Clinton Actually Faced Worse Sexism In The '90s

by Margaret Judson

The purpose of a progressive agenda, like one that I believe Hillary Clinton supports, is decidedly to look forwards and not backwards. Nonetheless, I've recently been down a rabbit hole of old-school Clinton as first lady interviews, and it's worth noting how far women have come. Man, I have to admit, it looks a lot tougher than I imagined to be a strong woman in the '90s.

In 1993, Bill Clinton was sworn in as president at age 46, making him one of the youngest presidents ever. Hillary Clinton was the first first lady of her kind: she was a successful lawyer and was expected to take on a lead role with health care reform.

But the conservative, family-values right, apparently, did not like the prospects of a the president's wife being instrumental in the White House. Republican Pat Buchanan dug deep into the culture wars that were brewing at the time to stir his party at the 1992 Republican National Convention, referring to Bill Clinton's "lawyer-spouse" with disgust and professing the couple would espouse "radical feminism."

While the ultra-social conservative Buchanan was especially blatant in his sexist commentary, Clinton faced jabs in other regards. In an interview with Katie Couric in 1993, Couric brought up the idea that Clinton is considered by Republicans to be a "Lady Macbeth," and later, just when the interview starts to get substantive, insists: "let's get back to the Lady Macbeth imagery." You can watch in the below video:

In a 1993 interview with Diane Sawyer, Clinton wondered if she could be getting a lot of heat because they were the first couple of their generation in the White House — a generation that was leading the charge to upset traditional gender roles and pave the way for the future.

Granted, Clinton had some missteps along the way that came with consequences that were hard to shake, like when she seemed to criticize stay-at-home-moms; she infamously said in defense of her choice to continue to work as an attorney during her husband's time as governor, "I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and made tea, but what I decided to do was to fulfill my profession which I entered before my husband was in public life."

Even so, years later, on a tour for her book It Takes a Village, Clinton met with Barbara Walters in 1996, and the novelty of such a first lady still hadn't worn off. As Walters explained, "We have never had a First Lady write a serious book while in the White House. We have not had a first lady quite like this." She asked directly of Clinton in the interview: "Do you think the American people are ready yet to have a First Lady who has strong opinions?"

At least now, the question is instead: Do you think the American people are ready for the first woman president?