POLITICS

Hillary Hate: Making Sexism Acceptable

05/25/2008 05:12 am 05:12:06 | Updated May 25, 2011

Two great op-eds in the Washington Post yesterday, on the presumptive Hillary Clinton post-mortem: Misogyny I Won't Miss by Marie Cocco and Belittled Woman by Libby Copeland. Both women make the point that dislike and opposition of Hillary Clinton has been expressed in a multitude of sexist ways, sometimes shockingly so. Is it Hillary? Is it sexism? And why are people so stubbornly resistant to allowing that sexism might have been part of this campaign? (By "people" I mean those who insist that there are plenty of reasons to hate Hillary Clinton that have nothing to do with being a woman, and that there are plenty of reasons she (presumptively) lost the nomination that have nothing to do with that, either. (See a collection of them here.) My response is usually that while there are definitely legitimate reasons to dislike/disagree with Clinton, the expression of that dislike is what has so often taken sexist form). For those of you who still doubt, see what Copeland and Cocco have to say about it.

First Copeland:

There is something about that woman -- that woman! -- that refuses to bend, and something about a large portion of this country that despises her for it. The person who once conjured a vast right-wing conspiracy now refuses to exit a race she's almost surely lost, and it Drives. People. Crazy.

"Poor Hillary" is their response, an attempt at death by condescension. "Poor Hillary" means Clinton finally is being brought low (she is forever being brought low, isn't she?), the know-everything who tries so hard but never gets enough votes to be class president.

..."Poor Hillary" speaks volumes about an old truth: Clinton's wounds have always defined her. The haters are always on the lookout for her comeuppance, and the lovers love her more for what she has endured. The women who turn out to see Clinton holler for her to stick it out, tell her they like her grit

Copeland concludes by wondering: "Is it about her womanhood? Or is it about this woman? Is that a false distinction?" Cocco, for her part, thinks it's something that's being wondered far too late in this campaign, and by far too few people.

Cocco reels off a list of things she won't miss once Hillary is gone: Hillary nutcrackers (with stainless steel thighs!), "Bros Before Hos" shirts, comparisons to crazy bunny boiling stalkers, anti-Hillary groups with vulgar acronyms, comparisons to first wives and scolding mothers, whores and bitches. Says Cocco:

I won't miss reading another treatise by a man or woman, of the left or right, who says that sexism has had not even a teeny-weeny bit of influence on the course of the Democratic campaign. To hint that sexism might possibly have had a minimal role is to play that risible "gender card."

Most of all, I will not miss the silence.

I will not miss the deafening, depressing silence of Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean or other leading Democrats, who to my knowledge (with the exception of Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland) haven't publicly uttered a word of outrage at the unrelenting, sex-based hate that has been hurled at a former first lady and two-term senator from New York. Among those holding their tongues are hundreds of Democrats for whom Clinton has campaigned and raised millions of dollars. Don Imus endured more public ire from the political class when he insulted the Rutgers University women's basketball team.

Would the silence prevail if Obama's likeness were put on a tap-dancing doll that was sold at airports? Would the media figures who dole out precious face time to these politicians be such pals if they'd compared Obama with a character in a blaxploitation film? And how would crude references to Obama's sex organs play?

There are many reasons Clinton is losing the nomination contest, some having to do with her strategic mistakes, others with the groundswell for "change." But for all Clinton's political blemishes, the darker stain that has been exposed is the hatred of women that is accepted as a part of our culture.

Two smart op-eds from two perceptive women. I hope someone forwards them to Maureen Dowd.

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