Thursday, January 26, 2017

Throwback Thursday: Clinton and 2008 Misogyny

This post is a sort of meta, but I'm old enough to remember that the misogyny thrown at Hillary Clinton in Election 2016 was similar to when she ran in 2008.

Hop in the DeLorean and let's take a trip back in time, shall we?

First, The Feminist Law Professors' Ann Bartow, in her 2008 piece "The Sexism in the Democratic Primary," has a rundown of the misogyny Clinton experienced that year. Reading through it, geeeez, the misogyny was (ironically) so shrill, so overt, and so very emotionally fragile. This was before phrases like "SJW," "alt-right," and "cuck" entered the Internet lexicon. It was a simpler, kinder time.

Ha ha, just kidding. George W. Bush had just been President for 8 years. It was awful!

For instance, I had forgotten that Hillary Clinton was made to publicly deny that she was a lesbian and that one of her 2008 version of "email server" controversies was that she teared up during a speech (lock her up!). In Bartow's piece, Echidne was quoted with an observation:
"But if you read widely on this topic on blogs you will find that even many feminists have this view that the sexism is not really deplorable, because Hillary Clinton really is a monster bitch."
(Props to predicting "deplorable" 8 years ago!)

Sadly, I recognize some of that buying-into of the "monster bitch" caricature in my 8-years-ago self. My feminist consciousness was less developed then. I was less critical of what I was hearing. I wrote several posts back then noting instances of sexism aimed at Clinton but did not come out strongly supporting her over Barack Obama.

To quote Sarah Paulson's famous Emmy speech about having unfairly judged Marcia Clark, "...I, along with the rest of the world, had been superficial and careless in my judgment." I'm ashamed and sorry I didn't or say enough to counter it back then. Looking back, I can say that watching what Clinton experienced did, I believe, turn out to be formative to my ongoing development as a feminist.

I recognized much of this uncritical acceptance of the Hillary "the monster bitch" meme in many young women in 2016, particularly some I interacted with or saw on Twitter who uncritically bought in the notion that Bernie Sanders was something of a saint compared to Clinton.

Some of these people truly believed that Trump and Clinton were both just as bad as one another. And now? They sure are gonna see. We're all gonna see. That's, perhaps, the tragedy of it. How could this happen, but for some seriously-unexamined misogyny?

I try not too think too much about the alternative universe where Madam President is diligently working for us - protecting reproductive rights, not cutting violence against women programs, celebrating diversity, some people on the left still calling her a neolib and telling us Trump would have been better (ha ha).....lord, where do you even stop?

But, hopping back in our DeLorean, Historiann also wrote a 2008 piece that's interesting to read today, entitled, "Hark! A Voice From the Future, Today:"
"In many ways, the misogyny directed at Hillary Clinton this year–the blowback of which will probably be felt by women in all walks of life for years to come in thousands of discouraging ways–is part of an old story best documented by Bob Somerby at The Daily Howler.  Somerby has been on the case of the insular corporate media since 1999, when he noticed the power of the preferred media narrative about Al Gore’s candidacy for the Presidency, and its curious imperviousness to the facts.  And as Somerby points out regularly–you’ll never see or hear the media tell the truth about its own role in shaping our political and cultural discourses."
She notes that many people, including liberals and Democrats, were bystanders to or active participants in the spreading and acceptance of vicious lies about Clinton. (+ note the mansplainy condescending comments following the post - how familiar those look!).

In 2016, the media certainly had a preferred narrative about Clinton: She's hiding Serious Wrongdoing in the Emails, with the implication that Trump is right to call her Crooked Hillary. Both sides are therefore Just The Same.

What I believe helped lead to her primary and general popular vote win, however, are two factors:

(1) Social media usage for candidates, pundits, and voters was likely much greater in Election 2016 than 2008, meaning more people were exposed to messaging other than that of mainstream media sources; and (2) Many Clinton supporters, and feminists in particular, used social media, blogs, and larger media platforms to confront misogynistic tropes leveled at Clinton, probably to a greater degree than what we saw in 2008.

In a dark way, I suppose it is progress that, this time, it took misogyny, racism, xenophobia, anti-immigrant fear-mongering, Russian interference, hacking, Wikileaks, the media obsessively reporting on Hillary's email server, and assists from James Comey and Jill Stein to obtain a small electoral college win over the woman.

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