Resist the Distraction of ‘Sexism’ and ‘Misogyny’ Accusations

The Era of ‘The  Bitch’ is Coming screamed a headline by The Atlantic. The writer Michelle Cottle is warning everyone to be prepared for a fresh wave of “four-to-eight years of the kind of down-and-dirty public misogyny you might expect from a stag party at Roger Ailes’s house.” While open racism isn’t tolerated and often called out, sexism and misogyny, especially if cleverly delivered, is still tolerated, accepted and even considered funny. What’s more, while it’s fair that people on the receiving end of racist abuse make their grievances known and heard, women subjected to sexism and misogyny are expected to keep quiet and laugh it off, especially women in powerful positions. For a woman to call out sexism is seen as whining and complaining and not addressing a legitimate grievance.

Cottle goes on to explain which types of misogyny and sexism Hillary Clinton might encounter in the coming months and years. Inevitably, they relate to her age, her looks, her body, her allegedly ‘bitchy’ demeanor, her coldness and aloofness, the sound of her voice, how she laughs (the cackle), her bitchy-resting face when she’s not smiling and when she does smile the compliments she gets for ‘finally smiling’ as if she’s some miserable cow who refuses to crack a smile.

All of these ‘warnings’ of sexism and misogyny is just a distraction from the real criticisms. It’s using identity politics to distract from the real issues of a Hillary Clinton presidency. It’s a red herring. Sexism and misogyny is wrong. It’s nobody’s business when Hillary Clinton chooses to smile, she’s not a professional cheerleader, she’s not obligated to plaster a smile on her face to make everyone feel more comfortable. By the same token, she’s not required to be nice all the time either. She, like a man, is allowed temper flares, throwing things across the room and pounding the table when things don’t go her way. We don’t call a man derogatory names when he does those things, we say that he’s assertive and sets high standards. Shaming her age (especially when in connection with her appearance) is below the belt and appealing to the lowest common denominator and it really just says you don’t have any legitimate criticisms hence you make fun of her age and appearance. Hillary Clinton has never made herself out to be objectified or admired for her appearance, in fact, she self-deprecates when it comes to the style department (“remember my hairband days?”). She’s no Jackie Kennedy, and since that’s out of the way, let’s move on to the real issues.

Because Hillary Clinton’s opponent is Donald Trump, she’s not required to have a platform besides “I am not Trump”. She’s not required to present sound policies on the economy, preserving and expanding social security, raising the minimum wage, creating real universal healthcare, federally mandated paid parental leave, government subsidized childcare, raising the minimum wage, criminal justice reform, prison reform, drug sentencing reform, real immigration reform and integrating the millions of undocumented immigrants into the political process by allowing an immediate pathway to citizenship for all (not cherry picking the young, educated and English speaking ones), providing free college in all state institutions and reversing the toxic and destructive neoliberal economic policies of her husband and Obama. These are the issues that are important to the voters, especially the Millennial voters that she supposedly cares so much about. But thanks to freakshow that is Donald Trump, she doesn’t have address any of these issues. All she has to do is insist she’s no Trump and Mexicans aren’t rapists and murderers, she won’t build a wall at the Southern border and Muslims aren’t banned in this country.

We already know she’s not Donald Trump. Hillary Clinton, in some respects is far more dangerous than Donald Trump. Donald Trump is a buffoon and a clown, he appeals to the other lowest common denominators of racism, xenophobia, anti-immigration and white nationalism (which also includes misogyny and sexism). Whether he acknowledges it or not, most of his boldest proposals can’t be implemented and are just white nationalist fantasies. For all of Trump’s boasting of his business acumen, his artistry at making business deals where he sends his opponents scurrying to the hills, the reality is far more different. He considers business bankruptcy as a legitimate business strategy (which translates to not paying your suppliers or investors by declaring you are bankrupt) and has filed for business bankruptcy many times. He has no political record to speak of and so he has a political clean slate. He can say whatever he wants to do if he becomes president without having to back it up with previous track records or explaining his political decisions.

Hillary Clinton has no such luxuries, she has a long record of votes and political decisions that she must explain and defend, starting with her days as this country’s First Lady. She supported her husband’s punitive welfare and criminal justice reform, which 20 years later show that the most affected are people of color. One out of every four Black man today can expect to be incarcerated during some time in his life. The welfare reforms gutted the most essential social services to the most vulnerable populations in this country many of them women and children. The Yes vote for the invasion of Iraq, which haunted her during her 2008 bid for the White House, is based on false, made up, concocted intelligence of Iraq having weapons of mass destruction and the Saddam Hussein regime having ties to Al Qaeda. None of which were true. As Secretary of State, she sanctioned the destruction of Libya and the fueled proxy war in Syria. All of this is done in the name of destroying ISIS. ISIS is now the designated boogey man (after the death of Osama bin Laden) in which our national security is threatened so we must be very vigilant and militaristic with our enemies around the world.

Anybody who criticizes her foreign policies, her connections to Wall Street, or calls her a war criminal is disciplined and told that it’s an unfair sexist attack. Or short of that, they are patronized and told they don’t understand how dangerous the world is and how the world works. Her image as feminist who fights for human rights has been shattered. You cannot claim to fight for human rights when you bomb and destroy nations and those that suffer the most from the fallout are women and children. You cannot claim to be a feminist when one quarter of the donations for The Clinton Foundation is from Saudi Arabia, arguably one of the most abusive and repressive regimes against women in the world. You cannot claim to be a feminist or a human rights activist when you allow Saudi Arabia to bomb Yemeni civilians and starve Yemeni children for oil and money. Clinton’s interventions in the internal affairs of Honduras has caused a failed state where right wing military thugs rule the country. The fact that she would consider Henry Kissinger a friend and mentor should raise serious blood soaked red flags.

But right now, we are told by the elites that we must not be childish and hold on to these grudges because we have a more important danger in our midst, in the form of an orange clown with small hands who tends to talk out of his rear end. This is our real enemy right now. This is who we are supposed to be afraid of; not the trigger happy former Secretary of State responsible for destroying at least two sovereign states and destabilized several more. Those Sanders supporters who refuse to fall in line with Hillary Clinton are privileged, spoiled and willfully sabotaging the candidacy of the first woman president.

Electing a woman to the highest office in the land is a milestone, a shattering of a once thick and impenetrable glass ceiling, which given the patriarchal structure of our society, is a monumental effort; but it must not be confused with political revolution. Electing a woman as president of the United States will usher in the progressive change voters want only if the right woman is elected. Just like electing the first Black president Barack Obama didn’t usher in a time of post-racial harmony in America; one can argue the opposite happened.

Many countries have already reached this milestone: Dilma Rousseff of Brazil, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner of Argentina, Indira Gandhi was the Prime Minister of India, the world’s largest democracy, Pakistan also previously elected woman Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, Bangladesh is currently governed by a woman Sheikh Hasina right now, the United Kingdom has produced two female Prime Ministers with Theresa May’s recent ascension to the position after the ousting of David Cameron and the fact that she has no children and how that might affect her style governance was still brought up in the year 2016. In Brazil and Argentina, abortion is still illegal and punishable with jail sentence; women in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh to all intents and purposes are still second class citizens, especially women who reside in Tribal areas ruled by the Taliban. Electing a female head of state didn’t emancipate these women on a large scale. In traditional societies like Pakistan and Bangladesh; their fates are still determined by male members of their family with very little legal protection from the state.

For all of us who feel we have no stake in the discourse or outcome of this ghastly trainwreck of an election, all we have are our pens, our right to critique, debate, argue, to contradict, contrast, to speak out against the mass propaganda that is thrown at us. And on top of that, we have to wade through all the other dreck like The Atlantic article about the supposed flood of sexism and misogyny that’s about to come our way because of the possible elevation of Hillary Clinton as the President of the United States; which is really telling us that we should not criticize Hillary Clinton at all because women who don’t support other women deserve a special place in hell. In that case, I’ll tell Lucifer to save them a spot.

5 thoughts on “Resist the Distraction of ‘Sexism’ and ‘Misogyny’ Accusations

  1. Great essay. Two points I loved: First, that Clinton is incredibly lucky to be up against the Donald! It’s hard to imagine a more adept political opponent not trouncing her as she becomes increasingly embattled with scandal after scandal. Second, you correctly debunk the fallacy that the election of female leaders indicates or leads to improved status of women in a given country. Pakistan and India, as you wrote, have both had female PMs and yet honor killings of women persist. Well done.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. This election and mostly the policing of the public discourse gets so out of hand that it’s frustrating. Those who mock her age and appearance are disgusting, but those that take every criticism and attack on her policies and decisions as to be sexist is the opposite side of that same coin.


  2. I think we’re likely to see a repeat of the Obama years when the Koch brothers spent a fortune making sure criticism of Obama was framed in a racist, conspiratorial way. I also think they’re going to try it again because they think they’ll get away with it this time. Hillary is less charismatic.

    We’re dealing with two kinds of identity politics/false consciousness.

    1.) White nationalism/racism/misogyny

    2.) Neoliberal political correctness

    They’re actually not in conflict. They enhance each other. So we’re going to get another onslaught I think of a Tea Party style reaction/false consciousness from the right to put criticism of Hillary’s neoliberal, anti-worker politics in a sexist frame the way they put it into a racist frame under Obama. Look for the sexist equivalent of bitherism. At the same time I think we’re going to get a much more explicit campaign from the White House to frame the pushback in terms of identity, not class.

    How do you criticize Clintonism while at the same time not falling back into reactionary (and sexist) language? Well, I think we need to continue the class based politics hinted at by the Sanders campaign. But I also think we have to find away around the often successful attempts by the Clinton people during the primary to shut down the discussion of class/economics using liberal identity politics.

    It’s not going to be easy. These people have a lot of money and power. But I do think the way to overcome the attacks that Bernie was subjected to is to get more radical, not more conservative. Bernie’s weaknesses came from his refusal to challenge empire and militarism. We need to be explicitly anti-war and anti-imperialist. We also need to imagine a genuinely radical alternative, not just nostalgia for the New Deal and FDR (or Scandinavia).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Numbers 1 & 2 do not contradict each other at all, they enhance each other, it’s perfect for shutting down the ‘real debate’. Establishment Democrats will demand that those who don’t support HRC to fall in line especially when the GOP start to get nasty like the Koch Brothers did with Obama. And you are right, HRC won’t handle this well, she won’t know how to make light of it, she won’t have clever jokes and comebacks like Obama did. Obama tried his best to not play the race card when it was clearly about race but HRC will have a hard time not saying ‘you’d never say this to me if I were a man.’ – it takes a great amount of self control.

      Re: How do you criticize Clintonism while at the same time not falling back into reactionary (and sexist) language? Well, I think we need to continue the class based politics hinted at by the Sanders campaign. But I also think we have to find away around the often successful attempts by the Clinton people during the primary to shut down the discussion of class/economics using liberal identity politics.

      One can start by focusing just on the issues and not the person/candidate (in this case Hillary Clinton). My saying that’s she’s not a real feminist isn’t based on how I feel about her personally, it’s based on her total disregard for women and children in the Third World and those actions are backed up with policies she endorsed and helped carry out. Neoliberals do not want us to talk about the issues class and race we face today is really due to an unjust system and it’s the system that’s rotten not just the people that participate in it. It’s rotten beyond reform, it needs to be dismantled and rebuilt, – if we do, their whole house of cards falls, their whole ‘identitarian ideology’ fails. When it’s pointed out to them that it’s capitalism and the basic structure of our political system is unjust then all the charges of all kinds of ‘privileges’ start coming out. Sanders may not have been radical enough, but he was onto something when he focused his campaign on economic inequality and how the system that allows this inequality is what’s causing all the other problems in society.

      re: But I do think the way to overcome the attacks that Bernie was subjected to is to get more radical, not more conservative.
      Yes – with Obama, everyone – including his voters wanted to protect him, so they got behind him even as he was selling us out to the Republicans. Voters felt a collective sense of we must stand behind the president we elected and chose, except he sold us out anyway. I don’t think it will happen again this time, first of all, she isn’t as popular as Obama was during any time in his candidacy and presidency, people don’t have that good will towards Hillary Clinton like they did towards Obama.

      Liked by 1 person

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