The gender card

Hillary Clinton

What happened

Hillary Clinton’s critics accuse her of playing the gender card by saying her rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination—all men—ganged up on her in the last debate. Clinton told students at Wellesley College that “this all-women’s college prepared me to compete in the all-boys club of presidential politics.”

What the commentators said

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It’s “insulting” to women to suggest the other candidates are attacking Clinton because she “wears different undergarments,” said Liz Mair in The American Spectator. These aren’t the days of “bra-burning”—Clinton was singled out because she’s the strongest candidate, not the weakest. “We've come a long way, baby—and Team Hillary seems not to have noticed.”

Really? And have you noticed that “15 out of the 16 presidential candidates are male”? said Ellen Goodman in The Boston Globe (free registration). Or that only 2 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are female? This “media-driven-gender-fest” has made it official. “A woman can be accused of taking unfair tactical advantage of her disadvantage. Who made the rules of this game?” Men, perhaps?

“The fact is, Clinton's opponents are mad because they feel robbed,” said Susan Faludi in the Los Angeles Times (free registration). Men are supposed to be the ones who get to play the “gender card” by swooping in to save women, “the victims in need of rescuing.” Hillary Clinton is threatening because she offers women something new—“the authority and agency to rescue themselves.”

Please, said Peggy Noonan in The Wall Street Journal, none of “the big ones”—Margaret Thatcher, Indira Ghandi, Golda Meir—would have stopped to playing “the boo-hoo game” the way Clinton did. And the American people are smart enough to know that, which is why Clinton slumped in the polls after selling herself as a “defenseless lass.” It’s as if the nation officially declared that “the woman who uses the fact of her sex to manipulate circumstances is a jerk.”

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