Following the posting of my “Women On Top” campaign video for Hillary Clinton, my husband (who reads the internet and various blogs much more than I) remarked to me that he was shocked at some of the vitriolic and outright sexist comments directed towards Hillary Clinton. “Since when is it acceptable to call a woman a ‘cunt’ just because you disagree with her politics?” he asked. “Doesn’t the fact that the mainstream media can pretty much call Hillary a ‘bitch’ on prime time television belie the notion that we are a post-feminist society?” I guess I’m used to it, because none of this misogyny surprises me, but what really gets to me is that it goes unchecked.
When I wrote “Women On Top” a few years ago, I had in mind that I was trying to reach younger females who hadn’t grown up during the struggle for equal rights, as I did. I realized that there was a whole generation of women who took it for granted that they had the right to vote, the right to control over their own bodies (Roe v. Wade, 1973 – I was born in 1958), the right to work outside of the home and earn as much a male…well, we’re still fighting that one, aren’t we? The point I’m trying to make is that yes, we’ve come a long way, but there is still much further to go. And this year, we’ve seen what happens when a strong, intelligent and brave female dares to challenge the male dominated political hierarchy. In Pakistan, they just assassinate you outright. In the USA, we assassinate your character in the media.
Don’t get me wrong - I expect character assassination from the right; it’s one of their standard operating procedures. So when a McCain supporter refers to Hillary as “the bitch” or Rush Limbaugh calls her the “original Femi-Nazi,” I understand it. Republicans like to play hardball and they have never pretended to be the party of equal rights for women. But when bloggers on the so-called liberal site Daily Kos refer to Hillary Clinton as “Billary” or Obama supporters write in comments on YouTube stating that Hillary Clinton is a “whore” or a “cunt,” or when MSNBC anchor David Shuster states that the Clinton campaign “seems to be pimping out Chelsea” because she has chosen to support her mother’s candidacy by making public appearances (no one dared accuse W of pimping out his daughters when they did the same thing in 2004), I have to speak up. People (many of them claiming to be liberals and progressives) are taking a lot of liberty throwing around words like “cunt,” “bitch,” “whore” and speaking of pimping out one’s daughters, without anyone crying foul. Would we overlook racist, derogatory terms if they were becoming part of the political discussion? I don’t think so, but for some reason, we’ve decided it’s ok to use misogynistic words to describe women and particularly Hillary Clinton. I see this as part of a bigger problem we seem to have with how we define feminism and what images of femininity we are comfortable with.
One of the complaints about Hillary is that she is “too comfortable” in the male dominated arena of national politics (try to frame that as a disadvantage in a male context – bear in mind that Ms. Clinton has been a U.S. Senator for less than 8 years whereas the Republican frontrunner, John McCain has been a national representative for over 25 years – and if you don’t think McCain will play his experience for all its worth against Obama’s lack thereof, you have a hard lesson coming.) I found this commentary by Susan J. Douglas, professor of Communications at the University of Michigan, particularly telling: “Hillary, by contrast, seems to want to be more like a man in her demeanor and politics, makes few concessions to the social demands of femininity, and yet seems to be only a partial feminist. She seems above us, exempting herself from compromises women have to make every day, while, at the same time, leaving some of the basic tenets of feminism in the dust. We are sold out on both counts. In other words, she seems like patriarchy in sheep’s clothing.” By that logic, pioneering female aviator Amelia Earhart would have kept her feet firmly on the ground and early suffragette and abolitionist Lucy Stone would have just shut up and sat down. No truly great women have ever stopped to worry about “making concessions to the social demands of femininity,” let alone the “basic tenets of feminism” which, in my opinion can be boiled down to the maxim that women are the equals of men. By my standards, Hillary Clinton has never betrayed her femininity or feminism.
The Republicans and the Fox News clones have done such a great hatchet job since the whole Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky scandal broke that many people now regard the entire Clinton administration as a dark age for our country, when nothing could be further from the truth. Younger voters may not remember that Bill Clinton turned the largest federal debt in history into the largest budget surplus in history during his two terms in office and presided over the longest peace-time period of economic expansion in American history. When he left office, he had the highest voter approval rating for an outgoing President since FDR: 65%. This, despite being impeached by a Republican controlled House of Representatives. So when someone tells you, “eight years of one Clinton was enough,” remember that those were eight relatively great years for this country.
It’s important for me to note that I have no animosity towards Barack Obama, who seems to be a very decent and earnest individual. It’s just that I much prefer Hillary Clinton for a number of reasons, chief of which is that Hillary is a fighter and has been battle tested. She’s hated by the Republicans for a reason - she is not afraid to take them on and fight them in hand to hand combat. If anyone still believes that the neo-conservative stranglehold on this country can be wished away by pretty speeches and a lot of people holding “HOPE” signs, I say it’s time to think again. I for one am absolutely fed up with the Republican party and what they have done to our country, our economy and our rights over the past eight years and I am not in the mood to “unite” with most of them. I am fairly certain that the feeling is mutual, so I don’t buy the unification slogan. I want a President who can kick some ass in D.C. and get things done, the Democratic way. I want Dirty Harriett – no, make that Dirty Hillary!
Give ‘em hell, Hillary!