Wednesday, January 09, 2008

"The Girl in the Fireplace," Hillary Clinton and feminism

Despite the assumptions of some, due to the name of my blog or from posts I've written here, I have never really considered myself a feminist. I have, however, tended to admire strong, independent women ever since I was a young girl. The two in particular that come to mind are my great-grandmother and Queen Elizabeth I. Queen Elizabeth I because she never married, largely due to the fact that she did not want power to pass to a husband. And my great-grandmother, because even though she did marry (and at a very young age), she lived alone for 31 years after my great-grandfather passed away. She never remarried and lived by herself until her health made it impossible to continue to do so. So, what does this have to do with Hillary Clinton or an episode of Dr. Who? Well, I'll tell you.

A couple of nights ago, I watched the episode of Dr. Who entitled "The Girl in the Fireplace". I thought it was a very good episode and particularly interesting in terms of insight into the character of The Doctor. In fact, I saw it as something of a microcosm of what The Doctor's relationships are like because, in the story, Reinette knows The Doctor for her whole life (practically), but for The Doctor, the events all take place within the span of about one day.

Anyway, since the character in the story, Reinette, was actually an historical figure, Madame de Pompadour of 18th Century France, I decided to look up Madame de Pompadour. I found this site which had some information on her life. It includes two brief articles written by different people about Madame de Pompadour, Louis XV's mistress. The site seemed to be in conjunction with a women's history class. I found it striking how the first of the two articles ended:
The Marquise de Pompadour, who had put all of her energy towards the affairs of the state, was physically fatigued and became quite ill. She died on April 15, 1764. Through her influential twenty years at court, she truly became an example of rising above the traditions given to women.
Why I find this so interesting is because she received this position due to the fact that she was the mistress of a powerful man. That does not mean that she did not have talent and skill that helped her achieve her goals, because certainly she did. But what it boils down to is that her power came from her relationship, and a sexual relationship at that, with a powerful man. And in fact, if you actually read the articles, it would seem that much of how she gained favor with the king was through throwing parties and arranging dinners. If that is stepping out of the traditional roles of women, I'd like for someone to explain to me how.

So anyway, this brings me around to Hillary Clinton. I am not a supporter of Hillary Clinton and I never have been. I would hate to see her win the Democratic Presidential nomination for multiple reasons that I won't get into at the moment. But the thing that strikes me at the moment is the fact that so many people seem to think that a Hillary Clinton victory would be such a great feminist victory, but I disagree. It is certainly true that, if elected, she would be the first female president of the United States and it would be a great accomplishment. But until we can elect a woman who is capable and accomplished in her own right and not mostly known and seen as electable and experienced because of the accomplishment of her powerful husband, I really feel like we, as a country, have not accomplished some great feminist victory. I thought that dynasties were an old idea, not something that we should look to establish in this country.

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