Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Clinton and Obama: complementary archetypes

On Huffington Post, Susan Faludi writes one of the most enlightening articles on the politics of Clinton's gender that I've ever read. Here's part:

The greatest show of nurturance those women could possibly evince was steeling themselves to stand in that line all over again and make that hectoring phone call to yet another doctor, even if they were perceived as a "bitch" by the receptionist on the other end.

In their appraisals of Hillary Clinton, the pollsters and pundits who have not gotten beyond that mommy/ball-buster teeter-totter narrative of American womanhood also have not begun to diagnose gender dynamics beyond the perspective of the little boy and his mom. A lot of female voters, however, may be factoring in a whole other kind of female archetype, whose wet eyes do not signal weakness and whose flashes of anger do not signal coldness, only pragmatic perseverance.

If pundits ever tried to understand what some female voters know about the complexity of women's lives, they might begin to comprehend the appeal of a female candidate whose ethic of caring and whose posture of femininity derive from responsibilities beyond the maternal. And then they might begin to understand the affection of women in New Hampshire who put her over the top.

If Clinton draws from the archetype of feminine pragmatic perseverance, then it's appropriate for her campaign's message that she is a "hands on" manager, a believer in action as well as words, a doer more than a speech-giver, etc.

Obama's emphasis is on inspiration, vision, optimism, speech as a bringer of action, and bringing people together to recognize common unity. His strength complements Clinton's, and would help to provide balance for a working government coalition. He draws on the archetype of masculine prophetic wisdom.

This primary season, many Democrats are finding themselves faced with a difficult choice because they see both Clinton's and Obama's strengths as important for government leadership. Together they make a stronger team than separate.

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