Don't Cry for Me

You won't win me over with tears, lady.

By Liz Spikol
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Jan. 16, 2008

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Eye spy: Did Clinton fake it last week? (Photo by Jeff Fusco)

I've always been good at recognizing fakes. I can tell whether your Cartier was bought on Market Street or Fifth Avenue. I can spot a faux Prada two blocks away, and a faux Vuitton from four stories up. I don't even have to touch a fur to know whether an adorable animal was slaughtered for it to be made.

But that's not much of a skill. Nor is the fact that I'm the sort of person who can tell you the end of a TV show. If there's a double-cross, I can triple-cross it and get 50 Scrabble points before the first commercial. People hate watching Law & Order with me.

Spotting a fake person--that's more useful. Fake tears, sadness, sympathy--they screech like chalk on a blackboard to my fake-deducing superpowers. If there's performance in someone's emotional presentation, I know it.

Why? Because guile and falsity are two of my biggest strengths. I can lie, bullshit and spin until no one, including me, knows what's real. I'd be a superb undercover cop in a very pathological way.

And if you put me in the middle of a coffee shop and told me that very important things depended on my ability to get emotional and tear up and speak in a way that suggested I might break into great heaving sobs at any moment, I'd turn into Meryl Streep.

In the language of the schoolyard, it takes one to know one, and that's why I believe Hillary Clinton was not on the verge of tears on Jan. 7 at Caf� Espresso in New Hampshire.

I can't say exactly what it was about the moment that struck me as disingenuous. I mean, if it's a fake Prada, it's obvious because the stitching's too bright, or the letters are feathered. But I can't articulate why I think Clinton was lying. I just saw the clip and said to myself, "Yeah, I know that one. Nice going."

Some pundits claim that moment was what led women to support her in a narrow victory over Barack Obama in the New Hampshire primary. In a conference call organized by Clinton's campaign, Sen. Dianne Feinstein agreed the almost-weep was a key moment. Feinstein told the San Francisco Chronicle, "She responded with warmth and feeling. It came across very importantly ... I think there has been a great emotional connection between women and Hillary."

Not all women. A recent Wall Street Journal article about Clinton's appeal with female voters quotes Deborah Lamberti, a New York psychoanalyst, as saying: "It was an opportunity for her to be human and yet it was very inauthentic. And as women, it brought us back not forward. It's the stereotype of a woman who thinks her boss is going to fire her--and Hillary thought the American people were going to fire her--saying, 'Okay, it's time to bring out the emotion.'"

Does it matter whether Hillary Clinton was honestly emotional at Caf� Espresso? It matters because we're being told in the media that Clinton's emotional moment had an impact with the voters--women voters--buying into a lot of stale ideas about who women are and what we want. We want to hear secrets. We want emotions. We want tears.

Are we once again condemned to believe that women are so emotional and easily swayed that all it takes to influence us is a phlegmy throat and watery eyes? It's insulting and regressive. I, for one, am not prone to female hysteria when it comes to voting.

This would be a perfect time for a feminist voice to come out of the wilderness and publish a well-crafted, lengthy, historically informed, thoughtful retort to this notion of judging Hillary Clinton on the basis of her gender. Women leaders may not be the norm in the United States, but there have been many in the rest of the world: India's Indira Gandhi, Israel's Golda Meir, Pakistan's Benazir Bhutto, Argentina's Eva Per�n, Great Britain's Margaret Thatcher, Iceland's Vigd�s Finnbogad�ttir, the Phillipines' Corazon Aquino, Nicaragua's Violeta Chamorro, Liberia's Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Chile's Michelle Bachelet and Norway's Gro Harlem Brundtland, to name just a few. This global reality makes America's obsession with Hillary Clinton's womanhood seem frustratingly parochial--something at which our large, wealthy superpower nation generally excels.

Wouldn't it be refreshing if a feminist pioneer were to write an op-ed piece, say, for The New York Times in which she excoriated us for not judging Clinton on the basis of her political worth and intellect? If she were to say there's a long tradition of female leadership in United States government, on all levels, including 21 cabinet members, and many august female legislators and to, like, get over it already?

No dice. Gloria Steinem's op-ed in The New York Times last week is bizarrely devoid of intellectual heft. Though she claims she's not comparing oppressions, she does just that. She says gender is "probably the most restricting force in American life," pointing out that blacks got the vote before women and have an easier time ascending to positions of power. (I'd like to see her sources.)

She sighs that gender barriers aren't taken as seriously as racial ones, and goes on to give a stump speech for Clinton while taking shots at Obama. This is what our most revered public feminist has to say?

I don't know whom I'm going to vote for. There are things I like about Clinton and things I don't. Gloria Steinem, in her op-ed, says I should vote for Clinton, in part "because she's a woman." Clinton's gender doesn't matter to me. But her character does.

Clinton's senior adviser Sidney Blumenthal told The Wall Street Journal that her message in New Hampshire was carefully crafted. If that moment in Caf� Espresso was as fake as it seemed, I'm one woman voter who's going to take some wooing. I don't need tears or emotions, but flowers would be nice.

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