Hillary Clinton supporters at a campaign event in Fairfax, Virginia, Feb. 29, 2016.Credit: AP

They call her Hillary. Not even Hillary Clinton. Just plain Hillary. “Hillary was unable to deliver a knockout to Sanders,” announced the presenter. A first name for her, a last name for him. And no, she’s not called by that because she’s married to a famous man and the mention of the name “Clinton” is liable to be confusing. She’s “Hillary” because she’s a woman, and therefore lacking in status like a child, with no need to mention her full name.

After all, no news presenter will explain that “the Republican establishment has adopted Marco,” nor talk about “Ted, hero of the Tea Party.” Simply because Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz are men, and they are guaranteed in advance a big advantage over any woman.

Hillary Clinton speaks to supporters as her husband Bill Clinton applauds, after she was projected to be the winner in the Democratic caucuses in Las Vegas, Nevada February 20, 2016.Credit: Reuters

This disparity is prominent, of all places, in America which is presumably progressive. Nobody would call the German chancellor “Angela,” but the U.S. Secretary of State is called “Condoleezza” or “Hillary.” That’s a situation whose acceptance requires a supreme effort on Hillary’s part.

The issue of the name is only a tiny example of this phenomenon. In a survey conducted by one television network, people were asked: Who is older – Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton? All of them, without exception, replied that she is much older. At 68, Clinton is actually a year younger than Trump, but she is often described as old. He, on the other hand, is described as bursting with potency, of all types, amid frequent mention of his relationships with far younger women, reflecting a clear preference for models.

Her wrinkles, makeup and hair are discussed at length. The political arena is raging with discussion of critical issues of sleeves, decolletages, stockings and other types of apparel – only because she’s a female candidate. None of her competitors receives even an iota of the in-depth preoccupation with the quality of “Hillary’s” complexion.

The obstacles to women’s entry into politics, especially American politics, are high and oppressive, and Clinton is paying the full price. We can only imagine the reactions if she didn’t dye her hair and were to appear like Sanders, with unkempt gray hair.

Golda Meir was the first woman in the world to be elected a government leader entirely on her own merits. Two women preceded her in this role – Sirimavo Bandaranaike in Sri Lanka, and Indira Gandhi in India – but they won their lofty position thanks to a late husband and a late father, respectively, who had held it previously.

Meir did it without any famous man granting her a public springboard. Although she despised feminists, she was the one who broke through the iron ceiling of women in politics – everywhere in the world, except in the United States, which lags behind even countries lacking a democratic tradition.

There has not yet been a female president or vice president in Washington. Since the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was passed in 1920, granting women the right to vote, there hasn’t been a single candidate for the presidency on behalf of a major party. Clinton, the first American woman to run seriously for the highest office, in 2008, was not awarded the party’s candidacy at the time. She was defeated by Barack Obama.

The ceiling of gender representation in America is so low that only two women, ever, were serious contenders for the vice presidency – Geraldine Ferraro and Sarah Palin – and as mentioned, they weren’t elected. In contemporary political terms, that’s inconceivable. And not only in Western eyes.

There is little talk these days about Clinton’s rich experience and her abilities, nor were they mentioned here. Because that’s not the issue in this election. Experience and abilities are Trump’s problem rather than hers, but that’s not stopping him. On the contrary. It seems that many people are surging to him just because he lacks experience and suitable abilities. By contrast, when it comes to Clinton, there is almost no question that were she a man, she would probably be concluding her term as president, and wouldn’t be forced to enter the arena now with scornful epithets such as “old auntie” or “grandma.”

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