TheNation | For in almost every way that matters, Hillary Clinton is nothing more and nothing less than a successful professional woman like most successful professional women we all know and that we often like, and that indeed many of us are.
* She preaches and practices a kind of “lean-in” feminism that valorizes meritocracy and the professional success of elite women like herself and her daughter.
Is this really different from the way most professional women, including left academic women, proceed? The university is as much a corporate institution as is a corporate business or a government bureaucracy. Do we fault our colleagues, our friends, for seeking prestigious research grants that give them course release, and for asking their famous friends to write letters of recommendation or to organize book panels promoting their work? Do we fault our colleagues for being preoccupied with publication in the officially sanctioned journals, so that they can build records of accomplishment sufficient to earn tenure and promotion, and the privileges these involve, privileges that are not available to most women in the work force? Do we cast suspicion on our friends who do everything possible to promote the educational performance of their children so that they can be admitted into elite universities? In her pursuit of movement up the career ladder, and her valorization of this approach to success, is Clinton that different than most of us who, honestly, belong to the “professional managerial class” as much as she does, and who work through its institutions in the same way she does?
* She has achieved positions of leadership in hierarchical corporate institutions, where she has traded on connections, and has mixed with members of a power elite with access to money and power.
In this, is she any different than other colleagues, women and men, who become Distinguished Professors, and department chairs, and Deans and Provosts and College Presidents? I have many friends—feminists, leftists—who have achieved such positions, and who have embraced them. These positions are obtained by “playing the academic game,” by cooperating with others in positions of institutional authority, by compromising on ideals in order to get something done in a conservative bureaucracy, by agreeing to manage programs and personnel, i.e, colleagues, by agreeing to fundraise from wealthy alumni and corporate donors, and to participate in events that please such alumni and donors so that they will support you and your institution. Is Clinton’s “game” really that different?
* She uses her professional connections for personal advantage, making connections that can benefit her in the future, accepting side payments in exchange for her services.
Is this that different than colleagues in the academic bureaucracy, who accept the salary increases and bonuses and research and travel accounts and course release that come with this kind of work? I am a Distinguished Professor at Indiana University. I enjoy these things. Many of us do, including many wonderful scholars to my left who really dislike Clinton. But is she really so different than the rest of us? Really?
In some ways, the differences are obvious. Clinton has succeeded largely through public institutions. She has succeeded on a much larger scale. She has benefited financially on a much larger scale. She is a woman of great power and influence and wealth, who has sought out a degree of power and influence and wealth that greatly exceeds the norm for anyone and especially for any woman. And she is on the public stage, so that every aspect of her action, and her self-promotion—and her e-mailing—is potentially subject to public scrutiny. But is this a sign of her personal corruption, or simply a sign that she has learned how to play the establishment political game and to win at the highest levels?