It's the Gender, Stupid. The only thing holding Hillary back.

Less than two weeks out from the first primary contest, the Iowa caucuses, we can surmise neither Edwards nor Obama, nor any other candidate, has managed to overtake Hillary's support within the Party.  In other words, no one is compelling enough as a candidate to attract as much as, or more support than Hillary.  The only chance for Barack Obama or John Edwards, is that one or the other is able to fish enough not-Hillary voters to beat her.

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The Gender Card

OK, I'll bite...

So did Hillary Clinton play the gender card? And if so does it matter? I've got to agree with Ezra that anyone who claims she "played the gender card," with all that that phrase connotes, during her appearance at Wellesley College yesterday doth protest a bit too much.

Clinton, speaking to her alma mater, said, "In so many ways, this all-women's college prepared me to compete in the all-boys club of presidential politics." That's the only invocation of gender since the debate. And to me, it sounds like nothing more interesting than alumni puffery. She didn't say the "boys" were beating up on her for being a woman. She didn't say the questions were unfair or the attacks sexist. She just said that her alma mater helped prepare her to enter this world. That's not making this about gender. It's mentioning gender, and pumping up her college.

And as far as calling the election an "all-boys club" goes, that seems unambiguously true. In a nation that's more than 50 percent female, where women made up 54 percent of the electorate in 2004, exactly one out of the 17 candidates currently vying for the presidency is female. But what we're upset about is that Hillary Clinton mentioned that fact? The men doth protest too much, methinks...

But that's not to say that she hasn't played it at all. Look at the "Politics of Pile On" fund-raising ask the Clinton campaign sent out yesterday.

On that stage in Philadelphia, we saw six against one. Candidates who had pledged the politics of hope practiced the politics of pile on instead. Her opponents tried a whole host of attacks on Hillary.

She is one strong woman. She came through it well. But Hillary's going to need your help.

Between this e-mail and the video that they released to go with it, there does seem to be a definite effort to use the debate and the imagery of 6 men going after one woman in order to evoke sympathy for Clinton among women. As Carla Marinucci said on Hardball last night:

That is smart, because every woman listening and watching that debate, by the way, has seen this movie before.  Whether it`s in the board room, the news room, the class room, or sitting around the dining room table with your brothers, a woman against a whole team of guys.

Look, this doesn`t mean she gets a pass just because she`s wearing a skirt.  She`s got to be a strong candidate on every level.  But I think that this is a smart strategy for her.

Of course, it's a risky strategy too, as it casts men as the villain and risks alienating male voters. But as Chris Cillizza pointed out on Hardball, that's a risk they're willing to take because using this to increase support among women is a winner in the Democratic primary in which 60% of voters are women. If they need to win some men back, they'll cross that general election bridge when they come to it.

But Cillizza made another good point last night, which was that the very fact that we're talking about the whole gender card issue is an indication of the extent to which the Clinton camp has actually won the post-debate PR war. They wanted to change the topic away from her double talk and away from drivers licenses for illegal immigrants. Mission accomplished.

John Edwards, for his part, is doing his darnedest to change it back.

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Democratic Majority News Trawl

"In our party, there's no majority except for women." - Gov. Howard Dean, 10/18/07

More than half of Clinton and Obama donors are women, with female donors making historically high levels of political contributions this year and moving towards parity in donations above $200.

The feminist weekend news reader.

Displaying disembodied parts of women's bodies as public art, bathroom fixtures and gag gifts doesn't exactly send a message of equality.

Women with careers can still be unapolagetically labeled unavailable fembots, while work achievements that would make anyone proud are demoted and downplayed.

A bitch is unsurprised that yeah, Americans are pretty stressed out, and wonders to whom this is news.

One woman talks about feeling alienated and distrustful towards the feminist movement, but also how she thinks that labor union style organizing could help regain the movement's lost ground among others who share some of the same concerns.

International

In calling for an international day of action against sexual assault on Nov. 30th, Australian human rights activists object to charges of violations of women's rights being used to oppress indigenous people in the Northern Territory.

The UK's gender pay gap is worse for minority women.

Women lose seats on Oman's Shura Council.

Iran and Syria will be setting up a joint bank to finance women's businesses.

Renuka Chowdhury, India's Minister of State for Women and Child Development, says that lopsided governance results from leaving women out of politics. The article includes this point from Chowdhury, "... Stressing on the importance of "maintaining balance in environment and society", she said that ratio of girls per thousand boys was as low as 750 in Haryana and Punjab." She calls for more effective enforcement of bans on prenatal gender screening.

Every day, 600 women are raped in Kenya. The statistics include many cases of incest, as well as very young and very old women, giving lie to the worldwide apologia that these crime victims were in some way asking to be attacked.

Update: How did I miss this one? Argentina elects its first female president, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, wife of the country's former president, Nestor Kirchner.

The Misuse of Identity Politics

The other night Bookgrl correctly challenged me to broaden my discussion of race and gender to go beyond the Presidential race. I agree with her. I need to do so because this goes beyond Clinton, Edwards and Obama into a new conciousness, at least for me, on the issue of identity politics.

Let me start off by saying, that race, gender, sexual orientation, class and other labels should absolutely be a part of the conversation in this country.  However, I think often times amongst my progressive brothers and sisters and amongst the American public in general I think there is a lack of full appreciation for when the use of such politics is appropriate and when not. There are times when identity is the issue itself. There are times when identity politics becomes the issue rather than the issue itself. And there are times when identity politics is misused for the purpose of swindling those who rely on it as a simple model for identifying who is with you and who is against you in political action. I want to spend this diary discussing the dark side of identity politics because I suspect that many of us here understand the good.

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Hillary is a Woman, and It Matters

Cross posted on dailykos...

Today we've been treated to two diaries calling into question how Hillary's gender is effecting the race.  One ponders if Hillary's success thus far is due to her "NOT acting like a woman" the other suggests Hillary may alienate women by too blatant an appeal.  I think Hillary's gender is somewhat a double edged sword in this campaign, helping her with women, hurting her with men.  It seems to me she has recieved so much support from women that she has decided not to down play the historic significance of her potential presidency despite some backlash from male voters.  For me, personally, Hillary's gender is a factor.  More below the fold...

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