Scroll To Top

What People's Obsession With Hillary's 'Health' Says About Them

Elizabeth Daley: Scrutinizing Hillary's Body

How little we've evolved from the Salem witch trials over 300 years ago.

The amount of attention recently paid to Hillary Clinton's body is so great that some people are literally seeing double.

Since Clinton's momentary weakness due to pneumonia, the internet has been abuzz with rumors that Clinton, 68, has a body double! There are two images of Clinton's face posted side by side with circles around areas people claim are different. There are now entire Twitter accounts devoted to her cough. The New York Post ran a cover with the headline "Illary," focusing on Clinton's health as if she were gravely sick.

Meanwhile, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, 70, appeared on The Dr. OzShow proclaiming his health, despite the fact he is older than Clinton and on blood pressure medication, and men typically die before women. On the show Trump admitted he rarely exercised, but Clinton, who tried to work despite pneumonia, is seen as the weak one.

Images of Clinton's face and body have been examined for evidence, akin to what suspected witches underwent during the Salem witch trials in early America. During the trials, women were inspected for signs or marks of witchcraft, as if something on the body could evidence a malformation of character.

Women's bodies are similarly scrutinized today, as certain body types and features are applauded while others are insulted. Attached to body types and features are presumed values; curvy women are promiscuous, fat women are bad people, thin women are good and productive. Women's bodies are read every day; it is a favorite pastime of all Americans regardless of gender.

People have been scrutinizing a video of Clinton falling ill at the 9/11 memorial in New York City with similar zeal, claiming to see a piece of metal falling from her pant leg. This has led some to infer that she is using leg braces, as if no human woman would be able to withstand the pressure required to stand up and face daily misogyny without bodily scaffolding.

Recently, Clinton sat down with Humans of New York to explain how difficult it is for her to be any version of herself, primarily because she is female.

"You have to communicate in a way that people say: 'OK, I get her.' And that can be more difficult for a woman. Because who are your models?" Clinton asked, explaining that few women have even made it into high offices.

"If you want to run for the Senate or run for the presidency, most of your role models are going to be men. And what works for them won't work for you. Women are seen through a different lens. It's not bad. It's just a fact," Clinton said.

Actually, it is bad. But it's so bad, Clinton can't even say "it's bad" for fear of alienating those who think it's not so bad. So she settles for humor.

"It's really quite funny," she said, "I'll go to these events and there will be men speaking before me, and they'll be pounding the message and screaming about how we need to win the election. And people will love it. And I want to do the same thing. Because I care about this stuff. But I've learned that I can't be quite so passionate in my presentation. I love to wave my arms, but apparently that's a little bit scary to people. And I can't yell too much. It comes across as 'too loud' or 'too shrill' or 'too this' or 'too that.'"

Essentially, women are faced with a double standard that is hidden in plain sight. Even in the White House, women have had to band together in order to have their voices heard, according to a recent Washington Post article.

Sexism is so evident it has become invisible. It has blended into the background of American culture as it has been internalized by all women, including Hillary Clinton, who above claimed she doesn't mind being treated differently than men. Commentators say Clinton bungled the disclosure of her medical condition; meanwhile Trump has not even released his tax returns. President Franklin D. Roosevelt kept his disability under wraps, yet we are entitled to know exactly what is happening each time Clinton doesn't feel well?

The old adage that women are expected to do everything men do, "except backward and in high heels," still holds true. While a man might have been applauded or at least ignored for working while ill, Clinton elicited bodily conspiracy theories. What might have been a normal moment for any sick person caused the public to wonder intensely about her body, to watch video of her collapsing and zoom in; to look for evidence in photos that she isn't even real. She has been called robotic, and perhaps she is. Perhaps she needs to be robotic. After all, how could any real woman want to modulate her voice, to tone it down, to nod and smile when sometimes all that's warranted is cursing?

Elizabeth Daley is an Advocate correspondent covering feminism and comedy. You can find her on Twitter @fakepretty

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

From our Sponsors

Most Popular

Latest Stories

Elizabeth Daley