Jeane Kirkpatrick Passed Away
Today, the family of Jeane Kirkpatrick is feeling the loss of an extraordinarily accomplished woman, of incisive wit and remarkable influence. Our thoughts today go out to her family.
Whatever Jeane Kirkpatrick may have been like in private (and I have no reason to believe she was anything but wonderful), her public persona hewed to the rigorous conventions of What Is Allowed for Women in national leadership. I do not suggest she was merely acting or posturing, but she was right from central casting for her public role, and any deviation from it would have destroyed her career.
Jeane Kirkpatrick was no Lady MacBeth, but the famous Shakespearean character represents an archetype of longstanding in our culture that equates strength with "masculine" bloodlust. Lady MacBeth famously implored the heavens:
. . . Come, you spirits
That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here,
And fill me from the crown to the toe top-full
Of direst cruelty! make thick my blood;
Stop up the access and passage to remorse,
That no compunctious visitings of nature
Shake my fell purpose, nor keep peace between
The effect and it! Come to my woman's breasts,
And take my milk for gall, you murdering ministers,
Wherever in your sightless substances
You wait on nature's mischief! Come, thick night,
And pall thee in the dunnest smoke of hell,
That my keen knife see not the wound it makes,
Nor heaven peep through the blanket of the dark,
To cry 'Hold, hold!'
In archetypal, dramatic form, that's the only way (so far) Americans can tolerate women in national leadership roles: unsexed, vexed by and opposed to feminists, upholding the masculine virtues of wreck, havoc and war, scornful of minorities, the poor and working people. In the UK, Margaret Thatcher fit the mold as well, and what's more, all of this goes a long way toward explaining the choices of Hillary Clinton and the media coverage of Nancy Pelosi.
Senator Clinton has been running throughout her electoral (post White House) life to embody similar "masculine" virtues, supporting American military adventurism in Iraq until late in the DC fuckup recognition game. It is yet to be seen how the public can tolerate a Democratic woman in national leadership, which is why the hateful, snotty smearing of Nancy Pelosi is so instructive. You can almost feel the telegasbags of the world puzzling over how to talk about the Speaker elect on the Sunday morning gossipfests among the likes of Russert, Stephanopolous and all the gang of 500. Republican men only tolerate their women in leadership according to the Kirkpatrick/Thatcher mold, as befits their authoritarian fantasies, but since Democratic women in leadership will not ascend to power appealing to that base, one wonders why Senator Clinton seems to feel the need to pay as much homage as she does to the Thatcher/Kirkpatrick model.
Let's hope if Senator Clinton does announce a run for president she embraces her inner DFH, or at least, her inner Nancy Pelosi, leaving the Kirkpatrick model long behind. I wish Ambassador Kirkpatrick's family well in their time of loss, but for Americans, it's time to bury the Henry Higgins notion that a woman in national leadership should simply be more like a man. We need now to allow for more ways women can relate to others and to their gender identities when operating as national leaders. Women, as women, are not weak. It's time.