Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Women in the Public Eye

Are irritants. Rinsing doesn't really work, but a good bashing just might flush them out.

Take Cindy Sheehan. She is quitting as the National Monument of the anti-war movement. It was an impossible job and one that the media initially assigned her, although she ran with it later. I call it an impossible job, because National Monuments of this sort are walking myths and they attract not only adulators and flowers but also dogs lifting their legs nearby, and once the myth is embodied in one person it's pretty easy to pull it down. All Sheehan had to do was to step outside the myth of the bereaved mourning mother and she was toast.

Sheehan's case is almost a total opposite of the case of Hillary Clinton. Where critic saw Sheehan as too emotional and too prone to stunts Clinton is seen as not emotional enough, too iceberg-like and too calculating. Too tame. She almost seems to try to live so as to provoke no negative comment, but negative comments she gets in any case. Indeed, three critical books have just come out on her life, politics and future. Bay Buchanan (yes, the sister of THAT Buchanan) even diagnoses her (from a distance and without any qualifications) as suffering from the narcissistic personality disorder!

The avalanche of anti-Hillary books should be a surprise, given that the other presidential candidates haven't gotten anywhere near the attention. But then Hillary Clinton is much more interesting to bash, and not only because she is married to Bill Clinton. She is also an uppity woman, an embodiment of all the hidden fears that suggest castration to many conservative men.

To learn that about the worst the three books could find on Hillary is that she is ambitious makes for a bit of an anti-climax. Do people really think that all those men running for the job of the president of the United States of America are NOT ambitious? Who the hell would apply for that job without lots of ambition? It's just that women aren't supposed to be ambitious for themselves.

It isn't the fact that both Sheehan and Clinton get so much criticism that bothers me. It is the way they are made into something bigger, something more frightening, something more mythical than any human being can be, and the way the criticism is framed and tinted with all sorts of little misogynistic seasonings. The critics are mostly not just trying to take Sheehan or Clinton down. They are trying to take down a myth, to kill it. Before it gets them.