Imus and Political Maternalism

        It’s easy to sympathize with Hillary’s Clinton’s impulse to join in vilifying Imus, who has so crudely and gratuitously belittled her.  But must she enlist the Rutger’s women's basketball team in her presidential campaign?  They’re now pictured on her web site, with an exhortation from Clinton to “Join me in sending the young women of Rutgers a message of respect and support.  Show them that we are proud to stand with them and for them.”

        Emily’s List, the democratic women’s PAC supporting Clinton, is helping her spread the love: an email to Emily’s list donors includes a link to Clinton’s web page:  “Like you, I have been horrified at the racist, sexist comments by Don Imus,” Emily’s List President Ellen Malcolm writes.  “My anger has been building daily, so I was relieved to find a way to vent it positively.  Sen. Hillary Clinton has begun a drive to support those courageous, powerful women athletes from Rutgers.  I hope you will click here and send your own message to these young women as they prepare to meet with Don Imus next week. Let them know that they are not alone — that we share their outrage and stand with them . . . The Rutgers athletes are scheduled to meet with Don Imus on Tuesday so time is of the essence.”

    I wouldn’t have thought it possible to seem sincere and cynical simultaneously.  I take at face value the sincerity of the outrage expressed by Clinton, Malcolm, and other feminists, however unctuously it’s expressed.  But I’m doubtful that transforming the Rutgers women into political symbols is a sign of respect, or that treating them like rape victims, when they have merely been insulted, constitutes “support.”  I bet that without Hillary Clinton's help these young women would have had little problem confronting Imus.  Even if he hadn't been fired, he'd already been neutered.

        So instead of sending Hillary’s now moot message to the Rutger’s women, I’d send a message to Hillary.  I’d question her assertion that Imus’s remarks were “degrading to women everywhere.”  I didn’t feel degraded by them.  I dismissed them as the ravings of a bigoted blowhard whose time would soon be past (I didn't know then how quickly.)  Of all women, Hillary Clinton should understand.  She has endured a great deal of vicious, sexist mockery, from Imus and others, without being “degraded” by it.   Of all women, Hillary Clinton must know that we are capable of deflecting insults instead of absorbing them. 

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