Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Fighting fire with fire sets the whole world ablaze, Mrs. Clinton


When I saw this clip of Hillary Clinton giving a “sharp response” to a Congolese student who asked what Mr. Clinton thought of China’s loan to the DRC, my first reaction was my aggressive feminist side: way to go Mrs. Clinton, way to stick up for yourself and show ‘em that’s not acceptable.

My second reaction was holy shit, that’s the DRC. And that got me thinking. Did she come off a little strong? Granted, I can’t tell the context of this interview session or what was said before, but I can imagine a few different interpretations of this question besides “you respect my husband more than me because he’s a dude”: how about “because he’s a former president of the United States” or “because he just got back from diplomatic negotiations in North Korea” or “maybe something was lost in translation”?

On the other side of the coin, what if the kid meant exactly what it sounded like? Now don’t get me wrong, I’m your biggest neighborhood fan of the long-term systemic need for women’s rights in a society. But maybe, just maybe, for a country that’s been ravaged over and over by war and corruption and genocide in recent years, ensuring gender equality in the home isn’t at the top of the priority list.

Which brings me to my biggest gripe. Probably the most high-profile and influential woman in the world, one who has years of public speaking behind her back and is responsible for international conflict resolution, had the opportunity to start a dialogue about a critically important global issue and instead came off looking like a bitter whiny old lady. Seriously you think the phrase “my husband is not the secretary of state, I am” comes off as anything other than the emotional blabber of a woman who’s sick of being stuck in her husband’s shadow? When she could have asked the kid why he cared about a civilian’s opinion, stimulated a conversation about gender equity and provided the example of a woman who has the power to challenge engrained cultural viewpoints, she may well have caused the opposite impression: that’s what happens when you put a woman in power, she gets all emotional and defensive at routine interview questions.

Wasted opportunity, Madame Secretary.

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