Bill Clinton gave one of his best speeches last night.
Bill Clinton gave one of the best speeches of his career last night when he supported his wife’s nomination for President. I knew Bill Clinton was a great political speaker but last night he struck a different tone. He talked about his wife’s track record while focusing on his efforts to marry her. He made an argument for Hillary as a great woman, activist, and change maker in a way that humanized her and depicted her as the force of nature that I am sure he thinks she is.
He gave the type of speech that most male politicians take for granted or don’t even need. Simply by the act of getting married and perhaps having children most male politicians are assigned the label of “great father and leader to his family” without really having to work for it. All they need is for their wife and children to trot out in front of the camera and they get the title of “family man” with all the positivity that entails. Any speech given by their wife simply confirms what people already assume.
On the other hand, Hillary Clinton has not had the luxury of being humanized in that way. One thing that has not been said about Hillary in a way that has created traction in her political career is that she is a “family woman.” Whether we realize it or not this results in so many negative connotations and obstacles that she has to fight politically. It makes her success actually seem like it’s contrary to family values. No one assumed Hillary was a family woman and personable or lovable as such, instead the task fell upon Bill to make that argument for her.
This is of course an old trope when it comes to sexism in society. The successful professional woman is slighted for pursuing her career under the assumption that it has diminished her ability to support her family, while the successful professional man is encouraged for pursuing his career and the fact that he has a family is counted as a positive feature with no real exploration of how the man treats his family.
Although I am not sure I view Hillary Clinton as a trustworthy person, I still can’t deny that in her political career she has suffered from this bias. It has caused her to be caricatured as an android who has no feelings and is robotic in nature. It has also added to the subtext that Hillary is not good for or is incapable of supporting family values.
It made Hillary a political figure that people could not emotionally connect with the issues that she supposedly champions. It is a shame that in 2016 this type of bias should affect a female politician but it does. Bill’s speech last night was the perfect antidote to this bias delivered by a man with a genius gift for storytelling. In telling the story of his courtship with Hillary he painted her as a driven, talented, and thoughtful woman who championed issues in ways that perhaps only an intelligent woman can. He made us view her through the eyes of a man who adores her and let us get a glimpse of the Hillary that we don’t get to see in speeches or read about. He let us see her as an actual and real person. In doing so he provided a strong counter to the rhetoric that has defined Hillary for years. It was his obvious goal to redefine her public image and his speech may make people reconsider the things they thought they knew about her.
It is lamentable that Bill has to say Hillary is an accomplished “family woman” for it to be taken seriously. However given the cards he was dealt, Bill Clinton delivered an awesome speech which provided a personal context to the story of Hillary. The speech rebutted impressions that have lingered for years and will likely be used as a template for future First Gentlemen.