Jewish World Review Sept. 21, 2000/ 20 Elul, 5760
Sexual politics in New York
IS A LITTLE GIRL different from a little boy? To see for yourself, put a baby doll in front of a little girl, a
dump truck in front of the little boy, and watch.
Is a big girl candidate different from big boy candidate?
If you followed the reaction following the debate between Rick Lazio and Hillary Clinton for the
U.S. Senate in New York, you'd certainly say so. Sexual politics -- as in ``gender gap'' -- is a
legitimate inquiry into the behavior of the political animal. But we have to beware of the double
standard and how it plays out.
Partisans of Hillary say Rick Lazio was too aggressive (read too male) as he confronted the first
lady with a piece of paper to sign a pledge not to take the soft money that is the plague that bedevils
every good Democrat. ``Rick Lazio bares his teeth,'' writes New York Times columnist Gail
Collins, as though he was the angry Rottweiler confronting the fluffy snow-white Persian pussycat.
The writer of a letter to the editor interprets this behavior as a ``prime example of a woman's space
being invaded by a belligerent man.''
Imagine that: belligerent politics. Imagine a male candidate treating a female candidate as if she were
The same letter writer says Mr. Lazio brandished the document ``like a weapon,'' that it was
perceived very differently by men than by women. Read, ``men are violent and women are their
prey.'' Should Mr. Lazio have asked Mrs. Clinton for her famous recipe for chocolate chip
None of this would carry any particular weight but for the fact that it reflects the majority of the
New York women who were polled after the debate, who typically said they didn't like Mr. Lazio's
``contentiousness.'' They felt sorry for Mrs. Clinton when Tim Russert brought up her
much-publicized attack on the ``vast right wing conspiracy'' that she said was behind the silly rumors
that her husband had been having it off with an intern at the office.
Hillary wouldn't even be running for the Senate if she hadn't won public sympathy as the wounded
wife. She certainly didn't earn it as co-president in charge of health care policy. When she accused
Rick Lazio of chutzpah -- a word that sounds as likely as gefilte fish on the tongue of a Midwestern
Methodist -- she was the guilty one. One definition of the Yiddish term chutzpah is someone who
cries ``Help! help!'' as he's pounding you over the head with a billy club.
You have to wonder what's going on with those of the female persuasion if women see see the most
calculating woman in politics as more victim than exploiter. Her hesitant, almost quivering response
to Tim Russert was worthy of an Oscar because she couldn't have been surprised or unhappy with
the question. She had been prepped for it, and her staff loved the way she handled it. The first lady
knows her polls go up when a man picks on her. And we thought we had banished that sexist
phenomenon called gallantry.
However, and it's a big however, she didn't apologize for creating an indelibly false image of ``a vast
right wing conspiracy,'' an image that continues to serve her well as she raises money through her
White House connections, inviting her rich contributors to sleep in Mr. Lincoln's bed. The taxpayers
get to pay for washing the sheets.
Columnist Maureen Dowd, who affects an on-again, off-again tough-gal image, writes that the first
lady won the argument because Rick Lazio was not a ``gentleman.'' He dared to continue the attack
Tim Russert started by calling into question Hillary's character and trustworthiness.
Despite the polls and the focus groups, it's difficult to imagine that New Yorkers who prize their
suspicion and mistrust of everyone -- even New York women -- will be gulled by this exploitation
of Hillary's humiliation, and persuaded to vote for her as a reward for putting up with a philandering
husband. Feminist or feminine, stay-at-home mom or career professional, the sisterhood can't be so
ditsy that women can't see through phony vulnerability. There are nine women in the Senate now
and not one of them got there because she played the ``victim'' card.
Rick Lazio has boyish good looks. That ought not to be held against him by either women or men.
He showed that he understood the important issues as they related to New York, aggressively
pointing out that ``Hillarycare,'' the first lady's policy initiative, would have been a disaster for New
York teaching hospitals.
She insists that she's learned from her failures. Who wins this race depends on whether New
Yorkers believe her or prefer the record of Rick Lazio. Rewarding the little woman for her
humiliation is not what a seat in the United States Senate is all about. And a single standard is quite
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09/14/00: Gloria Steinem runs cheerfully into captivity
09/12/00: Sex in the eye of the partisan
09/07/00: 'Sex and death' on the college campus
09/05/00: Joe Lieberman as a 'Menorah Man'
08/31/00: Rising suns of the conventions
08/17/00: Changing icons: From Loretta Young to Hillary Clinton
08/14/00: The Creator returns to the public square
08/10/00: Bursting with pride, but caution too
08/07/00: Brains, beauty and beastly politics
08/03/00: A candidate with a superego
07/31/00: The sizzling Lynne Cheney
07/27/00: The party of the aging Playboys
07/24/00 Hillary drives the Jewish wagon into a ditch
07/20/00 Conservatives gone fishin'
07/17/00: Snoop Doggy Dogg was a founding father, wasn't he?
07/13/00: When a teenager doesn't need a prime minister
07/10/00: Abortion as cruel and unusual punishment
07/06/00: Surviving 'survivor' TV
07/03/00: Independence Day with Norman Rockwell
06/29/00: Here comes 'something old'
06/26/00: Waiting too long for the baby
06/22/00: Good teachers, curious students and oxymorons
06/19/00: Wanted: Some ants for Gore's pants
06/15/00: Like father, like daughter
06/12/00: Culture wars and conservative warriors
06/08/00: Return of the housewife
06/05/00: Hillary and Al -- playing against type
05/31/00: The sexual revolution confronts the SUV
05/25/00: Waiting for the movie
05/22/00: Pistol packin' mamas
05/18/00: Journalists and the 'new time' religion
05/15/00: There's nothing like a (military) dame
05/11/00: 'The Human Stain' on campus
05/09/00: We've come a long way, Betty Friedan
05/04/00: From George Washington to Mansa Masu
05/01/00: Gore's ruthless doublespeak
04/28/00: Doing it Castro's way
04/24/00: Women's studies beget narrow minds
04/17/00: The slippery slope of anti-Semitism
04/13/00: A villain larger than life
04/10/00: When mourning becomes an economic tragedy
04/03/00: The last permissible bigotry
03/30/00: Seeking the political Oscar
03/23/00: The gaying of America
03/20/00: Pointy-eared quadrupeds on campus
03/16/00: The shocking art of the establishment
03/13/00: Sawdust on the campaign trail
03/10/00: Campaign rhetoric of manhood
03/06/00: The Amphetamine of the People
03/02/00: Elegy for Amadou
02/29/00: With only a million, what's a poor girl to do?
02/24/00: The changing politics of change
02/16/00: Tip from Hillary: 'Let 'em eat eggs'
02/10/00: No seances with Eleanor
02/07/00: Campaigning like our founding fathers
02/03/00: When neo-Nazis have short memories
01/31/00: George W. -- 'Ladies man' and 'man's man'
01/27/00: Dead white males and live white politicians
01/25/00: Smarting over presidential smarts
01/21/00: A post-modern song for `The Sopranos'
01/19/00: When personality is a long-distance plus
01/13/00: French lessons in amour --- and marriage
01/10/00: Reaching for the Big Golden Apple
01/07/00: Liddy Dole as the face of feminism
01/04/00: Hillary: From victim to victor
12/30/99: 'Dream catchers' for the millennium
12/27/99: In search of a candidate with strength and eloquence
12/21/99: The president as First Lady
12/16/99: Columbine with blurred hindsight
12/09/99: Homeless deserve discriminating attention
12/07/99: Casual censors and deadly know-nothings
12/02/99: Why mom didn't make general: A reality tale
11/30/99: Potholes on the road to the Promised Land
11/25/99: A feast for the spirit and the stomach
11/23/99: Fathers need to say 'I (can) do'
11/18/99: Adventures of a conservative pundit
11/15/99: Traveling with Jefferson on the information highway
11/11/99: Wanted: 'Foliage of forbiddinness' for the oval office
11/09/99: Eggs, art and rotten commerce
11/05/99: Al Gore, 'Alpha Male'. Bow wow.
11/01/99: Gay love
10/28/99: Lose one Dole, lose two
10/26/99: Rebels with a violent cause
10/21/99: Reforming parents, reforming schools
10/19/99: The male mystique -- he shops
10/13/99:The campaign of the Teletubbies
10/08/99: Money is in the eye of the art dealer
10/01/99: Lincoln's 'Almost Chosen People'
09/29/99: Introducing Bill and Hillary Bickerson
09/27/99: Must we wait for the next massacre?
09/24/99: Miss America meets Miss'd America
09/21/99: Princeton's 'professor death'
09/16/99: The Cisneros lesson
09/13/99: No clemency for personal politics
09/08/99: M-M-M is for manhood
08/30/99: Blocking the schoolhouse door
08/27/99: No kick from cocaine
08/23/99: Movies don't kill people
08/19/99: A rude awakening
08/16/99: Dubyah and that 'language' thing
08/09/99: Chauvinist sows -- oink oink
©1999, Suzanne Fields. Distributed by Los Angeles Times Syndicate