The Secondary Conversation

THE SECONDARY CONVERSATION….The “gender card” accusation against Hillary Clinton following Tuesday night’s debate seemed like pretty weak tea to me, but Garance Franke-Ruta made an interesting comment yesterday about the broader topic:

The primary political conversation that occurs in public is led by men, who still make up more than 80 percent of Congress, op-ed page writers, political talk-show guests, etc. But that doesn’t mean women don’t have any opinions or have nothing to say. What women have instead of a public conversation is what I’ve come to think of as “the secondary conversation” — an ongoing conversation with other women, in private, where they feel they can speak freely about their lives and their place in the world without fear of being penalized or stigmatized for saying what they actually think. Clinton to date has been a master of dog-whistle politics in evoking the common tropes of that secondary conversation without making it too apparent or jarring to her male listeners.

The only reason we’re talking about this now, Garance says, is that Hillary’s latest effort was slightly less subtle than usual, which made it “jarring to both women adept in the art of deflecting attention from their difference and men used to pretending the whole gender-inequality problem has been solved.”

Maybe so! But that would make a fascinating blog post or magazine article, wouldn’t it? We’re all used to thinking of coded appeals to evangelicals or racists, but not to women. Those usually seem more overt, like appeals to environmentalists or tax cutters. So how about a few examples? I’d be fascinated to find out when and where Hillary has made these dog whistle appeals before, unbeknownst to the rest of us.

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