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January 10, 2008

"Among land animals only humans weep. Therefore, if Hillary wept, Hillary must be human. Wrong. Penguins and other sea-creatures weep."

Uber-feminist Germain Greer took Hillary Clinton to task in yesterday's Guardian for crying in public. Greer is a particularly base individual, and not one I would normally read or cheer, but her ridicule of Clinton is particularly amusing, for example when she infers that Clinton is a "sea-creature" as quoted above. She also writes:

Fear and loathing fled New Hampshire, Hillary scored against the run of play, and all it took was the suspicion of a tear. Or so they say. Can the moral of the story be: when you're up against it, don't fight back, just cry? As if too many women don't already use tears as a power-tool. Over the years I've had to deal with more than one manipulative student who produced tears instead of work; my standard response was to say, "Don't you dare cry. I'm the one who should be crying. It's my time and effort that's being wasted." Let's hope Hillary's crocodile effort doesn't encourage more women to use tears to get their way.

One important formative moment for my generation was President Clinton's demonstration that oral sex is not sex. Lets just say that the first Clinton presidency had a lasting impact on our impressionable young minds and taught us all sorts of...helpful things. Will a second Clinton presidency go on to teach a new group of kids that a little public crying is the route to success?

Greer goes on to lament the fact that Brits are weepy these days and she's not even British. Her rant is heartless and cold and itself a little undignified. I love it.

We are now a nation of blubberers who do grief on a massive scale. A child gets mown down on a pedestrian crossing and within minutes converging processions of snivelling people arrive to lay flowers, soft toys and mawkish messages at the scene. Can they all have known the unfortunate child? Could they all have liked her? Candle-lit vigils, services of thanksgiving, a celebration of the life produce apparently limitless numbers of schoolgirls sobbing on each other's shoulders. Nowadays it is not enough to make a public appeal for help in locating a missing person, it must be an emotional appeal, with lots of gargling and choking and, if possible, tears.

That is harsh! But it did send me searching for instances of public tears involving politics.

The most recent one of note is when Martha-Ann Alito started crying during the confirmation hearing of her husband, Justice Samuel Alito. No one not deep in the throes of Bush Derangement Syndrome doubted that her tears were genuine. But I did find this throw-away line approving of the technique in the article:

It's a throwback, but men tend to get all rubbery when a woman cries. With tears, a woman is transported to the land-beyond-reproach. (The truth is, if Hillary had only cried a little, back during The Troubles, she might not be seen as the ice queen.)

I don't think her display this week did much to soften her image. She's the most "polarizing person in politics" and we've had 15 years (!) to make up our minds about her. The only people who saw it and thought, "That brave woman," are those who are already delusional enough to be counted among her supporters.

Alito, however, may not be the best example since she's not running for anything and, really, when it comes down to Ted Kennedy vs. Crying Wife it's not hard to believe that she's crying for a reason. The fact that the man has been reelected this many times makes me want to cry a little too.

No, a better example is Pat Schroeder, discussed here by the NewsHour crew at PBS in 1996. They also can't help but hook it to Clinton.

When she withdrew from the 1988 Presidential race, she was hounded for her tears. Absolutely everyone, male, female, feminist, counter-feminist, had their say. See, we just knew women were wimps. Just think what would happen if Hillary cried in public. The entire media would lunge into full tilt dissection mode. The problem is if you're female, you have to feel a little ripped off, as if our tears had somehow been appropriated, snatched by men who are now turning them into an asset.

Whoops. Missed the mark, Ms. Taylor. It's not the media that's going after Clinton, but feminists who just saw her undo decades of work. Clinton reminds me of the MIT biologist who, after Lawrence Summers' lecture on aptitude differences between men and women, ran to the New York Times and told them that she almost fainted when she heard it.

Well done, professor. Won't you be embarrassed if Clinton's big turnaround moment is when she played the Weepy Woman card?

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posted by Gabriel Malor at 06:02 AM

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