Note: This post does not attempt to convince you to vote for any particular person.
Over the last few weeks the political circus has reached a pace so fast and loud that it is dizzying. Attack ads on the television, blog posts and newspaper articles online, friends talking and arguing with each other. . . it’s all starting to make my head hurt. I love following politics, especially during presidential election years. I love listening to the different points of view, considering what kind of people (not class, kind) would vote for which candidates. I almost always know exactly who I will be voting for within a hot second of candidates announcing themselves, and it only takes me a few minutes longer than that to make my reasons coherent.
I love reading about this stuff, watching the news, listening to NPR coverage of events and results. I enjoy conversations with people about their points of view, whether or not they align with mine. I think dialogue is integral to both democracy and true understanding of the issues. I usually care more about the respect involved in the conversation than the actual point of view shared (with a few exceptions. Basic human decency and a lack of bigotry are required). I was raised to have points of view of my own, to discuss them openly, to ask questions, and to try to make the most informed decision that I can.
All this brings me to the point of this post, and the reason that my blood has been boiling more often than not for the last week: feminism.
Yeah, ok, this is yet another post-Steinem and Albright feminist post.
Part of what has prompted me to seriously consider feminism and what it means to me were the horribly badly planned and misguided comments by these two incredible women. They proved that even the most idealistic and determined advocates make mistakes. I am terribly disappointed in them, but I also do not believe that they are forever discredited. This situation is not what really started me thinking though. What started me contemplating feminism, and how rife with conflict the whole movement is, is Hillary Clinton.
Since the beginning of primary season, let’s say since last summer, I have been trying to understand why people are so anti-Hillary. While I understand certain reservations about her, the most constant complaint has been “She’s so sleazy. I don’t trust her. How could I, after those emails and Benghazi and ohmygoodness I can’t trust a woman who would stay with her husband after a situation like that!” Instead of listing actual problems with her stance on issues, like they would with a male candidate (and I hear an awful lot on that front about Bernie), people bring up her personal life and actions that have been proven to be in the public sphere because the far right wanted to discredit her. I don’t know about you, but those don’t seem like real reasons. In fact, they have nothing to do with policy or qualifications.
They have to do with how people view women.
When, in 2007, it was announced that the Bush administration had used email accounts through the RNC (a probably misguided but not illegal thing to do), there was no big scandal. The news hit the cycle, and people basically shrugged it off. They had used the wrong email accounts, emails were lost, and it was in conjunction with the surprise firing of U.S. Attorneys. There was no major media backlash. Sure, it was 2007 and the great internet machine had not fully reached the roar that it is at today, but just looking at the coverage from major media outlets and newspapers is proof enough. It was given a nod, it was a minor hiccup, and it was done.
Now, compare that to how people responded to the Clinton email issues. As the article I linked to above points out, the brewhaha surrounding Clinton was not about legality. It was a political stunt aimed at discrediting her. And as much as I would like to think that people can and would see through that, it appears I am wrong.
People, both men and women, feminists and not, are eager to dismiss Clinton as “scary” and “untrustworthy” and “fake” because of actions totally typical in American politics. Not that political wordplay is ok, but when men do it it’s not hauled out on the mat for a beating. When men pander they are rebuked for it, people dismiss them, but that’s that. The only pandering I have seen that caused anything close to this sort of commotion was Mitt Romney in the 2012 election, when he couldn’t keep track of what he believed in. And even then it was more comical than a breach of trust.
While trying to process all of this I have witnessed friends falling into the sexism inherent in the anti-Hillary camp. I don’t care if you agree with her or not, if you would vote for her or not touch her with a ten foot pole. All I care about is that people treat her with the same respect they would treat a man. The fact that she is where she is today is incredible. She is of an age where her accomplishments are extraordinary. As much as women my age feel like we have to work hard to scramble through life because of men ignoring us, women Hillary’s age had to fight even more. She is an impressive figure, and I applaud her tenacity and persistence. The people shouting anti-Hillary rhetoric the loudest are the people who base their opinion in sexism. Instead of realizing that they don’t trust her because we as a society do not trust outspoken, strong, “ambitious” women, they claim they don’t trust her because of emails. Instead of acknowledging that her thorough entrenchment in DC politics is because she is excellent at politics as it is done in America, people say she is terribly untrustworthy simply because she is a politician. And yes, politicians have a penchant for not saying what they actually mean and not following through, but that is a common problem. She is no worse than the rest for that.
I have read several articles about feminism and Hillary Clinton today, but two of them resonated with me. One is pro-Hillary, one is pro-Bernie. Both are respectful, pertinent, and fervently feminist. Both understand that not everyone agrees with that point of view, yet both refuse to back down from their stance. But, most importantly, both amplify just how ridiculous it is to be anti-Hillary because she isn’t trustworthy. She comes across as not trustworthy because she is good at what she does. Good for her. She is incredibly successful.
It makes me sad when I see people declaring they will never support Hillary Clinton for reasons that are so quantifiably not reasons. Say you don’t like that she supported the Patriot Act, say you don’t like the Iran sanctions, say you don’t think her plan for making college affordable is feasible.
But please, for the love of all that is holy, don’t say it’s because of the damn emails.