Carly Fiorina's Mean Girl Moment And Another "Year Of The Woman"


“Saw Barbara Boxer briefly on television this morning and said what everyone says, ‘God what is that hair?’ So yesterday.” That would be her Senate opponent Carly Fiorina, caught on a hot mic. Catfight!

See, guys, this is what happens when you let women run against each other. They act like catty bitches and can’t stop talking about fashion and hair! Then again, this is nowhere near the worst hot mic gaffe even just in California politics.

But seriously, pundits and analysts have been occupying themselves with what the significance is of the recent primary victories for mostly conservative women. Or as The Wall Street Journal‘s Gerald Seib likes to call it, “”this gender-bender movement.” (Huh?)

His theories? It was a good time for outsiders and for Sarah Palin. (Though that doesn’t account for Blanche Lincoln.) And maybe female candidates offer the most “empathy.” This is the most convincing analysis:

The natural-progression factor. A generation’s worth of advances by women to the upper reaches of a wide variety of American institutions have empowered and credentialed waves of women, some of whom now are naturally moving into politics at a high level.
“You now have women of considerable business success and independent means that are willing to withstand the scrutiny and personal attacks-even gross character misrepresentation and attempted character assassination-of these high-stakes campaigns, and to fight on the merits to win,” says Dana Perino, a Republican analyst and former White House press secretary.

In The Washington Post, Anne Kornblut suggests that maybe the picture was too diffuse to draw any broad conclusions, which is itself a sign of progress.

Tuesday’s elections put on display the increasing diversity of female candidates, as well as their growing resilience. They were for abortion rights and against them, old and young, part of the political establishment and new to it. Their male opponents attacked them — relentlessly, in some cases — apparently unworried about being seen as picking on a woman. The women touched on their gender, but did so sparingly. And they made few appeals to traditional women’s issues.

In The Daily Beast, Linda Hirshman doesn’t miss an opportunity for a dig at the “feminist blogosphere,” scare quotes hers, to compare Carly Fiorina and Palin’s Mama Grizzlies to choose-my-choice feminism. But the ultimate difference, she argues, between Boxer and the pseudo-feminism of Palin and Fiorina is that

their public policy is not to make it any easier for any woman who comes after them with, say, control of her reproduction or health care separate from her husband’s job. Somehow the brilliant light of their narcissism is supposed to blind voters to the fact that there’s another response to making it. Here’s what real-not grizzly-mothers do: Make it easier for the young ones coming along next.

That much we can agree on, as hazy “Year of the Woman” cliches are trotted out without much regard to what the substance of these women’s policies would mean for women’s interests. We can also agree on this sentiment by an experienced watcher of women in politics in the Washington Post. It is perhaps the most caveat-filled assessment ever:

“It could be a bit of an indication of something resembling progress,” said Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. “I wouldn’t want to go completely out on a limb, but let’s see where things are when we get to November.”

We wouldn’t want to go out on a limb either, but it’s possible she might be right.

Women Candidates A Force in 2010 [WSJ]
In Primaries, Female Candidates Didn’t Make Gender An Issue [WP]
Carly Fiorina’s Win Sets Up Feminist Test With Barbara Boxer [TDB]

Earlier: Meet The Political Ladies Who Triumphed Last Night

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