03/31/2008 05:57 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Calling "These People" Out: More On the Increasingly Tiresome -- And Dangerous -- Obama/Clinton Divide

As I do from time-to-time here on Huffington Post, I am turning over the keys to another insightful and mouthy woman. Meet Victoria

Calling "These People" Out: More on the Increasingly Tiresome -- And Dangerous -- Obama/Clinton Divide

By Victoria Marinelli

Recently at Reclusive Leftist, I cringed to read this (not only offensive, but bizarre) characterization of Obama supporters:

Every time I see one of this week's Obamabot-supplied headlines ("the stupid bitch has no chance so why doesn't she just quit?" or words to that effect) I picture the 'bots stomping around and snorting. Boo! Boo! Wooga wooga!

[emphasis added; why not use the actual words, which I'm sure were sufficiently sexist that they'd merit being criticized explicitly and specifically?]

Boo! Boo! And: wooga, wooga, indeed.

In the past, I've confronted statements like these on feminist blogs in a comparatively distanced way. But Violet, the blogger behind Reclusive Leftist, is someone I've been reading for years, and her words matter to me in a way that I can't just dismiss. So, after letting some past statements (e.g., her call for "Obamabots" to, from within their so called "padded room[s]" for the "fucking insane" to "calm down, take a Xanax, shoot some smack," etc.) go without a direct response, I finally had to leave this comment expressing my offense that "the entirety of my political consciousness [had] been reduced to cultist, robot-like utterances..." adding that I hoped after the general election, we ("whoever 'we' are at this point") would "be able to move forward in some credibly progressive fashion," following which time I hoped to be able to read her blog again, "without every other line feeling like the rhetorical equivalent of a knife twisting in my gut."

She responded, in part:

I'm sorry, Victoria, but it's kind of like we always say to the men who become irate whenever they see a post about men's propensity to commit domestic violence or rape: if it doesn't apply to you, then it doesn't apply to you.

(So now I'm the election-year equivalent of defensive dudes saying "but I don't personally rape women"? Okay...)

And while I vowed that I wasn't going back there to read any new posts until after the general election (219 days from now! But who's counting...), I did select the option to receive follow-up comments by email. So it was that tonight I got notice of my friend Lost Clown's reply to the same thread:

I posted a link to the article [to which Violet had been responding] on my post [here], though with a long intro calling for people like you... to publicly call these people out, b/c everytime I say something about their rampant misogyny I am written off for being a Hillbot. Because you're not one of the misogynist cultish followers like those Violet mentioned.

First, I want to say a very sincere thank you to Lost Clown. For the above and for so many other reasons (for instance, this hilarious comment), I will always have her back.

Second, I have since spent hours working on a comment in response to hers, until finally I acquiesced to the necessity of yet another election-themed blog post.

So here it is. Note that in this post's title, my accentuating of "these people" in her call for "people like [me] to publicly call these people out," my point is that I'm more than a little concerned about both Obama's and Clinton's supporters' use of phrases like these in describing advocates for opposing candidates; not one of us is immune to the divisive forces that are perniciously tearing us apart.

Obama himself characterized this situation best, back in 2004, when he said:

Yet even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us, the spin masters and negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of anything goes. Well, I say to them tonight, there's not a liberal America and a conservative America - there's the United States of America. There's not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there's the United States of America. The pundits like to slice-and-dice our country into Red States and Blue States; Red States for Republicans, Blue States for Democrats.

...So too, the pundits would like to see (and, sadly, are now seeing) women tearing each other apart, in this election season, within variously productive and destructive discourses of identity politics. So I would posit that we are all, indeed, "these people" - who must confront, and be confronted about, all the varieties of hatred that unnecessarily divide us from each other.

So, while the following reads like a letter to one particular pro-Clinton feminist, I mean it also as an open letter to all of us, feminists and progressives in particular, as we confront all the thorny matters of identity and ambition that lie at the heart of the Obama/Clinton divide.


Dear Lost Clown,

Regarding your comment: "calling for people like you (and arbitrista) to publicly call these people out..."

For the record, I've been doing that all along. From Yes We Can (do anything): On the elections, feminism, and our future (March 17, 2008):

When this primary season is over, the feminists and progressives I'll be first to trust will be, among Obama supporters: those who explicitly, and without qualification, opposed this season's sexist bias against Clinton, and, among Clinton supporters: those who just as adamantly protested racist bias against Obama. (Not clear on the horrific amount of bias directed at both candidates? These examples were collected from only one source, and only during the month of February, but are quite illustrative.)

From Nope, nothing to do with race/ethnicity at all (March 2, 2008):

This post is intended as complementary to, and not in contradiction with, Reclusive Leftist's recent post, Nope, nothing to do with gender at all. Because the specifically racist and sexist bias, as evidenced in media coverage of both Senators Obama and Clinton respectively, has been enormous, and is seriously offensive to me, particularly given my burning desire to prevent, at all costs, the Bush-legacy-furthering travesty that would be a McCain presidency.

From On Clinton playing the "Terror Card" (January 9, 2008):

...There's been a lot of discussion in the feminist blogosphere about the media's sexist treatment of the candidate, and I'm quite glad for that. Because it is, of course, some seriously offensive bullshit, and while Clinton is not, at present, my first choice for the Democratic Party's Presidential nomination, I'm damn sure not going to act like that's okay...

Later in the same post, after expressing my criticism of Clinton's invocation of an all-too-familiar Republican meme (namely, the less than subtle hint that "Al-Qaeda's gonna getcha if you don't vote for ____"), I refer to coverage of that story by Keith Olbermann:

...Who has not, alas, always been a beaming example of anti-sexist journalism (to say nothing of his asswipe colleague Chris Matthews; visit the fine folks at Tennessee Guerrilla Women for much, much more)...

And the above is, of course, just a drive-by sampling of criticisms I've made on my own blog 1; I've been relent less in condemning the sexist attacks on Clinton not only online (on my blog and on others'), but also in my local community. And I'm hardly alone.

It seems to me that the characterization that I am more alone than not in taking this principled position, is part and parcel of the usual slander about disproportionate "cultishness" among Obama's supporters. In fact, I've seen ridiculously offensive behavior on the part of both candidates' supporters, arguably "cultish" in quality. I will neither lower myself to participate in it2, nor pretend it isn't happening, on both sides.

For every fool who points to all the nakedly obvious instances of racism in the campaign, as if that were evidence that the sexism of the same campaign is somehow non-existent or inconsequential, there is another fool on the opposite side, pointing to incidents of sexism in an effort to disprove the existence or significance of the racism (here's one example; I could, of course, furnish hundreds more if I wanted to make that my full-time job). Either position is, of course, absurd; these are not mutually exclusive biases. Rather, these are systems of oppression that (obviously) serve to divide progressives from each other, in ways that break my heart more with each passing day.

Incidentally, if you know of any ardent Clinton supporters who have persistently and passionately maintained a specific awareness of the extent of the racism in this campaign -- not as something secondary to the sexism against Clinton, but as something equally pernicious -- kindly point me to them. I'm assuming such supporters do exist; when I find them, I'd like to start a joint petition of Obama and Clinton supporters "explicitly and without qualification" opposing both the sexism and the racism we have seen against both candidates. Please note that I am completely sincere in this; for all I know someone is already doing this, and I simply have yet to be connected with them.

Because I am nothing if not a hopeful feminist.

1 Could I have done more? Obviously, but: (a) I am a human being with finite resources and time, and (b) I never intended that my blog should become entirely engulfed by political matters. Each post I write on the election, I die a little, which is to say that the book I am supposed to be working on right now is not getting done, and my daughters get less attention from me than is optimal, even if we do have viable teaching moments (e.g. this rally, where one of my daughters carried signs for Hillary, and the other wore her shirt in support of Obama) along the way.

2 Which is not to say that I haven't had my own less-than-angelic moments during this season, in which I have, indeed, generated more heat than light.

Victoria Marinelli writes about such diverse topics as feminism, poetry and heavy metal at her blog, the peculiarly titled Anachroclysmic ("suspiciously tolerant of ambiguity"), while raising two fabulous daughters and (lesbian tattoo from 1992 notwithstanding) enjoying marriage to a perfectly lovely man in Richmond, Virginia.

Meanwhile Erin Kotecki Vest of Queen of Spain Blog is waiting for Arianna to revoke her posting privileges as she continuously hands over the keys to the shop.