Hillary: the Woman, the Legend, the Meme

Above: two Yale women plot to take over the world (and our hearts), one text at a time.
Above: two Yale women plot to take over the world (and our hearts), one text at a time.

As Hillary Clinton steps down from her position as Secretary of State, her job approval rating has peaked at 69 percent. Hillary-mania is at an all time high, with blogs dedicated to her hair and texting wit garnering hundreds of thousands of views. Buzzfeed, Jezebel, and Gawker have made Hillary hero-worship into a cottage industry.

Four years ago, however, this Hillary love-fest would seem unlikely, if not impossible. Hillary withdrew from the 2008 presidential campaign with an approval rating hovering around 50 percent and a tarnished image after a drawn-out dogfight in the Democratic primary. Her job approval rating has consistently polled above 60 percent during her time at the State Department, but even that cannot explain the pop culture phenomenon that she has become.

Check out Nate Silver’s breakdown of Hillary’s approval ratings over the years here.

Maybe it has something to do with her actual accomplishments as Secretary of State. She salvaged the Turkish-Armenian accord, pushed for free Internet usage, promoted a bilateral trade agreement between Pakistan and Afghanistan, and advocated for military intervention in Libya. While Hillary has not yet developed the type of legacy that Marshall and Kissinger had, she has elevated the rights of women and girls within diplomatic discourse. None of the easily digestible lists (“Top 30 Hillary Pics!” or “Top 6 Hillary Takedowns!”) seem to make much mention of these accomplishments, however.

Until Gallup or Pew start asking people why they support Hillary, here are a few hypotheses to explain her recent popularity:

  1. Same misogyny, different direction. Call me a bra-burning feminist, but how is lauding Hillary for her hairstyles or Blackberry skills any different from hating her for her pantsuits? Are any of those related to her accomplishments as First Lady, Senator, presidential nominee, or Secretary of State? Maybe American society has become more accepting of women in positions of power over the course of Hillary’s career, but as long as we continue judging women on these b******t metrics, not much has really changed.
  2. Longevity Factor. Over the course of her career, Hillary has been called a lesbian, a liar, a terrorist-sympathizer, and worse. There simply isn’t anything left to say. Her rise in popularity can be compared with Biden’s current political moment, despite his past political skeletons (1988 plagiarism scandal, anyone?). If you don’t have anything nice to say about someone, don’t say anything at all, make a gif.
  3. Cool Pictures. Come on, who wouldn’t want to party with Hillary in Colombia?

Hillary, I’ve got to hand it to you. Not only have you had a long, satisfying career full of accomplishments, but you also have an Internet fandom that only Betty White can compete with. Invite me to brunch with Meryl – please?

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