It is a common female problem: Women in the public eye are much more likely to be asked to protect and project authenticity than men in comparable positions. Watching her performance with Andrea Mitchell, I was reminded of another televised spectacle in which media and armchair psychoanalysts the world over subjected a woman to an authenticity test. Before her acquittal this year, Amanda Knox, female—younger, less famous and certainly less practiced in the art of facing TV cameras—was found to be inauthentic in her public persona.
Clinton confronts the same sort of challenge every day. Some of that has to do with her personality, the long history in the protective crouch she assumed as the controversial first working-wife first lady being lied to by an unfaithful husband.
But no one knows how a woman with real power is supposed to speak or look to be “authentic,” for the simple reason that women haven’t held much power. As arguably the most powerful political female in the United States, Clinton is sui generis. There’s never been another woman—an avowed feminist, no less—this close to running the only global superpower. She treads uncharted ground every day, making it up along with her legion of advisers. And commentators and viewers apply their own meaning to every move she makes.
Is she real? Is she a fake? What did she really mean?