Carol Platt Liebau

Nor were her tears the only setback Hillary dealt the cause of women in politics last week. When two men – dolts, to be sure – disrupted a Clinton event by raising signs and chanting “Iron my shirt!” Hillary immediately responded with some bitterness, “"Oh, the remnants of sexism, alive and well tonight.” With that, she immediately lent credence to the all-too-widely held suspicion that lurking within even the most powerful professional woman is a humorless feminist, ready (even eager) to denounce men as sexist pigs.

For Hillary herself, it made good political sense to play the victim, and her gambit to elicit sympathy and fellow-feeling from women in the crowd seems to have worked. But how much more admirable would she have been if her reply had reflected a mature recognition that some people – men and women alike – are simply idiots, to be dismissed with grace and good humor? She could easily have demonstrated a particularly female kind of resilience had she joked, "Well, it certainly looks like someone needs to iron your shirts – just for starters – and, by the way, when’s the last time you guys showered?!”

Ultimately, no one can justly claim the mantle of a feminist pioneer if she ends up creating more, not fewer, barriers for the women who will one day seek to succeed her. After all, part of the reason that Anthony and Stanton have been immortalized in marble in the nation’s Capitol is because they actually succeeded in improving the quality of life not so much for themselves as for those who came after them.

As Hillary uses every sniffle and lecture to bring her one step closer to the job she’s yearned for so fiercely and so long, it would be good if she thought about the kind of trail she’s blazing for the next female presidential hopeful, Democrat or Republican. But then, thinking of others has never been the Clinton way.

Carol Platt Liebau

Carol Platt Liebau is an attorney, political commentator and guest radio talk show host based near New York. Learn more about her new book, "Prude: How the Sex-Obsessed Culture Hurts Young Women (and America, Too!)" here.