Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Saletan to Clinton: Stop Shouting

Perhaps you've heard about Hillary Clinton's recent remark, alluding to a previous remark made by Bernie Sanders in which he suggested that Clinton was "shouting" about gun reform. She responded:
“You know, I’ve been told to stop, and I quote, ‘shouting’ about gun violence. Well, first of all, I’m not shouting. It’s just [that] when women talk, some people think we’re shouting.”
To me, it's a reasonable response that speaks to many women's experiences, including my own, of offering an argument in a civil tone only to have it implied that my tone or state of mind was unreasonable, hysterical, shrill, angry, or otherwise too loud compared to my reasonable male opponent's.

I further believe that a man can say something sexist or that has sexist connotations without intending to and even if his policy positions regarding women's rights are otherwise in line with my own. Supporting women's rights does not make it impossible for a person to say or think sexist things. That should be elementary. But of course, it's not.

That's why William Saletan's reactionary piece in Slate completely misses the mark. He writes:
"Hillary Clinton has found a new wedge issue against Sen. Bernie Sanders. The topic is gun control, but the angle is gender. Clinton is framing Sanders as a sexist who accuses women of shouting when they try to speak up. It’s a lie. She’s manipulating women and abusing feminist anger for her own advantage.
It’s great that we’re more aware of bigotry than we used to be. But we should also beware false claims of bigotry: the race card, the sex card, the homophobia card."  
He then goes on to claim that Sanders' "record as a feminist" is just as good as Clinton's and that Clinton is just "smearing" him for her own advantage.


Saletan's is not a reasonable response. It's so reactionary, this reflexive, patronizing defense of Sanders, that it is the sort of thing that pushes me further into Clinton's corner, mostly because it evidences some serious male discomfort about a statement that was so .... tepid.  Clinton alluded to something Problematic that a man said without even using the dreaded words "sexist" or "misogynistic" and whoa boy Saletan reacts as though she's inflicted a human rights violation of the first order on Sanders by calling it out.

So too does Saletan deign to define reality - both with respect to Hillary Clinton's unknown state of mind ("It's a lie," he claims, because he somehow.... just.... knows... because um?) and with respect to what does and doesn't constitute authentic sexism, racism, and homophobia (which he's an expert on... because um?).

Yet, for all of Saletan's warning about "cards" that women, gays, and minorities "play" in order to, as he alleges, "smear" their opponents, the biggest move of all is when people like him throw down their Gaslight Card and proclaim, As the speaker of Objective Truth here, I define what's really racist, sexist, and homophobic, and what you just experienced isn't it. 

Because that's another important pattern too, isn't it?

Men can build careers on calling themselves courageous tellers of politically-incorrect "truths."  When they say things that are sexist, racist, or homophobic, they say they're just "telling it like it is." When women call out these things, they're seen as just playing games. Dishonoring the honorable reputations of good men. Fabricating stories for personal gain.

So, it is something big, for a prominent woman to use her authority and platform to speak a truth about Speaking While Female that many women know all too well.

I bet that Hillary Clinton, in her many years of speaking publicly while female, knows that many people react in predictable, unfortunate, and gendered ways when it is a woman speaking.  That Clinton will call this out, name it, and also deign to define reality in this way, I suspect is the real threat here, even to purportedly liberal and progressive men - certainly to conservatives and anti-feminists.

Finally, I will just note with cynicism that this particular conversation was originally about gun violence. This type of violence is predominately committed by men but that gendered aspect is rarely acknowledged in the mainstream. Men who kill are framed as lone wolves, "crazy," and so forth, and so their male-ness and their (often) misogyny and sexism is not widely acknowledged.  I wonder why that is.

The answer to that question is, perhaps, the saddest politically incorrect truth of all.

(Stop shouting).

What a world.

No comments: