A Feminist’s Guide to Critiquing Hillary Clinton

Fair warning: This blog is not going to be angry. It will not be written in all caps. There will be no vulgarity. And it probably wont run viral. I dont care.

What I do am worried about is the fact Ive read over 70+ articles in the past two weeks alone discussing the 2016 election and what I see is a total lack of nuance and a lot of criticisms that overgeneralize or underplay the very real role gender plays when people talk about Clinton and/ or any other women who dare to step into postures that for so long have only been held by men.

What I do care about is how on my Facebook feed and elsewhere, I consider well meaning folks called out as sexist dorks for simply offering legitimate critiques of Clinton and what a Clinton presidency might look like.

I like nuance. I like messy. I dont like soundbites and simplicity. So, lets play the subtlety game. For folks who love Clinton, is understood that not every criticism poised against her is based in sexism. For those who love Sanders, realize that sexism is very alive in 2016, and that you can love your nominee AND embrace the reality that politicking while female is an incredibly difficult thing to do. Imagine that. Both/ and. For those who havent yet made up their intellects, or dont shall be divided into either of these categories, this is for you, too.

So, here is my attempt to create a list of productive ways to critique Hillary Clinton without being a sexist jerk.

1 ). Do not talk about her voice. Genuinely. Just dont. Earlier this week( and pretty much throughout Clintons existence ), weve ensure pundits and others blame her shrillness, her voice, and her masculine speaking style. Soraya Chemaly argues, Anger in a human doesnt build the world wonder out loud if his hormones have taken over his brain and rendered him an incoherent imbecile who cant be trusted with Important Things. How many terms for angry humen are there? Ones that have the powerful and controlling cultural resonance of, and ,,? Or, yep,. Karlyn Kohrs Campbell wrote an unbelievably thoughtful piece discussing how our culture has negatively responded to Clintons inability to fit within the parameters set in terms of how one should act and speak as a woman in the political realm. She says Clinton typifies the problems of public females writ big, the continuing demand that women who play public roles or function in the public sphere discursively enact their femininity, and that women who do not or who do so to only a limited degree, women whose training and personal history fit them for the roles of rhetor, lawyer, expert, and proponent, roles that are gender coded masculine, will arouse the intensely hostile answers that seem so baffling( 15 ). Overall, what Campbell is arguing is that women in the political realm, in order to be taken seriously, must enact simply the right amount of femininity and masculinity, and that Clintons failure to be appropriately feminine has obstructed her for decades.

She continues to thoughtfully lay out a masculine and feminine rhetorical style of speaking and discusses what that sounds like. In rhetorical terms, performing or legislating femininity has meant adopting a personal or self-disclosing tone( signifying nurturance, intimacy, and domesticity) and presuming a feminine persona, e.g ., mom, or an ungendered persona, e.g ., mediator or prophet, while speaking. It has meant opting anecdotal evidence( reflecting womens experiential learning in contrast to mens expertise ), developing ideas inductively( so the audience thinks that it , not this presumptuous female, depicted the conclusions ), and appropriating strategies associated with womensuch as domestic metaphors, emotional appeals to motherhood, and the likeand avoiding such macho strategies as tough speech, showdown or direct refutation, and any appearance of debating ones foes. Note, however, that feminine style does not preclude substantive depth and argumentative cogency( 5 ).

Presidents Barack Obama, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton use/ utilized a feminine rhetorical style of speakingsomething which humen can do and not be criticized for. Reagan was the great communicator. Both Clinton and Obama have been called some of the greatest orators in American history.

Hillary Clinton cannot perform femininity and her inability to play into this script Campbell argues exposes* our inadequacies* not Clintons. Campbell states, Our failure to appreciate the highly developed argumentative skills of an expert proponent, when the advocate is female, reveals our inadequacies , not hers. Legislation attendant on the second wave of feminism opened doors for able women who seek to workout their skills in all areas of life, including the formation of public policy. If we reject all of the individuals who lack the feminizing skills of Elizabeth Dole, we shall deprive ourselves of a vast array of talent( 15 ).

2 ). Please dont talking here her likeability. As with the audio of her voice and her rhetorical speaking style, her likeability should have nothing to do with whether or not she would make a qualified chairman. Yes, I realise all candidates have to somewhat pass the likeability test, but for Clinton, because of the years long Hillary hating stemming from her day as first lady, this issue is in fact gendered, and to blame her for not being likeable reeks of sexism. Henry Louis Gates Jr. argues, Hillary disliking has become one of those national past times that unite the elite and the lumpen. Gary Wills notes, Hillary Hate is a large-scale psychic phenomenon. At the Republican convention there was a dismemberment doll on sale. For twenty dollars you could buy a rag-doll Hillary with arms and legs made to tear off and throw on the floor . .. . Talk shows are full of supposition about Hillarys purported lesbianism and drug use. Fine conspiratorial reasoning sifts whether she was Vince Fosters mistress or assassin or both. The Don Imus indicate plays a version of the song The Lady is a Tramp with new lyrics about the way the lady fornicates and menstruates and urinates, concluding, Thats why the First lady is a tramp.’

As Nico Lang points out, She was a working woman and full political be associated with( gasp) feminist tendencies. Among would-be first ladies in the early 1990 s, these were exotic qualities. Clinton has continued to occupy thatsame space for the better part of three decades now, a one-woman culture war whoplays the political game the same style the men around her do. But unlike those men, Clinton is chastised for being disingenuous and a political insider. Everyone else just gets to do their job. There are real reasons to have reservations about a Clinton presidency including her oft-cited ties to Wall street and her hawkish foreign policy but how often are they the central force of the criticism lodged against her campaign? In an August poll, Quinnipac found that while political respondents felt that Hillary Clinton was strong and a candidate with experience, the words they most associated with her are liar, dishonest, and untrustworthy. These designations appear to be motivated by her Emailgate scandal and the ongoing questions about Benghazi but none of the myriad investigations conducted by eitherhave turned up anything close to a smoking gun.

Rebecca Traister also notes, Recall the days following the 2008 Iowa caucus, when the media took advantage of Clintons defeat to let loose with their rancour and animosity toward her. That was when conservative Marc Rudov told Fox News that Clinton lost because When Barack Obama speaks, men hear Take off for the future! When Hillary Clinton speaks, humen hear Take out the garbage! It was in the working day after Iowa that Clinton infamously got asked about how voters believed her to be the most experienced and the most electable nominee but are hesitating on the likability issue. In late January, columnist Mike Barnicle told a chuckling all-male panel on Morning Joe that Clintons challenge was that she looks like everyones first spouse standing outside of probate court .’ In Diana B. Carlin and Kelly L. Winfreys analysis of the various ways Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton were portrayed during the 2008 campaign, they note, Women who exhibited too many masculine traits are often ridiculed and lose trust because they are going against type or play into male political stereotypes that voters are repudiating( 328 ).

More lately, Sady Doyle argues that, This plays out on the level of personal expres, too: Women are supposedly over-emotional, whereas men build stern, logical, intelligent decisions. So, if Hillary raises her voice, gets angry, sobbings, or( apparently) even makes a sarcastic joke at a mans expenditure, she will be seen as bitchy, crazy, cruel and dangerous.( Remember the NO WONDER BILLS AFRAID headlines after she created her voice at a Benghazi hearing; remember the mass freak-out over her emotional meltdown when someone guessed she might be weeping during a concession speech .) She absolutely cannot express negative feeling in public. But people have feelings, and women are supposed to have more of them than men, so if Hillary avoids them if she speaks strictly in soothe, logical, detached words, to avoid being seen as crazy we find her cold, call her robotic and estimate, and wonder why she doesnt express her feminine side. Again, shes going to be faulted for feminine weakness or lack of femininity, and both are damaging. Okay, so she can never be sad, angry, or impatient. Thats not a ban on all feeling, right? Youd think the one clear route to avoiding the bitchy or cold descriptors would be to put on a happy face, and admit to emotions only when they are positive. Youd think that, and youd be wrong: It turns out, people detest it when Hillary Clinton smiles or laughs in public. Hillary Clintons laugh gets played in assault ads; it has routinely been called a cackle( like a witch, right? Because shes old, and female, like a witch ); frozen stills of Hillary chuckling are routinely used to construct her seem crazy in conservative media. She cant be sad or angry, but she also cant be happy or amused, and she also cant refrain from expressing any of those feelings . There is literally no way out of this one. Anything she does is wrong. Given these constraints, Doyle argues it is impossible for Clinton to be likeable.

Look at how shes tried to address this issue. Dancing like a fool, talking about manner, laughing more. What has it gotten her? Nothing but backlash.

Dave Holmes writes in, Youre not fun. Stop trying to pretend youre fun. writes an entirefaux op-ed from Clinton entitled I am Fun painting her endeavor at being fun as insincere and manufactured.

In the eyes of the American public, Hillary Clinton will be fun. Or likeable. Or someone youd want to have a brew with. And it shouldnt matter. Period. So discontinue it with the likeability stuff, already. Its stupid and petty. I dont care if my chairman knows how to dance or even knows how to dress well. And you shouldnt, either.

3 ). Do blame her on substantive issues. As Kevin Young& Diana C. Sierra Becerra argue, Clinton is the personification of corporate feminism. In their piece, they quote many areas where Clinton could have been and could still be a better advocate for womens rights. Its a fair criticism but one that falls under the radar when were so concerned with her voice, appearance, and dance skills.

4 ). Know your history, do some research, and when criticizing, be fair. One of the claims I often hear as to why some dont trust Clinton, or why some feel shes untrustworthy is because she sat on the board of Walmart. Ok. But lets dig a little deeper. Ann Klefstad notes, Not to take anything away from Bernie and Jane, but think what an advantage this is: to build a career in a place of your prefer, with the strong support of a highly qualified and intelligent person who is unconditionally loyal to you. This was also Bill Clintons situationafter Yale, determining Hillary, heading home to Arkansas, and building a brilliant career in politics. But heywhat about Hillary? After getting a statute degree from Yale( an all-male organization a few years previously) she gratifies Bill. She dumps her career as a congressional aide to move to Arkansas with Bill. I can imagine her dilemma. This was the 1970 s. If she wanted to be with Bill, she would be riding on the ship he was captain of. There were repercussions to that. She would be a partner in creating a political career that would achieve many of the goals she wanted to accomplish. Bill very much admired her superb intellect and political abilities as well. So they embarked. Theyre in Arkansas. Vermont politics have a pretty clean record. Arkansas? Not so much. You do attain your own choices, but the context youre in, well, it matters. The Arkansas economy was in the toilet. The only bright superstar was the Walton family and Walmart, which was on track to become the biggest retailer in the world. They ( in Arkansas) an expanding number of well-paid chores. Bill was governor. Should Hillary have dumped his political career for a chance to spit in Sam Waltons eye? Well, that wasnt going to happen. She sat on the Walmart board and did what she could to both ensure the prosperity of the state of which her husband was governor and to do the right thing. She has almost always chosen the path( sometimes not the one youd pick) that would enable her to accomplish some good actions, rather than the pure path that tends to lead to inactivity, or to exile from the power than enables you to make change.

Still dont like the fact she sat on the board? Fine. Dont like her postures on foreign policy? Altogether ok. But understand the choices Clinton made in the context in which she livednot in a vacuum. This goes for all of her political choices. Never assume anything about potential candidates without doing a little research first. Its amazing how much you can find out on this magical thing called the interwebs.

5 ). Dont presume criticisms against Clinton are automatically rooted in sexism, and when calling out someone for critiquing Clinton, dont presume they, are in fact, sexist either. Take the #BernieBro label, for example. According to Glenn Greenwald, Have pro-Clinton journalists and pundits been subjected to some vile, abusive, and misogynistic rhetoric from random, anonymous internetsupporters of Sanders who are angry over their Clinton supporting ?. Does that reflect in any way on the Sanders campaign or which candidate should win the Democratic primary?. The reason pro-Clinton journalists are targeted with vile abuse online has nothing specifically to do with the Sanders campaign or its supporters. It has everything to do with the internet. There are literally no polarizing views one can advocateonline including blaming Democratic Party leaders such as Clinton or Barack Obama that will not subject one to a torrent of intense fury and vile abuse. Its not remotely unique to supporting Hillary Clinton: Ask Megyn Kelly about that, or the Sanders-supporting Susan Sarandon and Cornel West, or anyone with a Twitter account or blog. Ive watched online TV and movie critics get carried before vicious internet mobs for expressing unpopular views about a TV program or a movie. Amanda Hess pushes further arguing as soon as the Bernie Bro materialized, the conversation around it degenerated. As the meme gained momentum, some popularizers stopped bothering to marshal any kind of evidence that Sanders advocates were sexist . . . . This is a familiar online phenomenon. Just as mansplaining morphed from a useful descriptor of a real problem in contemporary gender dynamics to an increasingly vague catchall expression, ass Benjamin Hart set it in 2014, the Bernie Bro argument has been stretched beyond recognition by both its champions and its critics.What began as a necessary critique of leftist sexism has been replaced by a pair of straw humen waving their arms in the wind.

If the label applies, utterly use it. Call out sexism and misogyny-especially if its coming from someone who claims to be progressive. However, I worry the label is being thrown around loosely and being applied to many well meaning , non-sexist male critics of Clinton. And that merely stillness debate. I dont want anyone to feel as though they cannot legitimately critique Clinton for anxiety of being called sexist, a BernieBro, or other names.

Overall, as with most of my write, this piece was for me. Every time I read an article about Clinton or Sanders or sexism or the fight for the spirit of the Democratic Party I find myself wishing for more nuance, less click-bait, and sound and civilian discourse. Im tired of seeing the same soundbites repeated on my Facebook wall, seeing good friends of mine unfriend one another or worse because theyre on Squad Sanders or Team Clinton and cant detect common ground to have a legitimate debate about what such elections is really about. In the wordsof my good friend Greg Wright, If you can imagine a better opportunity to demand the world we want, Id like to hear when you think it will come. When will better situations disclose themselves again? What political climate are you relying on to thrust the most unlikely nominee into the realm of possible? You want to know what will make this all the more likely to happen again? Demanding that it happen now.

We are at a historic moment in American history , not unlike the 2nd wave feminist movement. Gloria Steinem once said of Betty Friedan I believe that she was looking to join society as it existed, and the slightly younger parts of the movement were trying to transform society. And those were kind of two different objectives. Like Friedan, I would argue that Clinton wants to work within the structure we have, while Sanders wants to transform society. He wants a revolution. In the words of Robert Reich, Ive known Hillary Clinton since she was 19 years old, and have nothing but respect for her. In my opinion, shes the most qualified candidate for president of the political system we now have. ButBernie Sanders is the most qualified candidate to create the political system we should have, because hes leading a political movement for change.

Sexism is real, and I love the fact that we are even talking about the ugly face of sexism in politics. However, we must be able to criticize a female candidate without resorting to sexist tactics, or be called sexist for critiquing her in the first place.

Overall, as many have pointed out, both Sanders and Clinton would be undeniably better as our next commander in chief than anyone currently running in the Republican arena. So I would caution democrats to get too entrenched within their teams that they refuse to see “the worlds biggest” picture of the need to elect a Democrat in this next election. There are ways to disagree with each other that dont need to devolve into name calling or soundbite repeat. On Facebook and elsewhere, engage with those on either side in mindful and productive routes. This is an extraordinarily important election for so many reasons, but that doesnt mean we cant have thoughtful debates. So keep reading. Keep posting. Maintain fighting for your squad. Just dont embrace the ugly. Theres enough of that out there already.

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