When Hillary Clinton plopped down on the couch between the hostesses of ABC’s girlie chat show, The View, on Monday morning, she seemed poised to reprise the housewife routine she had performed so well during her last appearance on the program in December 2006. That was the routine in which she jabbered on about how much she enjoys doing “crafts” during Christmas and sounded less like a potential presidential contender (she had yet to announce) than a ringer for Laura Bush.
But after an initial joke or two about how much longer it takes a girl-candidate like her to get dressed than the menfolk in the race, Hillary seemed to have a new routine for The View’s target lady demographic: the sister soldier chipping unthreateningly, if valiantly, away at one of just another of those barriers that all women face in one way or another.
Sitting in front of a giant V – for The View, of course – she spoke of the fact that “there still is probably a tougher standard for women” but she just tries to do the “best she can.” And in a play that seemed to come straight from the Girl Scout handbook, she spoke of the old grannies and young girls who have been moved by her campaign, as if to say, yes, she might be running for the most macho job in the land, but she’s just a girl like us, trying to make some change. Call her the Girl Scout in Chief.
“All these women in their 90’s come to my events,” she said. “Sometimes they’re in walkers, sometimes they’re in wheelchairs, like a daughter or a granddaughter will bring them. And then when I go around shaking hands, they’ll say something like, ‘I’m 95 years old and I was born before women could vote and I want to live long enough to see a woman in the White House,” she concluded to applause and appreciative murmurs from the audience.
And then, turning her attention to the younger girls, she said: I’ll hear a father or mother lean over and say to a little girl, see honey? You can be anything you want to be. And I get that sort of welled-up feeling…”
As a routine, it seemed to be yet another flawless Clinton production, an ingenious – and admittedly, appealing – way to reach out to The View vote while neither scaring them off nor appearing so Martha Stewart one minute that she couldn’t go on to discuss her China policy the next. It was Steel Magnolias feminism at its best.
There was, however, one moment in all of this when it became clear that even warm and fuzzy feminism can still be complicated.
“Who’s going to be the first Lady?” asked Barbara Walters with what sounded like some genuine curiosity.
For a moment Hillary looked startled, or perhaps a bit miffed, but then, with the giggle and a sigh, she picked right back up with the sisterhood thread.
“Give a busy woman a job — I’ll probably have to do all that as well,” she said with a sisterly eye-roll.
The audience ate it up.