Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Hillary Clinton's Tears and the Gender Gap

Like any good political junkies, Mrs. G. and I were glued to New Hampshire election analysis last night. In the empty hours when the talking heads were blithering on, the guys chewed and re-chewed Hillary Clinton's show of emotion the day before. To them, it was a dangerous display of weakness or loss of control. They were dumbfounded, therefore, when at the end of the day (literally) she won, on the strength of independent women voters.

I think Hillary's tears played differently with women than with men. There were only a couple of women among the talking heads, and they said nothing distinctive on this topic. The press interviews with late-deciding Clinton voters this morning, though, told a different story. The women who chose Clinton in the last day before the election said that seeing her womanly side made the difference.

The news story in the Clinton vs. Obama race focused on the gender gap. This is true: among men, the split was Clinton 29%, Obama 40, while among women it was Clinton 46, Obama 34. I know from earlier elections that the gender gap is often really a marriage gap - married people vote one way, and single people another, but since there are more single women, the single vote looks like a women's vote. This is partly true in the New Hampshire Democratic primary. The married women split much more evenly. Married women with children split 42-34 for Clinton, whereas single childless women went 49-31 for Clinton. The gap among married parents exactly matched the final tally (39-36 for Clinton). Still, there is clearly a gender factor favoring Clinton here.

One more notable factor in the New Hampshire primary is that there are many independent voters, and they can vote in either primary. I think that at the last minute, many independent women voted in the Democratic primary to vote for Clinton, and many independent men voted in the Republican primary to vote for McCain.

I am glad that race is not over yet. We will stay tuned.


sporcupine said...

You're right, with the small note that I think the issue was her human side, not her womanly side.

Here's a gendered interpretation of what went on.

The interaction between candidate and reporter was like others that happens a million times a day. One person has been doing something difficult and looks tired. The other person knows that and checks in with a question about how it's going. The first person can crumble, stonewall, or deal.

Crumbling means weakness.

Stonewalling also means weakness: it means the problem hurts too much to expose, and you're using a lot of energy to avoid crumbling.

Strength is shown by pausing, thinking about the experience, saying something that shows that you feel the toll it's taking, and then saying or doing something that shows you're on top of it. You aren't yielding to the difficulties, and you aren't hiding from them: you're facing them and you're strong enough to make it work.

Senator Clinton hit it out of the park. She's in touch with her humanity: her fatigue, her lack of exercise, her over-reliance on pizza, the concern for the future of the nation. And she's still in control, able to stay not only at the microphone but on message, while she's feeling those things.

So, gentlemen (Gruntled exempted), many of you saw the video and missed the point. She teared up AND moved forward. She's not avoiding the difficult parts: she's facing them head on. She's tough, she's strong, and she's ready to lead.

Yes, dudes, we understand that many of you can't do two things at once. You can't fight and feel simultaneously. We can work with that.

Only, guys, we're not in middle school any more. You can't huddle up to whisper and point just because a grown woman handles a question like that in a normal, healthy way. The media and the blogs got way too close to doing just that. And when they did, many, many women who make the everlasting effort to be smart and strong and sensitive and supportive and sweet all at the same time, suddenly understood: the Senator is walking that same walk, and we're cheering for her even if we're planning to vote for someone else.

Men who can't see the strength may want to go play with the Republicans.

For the record, boys, I think it was when you started smirking that the women of New Hampshire decided to kick your butts.

Anonymous said...

Another take on Hillary.'Man Hater Clubs' are so old-school!