November 8, 2007

RE: The Likability Factor

Posted in Politics at 3:41 pm by Lindsay

Great topic, DC.  I’m glad we’re getting around to politics. 

I myself am one of those people who find Hillary to be highly qualified and likable.  There are plenty of people out there who seem almost insulted that she would run for president, but I’m really not interested in their opinions on this matter.  I am, however, interested in the people like you, DC, who find her to be qualified, but are on the fence about her candidacy in general.  I won’t try to refute the opinion that she’s unlikable, perhaps another time.  But let’s discuss why people find her to be so, and who might have a part in playing up those perceptions or attributes.

I’ll start with one popular conception of Senator Clinton, please add others:

1.  She’s cold and unfeeling.  Some say that any warmth she emits feels forced and every emotion seems to be conscientiously oppressed.  Does this have anything to do with her gender?  Giuliani doesn’t seem all that warm to me, yet I think people find him likable.  Same with McCain.  I’m not trying to pull the gender card, but aren’t we more taken aback by a “cold” woman than a “cold” man?  We expect women to be warm, and when they’re not, it can be uncomfortable for some.  I know this discussion is a slippery slope to generalizations and stereotyped, so please forgive me if I go over the edge with this, but I figure this discussion is better done somewhat flawed rather than not at all. 

 We can all agree there’s a very fine line here.  A woman candidate (or any candidate, but perhaps more so with a woman) would not want to come off as too emotional for fear of being labeled weak and unstable (hello, Howard Dean– one emotional scream and his campaign was on the dead-end road to crazytown, after leading the polls, no less!!).  So maybe Hillary’s overcompensated for that by giving this tough and no-nonsense exterior.  Actually, if you’ve read anything about Obama’s wife, Michelle, she seems to have a very similar personality to Hillary, just as Barack has that same easy-going, fun loving vibe like Bill.  Conceivable?

It’s interesting- whenever you see a picture of Hillary in the media, it’s never one where she’s pleasant and smiling, even though I’m sure there are plenty of campaign pictures where she’s smiling and waving to the crowds.  It’s always one of her looking stern or displeased.  I’m sure the prevelance of those pictures are just reinforcing the perception. 

 Sometimes I wonder, is she genuinely unlikable or do people and the media just keep feeding the perception that she’s unlikable.  I don’t think Howard Dean is at all crazy (he went on to successfully head the DNC) but seeing that clip of his screen over and over again and listening to the pundits write him off or make fun of him could have changed my perception at the time, even if I didn’t truly believe he was guilty of being unhinged.   



  1. Pullman said,

    I think you make a good point about “cold women” vs “cold men.” It is also interesting to look at the 1984 election where Geraldine Ferraro ran for vice-prez claiming to be just a mom in tennis shoes. That was supposed to appeal to mothers at the time. Now, Hillary couldn’t dare claim that because she wouldn’t be seen as a desired candidate. It’s really a double edged sword. She has to appear tough and able to run the government, but so many people still want her to appear “feminine” at the same time because of gender expectations.

  2. DC said,

    If we’re talking about Hillary and issues that people have with her as a candidate for president, here’s an interesting view that is held by several women in my office (pretty shocking):
    As a woman potentially voting for another woman, they have reservations about her character because of her actions following Bill’s situation with Monica. So because she chose forgiveness and keeping her family together, they see that as a weakness and believe that a person strong enough to handle the presidency would have been strong enough to not accept such behavior and stand her ground for divorce.

    It goes back to the gender difference. I think people in general would feel pity for a man whose wife was unfaithful and praise him for his forgiveness of her. Do you see gender perceptions like these changing in our lifetime?

  3. Pullman said,

    I hope so. I’m in a sociology class right now and its amazing the gender differences that still remain in society and how broad the effects are.

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