Damned if You Do…

In comments (to the post OMG) earlier today, Tom Watson asked: "Why aren't women more formally organized for Hillary—I honestly don't know."

Maybe, just maybe, it has something to do with the fact that a lot of women who support Hillary see the depth and scope of the organized institutional misogyny being levied against her and feel, somewhere in their guts, that a massive "women for Hillary" movement would actually be used against her and undermine her campaign.

Every time she mentions being a woman, mentions being a mother, mentions being a daughter, mentions being a wife, or even makes any oblique reference to running a historical campaign or being the first woman to do something (like win a presidential primary), she is accused of playing the gender card. She is diminished, ridiculed, criticized, and dismissed using dog whistles, slurs, graphics, and bluntly misogynist commentary. When her womanness is the weapon most used against her, is it any wonder that women who support her may be hesitant to scream it from the rooftops, reluctant to stand behind her in large numbers, lest we undermine her? When womanness is hated, it will inevitably make women feel like a liability.

I don't even think this is a conscious feeling in many women. It certainly has taken me a long time to reach the point where I found this hesitation within myself, that I could bluntly engage the grim realization that I had internalized the expressions of contempt for a strong woman and let them manifest as a disinclination to speak too loudly of any admiration I had for Hillary, lest the contempt for me, for this strong woman here and her strong opinions, add to the weight of disdain Hillary carries already on her shoulders.

I have read several agonizing posts today, written by women who either voted for Obama and feel torn about not voting for a woman, or voted for Hillary and feel bad that they voted for her at least in part because she is a woman. So many of us are plagued by the despondent, sickening thought that if we fail to vociferously support Hillary, despite her being a woman, it somehow hurts her—but if we do vociferously support Hillary in part because she is a woman, that, too, somehow hurts her.

None of us, including those, I suspect, who have come to the decision to support Obama, want to feel like our votes and our support are a condemnation of Hillary's womanhood. Never was I so unhappy as when my very public support of John Edwards was framed by others as "a feminist who supports Edwards instead of Hillary," which implicitly reproved Hillary. Not just her feminist credentials, of course, but her. It was unfair to both of us.

So because women's support and lack of support for Hillary can be used against her, in a way none of us would like, perhaps it has caused many of us to keep silent altogether. Score another one for the patriarchy.

And maybe, just maybe, women have been afraid that being proved right—that seeing their unapologetic, unabashed support in large numbers (outside the polls) actually be used against Hillary, actually hurt her campaign—would undermine our most closely-held survival mechanisms. Maybe seeing that horrible fear realized, facing the incontrovertible evidence of the hatred of womannness so close-up that we can feel its hot, putrid breath on our cheeks, would no longer allow us to deny in an act of self-preservation the profundity of acceptable misogyny. Maybe it would deliver a fatal blow to the carefully constructed internal framework of selective blindness upon which we all depend, and tear the tissue-thin bulwark against self-loathing, which are necessary accoutrements for any sentient woman to get through the fucking day in this country.

Maybe we're afraid to undermine something within us, too. Once built, we are not eager to let fall the load-bearing fortifications that keep us steady against the reverberating onslaught of institutional misogyny.

That doesn't mean not supporting Hillary. It means possibly supporting her in a different way. The people who won't vote for Hillary aren't going to be swayed by millions of women supporting her loudly, anyway. But if millions of women just turn up at the voting booth and strike a silent blow, it won't matter. Their support will be evident.

And can't be used against her.

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