Hillary Clinton Doesn't Have To Prove She Has A Personality
In case you haven't heard the news, there are people who really, really, really don't like Hillary Clinton. The New York Times' David Brooks attempted to unpack this worst-kept political secret in his Tuesday column "Why is Clinton Disliked?" He argues that the former secretary of state, New York senator, and first lady has failed to humanize herself to the American people:
Clinton’s unpopularity is akin to the unpopularity of a workaholic. Workaholism is a form of emotional self-estrangement. Workaholics are so consumed by their professional activities that their feelings don’t inform their most fundamental decisions. The professional role comes to dominate the personality and encroaches on the normal intimacies of the soul.
Fine and poetic-sounding as that is, I believe that it's getting at the idea that Clinton somehow manages to come off as "too professional," and that her wholesale investment in her "role" as a politician has somehow made her off-putting and difficult for American voters to trust. That description seems more like the Saturday Night Live parody of Clinton — the endearing-if-monomaniacal Kate McKinnon version — than a real human being. That may be because that SNL version of Clinton is actually how many Americans perceive the real one.
What is frustrating to me is that when it comes to Clinton's problem with being "likable," it is not brought up enough that she is a woman, and thus experiences criticism differently. This concern zeroes in on one of the more obvious catch-22's of navigating 21st-Century political sexism: A politician who has had to fight to be seen beyond the most traditional, limiting female archetypes to be considered a tough and worthy leader who wouldn't be ruled by emotion isn't considered trustworthy or liked, because she doesn't reveal enough emotion.
Clinton has been hated for years at this point for a score of reasons, including but not limited to her hair, her pantsuits (and the cost of them), and whether she really, for real, no pandering likes hot sauce.
The cloak-and-dagger approach to her family and personal life which may turn people off might have something to do with the ways Clinton has been criticized for revealing those parts throughout her public life — and, might I add, in ways that her male contemporaries have not.
Clinton's identity as a politician and only a politician may also be a result of the fact that women aren't always afforded the same inner narratives and complexities that are very easily afforded to men in power (and often celebrated). And, as demonstrated by so many magazines asking (dimly) whether it's possible for a woman to "have it all" — meaning a life and a career and a family — we haven't gotten to a point where the masses can automatically assume those things for women. To state the obvious: Unlike the Trumps of the world, women face significantly more challenges when they try to "contain multitudes."
Perhaps it's not Clinton's job to prove her personality or defend her humanity at every turn. The onus isn't on her to reveal the complex person within or prove she's not a robot, and that's probably something that we should all acknowledge as a given at this point.