Do you like her, or do you like LIKE her?

Coffee's for closers, b!tchez.

Coffee’s for closers, b!tchez.

I’ve been saying for months that the question of Hillary Clinton’s “likability” is unimportant. Why? Because we know that women are always thought less likable (or even unlikable) when we’re asking for a promotion or, even worse, acting as though we deserve it. And what is Clinton’s campaign but a months-long job interview for the biggest promotion of her life?  The obsession with whether or not Americans “like” Clinton seems pointless to me.

Just check out the comments at the bottom of the linked article. Collectively, it’s a bunch of paranoid frothing about the prospect of Hillary Clinton in power, but they’re right about one thing: their prescriptions to restore her likability include variations on suicide, dropping out of the presidential contest.  They all boil down to their passionate desire that she STFU and go away. That would work! Of course people love women when we no longer hold any power or influence! Of course.

(Ask me how I know!  I spent way too long in a job once upon a time wondering why some of my colleagues didn’t like me, even though I was doing everything I was supposed to be doing:  publishing articles, winning grants, circulating a book proposal, teaching my classes well, maintaining high standards, etc.  I just thought if I worked a little harder or took them out to lunch, then surely, surely, they could not doubt my goodwill.  They would get to know the real me.)

But we know in women, likability is inversely correlated with competence.  Therefore, I suspect that the less likable Clinton is, the more electable she may be in the minds of the American people.  And in the end, what matters is whether or not they’ll vote for her. Duh. Don’t say that you love me. Just tell me that you vote for me!*

*This is for Natalie Elder, who on Twitter asked earlier today if Clinton’s campaign song would be “Rhiannon,” which put me in mind of “Tusk.”  For those of you too young to know why we’re talking about Fleetwood Mac in a Democratic National Convention–let’s just say that “Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow” was a 1970s song repurposed by Bill Clinton’s campaign as the “Happy Days Are Here Again” for the 1990s.

Here’s my prediction for the Inauguration.  I hope Sally Field is in the front row on the Captiol steps.



27 thoughts on “Do you like her, or do you like LIKE her?

  1. I didn’t think “Don’t Stop” wore too well over campaign time in 1992. It didn’t even wear that well on the floor that night. I think she should go for something from either the Patti Smith songbook, or the Chrissie Hynde playlist. And since Ohio is a more “swing” state than New Jersey or New York again this year, let’s just go with “Mystery Achievement” (1980). The B-side could be something from The Sound of Philly.

    I just watched the clip from the Sanders endorsement today.


  2. Disagree with Indyanna. I LOVE “Don’t Stop”. Perfect campaign song, and I’m not even the generation it was aiming at (that would be my boomer parents). Because we *shouldn’t* stop thinking about tomorrow. Yesterday is gone, even if Trump supporters want to go back to it.

    (Of course, I also like Clinton and I disliked W because wanting to have a beer with a person isn’t as high on my list as, say, competence.)


    • Also, who goes out for beer with an alcoholic?

      Never got that one. Great point about yesterday being gone. Some Trumpians (almost typed Trumpains!) need to be reminded of that. Nostalgia acts are always cheap and manipulative. (Which raises the question: is Fleetwood Mac a nostalgia act?)


  3. Couldn’t read the full WSJ article without subscribing, but the first paragraph gave a good indication of where the author was going. I’ve been even more dismayed by the constant but empty talk of trust than by the discussion of likeability. Yes, we need to trust our future president. And, yes, Clinton’s exceedingly long record of public service, carried out under the glare of hostile Klein lights and governmental investigation, has not been without mistakes and errors in judgment. But what ultimately, have these errors produced? She was cleared of wrongdoing in Libya, and her record as Secretary of State was filled with solid accomplishments. She has a long record of working effectively, both inside and ouside of government, to advance equity. Clinton’s use of a private email server may have left classified information vulnerable to hackers, but my understanding is that the governmental systems were also vulnerable. Moreover, if the FBI, NSA and other agencies wanted Clinton to stop using a private server, why wasn’t she simply ordered to do so? It’s not as if she worked in a system lacking higher authority. Most importantly, shouldn’t the media be engaged in efforts to define trust and to weigh the differences between the candidates? Doesn’t Trump’s opportunistic use if bankruptcy law, fraudulent emptying of student pocket books, and cavalier disregard of his financial obligations to the contractors he hired point to a man whose untrustworthiness knows no bounds? It’s not enough for the pundits to look at the survey data and point to Hillary’s low trust numbers. We need some political commentators with the guts to talk about what trust actually means in public life and to show why Clinton’s record is far superior to Trump’s.


    • The whole email/server issue shows clearly that the U.S. government doesn’t know what the hell it’s doing w/r/t technology and security. It’s been decades behind from the beginning. That said, I still think the private server was a boneheaded move, mostly because any privacy it afforded her was erased by subpoena anyway, plus the political damage. The answer is use the government’s crappy system but don’t put anything interesting or important in your emails. That’s what meetings and phones are for.

      Also, TBH it seems childish to want to “trust” a president. I want to have confidence in a president, but “trust” is for family members and close friends, not for distant political celebrities, at least the way most people seem to think of it. I want to believe a prez shares my priorities and values, but quite frankly, sometimes the best way to achieve your political goals involves a little scheming and deception. That’s life.


    • HAhahaha!

      Too strummy for me. She needs something more anthemic. Queen, “We Are the Champions” would be especially appropriate this year. “No time for losers/we are the champions!”


      • Queen — yes!! I’ll play it on victory night, even if the campaign doesn’t.

        From reading my local paper’s Facebook-based comments, I’ve concluded that many support Trump because of his irresponsibility. He lives out their secret wet dream of being able to tell their worlds to fuck themselves. That’s especially true for working class men. Who cares that in reality Trump would steal their wallets from their pockets while they’re kneeling at church — then sue them for adding the extra snap to make it harder for him.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Despite the media stereotypes, I think she isn’t so much about winning, so we are the champions just doesn’t fit (though I agree that it fits from this voter’s perspective, just not from this candidate’s) I see more of a come together thing going, but I bet she’ll go with something more multicultural than the Beatles. I have been really curious about what song she will pick ever since she got the delegate number. One reason I’m looking forward to the convention.

        Definitely not tiny dancer, which I hear is a trump campaign standard.


      • “But it’s been no bed of roses
        No pleasure cruise
        I consider it a challenge before the whole human race
        And I ain’t gonna lose!”


      • I just think the song is not going to be about her (and I totally agree the song fits her), but about us, or an idealized us. That’s probably why they’re playing so much of the Springsteen we take care of our own song. The song needs to capture a movement, not a candidate.

        Though I agree with suggestions that trump should go with carmina burana. Either that or the creepy hitler youth song from caberet.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. The server thing was boneheaded, granted. But I’m trying to imagine any serious early modern American diplomats laughing at the idea that keeping national secrets had anything to do with projecting or protecting national interests. Gouverneur Morris in Paris, ducking into the “clean room” to confer with his “friend?” John Jay in London making sure to use a scrambler while keeping in touch with the Old Man in Philadelphia? Joel Barlow wading ashore in Algiers with a valise full of burn bags? Charles Francis Adams going on the undersea cable to lecture his boss, William Henry Seward, about how they used to do it at Harvard–not that Seward would have gotten into Harvard. Modern government panels would classify a ham sandwich. That’s the part that Comey didn’t want to talk about.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Your remarks remind me of Florence Nightingale’s complaint that when physicians and surgeons wrote letters to recommend her highly trained matrons or chief nurses, they “invariably omit the essential point, a thorough knowledge of nursing: in order to be able to teach, ‘superintend,’ & train in it for a ‘Superintendt.’ of ‘Nurses.’ (What would they think of me if I were to recommend an ‘amiable’ lawyer for the post of Surgeon?) ‘Amiability’ is not an international power, nor an Institutional Power: nor is it by any means our characteristic.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for this–your comment suggests (perhaps not surprisingly) that women’s likability vs. competence, and the world’s ability to recognize BOTH qualities in women, has a long history indeed.

      This is going to sound silly, considering that I am Historiann, but it hadn’t occurred to me to look to, erm, HISTORY, to document this issue. My suspicion is that women’s likability–like their physical beauty–came to be valued much more ca. 1800 and beyond. That is, women in the early modern era that I know best (ca. 1500-1800) were valued for their virtue, skills, and sagacity, not for their ability to appeal to other people’s (men’s!) vanity and/or desires. But this is just an educated hunch–I’d have to go back to Ruth Bloch’s book and do a little research to suss this out. (Great idea for a graduate student research paper or article, though,huh?)


      • Yes but I also wouldn’t be surprised to learn that at least some of your valued women, especially if they didn’t live in a convent or comparable female environment, left behind them a trail of people saying some version of “But she’s not amiable!”

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I gave up trying to understand the “do we LIKE her?” articles about a year ago, hoping they’d go away. (They haven’t.)

    As you doubtless know, there’s a lyric about Aaron Burr (in Hamilton) that goes “I’d like to have a beer with him,” riffing on the mentality that got us W.

    But the best song would be, yes, Queen with David Bowie: “Under Pressure.” “Why don’t we give ourselves one more chance? / Why don’t we give love one more chance?”

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Liking doesn’t seem particularly relevant to me, either (though, yes, on some basic level, I do like her, warts and all — and I’d count bad judgement over the email server as one of those warts, and hopefully an experience from which both she and her staff will learn. I also hope Bill will learn from the furor over his encounter with Attorney General Lynch that he needs to be very, very careful. He’s done a far better job of staying out of the middle of things for the last 8 years than I thought possible; I hope that, after last week’s slip, he can return to that pattern). Competence is, indeed, key, and she’s competent.

    Can’t think of any campaign songs, but some Wesleyan hymns may illuminate parts of her thinking. I suspect the second stanza of this one ( comes pretty close:

    To serve the present age,
    my calling to fulfill;
    O may it all my powers engage
    to do my Master’s will!

    The sense that it’s human not to do things perfectly, but that we’re called to acknowledge mistakes and try to do better (also very Methodist; as a friend who is a Presbyterian pastor, but went to a Methodist seminary, points out, Methodists are pretty optimistic about human perfectibility, while also being realistic about human fallibility) will also probably serve her well, as president (God willing), if not as a candidate in the present climate (I made the mistake of reading comments on an account of Obama’s — and, for that matter, Bush’s — speeches yesterday; it’s not going to be easy to get out of the habit of polarization, name-calling, and general nitpicking. I’m not optimistic that we can do it, but I certainly hope so).


  8. On “amiability” and its diss contents, it would be hard to beat the Notorious RBG this week. A classic move from the Ali playbook, to go from dance mode to flurry mode in the last 30 seconds of a round, when the ring judges are finally paying attention. pop! pop! pop!, poor Rocky didn’t see it coming, and now he’s honking like the proverbial stuck pig. With the _New York Times_ on his side, for a rarity.

    Sure, she probably should have kept it for the clerks and colleagues, but like the Founders said, judicial tenure “during good behaviour.” On he music selection part, I would get fired on my first day as a volunteer intern, but for the balloon drop, what’s not to like about “Burning Down the House?!?”


    • HAhahaha! Yes, anything by the Talking Heads as a campaign song (except maybe Psycho Killer?) is brilliant. Or maybe the song about making the baby stay up all night–that wouldn’t be a good campaign song.

      If you can’t let it rip in your 80s, then what’s the point? I think RBG is a very savvy pol herself, and she knew exactly what she was doing when she gave those interviews.


  9. Ah, Fleetwood Mac brings back the memories. How about Annie Lennox & “Sisters are Doin’ It For Themselves”? That might work well, especially if we got a Clinton/Warren ticket. I know. Dream on. But my real favourite politically feminist song of a more recent vintage remains “Not Ready to Make Nice” by the Dixie Chicks.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Just posting to say thank you, H’Ann, for using this particular photograph of HRC (more than once now). It’s lovely and an antidote to the usual editorial choices.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Pingback: Trust, gender queerness, and Hillary Clinton | Historiann

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