Love Her, Love Her Not: The Hillary Paradox | Book Review

hillaryDespite the very public life she has led over the past few decades, I am not sure how much I know much about the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination. Oh, I know what people say about her; and I know what her official political platform is. But I don’t feel like I have a very good grasp on who she really is.

Joanne Cronrath Bamburger, the owner/editor of The Broad Side has compiled a series of women-authored essays about Hillary Clinton that range from ‘rah-rah-Hillary’ pieces to thoughtfully critical ones; the book is called Love Her, Love Her Not: The Hillary Paradox. These are not hard political analyses, but reflections from a spectrum of American women voters on what Clinton’s election might mean for them.

There are two good reasons to read this book:

First, it’s a relief to read about Clinton from people who seem genuinely interested in her as a candidate, not just as a player in the partisan circus that is American politics. The women who have shared their thoughts in this book love her, or don’t–but they are willing to give serious thought to her as a candidate and a person outside the controversy, rumors and hype that dominate The Hillary Narrative in the mainstream media. Some of these writers have had personal experiences with Hillary, others have been following her career for years and have real insights about her as a potential president. (While reading, I thought how great it would be to have a book like this about every one of our candidates; a collection of serious considerations by voters edited by someone unaffiliated with the candidate’s campaign.)

There is a very good chance that Hillary will win the nomination. At the time I’m writing this post, I have not settled on her as the Democratic nominee; but if she does, this book should be required reading for all. Voters should go into the next administration with reasonable expectations, and a good grasp of who she is as both a politician and a person. Our party can’t afford another huge letdown from a hyped up candidate with big ideas that become diluted by the Washington Machine. I’m a firm believer that politics is a game for strategists, not visionaries.

The second reason I think this book is important to read is because Hillary Clinton has a pretty good chance of becoming the first woman President of the United States of America. The mere fact that she’s a woman shouldn’t have an impact on how we judge her capabilities, anymore than we should attribute greater ability to male candidates. But even those of us with a strong commitment to feminism may need to re-evaluate the criteria that we use to judge her readiness for office.

To quote Bamberger’s essay, entitled “I Don’t Need Hillary Clinton to be Perfect” :

“We clearly still live in a time where women are criticized and judged more harshly than men based on this expectation of perfection. That obvious, but unspoken, need for female perfection plays out in so many parts of our lives. It’s what fuels the “mommy wars,” our debates about “leaning in” vs. institutional changes for increases in women’s professional advancement, and the sales of women’s magazines, books, and websites that call on us to continually examine the things that are wrong—or imperfect—with our lives. But it’s not just men who expect us to continually tweak our lives to achieve some level of model womanhood.

Too many women expect perfection of themselves, as well, and end up projecting that onto candidate Hillary. If we, as twenty-first century American women, judge ourselves harshly for failing at the perfection game, how can we not view Hillary through that same lens?”

Clinton’s candidacy reaches across, and through political issues and hits many of us in a place where we still feel very uncertain. What does it mean to be a 21st century woman? What defines a ‘good woman’ and in what capacities can women lead? It’s easy for us to say that women can, and should be able to do whatever they want– but are we, as a society, willing to allow it? Or will we continue to set a bar so high that no woman will ever be able to reach it? Are we willing to let Hillary Clinton succeed without demanding of her the kind of perfection with which male candidates rarely concern themselves?

One thing is for certain. If Clinton wins the nomination, the upcoming election will be far more more than just a contest between political parties. It’s will be a moment of truth for women in America.

Available now on Amazon: Love Her, Love Her Not:  The Hillary Paradox