Hillary Clinton has encountered sexism in the political sphere since way before 2015. In 1992, Richard Nixon gave Hillary Clinton some pretty sexist advice: Don’t come off as being too strong and too intelligent. As if that advice doesn’t already sound sexist enough, his reasoning for it makes all the more so.
When Nixon made that comment to The New York Times back in February 1992, Bill Clinton was running for president for the first time. His advice was given as part of a campaign PR strategy to ensure that Bill didn’t "look like a wimp" in contrast to Hillary’s strength. Nixon said the Clinton campaign would need to be wary of how they used Hillary because of that. Here’s the full quote he gave The New York Times:
If the wife comes through as being too strong and too intelligent, it makes the husband look like a wimp.
In the interview, Nixon even went so far as to recall the words of French clergyman Cardinal de Richelieu who said that "Intellect in a woman is unbecoming." It’s important to note that Cardinal de Richelieu lived in the 1600s.
But according to Nixon, his words were not a mark of his own personal opinions but rather an unavoidable truth about campaign strategy and the necessary moves to take in order to appeal to voters. Nixon cited Barbara Bush as the paragon of a first lady, pointing out that while she had opinions, she never came close to upstaging her husband. Although the times have changed significantly since the 1990s, even then the idea that a woman needed to be her husband’s subordinate and be seen rather than heard were decidedly sexist notions.
However, Vox points out that even if Nixon said his comments weren’t coming from a personal place, history suggests that might not be the case. While Nixon may have been truthful about the fact that his comments did not arise out of sexism, it seems that they may have arisen out of a personal contempt for the Clintons. Vox reports that Hillary, before she was even married to Bill, worked on the House Judiciary Committee’s impeachment investigation on Nixon, which led to his eventual resignation. Hillary also alluded to a rocky relationship between her family and Nixon, writing in her memoir Living History: "This man never does anything without a purpose."
But more than 20 years later, it looks like the joke is on Nixon. Not only is Hillary strong and intelligent, she is now the one running for president — while her husband sits far out of the spotlight.
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