Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Hillary Bashing v. Women Bashing

One of the things I didn't understand about Hillary supporters was why they kept insisting that her liberal attackers were sexist. I had assumed they were just referring to the "make me a sandwich" style Republicans, but didn't see much of that and never from a liberal. Yet they kept insisting that the liberal netroots was overly sexist and offensive.

Well I think I just got it. They're just referring to the people who think Hillary is manipulative and selfish. But why? I personally never thought Hillary was some super nice, honest person who was above reproach. I'll vote for her, I guess, but I've always assumed she was kind of pushy and fake. Same with Bill. While Obama has a background that suggests he's one of those charmed people with brains, a great voice, and who puts in the extra work to get ahead; the Clintons always struck me as the BS-y kind of people who get results by pushing people with a big smile and a firm handshake. Not aggressive or mean like Cheney; but definitely pushy and manipulative.

And with that, I think they're like your typical politician; just better at it. While I see Obama as a lucky guy who did well with what he had; the Clintons had to push every step of the way. And while both type of people have their definite advantages, it's only natural that the Clintons would make more enemies along the way. Especially Hillary, who has to work at it even more because she lacks that special spark that Bill has.

Now, if some people want to disagree with that and think that Hillary is some nice, normal person; that's their business. They can think whatever they want. But I'll think she's a somewhat pushy phony, and anyone who would put up with what she did in the 90's and come back asking for more is a glutton. For me, I think that anyone who would put up with all that and ask for more has a serious character defect. But then again, I'm the kind of guy who would rather be self-employed working at home than to be a rich businessman; so perhaps I'm not the best judge of people. For me, success is defined by happiness; not power or wealth.

Netroot Sexists

And so some people don't like her. It happens. And they say bad things about her, and even use naughty words that are rude. How is this anything new? We're supposed to give Hillary some free pass just because she's a woman? I mean, while I don't personally agree with that kind of thing, I fail to see how it's sexist to treat her like we do all our other foes. I'd been assuming that with all the talk of sexism, it'd be that she was being dismissed due to her gender. But while at Hullabaloo, a commenter left behind a bunch of examples of the sexism that was so prevalent at Daily Kos. Needless to say, I found it somewhat underwhelming.

Here are the first two examples given:
hekebelos: "Many of us have expressed the opinion that Hillary would be willing to destroy the Democratic Party to secure the nomination. But I don't think any of us ever expected her to even stoop this low.... I don't know how any self-respecting Democrat who values the future of the Democratic Party could still campaign for her. She has shown no limits." (earning 1255 comments)

turneresq: "Hillary's statement is outrageous, essentially cutting an ad for McCain in the general if Obama is the nominee. Olbermann openly wondered why she was playing this card.... Hillary should be ashamed, and I'm glad that Olbermann and Maddow called her on it."

That's it?? That's sexism?? Yet here's how that person summarized the various examples given:
What is common to all of these comments is not their astute political analysis of the issues and support for Obama. What these comments all seek to achieve is the political marginalization and silencing of a woman and her supporters. Moreover, each one of these posts seizes on common slurs and stereotypes about women in order to impugn Hillary Clinton's character. Lastly, the persistent and pervasive effort to vilify both Hillary Clinton and her supporters as racists further aims to quell political discourse about the campaigns.

That's right. Not only are all these people denounced as sexist because they hate Hillary, but their efforts to denounce Hillary's campaign as racist is also denounced. Yet I saw nothing in any of those comments which couldn't have equally applied to Bush or Cheney. Hell, just take that first one and change "Hillary" to "Cheney" and "Democratic Party" to "America" and you've got a summary of about half the posts at DKos last year.

And I agree with the first sentence the second person wrote, as I can't believe that Hillary would actually tout McCain's experience over Obama's. That kind of thing is just wrong and if/when Obama wins, I could easily see Hillary's words popping up again and again.

As for the "common slurs and stereotypes" thing, which is the only real link to sexism I can find, that's super weak. Sure, maybe these people are saying this about Hillary because she's a woman. But again, this is the same kind of thing you'd hear from these people regarding just about any Republican. They're pushy, manipulative liars who will do or say anything to gain power. The only difference is that they're now directing their ire at a Democrat, instead of a Republican.

But even Democrats don't get off the hook with these people. I've heard lots of insults from these people regarding Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, and just about any other Democrat they blame for not impeaching Bush. This isn't sexism. It's just the way they talk. Anyone who's just now noticing that DKos is full of these kind of people just hasn't been paying attention.

Playing on Stereotypes

And there is such a thing as using stereotypes to label people. But it's not always easy to identify. For example, if Hyman Roth did a sleazy thing for money and I said he was a greedy SOB who'd do anything for money; that's probably not anti-Semitic. But if I mentioned that he was Jewish before calling him greedy, that might hint that I might be anti-Semitic. Even worse would be if I called him a greedy Jew. And if I said "Hyman Roth is Jewish, and while there are plenty of non-Jews who worship money above all us, because Jews have been victims of violence, they should have second thoughts about sating their love of money through the promotion of violence" that could be considered fairly anti-Semitic (and yes, I was paraphrasing uber-putz Gregg Easterbrook on that one).

And the issue on that is clear: There is a negative stereotype of Jewish people as being greedy and money loving. And so you do have to be a little careful about using the term to describe a Jewish person, particularly if you're referencing their Jewishness. Thus said, is it automatically anti-Semitic to refer to any particular Jew as greedy? Of course not. Some people are greedy, including some Jewish people. Similarly, some black and Mexican people are lazy, just as some white people are lazy. And some women are, to put it bluntly, bitches. I'm not sure why this is controversial, because that's just the way it is. While you have to be careful about any of these stereotypes, it's simply wrong to assume racism or sexism every time they come up.

And even the "bitch" issue is a bit touchy. Certainly you shouldn't use it in polite company, like when you're talking to a presidential candidate or radio show. But in private, many people talk like sailors and that's one of the words they use. And while there's a particular meme that says that strong women are called bitches and strong men are called strong men, that's totally bogus. Strong men are called assholes, pricks, bastards, and all kinds of other names. If anything, the issue is that there are too few rude names to use against pushy women. But the idea that only women get negative labels for being overly aggressive is simply false.

Personal Labels

And so some people on the left hate Hillary. And they ascribe to her similar words that are used as a negative stereotype of aggressive women. Is that automatically sexist? Of course not. It might be. But unless they specifically reference her gender, attempt to smear all women as being similar, or directly evoke the stereotypes in question; it's a bit tough to make that call and probably shouldn't be done. Overuse of labels like Sexist and Racist do nothing but water them down and make them lose their effectiveness.

For example, if in that first example they wrote "Many of us have expressed the opinion that Hillary, like most women, would be willing to destroy the Democratic Party to secure the nomination." That would undoubtedly be sexist. Or if they suggested that she'd do this because she's emotional and irrational, or PMS-ing; those would definitely be huge redflags. But simply expressing the opinion that a specific presidential candidate is manipulative or selfish is absurd; no matter what their gender is. Nobody flinches when we accuse Republicans of wanting to destroy America for their own lust for power. I fail to see why it's such a big deal if some Democrats think Hillary will hurt the party with the same thing.

So yes, sexism does exist. And there are people who won't vote for Hillary because she's a woman. And there are certainly people who have negative opinions about Hillary based upon her gender. But the idea that we can label everyone who thinks Hillary is an over-ambitious manipulator as sexist is definitely offensive. While it's possible that pure equality between the sexes is impossible, it completely undermines feminism to suggest that female candidates deserve nicer treatment solely due to their gender. Even women deserve the right to behave like bastards.

Now it's time to go caucus against her. Wish me luck!

1 comment:

Fledermaus said...

This same sort of stuff will kill her in the general, if she makes it there. Less so the campaign itself as its supporters. Fox will trot out those NY NOW people and a bunch of others to rant about Hillary Hate (tm) and accusations of mysogony willy nilly.

Think of it like this, the negative attacks leading up to TX and OH didn't convert anyone, it just stemmed the bleeding of her support. Plus FUD is usually a winner in an underinformed electorate.