The Reinvention of Hillary Clinton

Kathryn Stevenson Hillary Clinton has announced her bid for the Presidency in 2016. Although the announcement comes as no surprise, Clinton’s candidacy brings with it the echoes of her failed 2008 presidential candidacy. With Republicans claiming that she is doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past, it’s easy to forget the reason why Hillary Clinton is where is she is today – she constantly reinvents herself. From First Lady, to the first lady to represent New York in the Senate, Clinton has shown remarkable strength in striving to break the glass ceiling. hillary Yet the 2008 race was marked and thereby haunted by her claim, “I am also running to break through the highest and hardest glass ceiling”. This ‘glass ceiling movement’ from 2008 established Clinton on much more familiar territory and with her rich experience in women’s rights, her standing as a feminist is unquestionable. Undoubtedly, one of her downfalls is how her brand of feminism is communicated in the political arena. The statement was bold and brave yet the strategy was weak and shied away from the portrayal of Hillary as woman. The difficulty with women in power is not men, but our understanding of power. Power is associated with masculine images. Robert Keohane writes how “the king, the father, the boss, the lord are stereotypical images of leadership”.  The exertion of power and authority has always been seen as a man’s prerogative. Hence the real difficulty in running for one of the most powerful jobs in the world, as a woman.  Men and women are different, I’m sure there are many of us relieved that we are. However when look beyond biology; we must be able to distinguish the cultural construction of differences. These cultural differences we construct are critical in influencing human behaviour. They dictate the belief that both genders must apply to their stereotypes – men compete whereas women collaborate. This creates strategic challenges, as it did for Clinton in 2008. With fear of falling into the ‘softness’ associated with women, Clinton did not overly feminize her candidacy in 2008. However her reinvention into an authoritative figure translated a cold and calculating. We want you to be masculine but not too masculine. We want you to be feminine but not too feminine. We will constantly draw on the fact that you’re a woman but we refused to let you break the boundaries of femininity. Gail Sheeny, Vanity Fair writer and author of her biography ‘Hillary’s Choice’, wrote “Mark Penn (Democrat strategist) did not appreciate the strength of her character as a woman. He and Bill Clinton insisted that she not run as a woman. They ran her as tougher than any man”. By refusing Hillary the honour of running as a woman, they actually refused her a real shot at the Presidency. Her latest bid for the 2016 Presidency sees Hillary Clinton reinventing herself as a ‘Champion of the everyday Americans’.  No doubt the emphasis on women in the campaign video alludes to her embracing the “glass ceiling moment” from 2008 however, with Mark Penn replaced and Bill Clinton hopefully making similar appearances as in Obama’s 2014 campaign, Hillary is set to correct the mistakes of 2008. Hillary has continued to reinvent herself however the new layers that she wraps herself in have the same thread of the bold young woman who turned to a young gentleman in the Yale library and said, “If you’re going to keep looking at me and I’m going to keep looking back, we least outta know each other – I’m Hillary Rodham and what’s your name?” His name was Bill Clinton. There is boldness within every woman that does not need dressed up or toned down. It does not need a masculine front or a tougher stance. Four years as Sectary of State has taught us that Hillary Clinton is tough enough. My final remarks come in the form of the lady herself from the Fourth Women’s Conference in Beijing, 1995. I had multiple quotes chosen but this speech deserves to be heard entirely so I’ve placed the link at the bottom of the page. As First Lady, Hillary Rodham Clinton makes a daring and ground breaking speech that perhaps resonates more importantly now than ever; “We need to understand that there is no formula for how women should lead their lives. That is why we must respect the choices that each woman makes for herself and her family. Every woman deserves the chance to realize her God-given potential.”

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