Hillary Clinton and the Undoing of a Stereotype

1210610333large Barbara Ehrenreich in The Nation:

A mere decade ago Francis Fukuyama fretted in Foreign Affairs that the world was too dangerous for the West to be entrusted to graying female leaders, whose aversion to violence was, as he established with numerous examples from chimpanzee society, “rooted in biology.” The counter-example of Margaret Thatcher, perhaps the first of head of state to start a war for the sole purpose of pumping up her approval ratings, led him to concede that “biology is not destiny.” But it was still a good reason to vote for a prehistoric-style club-wielding male.

Not to worry though, Francis. Far from being the stereotypical feminist-pacifist of your imagination, the woman to get closest to the Oval Office has promised to “obliterate” the toddlers of Tehran–along, of course, with the bomb-builders and Hezbollah supporters. Earlier on, Clinton foreswore even talking to presumptive bad guys, although women are supposed to be the talk addicts of the species. Watch out–was her distinctly unladylike message to Hugo Chávez, Kim Jong-Il and the rest of them–or I’ll rip you a new one.

There’s a reason it’s been so easy for men to overlook women’s capacity for aggression. As every student of Women’s Studies 101 knows, what’s called aggression in men is usually trivialized as “bitchiness” in women: men get angry; women suffer from bouts of inexplicable, hormonally-driven, hostility. So give Clinton credit for defying the belittling stereotype: she’s been visibly angry for months, if not decades, and it can’t all have been PMS.

But did we really need another lesson in the female capacity for ruthless aggression?