Destroying Feminism

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Feminism

I said a few weeks ago that if second-wave feminism weren’t already dead, Hillary Clinton’s campaign would have killed it. And may I say it was exactly this sort of self-absorbed whining that strangled feminism lo those many years ago.

Yes, Hillary Clinton got hit by a lot of really ugly sexism, but it wasn’t why she lost the nomination. If anything, the sympathy vote was her biggest asset. And it would be really great if people could just address the sexism issue without wrapping themselves in the gloriously self-indulgent mantle of victimhood. I could also do without the self-pity, the score-settling, and the denial of Clinton’s own bad behavior during the primaries. Thanks much.

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23 Comments

23 Comments

  1. marilyn  •  Jul 2, 2008 @9:45 am

    Amen to that. I was orginially leaning towards Clinton until her sense of entitlement took over, and then of course there was Bill.
    As much as I would have liked to see a woman run and win the Presidency, she was not the one.
    Hillary in the end brought her self down.

  2. wonkie  •  Jul 2, 2008 @10:31 am

    Yeah. I read that post, too. And so, because I came to the conclusioin that I didn’t like her much as a person, that means that I am either a sexist or a dupe for media bias. Melissa doesn’t seem to hve any concpetion of how rude she is too half the Democratic party.

    I guess if one starts with the assumption that Hillary, because she is female, is beyond criticism and was entitled to the nomination, then the reasoning of Melissa and her commenters makes sense. However if one is not the deep into either hero worship or identity politics, her inability to distinguish media sexism from the dozens of valid reasons Deomcrats might have to either reject Clinton or support Obama looks paranoid and weird.

    Yeah the media was disgustingly sexist. In a fair world Chris Mathews would be fired. However the only way media bias could effect the ouutcome of the primary is by effecting voting behavior. And that means that those Clinton supporters who link sexism to her defeat are arguing that Obama supporters were either sexist or influenced by media sexism. Now Melissa is making this assumption explicit by labelling specific complaints about Clinton as sexist (and rightwing).

    Well I remember thinking one day about half way through the primary that some of the old rightwing memes about Clinton had some truth in them. I started out pro-Obama mostly because of he was right on the war and she was wrong, but also because he seemed to have a better grasp of current political realities, whereas she seemed mired in out of date conventional wisdoms that weren’t wise anymore. It wasn’t until she started promoting rightwing smears of Obama that I began to shift to feeling as much anti-Clinton as I was pro-Obama. Meliissa’s argument is that I didn’t come to my conclusion based on Clinton’s behavior. No, I am a closet sexist who was influenced by the sexist media! Gee, who’da thunk it? Fiffty five years old, a feminist since high school and turns out I’m a seixst pig!

    And Mellissa and the Shakers have absolutely no idea how rude they are being.

  3. maha  •  Jul 2, 2008 @10:59 am

    Melissa doesn’t seem to hve any concpetion of how rude she is too half the Democratic party.

    She’s having too much fun being Victim Princess.

    It’s a shame, because the sexism issue needs to be addressed, but it’s not going to be if the “advocates” are being assholes about it.

  4. felicity  •  Jul 2, 2008 @11:09 am

    thanks for the link to the Guardian article. If Hillary’s womanhood is her undoing, why is it that other women politicians have not suffered the same undoing. Take the case of blacks, foreinstance, who at one time were discriminated against enmasse because of their skin color, no matter their station in life. If it’s Hillary’s gender that accounts for the attacks on her, it would seem to follow that other politically famous women would suffer the same. Because they don’t, there’s got to be something else going on in Hillary’s case. What it is, I haven’t a clue.

  5. LongHairedWeirdo  •  Jul 2, 2008 @1:26 pm

    Well, this is one of those tricky issues for me.

    On the one hand, we really don’t know if sexism killed her campaign. It might be that, without the “ball breaker” jokes and talk about her “cackle” and so forth, that she would have eked out wins on Super Tuesday in so many states that she would have won the “momentum” victory she expected.

    I don’t want to downplay the role it played.

    On the other hand, we don’t know that sexism *did* kill her campaign. The fact of the matter is, she was running against a phenomenal politician with sensational organization abilities and a great deal of charisma. It’s awfully risky to claim it *did* kill her campaign if you can’t really show it.Then you do hit, as you say, victimhood.

    (Now, let me go check that link.)

    Herm. I don’t think that was historically accurate.

    Now, I didn’t follow the primary in the early portions. But, it seemed to me that, until Super Tuesday, the “inevitability” thing was going strong. I know that I felt “damn, it’s a sham that Obama isn’t going to really have a chance to win this.” There was no bitch/witch/cackle/Hitlery stuff going around. (Again, this is my memory, and I’ve admitted I’m not perfectly informed.)

    It seems to me that this stuff started when Obama won 11 primaries in a row. He had the momentum, and Hillary was on the ropes, and she started fighting back, hard and nasty. (NB: Not complaining, just making a semi-objective observation.) *THAT*, as far as I recall, is when the recycling of the old sexist Republican talking points started showing up.

    Now, *IF* that timeline is correct – Hillary started to lose, got nasty, and got nastiness thrown back at her, one shouldn’t read sexism into it.

    If it’s not – if there were folks throwing that particular color of mud early on – then I think folks should take a more serious look at the matter.

  6. shera  •  Jul 2, 2008 @3:36 pm

    I thought it was fairly obvious that the failure to organize in caucus states, and thus to amass the number of delegates needed to clinch the nomination was why Hillary Clinton is not the nominee. Of course, a campaign that wasn’t wallowing in self-pity and a misplaced sense of entitlement would have accepted sexism (particularly against Hillary Clinton) as a given and devised a strategy that could overcome it. Like competing at all in caucus states. Like encouraging the candidate to emphasize her best qualities – her engaging and warm nature, her formidable grasp of policy issues – rather than attacking Obama. Like not complimenting McCain at Obama’s expense. Like not shamelessly pandering on issues like the gas tax holiday.

    I was a regular reader of Shakesville during the primary, and stopped about halfway through. I find Melissa’s attitude during this election frustrating, and wonder why she’s so intent on being a surrogate victim for Hillary Clinton. Why do she and many so-called feminists seem to identify with Hillary because they see her solely as a victim (of her husband, of the vast right wing conspiracy, of the media, etc., etc.) than the accomplished woman that she is. Yes, she’s been treated awfully, but that’s not all she is, and it’s not the reason she lost the nomination.

  7. TGK  •  Jul 2, 2008 @3:48 pm

    Well, I’ve looked over that piece several times now. It would help your critique if you were to explain exactly where in the article the writers are claiming to be victims, where they claim that Clinton lost because of sexism, and where they claim that anyone who supported Obama did so out of sexism. Because as far as I can see, they make none of those claims. What they do claim is that in the media and among parts of the progressive blogosphere, the same old GOP attacks got recycled during the Democratic primary. That’s just true.

  8. maha  •  Jul 2, 2008 @7:35 pm

    If anyone wants to explain to TGK what he’s not seeing, be my guest. What struck me the most was the complete lack of acknowledgment that Clinton was behaving very badly as the Endless Primary rolled on, and her behavior was putting the Democratic Party’s chances at winning the White House at serious risk. Much — not all, but much — of the “sexist” commentary McEwan took out of context was aimed at Clinton’s behavior, not her gender.

  9. Avedon  •  Jul 2, 2008 @9:18 pm

    I disagree, Maha. I think a lot of the venom about Hillary staying in the race was (a) a refusal to recognize the historical race she was running (because wimmin aren’t important anymore) and (b) a sense of entitlement among Obama-supporters (and the usual Hillary-haters in the media) about their candidate’s right to run free and clear and be prematurely recognized as the nominee.

    And much as I love her, I believe Rachel Maddow, unnecessarily pushed that feeling of panic about how it would ruin Obama’s chances in November. The more she did it, the more hysterical the attacks on Clinton became. People seemed to be in a panic and were saying insane things about how Clinton would form an independent run or even get on the ballot with McCain rather than accept defeat. It was exactly the kind of crazy sexist rubbish women get hit with when they are seen to be forgetting their place.

    I didn’t want Hillary to be the nominee, but watching the attacks on her almost made me want to vote for her. It was disgusting. Everything Melissa and Maureen said is true. This isn’t about how she ran a bad campaign – the very idea that she had no right to stay in the race until the last state had voted was just a meme pushed by Obama supporters and had nothing to do with reality. You people decided that it was evil of Hillary to stay in the race. It wasn’t.

    Most Democrats wanted her to stay in – including Obama supporters – and most of the people in the states that hadn’t voted wanted the chance to have a voice in the primary and Hillary gave them that. And she finished the race – the first woman ever to have a credible shot at the nomination ran a full primary race. A lot of people think that’s cool, and if you weren’t caught up in the fever, you would have recognized that and cheered her on.

    I mean, I didn’t even want Hillary to run, and I can see that. Why can’t you?

  10. wmr  •  Jul 3, 2008 @12:46 am

    maha, when I complained that a book you recommended didn’t mention some things I thought were important about the topic, you responded “I’m sorry you were disappointed. I can’t say for sure, but I think that maybe when you read it you were frustrated with it because it wasn’t the book you were expecting.”

    Perhaps you should apply that wisdom to your reaction to this article.

  11. maha  •  Jul 3, 2008 @5:31 am

    Avedon — I realize you live in Britain, and maybe you weren’t getting the whole picture of what was going on over here. I was fine with Clinton staying in the race even as it became mathematically impossible for her to win. But after a while her only hope was to destroy Obama, who was otherwise the inevitable nominee, through a smear campaign worthy of Karl Rove, and persuade the superdelegates to give her the nomination. Oh, and pick up some cheap votes with that trick she tried to pull with Florida and Michigan. And that would have destroyed the Democratic Party, I believe.

    What you saw as “entitlement” on the part of the Obama side was the simple fact that he had the most delegates, and the numbers were such that there was no way Clinton was going to overcome his lead. He had won, in other words. This is not “entitlement.” This is “how the election turned out.”

  12. maha  •  Jul 3, 2008 @5:33 am

    wmr — I can’t imagine what I “expected” to see in that article that I didn’t see. If anything, it met my expectations all too well.

  13. Avedon  •  Jul 3, 2008 @7:35 am

    No, Barb, that sense of entitlement started right after Iowa and grew exponentially nastier with every leg of the primary. Once it was clear that Obama could win one state without having to rely on the black vote, it meant the nomination was his, and Hillary really had no right to be there. Edwards dropping out brought it from a rumble to a dull roar, then as soon as Obama had the lead it started to crescendo.

    There were a number of dirty tricks going on about MI and FL, and most of them can be blamed on stealth Obama-supporter Donna Brazile. I’m sure if Hillary was in the lead Obama would have been making the same arguments Hillary was making and everyone would have been saying Hillary was evil for wanting to disenfranchise MI and FL even though the Republicans had been responsible for Florida jumping the queue and anyway the other states that did so were not punished. And I can just imagine what everyone would have said about Hillary if a stealth Clintonista on the committee had decided to change the default rule of losing 50% of seats and instead insisted on 100% the way Brazile did.

    The superdelegates are in the rules, every bit as much as any of the other rules the Obama faction was insisting on interpreting to Obama’s advantage. They’re there to prevent a nominee who can’t win – and apparently Hillary and many of her supporters honestly believed that Obama couldn’t win. And at the point where Obama supporters were threatening to refuse to vote for Hillary if she won the nomination with superdelegates, even threatening insurrection in Denver, I think it frightened the life out of the party leadership and they began to worry that adhering to the rules would mean Obama’s supporters would destroy the party.

    Hillary’s supporters are every bit as angry about the selective rule-watching over things like this as Obama supporters are – they see Obama as the one who was playing dirty tricks, and their reasons are as good as Obama’s supporters’ reasons.

    Both sides were playing with the rules. Both sides were interpreting them to their own advantage. Both sides did things that were of questionable virtue. Both sides did things that could be interpreted as likely to “destroy the party” – and I call prejudice when people are more prepared to hold Hillary responsible but give Obama’s campaign a pass.

    You had two ambitious candidates who used strategies that were risky to the party, but you only want to blame one of them for doing so. And it still feels to me like that’s because only men are allowed to be that ambitious, and Hillary forgot her place as a woman was to step aside.

  14. wmr  •  Jul 3, 2008 @9:29 am

    I think you made it quite clear what you expected:

    …acknowledgment that Clinton was behaving very badly as the Endless Primary rolled on, and her behavior was putting the Democratic Party’s chances at winning the White House at serious risk.

  15. TGK  •  Jul 3, 2008 @9:40 am

    what struck me the most was the complete lack of acknowledgment that Clinton was behaving very badly

    But that’s not what the article was about; it was about a different topic. The fact that it didn’t address a topic that you wanted is immaterial to its claims — unless you wish to argue that “fair and balanced” is actually a virtue.

    Much — not all, but much — of the “sexist” commentary McEwan took out of context was aimed at Clinton’s behavior, not her gender.

    So? If it’s sexist, it’s sexist, no matter what it’s “aimed at.”

  16. maha  •  Jul 3, 2008 @9:46 am

    No, Barb, that sense of entitlement started right after Iowa and grew exponentially nastier with every leg of the primary. Once it was clear that Obama could win one state without having to rely on the black vote, it meant the nomination was his, and Hillary really had no right to be there.

    That’s an odd perception that I don’t think reflects objective reality. And, frankly, the only “sense of entitlement” I perceived was coming from the Clintons.

    The fact is that the race, mathematically speaking, was over by early March. From that point on Clinton’s only real hope was with the superdelegates, because there was no way she could have surpassed Obama *honestly* with elected delegates.

    But Hillary Clinton was allowed to continue her very dirty and destructive campaign, tearing down Obama and generally being divisive, only because she was Hillary Clinton. Had any other candidate behaved the same way, the Dem Party would have put a halt to it a lot sooner.

    Certainly the media distorted what was happening, but they distorted it both ways, both for and against Clinton and Obama. Particularly in the last few weeks one could not turn on the television here without seeing some pundit talk about Obama’s “elitism” or his problem with small-town working-class voters. That was a meme the Clintons established.

    There was much sexism, and much bad behavior on many sides, but Clinton was no innocent victim in this. You play dirty, you get dirty.

  17. maha  •  Jul 3, 2008 @9:49 am

    I think you made it quite clear what you expected:

    “…acknowledgment that Clinton was behaving very badly as the Endless Primary rolled on, and her behavior was putting the Democratic Party’s chances at winning the White House at serious risk.”

    It’s what I would have liked to have seen, because it is the flat-out truth, and second because it would have been an acknowledgment that something other than *just* sexism was going on.

  18. maha  •  Jul 3, 2008 @9:52 am

    So? If it’s sexist, it’s sexist, no matter what it’s “aimed at.”

    But it’s not always sexist. For example, the cracks about Clinton not being a Democrat that Melissa cited as examples of “sexism” had nothing whatsoever to do with her gender. That was strictly aimed at Clinton’s own bad behavior.

    This proves my point, which is that by making excuses for Clinton’s bad behavior, people complaining about sexism are ruining their own case. Yes, there was sexism, but let’s be clear what is sexism and what isn’t. If we begin to define “sexism” as “everything negative said about a woman candidate” then we lose.

  19. felicity  •  Jul 3, 2008 @11:24 am

    maha, Very interesting comments but your ‘point’ – and mine I might add – is finally “If we begin to define ‘sexism’ as ‘everything negative…we lose” is right on. We as women do not ask for special treatment, we ask for equal treatment.

  20. Jesurgislac  •  Jul 3, 2008 @7:29 pm

    Yes, Hillary Clinton got hit by a lot of really ugly sexism, but it wasn’t why she lost the nomination. If anything, the sympathy vote was her biggest asset. And it would be really great if people could just address the sexism issue without wrapping themselves in the gloriously self-indulgent mantle of victimhood.

    “Yes, normally when an ambitious woman gets trashed for being successful and ambitious I would call it misogyny, but not this time.”

  21. maha  •  Jul 3, 2008 @10:25 pm

    Whenever I read comments like #20, by someone who thinks him/herself unutterably clever and righteous but who has completely missed the point, I get very tired. But I suppose I should address this.

    When an ambitious woman gets trashed for being successful and ambitious I would call it misogyny all the time. The fact remains that the really ugly sexism aimed at Clinton wasn’t why she lost the nomination. If anything, the sympathy vote was her biggest asset. And it would be really great if people could just address the sexism issue without wrapping themselves in the gloriously self-indulgent mantle of victimhood. Thanks much.

    Read the above three times, child. Try to take it in before commenting here again.

  22. Avedon  •  Jul 5, 2008 @9:23 am

    You know, it’s just possible that Clinton’s Iraq resolution and Kyle-Lieberman votes and her campaign’s missteps hurt her, and that the sexism hurt her. It doesn’t have to be one or the other.

  23. maha  •  Jul 5, 2008 @11:10 am

    Avedon — the biggest reason Hillary Clinton lost the nomination is that her campaign was a disorganized mess. Had her campaign been as well run and as well organized as the Obama campaign, she would have walked off with the nomination, easily, sexism or no sexism, Iraq vote or no Iraq vote. It was hers to lose going in, and she lost it.

    If anything, the sexism in media — very real, very nasty — was her biggest asset — it pissed off enough women into going to the polls and voting for her. It’s why she won New Hampshire, for example.

    Certainly plenty of people refused to vote for her because she is a woman, although I suspect more people are going to refuse to vote for Obama because he is black. But those people wouldn’t have voted for her whether there was sexism in media or not. It’s possible the sexism in media gained her more votes than cost her votes.



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