Let me be as candid and transparent as possible: I was a very strong supporter of Bernie Sanders, and until the past four weeks, held out great hope that he would become our next President. Over the course of the past month, I have had to do a great deal of reflecting and ask myself where does this seemingly irrational antipathy for Hillary Clinton come from? Why have I participated in it? After doing some research and looking hard at systemic misogyny, I have had to confront myself with the truth that I bought into a narrative about Hillary Clinton that has been produced, packaged, and perpetuated by mostly the GOP with the help of many democrats and independents.
This narrative is a 30-year-old vilification of a woman who is bright, independent, wealthy and powerful -- a woman who asks for what she wants and needs. How very dare you, Ms. Clinton? How dare you have a mind of your own? How dare you be bright and powerful? How dare you ask for what you want and need? Don't you know these rights are still exclusively for white, Christian, cisgender, able-bodied, heterosexual men?
My research indicates that the reality -- the facts (I realize facts are immaterial when talking to many Trump supporters) -- are that Hillary Clinton is one of the most honest politicians tracked by the Pulitzer Prize winning fact-checking project Politifact. I would also call upon Jill Abramson's piece in the Guardian. Most of you probably know Abramson from the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times. Abramson writes:
As an editor I've launched investigations into her business dealings, her fundraising, her foundation and her marriage. As a reporter my stories stretch back to Whitewater. I'm not a favorite in Hillaryland. That makes what I want to say next surprising. Hillary Clinton is fundamentally honest and trustworthy.
Members of the press, in their misguided attempt to be "balanced", love to point out that we face a presidential contest between the two least-popular candidates ever. What they fail to do is analyze their own complicity in blindly adhering to the cartoon version of Hillary Clinton. Trump is unpopular -- even with many Republicans who weakly support him -- because of his stated positions. Secretary Clinton is unpopular largely because of an aggressive campaign of fictions and slander. That campaign has succeeded largely because of systemic misogyny.
Journalist Michael Arnovitz points out in his article "Thinking About Hillary-A Plea for Reason" (I strongly recommend his piece) that propaganda around Hillary's "dishonest" nature stems from the pablum written by conservative writer William (I can't be concerned with facts or evidence) Safire. Safire wrote the 1996 article Blizzard of Lies in which he vilifies and demonizes Hillary as a "congenital liar" without any evidence to support his claims. (How's that for irony?) What I find profoundly sad is how quickly and how easily I -- and so many Americans -- bought into this false and misogynistic narrative. This tragically illustrates how systemic sexism/misogyny is: how it is in the water we drink, the air we breathe, in every fiber we wear.
In fact, most of the resistance to Hillary initially was about how "smug" she was in pushing that "Universal Health Care" agenda. How dare she want all people to have health insurance-why that means that health care is a community health problem-there she goes again, with a mind of her own! Furthermore, apparently she was not behaving as a First Lady should. What the hell is that? How should a First Lady behave? The intense misogyny is too overwhelming to ignore here, and sadly, we are all implicated in this system of oppression. Just this past June, Hillary was shredded by the media for the Armani jacket she wore. Really? The day she was announced as the Democratic Nominee for President, it was a picture of her husband that made the front page of the paper. This is some intense sexism at work. Did anyone ask what Bill Clinton was wearing and who designed it?
Sadly, any time there is a claim of sexism at play, people roll their eyes as though such a thing does not exist, because women, women of color, people of color, LGBT folk, all of the intersecting identities of all targeted communities are always under suspicion. We are disbelieved disproportionately for asking to be treated the same way our white, heterosexual, Christian, cisgender counterparts are treated. All of a sudden being treated equally becomes "special rights." So say those within the dominant narrative and power structure.
While I have never been a fan of David Brooks, he actually was able to offer some reflection and repair work on Friday's NPR commentary with E.J. Dionne. Brooks made the claim that Hillary is too guarded (why wouldn't she be?). Kudos to E.J. Dionne for pointing out the double standard to Brooks, that he would not make the same claim about a male candidate for President. Brooks connected and agreed that this was a sexist statement.
What I find profoundly sad is the blatant double standard of how we individually and collectively punish women who seek power, as opposed to how we reward men for the same ambition. As Arnovitz notes in his article:
What I see is that the public view of Hillary Clinton does not seem to be correlated to "scandals" or issues of character or whether she murdered Vince Foster. No, the one thing that seems to most negatively and consistently affect public perception of Hillary is any attempt by her to seek power. Once she actually has that power her polls go up again. But whenever she asks for it her numbers drop like a manhole cover...Even NBC news, looking back over decades of their own polls, stated that, "she's struggled to stay popular when she's on the campaign trail." If this has nothing to do with gender, then wouldn't the same thing happen to men when they campaign? But it doesn't. Why not?
When I try to ask people for specific examples of why they "hate" Hillary, or how has she been dishonest, all I get is "everyone knows she is," or "that's just the way I feel." These two answers are problematic in so many ways. Regardless, this sentiment is testament to how effective the messaging/propaganda from Republicans has been over the past two decades. All I am asking is this: can we slow down and think critically and not accept without caution or question what is presented to us as the narrative of Hillary Clinton? Can we also allow for the fact that she has made mistakes and more importantly that she grows and learns from her mistakes.
I know I have gone from a true supporter of Bernie Sanders to an apathetic supporter of Hillary to now an excited and enthusiastic supporter of our first female President. It's certainly true that she isn't as progressive a candidate as I would like. Neither was Bernie and his stand on guns. Neither is absurd long-shot Jill Stein and her strange anti-science positions. That's the reality of American politics in 2016.
I truly believe that Hillary and her platform are beneficial to targeted communities: people of color, people in poverty, people with disabilities, veterans, LGBTQ people, and all of the intersecting identities thereof. She is a hard-working, fundamentally honest person for whom -- as she so nicely framed it -- "the service part has always come easier than the public part." I welcome people's input here. All I ask is that you put in check any misogynistic comments and please have evidence to support your assertions.
Every election matters, but this one has even deeper resonance than most. Please remember to vote!
This piece originally appeared on Social Justice for All.
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