Wednesday, March 9, 2016

A Hundred Ways To Look At Hillary (A Favorite Books Post)

This book generated the most book club discussion.
My clearest first memory of Hillary Clinton is from 1992. She reacted to criticisms of why she'd worked as a lawyer even while having a child by saying, “I suppose I could have stayed home, baked cookies and had teas.” She went on to point out that her work as a professional and a public advocate had been aimed at ensuring women could make choices, “whether it’s full-time career, full-time motherhood or some combination,” but that aspect of her comment wasn’t widely reported.

While I wasn’t excited about her husband’s candidacy, Hillary intrigued me. I’d grown up in a world where only one of my friend’s moms worked, and when other parents talked about it, they whispered she works as a hushed aside, the same way people said she has cancer. That was always followed up with speculation that her husband’s business must not be going very well. Because of that, much as I loved the cookies and cakes my mom baked (which I often traded for store bought Ho-Hos we couldn’t afford), I liked Hillary’s unabashed statement. My mom, along with her baking, also got involved in local politics, served on boards of non-profits, and volunteered on a regular basis with various organizations, so she provided me an example of a strong, smart woman who got things done. But Hillary said unequivocally, yes, a woman can be a professional, a woman can pursue a career, and there is nothing wrong with that.

When Hillary Clinton ran for president in 2008, my women’s book group read a book that sparked more discussion than any other: Thirty Ways of Looking at Hillary. Normally, I’m not a fan of books of essays. I love novels, particularly suspense and thrillers, and I read them all the time (and write them), but I have to push myself to read essays and non-fiction, other than business and finance books. But these essays I love because they run the gamut. The writers not only address Hillary Clinton as a person and politician, examining her past, her aspirations, and her actions, they consider what her life and choices—and the widely varying endorsements and critiques of them—say about our world. The essay titles alone fascinate me, from The Yellow Pantsuit to All Hail Betty Boop to Cheating to How Hungry is Hillary? (For my thoughts on how commentary of her wardrobe reflects the extra effort and thought women must put into being seen as professional, see Do The Clothes Make The Woman?)

Now that she's completed one presidential primary campaign, served as Secretary of State, and is once again seeking to become President of the United States, there is more and more to say about Hillary Clinton, but one things remains the same: she sparks strong feelings in everyone. So my main goal for the primary season, other than avoiding as many political ads as possible, is to reread Thirty Ways of Looking at Hillary.


  1. It is very surprising to me how polarizing a figure Hillary Clinton has become. She also has some of the worst luck of any politician ever (almost impossibly losing in 2008 to an unheard of groundswell for a relatively unknown candidate (who I did support over her); getting caught up in "scandals" that would not even be a mark for many other politicians; and then this year starting to face momentum from another unknown (although this time I am strongly supporting her over that person)). Perhaps she is finally due for some luck if the other party nominates the Donald.

    1. It is interesting that the most likely Republican nominee, at least by vote count, is Donald Trump, who may actually be more polarizing that Hillary Clinton.