As we watch the debates (and those reviewing them after) we should be on the lookout for critiques of Hillary’s emotional range and demeanor. As much as looking for external attacks from pundits or Trump that she is “strident” or “aggressive” or alternately, “not warm”, or “not feeling enough”, we should watch our own, internal appropriate meters. We should notice if we cringe when she’s very assertive, if we worry that she’ll come off too harsh. We should notice if we wring our hands when she doesn’t show as much emotion as we would like. (Can we blame her? Note the title of Senator Barbara Boxer’s new memoir: “The Art of Tough.”) Or do we worry when she gives that big wide grin, that it's just a little bit, you know, too much? It would be nice to think there is a sweet spot, a fluid and appealing emotional zone where she would be assertive, but not hysterical (a word whose root comes from the Latin word for womb, to have a womb is to be hysterical.) But my guess is that there will be no sweet spot for Hillary. She will continue to be found wanting. Not on the issues, which is another topic, but for not expressing or handling her emotions in that elusively perfect way that society demands, and women medicate themselves to attain.
These issues of double standards for emotions in our conversations are not only present in the political sphere. We all grow up with a different set of rules about who can be emotional and who can’t, and how much. And when we’re at odds with loved ones, at our own, in-home debates, sometimes we’re not really arguing about what we think we’re arguing about. We’re actually arguing about who has the right to be upset, and just how upset are they allowed to be. Think of all the arguments that would evaporate if everybody bought the premises that people have a right to their feelings, and that those feelings matter. All people. All feelings.
Something to wish for.
This opinion piece in the Times offers a good take on the medication issue, and a nice opportunity for some pre-debate reflection.
(Coming up next, my second pre-debate post: “Trump in Translation.”)