Why We Are Skeptical of Hillary Clinton

When I read Katharine Seelye's NY Times article titled, Women Supportive of Clinton, But Skeptical, I found myself wondering….


Why do so many want to want to vote for Hillary Clinton, but won't?

Is it a question of competence?

Most would agree she's quite capable. So — No.

Is it because we don't agree with her politics?

Within a few seconds, I rattled off the names of several women for whom I would vote despite our differing political views. So again — No.

If it's neither a question of competence, nor of political views, then why are we skeptical?


1) We don't identify with Senator Clinton's hero's journey — As with Katie Couric, there's an archetypal mismatch, though for an entirely different reason.

While we don't doubt that Senator Clinton can successfully take on Psyche's four overwhelmingly difficult tasks, it feels like she's taking on the adventure for herself, not for us. That she's ready and willing to do some genuine head-butting, rather than to wait and pick up the fleece off the fence once the rams have gone home. In other words, she seems to want power, not for us, but for her. That's not the female hero's journey that resonates with us, so we can't quite get comfortable.

Ok, she's not perfect, but isn't there a double standard here?


Most of us feel quite comfortable if men are ambitious and even a little bit ‘naughty' — after all, ‘boys will be boys' (remember Arnold Schwarzenegger smoking his cigar in the tent near his office), but with women….

2) We want a fairy godmother — The Princess Diaries, provides a great look at this archetype. The film stars Julie Andrews as Queen Clarisse (for anyone over the age of 40, she is the practically perfect fairy godmother Mary Poppins) preparing her granddaughter Princess Mia, played by Anne Hathaway, to ascend to the throne of the imaginary kingdom Genovia.


Princess Mia is qualified to be a princess because she's “bright, sensitive and caring,” says Queen Clarisse. (Imagine Senator Clinton, let alone the male presidential candidates, described as such!) Further reinforcing the fairy godmother archetype, Queen Clarisse sings to Princess Mia:

When they tell your story,
They'll call your heart of gold your crowning glory,
The most glorious part of you

In other words, inscribed in our minds and in our hearts, is the view that a woman who leads us must be smart and capable, and most especially good and kind.

That her hero's journey, no matter how difficult, is ultimately undertaken on our behalf.

And that whether Princess Mia, Mary Poppins, or Psyche — she'll be our fairy godmother.

If you are comfortable with Hillary Clinton, what are your thoughts on archetypes? Is there one that fits?

There was an interesting article in the Australian papers not too long ago titled When one man's ambition is another woman's evil curse, comparing and contrasting how people respond to ambition in women versus men.

Given how beloved Bill Clinton is, and what I understand to be an uncanny ability to make people feel that it is all about them, could he be the key to her winning?

What are your thoughts on other presidential candidates? Which archetypes are working for or against them?

P.S. Maureen Dowd of the New York Times published an Op-Ed piece (Oct 31 2007) titled Hilary La Francaise, Cherchez la Femme? which certainly underscores the comments (see below) made by Margaret Busse and Elizabeth Harmer-Dionne. Also interesting to read Ms. Dowd's comment, “Maybe the qualities that many find off-putting in Hillary — her opportunism, her triangulation, her ethical corner-cutting, her shifting convictions from pro-war to anti-war, her secrecy, her ruthlessness — are the same ones that make people willing to vote for a woman.” May this not be true.

Now the News: Couric Still Isn’t One of the Boys


The NY Times recently published an article by Bill Carter titled Now the News: Couric Still Isn't One of the Boys, analyzing why Katie Couric's gig on CBS hasn't lived up to expectations.

Using the ‘dare to dream' lens, let's analyze this further. Shall we?

1. Archetype mis-match — When you look at Todd Heisler's above photograph, Ms. Couric looks isolated, almost forlorn. I can't help but think of the Bem Sex-Role Inventory's definition of femininity: Girls are only considered feminine within the context of a relationship and when they are giving something to someone else. The images of Ms. Couric on The Today Show are in sync with our society's view of femininity. The CBS News images are not.

Contrast the above with those Carter describes as “swashbuckling correspondents

[e.g. Peter Jennings, Tom Brokaw, Dan Rather] who became cool doing hard news”. This swashbuckler image foots with what we consider masculine: the solitary man (think Johnny Depp in Pirates and Pierce Brosnan as James Bond) slays the dragon, returns a hero, tells the tale.

In other words, our conscious mind may want to support a Ms. Couric, especially if we watched her faithfully on The Today Show, but we don't. Because there's a mismatch between what we instinctively believe and what we see.

2. Ms. Couric isn't playing to her strengths — This is closely tied to the above, except that Ms. Couric can't change what other people believe, while she can change what she does. Which is to play to her strengths — her innate talents, competencies, principles, and identity.

I don't know whether she reports hard news well. She probably does or she wouldn't be where she is. But her ability to chase down news is secondary to her girl-next-door persona.

So why would she have opted in to a situation which wasn't her?

Because of what the title intimates — that to count we need to be one of the boys.

And because our society doesn't really value women's core strengths of connecting and collaborating unless a man displays them, we start to believe we're Leah.

Because we want Leah to permanently leave the building (she likes to slip in unawares), will you consider the following:

1) Think about women in the public eye whom you admire. Do you consider these women to be feminine? Does that mean that they don't have power to get their dreams done? Or do they?

2) How can we work with the the archetypes and ideas that prevail in our society, rather than fighting against them?

3) Have you thought any more about your strengths? Relish them. Leverage them. Figure out how to pursue your dream in a context that values your strengths.

4) And if you can't find a system, club, business, or group of friends that will value your strengths, why not find like-minded people and start your own?

Contact Us

Fill out this form and we will follow up to create a customized plan to help you build a smart growth organization.

Media & Press Inquiries

including requesting Whitney as a guest on your podcast

Media & Press Inquiries arrow_forward

Gain insight into growth, adaptability and agility

Download our free resources outlining the Accelerants of Growth—including books, podcasts and TEDtalks to help you move up your S Curve of Learning.