Hillary’s “bitch factor”* – Hail Mary passes with grenades

Coming from another politician slipping in the polls against someone like Barak Obama, Hillary Clinton’s no more Mrs. Nice Girl brass knuckle attacks would make tactical sense.

Unfortunately for her, her anger has no finesse. She comes across as strident, confirming the "bitch factor"* in many people’s mind. Some people will think she’s trying to beat Muhammad Ali by kicking him in the balls.

* See update to column for my definition of "bitch factor".

In the clips being played today of her latest tirade against Obama you can feel, not her passion, but her rage.

Instead of playing on her one primary political strength,experience, she is attacking the strength that has propelled him into the number one spot. That is his ability to transcend his lack of national political experience by his ability to inspire hope.

Chance gave her a few pegs to hang her rage on: that he used some lines from a Deval Patrick speech, a flyer sent out about her health care plan and Obama’s characterization of her position on NAFTA?

Interestingly, the right wing pretty much ignored this, and is attacking Obama for not pledging allegiance, wearing a flag pin, and having a wife who is unpatriotic.

Hillary wants Democrats to believe that Barak is pulling the wool over the eyes of his supporters with a slickly delivered message that is all packaging with nothing of substance inside. In other words, she wants to make Obamamania a psychiatric disorder. If you have it, you’d best question your sanity.

Initially, faced with the effectiveness of Obama’s words, she attacked him in a reasonably civil manner for being nothing but words. This didn’t work.

Now she’s getting angry.

No doubt she thinks expressing anger is the answer and Democrats will see it as strength.

On Saturday Night Live Tina Fey expressed support for Clinton by saying, essentially, that bitches get things done, that "bitch is the new black." (See "Tina Fey gives Hillary a shout out on SNL" on Monsters and Critics)

Tina Fey’s bit is getting play on the news shows, so it’s worth considering whether it will influence anyone. She’s saying that bitches get things done. She says that this is the reason nuns rather than priests teach in Catholic schools. Presumably, even though teacher nuns may not be kind and gentle, they will make sure you learn the capital of Vermont.

The question I have is whether undecided Demcorats want a nun smacking them on the wrists with a ruler as president.

If Hillary can overcome the basic bitch factor, I rather doubt she can be successful if she comes across as an angry and sarcastic bitch having a hissy fit.


Update Added 5PM Feb. 25, 2008: My definition of "bitch factor"

This column and my subsequent comments shouldn’t be construed as my calling Hillary Clinton a bitch. I am writing about what I called "the bitch factor". I hoped the column would be clear enough so people wouldn’t misconstrue what I was saying. Obviously I haven’t mastered the
art of totally unambiguous writing on volatile subjects.

I didn’t think I actually coined a new socio-politcal term with
"bitch factor", but doing a Google search (with "safe search" turned
off on the advanced search feature – as "bitch" won’t be searched if it
is on), I discovered that there’s an Urban Dictionary definition of
"bitch factor" using bitch as a verb which is unrelated to my usage


There’s also a mystery novel with that title and a blog about
bitching, which men and women can engage in equally. In addition there’s a publication called Bitch Magazine: Feminist Response to Pop Culture (LINK), which today features a piece on the Tin Fey segment.

I didn’t look though the 6000 some web pages but in the first 50 didn’t notice any using the term as I had. Already this column is listed as number four in the search. It’s hard to believe I am the first person to coin this term.

In case I am, I suppose I’d better offer my own sociological definition:

"Bitch factor" refers to the impact of being perceived as a "bitch" on a woman’s relationships and career. The term "bitch" is meant in the pejorative sense, is considered a highly offensive term for a woman that insults her temperament, it generally taken to indicate she is any or all of the following: malicious, unpleasant, strident, spiteful, unbearable, overbearing (all from various dictionaries).

Whether or not the woman has any of these traits or characteristics is irrelevant. It is the degree which she is perceived of as having them that constitutes the impact of the "bitch factor" which is, by defintion, detrimental to her.


  1. pollchecker

    Hal — I have had a chance to reread this entire thread and sleep on it. I have some more thoughts on our prior discussion.

    As you pointed out, the GOP originally started publicly using this word about Hillary.

    As I have previously noted, the GOP strategy is to use certain words over and over and over regarding nominees. The thought is that if you say something enough times it must be true.

    If I was Hillary, I would have stood up and addressed that use of the word immediately the first time it came out. But she didn’t and therefore it continues. It doesn’t help that her current attack strategy paints her in just such a light as you point out.

    But because she didn’t challenge it, others picked up on it so much so that it became part of our entertainment programming. Now if Hillary did somehow win the nominee, can’t you see what it coming in the general election.

    The propaganda will be something like “Vote for John McCain — don’t put a bitch in the White House.”

    I wonder what other words they have thrown out there that we have bit into?

    They are in the process of doing the same thing with words towards Obama. Their key words seem to be Muslum, inexperienced, unpatriotic, liberal, etc. Now if we repeat these words enough even in defense of him, we are perpetuating the propaganda. Because YOU KNOW there will be some ignorant American Sheep out there that will believe this garbage no matter how many times you wave the truth under their nose.

    No, if you call Obama Muslum enough times, it becomes true. If you call him unpatriotic enough times, it becomes true. It must be true, right? You can’t say it if it isn’t the truth, right? (please give me a break)

    As educated people, concerned citizens and writers, we must counter this propaganda not enable it especially since the GOP are experts at using these words to herd the sheep their direction. They successfully did it in 2000, 2002, and 2004. We cannot let them succeed again.

  2. pollchecker

    “now on if I wish to deride someone I’m just going to call them a bush or clinton,”

    to certain people…those would be the ultimate insults. Especially Bush.

  3. incog99

    If she can’t take the heat….

    If she can’t take the heat she ought to get out of the frying pan! Now she is whining about Saturday Night Live. SNL makes fun of everyone. It’s comedy (HELLO?) What the heck does she expect if she becomes president???? Will she complain that Iran is picking on her???? All the candidates are getting picked on right now, McCain with his tacky relationships with lobbyists and giving favors, Obama over his patriotism, but noooooooo Hillary is getting picked on!! I don’t think she has the character to be a President, she is nasty, mean and suffering from an inferiority complex.

  4. bryan mcclellan

    Hey Hal:from now on if I wish to deride someone I’m just going to call them a bush or clinton,either name brings to mind the most disgusting of images and will go down in the annuls of time as the most base of insults.PMFOT’s

  5. Dogma

    Hillary isn’t doing herself, the Democratic party or her campaign any favors by her erratic behavior that looks like a multiple personality disorder over the past 5 days. I guess that’s what desparation looks like. So if she’s president and some foreign leader doesn’t go along with her, will that foreign leader be dealing with a “different” Hillary each successive day? Pretty scary in my book. I’m no Hillary fan and this tack she’s taking isn’t swaying me in her direction whatsoever. It’s not the least bit “presidential.”

  6. pollchecker

    great update Hal. Let this be a lesson learned for all of us just how powerful certain words can be. Additionally, this internet media is not perfect when it comes to conveying intent. Therefore it is easy for people to react to these words (it’s physics really) and then completely tune out or miss our point.

    However, I think it’s only fair that someone around here write a story about McCain called the “asshole factor”. (hahahahahahaha) I’d love to read the comments on that one.

  7. Sandra Price

    I’ve been called much worse than a bitch. Wait until we get closer to November and all the naughty words will be flung around here and elsewhere.

  8. Hal Brown

    Please see the update to the column where I answered some of these criticisms and gave my own defintion of "bitch factor".

  9. Carl Nemo

    Hal, concerning your update it reads to me like you’ve nailed down a spot-on descriptive definition of “Billary” ‘s temperament… :))

    Carl Nemo **==

  10. SEAL

    Thank you knockknock. To accuse any democrat of using rovian tactics is about the lowest you can go. Hillary has been making comments lately like Obama’s using tactics “right out of the repubican playbook.” Both she and Bill have allowed their true character to surface the last few weeks and people are noticing it. That’s why she is going down in the polls.

    Hillary had a good idea to bring Obama’s mailers to the rally and dispute them. She just did it the wrong way. Consequently, she did more damage to herself. What I saw wasn’t anger or rage as she was trying to project, I saw fear. The fear of what those mailers are doing to her campaign. She would have faired better if she had come out laughing at them and explaining how XXX was taken out of context and YYY was not true or whatever. Instead she showed a person who would explode over some minor thing. Who wants a president that petty?

    Polchecker said:
    “As I also pointed out, we don’t call men who act in a similar manner these words. Why? Because it is not applicable to men therefore it has no emotional punch to it the way it does to women.”

    Not true. We call overbearing men assholes and bastards, etc. But you are correct that they do not react the way women do. Men are simply not as sensitive to certain things as are women. While women are “hurt” by these things, men see them as a challenge and come back with “blow me” or “go fuck yourself.” That’s the difference.

  11. Rick Fuller

    If you woman are all up in arms about the “B” word – you gals must really freak out over the “C” word.

  12. knockknock

    It’s not the n word nor is it the b word — it’s the r word:

    That’s a low blow, even for Hillary.

  13. pollchecker

    Sandra, there are some words that pack a very powerful punch and therefore according to the law of physics invokes a powerful reaction. Several words discussed here are those such words.

    Since the GOP has indicated they are going to use words to con the sheep into fearing whoever the Democratic nominee is, it is important for all of us to realize that words matter, no matter what context we use them in. This has been pointed out to me several times as well.

    Hal has written a valid commentary but I believed 2008 was suppose to be a season of rising above the usual political fray which I do not beieve we can do if our focus is on words like this versus the blatant lies and propaganda the GOP is trying to impose on an ignorant american public.

    While I love Hal’s columns and have agreed with his points at least 3 times that I can count in response, I think my Monday would have started off better if he had a different title without such controversial words (hahahahahahahaha).

    As I also pointed out, we don’t call men who act in a similar manner these words. Why? Because it is not applicable to men therefore it has no emotional punch to it the way it does to women.

    An enlightened society does not need to use such language. This language of hate and fear is being used to manipulate and mobilize those who don’t know any better and I would like to see us not play into these tactics….at least not intentionally.

  14. Sandra Price

    How come you gals are so mean to Hal? He’s one of the neatest of our commentators. He does his research and is fair with his comments.

    I’ve taken some flack from readers here and it hurts!

  15. Rick Fuller

    Everyone is missing Hal’s point. Tina Fey, stated in a Rant on Saturday Night Live (02-23-08), that “Bitches” are powerful women that get things done and they should not be embarrassed.

    Tina Fey labeled herself a bitch – and correctly stated that is why the Catholic Church put Nuns into schools.

    You Catholic educated CHB’ers – you still know the capital of Vermont, don’t you?

    Enough said…

  16. Carl Nemo

    Regardless of what she is; it’s great that she’s exposing her very un-presidential mannerisms publicly.

    So just visualize folks; if “we the people” foolishly put this closet “mad dog” in the Whitehouse along with her demonstrated scamster of a husband for four years, yep just think about it…!? šŸ˜

    She’ll finish Bushco’s job of trashing the United States of America along with the aid of a very complicit, traitorous, “politburo” for a Congress.

    No Virginia, we will not be leaving Iraq “ever” with her in the presidency. There will always be an excuse as to why not and how much longer it’s going to take than originally planned; ie., the 12th of never…!

    She will also manage our national budget like she’s mis-managed her campaign finances to this point in time.

    The Clintons and the Bush clan have been doing a “tag team” job on the “we the people for the past 28 years. Unfortunately there’s no comedic relief as when one watches a Vince McMahon wrestling production.

    Carl Nemo **==

  17. sherry

    Sorry. We have had it out with Hal before. He was all up in the air because she stayed with her cheating husband.
    Now she is a bitch.
    Hal. Breathe deeply. Find a new subject

  18. AustinRanter

    I was in Austin last Saturday night attending a comedy show. The headliner was a young black man. He was belly rolling funny, but rarely used profanity and never used the “N” word or the “Bitch” word to describe any specific or generalizations about women.

    In fact, the young man said that using such words were not only disrespectful, a blow to civil rights, degrading, racist, and sexist, but should be consider as an inclusion as part of the federal ‘hate crimes’ laws now on the books.

    That statement wasn’t at all meant to be funny. The audience was a little taken back by his comments and silence filled the theater for awhile. His performance led to a standing ovation at the end.

    When can we as a free society, a country where even the poor has luxuries only dreamed of by citizens of so many incredibly poverty stricken countries…begin to see the self-destructiveness that is being perpetuated by the acceptance, tolerance, and just plain old ignoring the philosophical practice of discrimination and sexism in both the private and corporate entities be allowed to continue to rip the fabric of freedom and liberty.

    Trying to figure out how to get rid of the “B’s”, “N’s”, “S’s”, “RH’s” “W’s”, “Q’s”, etc. seems to be almost a hobby for people who hate others who are different.

    When I hear a man call a woman a ‘bitch’…I visualize a 6′-0″ male standing over a 5’-4″ female…with muscles flexed on one arm while the other strong arm is extended with a hand grasping a woman around the neck, pressing her against the wall and screaming, “You F***** Bitch”, I own you, I’m stronger, meaner, and I tell you what to do, when to do it, and how to do it…GOT IT?

    Sadly enough, men’s physical strengths have dominated women since the beginning of the two species.

    In the U.S. there is a very large number of women in prisons who after years of every abuse possible just couldn’t take the B.S. bullying anymore, defended themselves…and is spending many years to life in prison.

    Something is wrong with that.

    Needless to say…all of the other Hate Inciting Naming calling is attached to the same sick kind of belief that women are victimized with.

    We live in a country…no wait, a world full of hate mongers who are in power either by vote or revolution. Their only mission is to instill the hatred that lives inside of them.

    If you think I’m way off base…just ask George W. Bush, he’s an expert at this topic.