Hillary Clinton speaks during the presentation of the German translation of her book 'Hard Choices.' Photo: Adam Berry
Take it from Robin Thicke: there are few things more dangerous, at least in a PR sense, than agreeing to do a live social media Q&A.
So it must have been with some trepidation that former Secretary Of State - and expected Democratic nominee for the 2016 US Presidential race - Hillary Clinton agreed to a tour of duty in Silicon Valley, stopping off at Facebook and Twitter, ostensibly to promote her memoir, Hard Choices.
Naturally, given the nature of live Q&As, it wasn’t long before the conversation(s) strayed from the topic at hand. Not that we’re complaining (well, for the most part), because here are ten non-Hard-Choices-related things we learned from Clinton’s day in Silicon Valley.
1. Malala Yousafzai kicked off the proceedings
The first question posed to Clinton at Twitter HQ came via the official Twitter account for The Malala Fund, through which the young activist asked, “What will the world look like when there are more women leaders and Heads of State?” Clinton responded that more women leaders “would make a difference in the world” and things were off to a flying, if slightly Lean In-y, start.
2. She thinks social media can be a force for good
Unsurprisingly, considering the Q&A’s setting, many of the questions posed related back to social media. On the topic of whether social media could play a part in communication between warring nations and organisations, Clinton responded, “Too often, people use it as a weapon instead of an opportunity, and maybe one of the ways we can think together about the next phase of development of social media is a tool of outreach, a tool of reconciliation, a tool of negotiation, and perhaps a tool of resolution.”
3. But good luck getting your Twitter question answered if you’re not famous
While it was a different story throughout her other social media Q&As, Clinton’s Twitter appearance had the undeniable scent of mutual spin, given that nearly all the questions she answered were posed by celebrities (Amy Poehler and Kerry Washington among them) or Twitter employees. Poehler, you may be aware, has never tweeted. Wake up, sheeple!!!
4. She’s unimpressed with Putin’s behaviour
Spurred on by the Kremlin’s Twitter activities, emcee Katie Stanton asked, “What would you tweet to President Putin?” In her clipped response, Clinton (wisely) ignored the cute social-media angle of the question and unloaded a takedown of Putin’s “adventurism”, suggesting that the best way to stymie his behaviour is to push for sanctions against Russia, or in her words, “make him pay a price”.
5. To some people, Clinton will only ever be “that woman whose husband cheated on her”
Scores of #AskHillary questions - in an incredibly fresh take on humour, gender politics, and current events - seemed determined to throw-back to the “inappropriate relationship” that happened two decades ago.
#AskHillary do you turn off Mambo #5 when he says a little bit of Monica in my life?— America (@Drunk_America) July 22, 2014
Her marriage got past it, she’s (presumably) beyond it, isn’t it time the rest of us got over it? Then again, as Clinton herself put it on the topic of snark, “If a woman wants to be in the public arena, she needs to grow skin as thick as the hide of a rhinoceros. And I have certainly, as you can tell, had to learn how to do that - and there's a lot of good moisturizers I can tell you about if you're interested."
6. The internet will never change
Woven in among the genuine questions and the hard-right, conspiracy theorist babblings were the sorts of questions you’d expect when Weird Twitter gets a hold of a popular hashtag. Sadly, Clinton didn’t find time to answer these, but that doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate their gloriousness:
#AskHillary Why do we drive on parkways and park on driveways?— Ray G. (@rlg100619) July 22, 2014
#AskHillary what's your recommendation for implementing full marxism?— problematic tweets (@trill_pikachu) July 22, 2014
7. No matter what she does, people will still ask her to reflect on things “as a woman” or “as a mother”
The situation in Palestine, the MH17 disaster, Benghazi, Iraq, Presidential campaigns… evidently there’s not a single thing certain people think Clinton can offer her thoughts on without first identifying as a woman or a mother. Which is not to say that neither of those things aren’t or shouldn’t be important to her idea of self, but that there are still great swathes of people who see female politicians as, well “female politicians” and not just politicians. (See also: female comedians, women’s music, women’s sport…) Conversely, Clinton’s political shortcomings - support for military action following 9/11, the security failings related to the 2012 Benghazi attack - should be judged the same way we would those of her male peers.
8. ...But women’s rights remain at the forefront of her concerns
Asked by Melinda Gates (one of Clinton’s close friends), “What do you think are the biggest barriers to the full participation of women and girls around the world?”, Clinton stuck to the stance she first expressed at 1995’s Fourth World Conference on Women, which is that “women’s rights are human rights”. She reiterated her pro-choice stance during her Faceboom Q&A, writing, “We need to continue the fight to give women the right to choose and that requires electing politicians to office who will protect choice and especially now, we need to stand up for contraception which is threatened by the Hobby Lobby decision.”
9. She’s still unwilling to address those rumours
When US soccer champ Julie Foudy asked “Who will be your VP candidate?”, Clinton briefly praised Foudy’s sporting achievements, then said she would have to pass on answering the question.
10. Her Facebook Q&A, on the other hand, was quite revealing
When one user asked “If you became president of the United States, what would be your first action item on the agenda?”, Clinton replied, “Answering hypothetically... the next President should work to grow the economy, increase upward mobility, and decrease inequality.” I don’t know about you, but that looks like an ellipsis worth a thousand words.