David Brooks – The New York Times’ columnist who never misses an opportunity to miss a point – wrote recently that the reason Hillary Clinton seems unlikable is that she has no hobbies.
First, it presupposed that everyone needs a hobby, that being a workaholic is bad. Some people like to work and find the play in work, like the writer who’s a journalist but also a novelist. (That would be me.) Work isn’t stressful. People are stressful.
But perhaps more important, we know Brooks would not have written that column about a man. Women are still expected to be affective, and that may be Clinton’s challenge. It’s not that she isn’t personal and personable – many who have met her say she is warm and caring – but that she doesn’t always convey this personal-ity in public. (In contrast, there are people who show great public warmth but are quite cool in private. They’re good with people as long as people don’t get too close.)
The material point, however, is that while we allow men to run the gamut from the aloof to the warm, the lazy to the industrious, we still don’t allow women to be individuals. We still expect them – even those seeking the highest office – to be supportive and nurturing, to be traditionally female.
And what does that get women? I just finished reading Peter Evans’ “Nemesis: Aristotle Onassis, Jackie O, and the Love Triangle that Brought Down the Kennedys” (HarperCollins Publishers Inc., 2004). It’s as addictive as potato chips, though I couldn’t prove its central thesis – that Ari unwittingly murdered his hated rival, Bobby Kennedy, by giving protection money to Palestinian terrorists who funded Kennedy assassin Sirhan Sirhan.
What’s most interesting is how the women in their lives – Jackie, her sister, Lee Radziwill; Tina Onassis, Ari’s wife; opera singer Maria Callas, Marilyn Monroe – became pawns in the game that the men, including President John F. Kennedy, played. Even the self-possessed Jackie was treated as a plaything. (Part of it, of course, was the times in which these people lived. But you also have to wonder what roles their social class and personalities played in this trap.)
Say what you want about Clinton and her co-dependency with her adulterous husband, but you can’t deny that she has carved out a career for herself in large part through hard work. She’s no one’s plaything not only because she has her own money but because she doesn’t have the time.
She’s not waiting for a man to happen to her and, President Bill Clinton notwithstanding, my guess is she was never the kind of woman who waited for a man to happen to her.
Rather she’s out there – being, doing, becoming.