By Maria Tulli
There has been a lot of discussion about Hillary Clinton’s gender. A lot. Calls by supporters asking people to vote for her because she is a woman. Outrage by others admonishing those who do so for some “reverse” sexism. There have been comparisons between Hillary Clinton and Margaret Thatcher, based exclusively on gender, while there is a lack of comparisons between Clinton and men politicians – comparisons which would make more sense based on policies, experience and ideology.[i] We could say gender is featuring as a core factor in these Democratic primaries. However, it is not truly at the core, but rather spotlighted on one side. While Secretary Clinton’s gender may be a locus of attention, her opponent’s is not. In an arena of gender scrutiny Bernie Sanders remains the unmarked, the un-gendered. This un-gendering has enabled Sanders to act both progressively and radically.
To be clear, I am not arguing that Clinton is secretly socialist or pursues moderate policies only reluctantly. Hillary Clinton is substantially right of Bernie Sanders and has made conscious choices to get there. However, I am arguing that whether or not she desired to pursue more radical political action or rhetoric, she is unable to do so because she is a woman. The flipside of this, of course, is that Bernie Sanders is enabled to do so because he is a man.
There is no doubt that it is important that Hillary Clinton is a woman. Even if it does not truly matter to her politics or capabilities, her presentation as a politician is built around her gender.
But it also matters that Bernie Sanders is a man.