Angry Women Back Clinton

So why did Hillary Clinton win tonight? That’s gonna be the question, and it’s a good one. One can cite the “Bradley Effect,” and that was perhaps part of the answer. But not all of it, nor even most of it.

No, Clinton won tonight because in the last few days, the level of misogyny directed toward her had reached a fever pitch, and the women of New Hampshire decided that they’d had enough of it.

Clinton has, of course, faced coded attacks on her gender throughout the campaign, just as Obama has faced attacks on his race. This is nothing new for Hillary, of course; she’s been facing attacks for being too self-actualized since 1992. But starting with Saturday night’s debate, those attacks became less coded and more overt. I’m not sure exactly why; maybe, with Clinton in dire straits, the media and her opponents decided to play the woman card, and bury her. Maybe with her campaign apparently winding down, misogyny that had been buried beneath the surface bubbled up in the gleeful, premature burial of her campaign. Maybe it’s always been at this level, but we’re all paying better attention now.

Regardless of the reason, the misogyny spewed forth, thick and bilious. Going into the weekend, Fox News put Marc Rudov, author of Under the Clitoral Hood: How to Crank Her Engine Without Cash, Booze, or Jumper Cables on the air to discuss the election. Why? God only knows. But Rudov was, for some reason, asked why men seemed to prefer Obama to Clinton. Rudov’s answer set the stage for the next four days:

“When Barack Obama speaks, men hear, ‘Take off for the future.’ And when Hillary Clinton speaks, men hear, ‘Take out the garbage.’ […] I get into lots of taxicabs and I tell the drivers this whole thing about Hillary being shrill, and they say, ‘That’s right. That’s right. You’re exactly right.’ ” Later in the exchange, Rudov asserted that Clinton “does register with married men, like a small worm boring through the brain.”
Subtle as a sledgehammer, but it carried through to Saturday’s debate, where Clinton was pilloried as “angry” for sternly defending her record, and for taking some shots at Obama. The spin got so furious that Margaret O’Brien Steinfels, writing at dotCommonweal, felt compelled to say, “Just watched Meet the Press. Tim Russert and two political consultant, McMahon and Murphy were spinning like mad against Hillary. Do I detect a woman-can’t-really be president message here?” At The Moderate Voice, blogger Holly in Cincinnati added, “Anger is often perceived differently in men and women. The same anger seen as an asset in a male candidate may be seen as a liability in a female candidate. I know this because I have often been perceived as an angry woman (and therefore dangerous and unstable) rather than a rightfully angry person.”

By Monday, the vultures were circling, and when Hillary Clinton showed a trace of emotion, her voice choking up for a second, the media pounced, declaring that she had “cried” during a campaign stop.

Now, before we go on, let’s take a look at that breakdown, shall we?


You may notice something when you watch that: Clinton doesn’t cry. Yes, she chokes up for a moment, shows a bit of emotion, but she doesn’t break down in tears, she doesn’t even stop talking.That didn’t stop the media from piling on. Melissa did a great job documenting the pile-on, and I think it bears repeating:

Reuters: An emotional Clinton vows to fight on

CNN: Clinton gets emotional at New Hampshire stop

The Politico: Clinton fights back tears: ‘It’s not easy’

ABC News: Clinton Gets Emotional on Campaign Trail

ABC News: Rivals Reacts to Teary Clinton

ABC News: Can Clinton’s Emotions Get the Best of Her?

MSNBC/AP: Clinton’s voice catches on eve of N.H. primary

AP: Emotions run high on eve of NH primary

AFP: Emotions run high on eve of New Hampshire primary

Yahoo Play of the Day/AP: Clinton chokes up

Bloomberg: Clinton Says ‘It’s Not Easy’ Dealing With Strain of Campaign
Yes, this brief moment, this brief flicker of emotion from a woman who’d been accused of lacking emotion throughout the campaign, led to story after story about her emotionalism. And John Edwards, of all people, made the point explicit in a truly depressing pander:

Edwards offered little sympathy and pounced on the opportunity to question Clinton’s ability to endure the stresses of the presidency.

“I think what we need in a commander-in-chief is strength and resolve, and presidential campaigns are tough business, but being president of the United States is also tough business,” Edwards told reporters Laconia, New Hampshire.
You see, presidents have to be tough. And women who cry? They aren’t tough. And given that everyone, man and woman alike, cries…well, it turns out women just aren’t up to the rigors of the presidency.

It didn’t take the morons with the “Iron My Shirt” sign for women to get the message. This was a boys club. No girls allowed.

To be fair to Obama, he didn’t join in the pile-on (though he did nothing to defuse it, either). But women (and their allies) could read the narrative nonetheless. Petulant stated the clear message:

Hillary got teary. Yes, she did. The Ice Queen almost broke down and now her campaign is over. She is a WOMAN, you know, and women are weak, overly emotional, uterine-lining-shedding creatures that can never, repeat, never be allowed in such a prominent role leading our country as all that emotion and weakness will destroy the country. That seems to be the underlying sentiments in the press and on the teevee. She showed actual “human emotion”—excuse me—”womanly emotion,” and she must call it quits.
Amanda Marcotte blasted Edwards for taking the media’s bait.

It’s bad enough that the media plays the game with Clinton where if she shows any emotion, she’s too feminine or too scary, but if she’s more stoic, she’s a scary ballbuster, but to have her own party members (if political rivals) play that cheap sexist card is too much.
Zuzu at Feministe concurred:

Perhaps, John, when the press comes sniffing around looking for a quote from you about how one of your rivals — you know, the girl — had an “emotional outburst” and What It All Means, you might want to think about the message your response will send to female voters[.]
Over at Feministing, Jessica Valenti said:

The last few days have really brought out some sexist assholery concerning Sen. Hillary Clinton. In the past, we’ve ran a post series called Hillary Sexism Watch, but given just how many different sexist things have happened recently, one post isn’t enough.
In short, women had eyes, and they knew what they were being told. And while neither Melissa nor Amanda nor Jessica were exactly Clinton supporters, all of them moved to defend Clinton from attacks against her, not as a candidate, but as a woman.

Some will criticize this as misguided identity politics, but they’re wrong. Oh, it’s identity politics — women in New Hampshire and throughout the country recognized that Clinton was being attacked as a woman, and came to her defense. But it’s far from misguided.

Clinton may win the nomination, or she may lose; right now she’s probably the front-runner, but that could change tomorrow. Either way, she’s blazing a trail that more women will follow. When the media and her opponents ramped up hatred against her because of her gender, women recognized that the trail she was cutting would be filled with pitfalls and mineshafts if the bile was not addressed. And so they addressed it. Women who could write, wrote. Women who could speak out to friends, spoke out to friends. And in New Hampshire, women who could vote, voted for Hillary Clinton.

And that’s why she won tonight; because women recognized that, at least for tonight, their future was inextricably bound up with Hillary’s, and that, at least for tonight, they needed to send a clear message that misogyny and sexism just won’t work anymore. Clinton may yet lose — there are plenty of legitimate reasons to oppose her. But if she loses, it won’t be because she was too emotional, or because she reminds someone of their ex-wife. It will be because she loses on her merits as a candidate. That’s as it should be, and it’s why our country should be grateful to the angry women who rallied to her, angry women who were angry for a righteous reason, angry women who accomplished something grand.


Shakesville is run as a safe space. First-time commenters: Please read Shakesville's Commenting Policy and Feminism 101 Section before commenting. We also do lots of in-thread moderation, so we ask that everyone read the entirety of any thread before commenting, to ensure compliance with any in-thread moderation. Thank you.

blog comments powered by Disqus