Clinton the Woman vs. Clinton the Person

I can't actually believe I'm having to write this post, but this issue has come up a lot lately—in comments, in my email, at other blogs—and again here last night in comments, wherein a commenter said (with regard to the "when he hears the senator's voice, he's overcome by an urge to punch her in the face" quote highlighted in my Feminism and Humanism piece): "I want to punch Clinton the person, not Clinton the woman."

These are not separable identities.

I see this notion everywhere—that some violent urge toward Hillary Clinton isn't aimed at "Clinton the woman," but at some other magical version of her where her sex and gender have been erased, presumably along with the entire cultural context of womanhood. The semantic contortions invoked to extricate "Hillary Clinton the person" from "Hillary Clinton the woman" are an attempt to do an end-run around that context, to create a space outside of reality, where Hillary Clinton exists in some sexless, genderless limbo and people can talk about wanting to injure that non-woman without all the icky negative images injuring actual women conjures for most decent people.

The worst part about this argument is that it denies Hillary Clinton her womanhood to justify violence against her.

When women / POC / LGBTQs / other marginalized people (and any and all intersectionalities thereof) are disappeared via denial of the intrinsic characteristics that define their marginalization, particularly in order to rationalize mistreatment, that's a social violence, a theft of identity and thusly a subversion of the framework necessarily used by subjugated people to connect to the larger culture because of how the larger culture defines them. Hillary Clinton is now told that being a woman, the source of the lifelong bias she has faced, no longer matters—not so that she can be made equal, but so that she can be punched in the face.

Huzzah for progress.

Ultimately, if you want to punch Hillary Clinton for being Hillary Clinton, or because of the sound of her voice, that's your prerogative, but you ought to at least have the integrity to own it wholly, which means owning the entire context: Irrespctive of whether it's specifically because she's a woman, the desire to punch a woman necessarily carries with it particular cultural baggage, including, for example, that women are disproportionately victimized by domestic violence and that women's voices and tones are routinely singled out as prohibitively unbearable. That's the context of womanhood.

It's something of which I must be conscious, too—I am reluctant to use violent imagery generally, but extremely averse to using it when discussing women I don't like. Despite the distinct unlikelihood that anyone would mistake misogyny as my motivation, even a (metaphorical) attack within a culture in which women—particularly strong, opinionated women—have historically been silenced with threatened or actual violence borrows and legitimizes misogynist strategies. I don't have to like Hillary Clinton's voice (although, for the record, I do), or her policies or her sense of humor or her decision to stay in the race, and neither does anyone else—but, regardless of intent, the public declaration of a desire to punch her in response summons an ugly history of physically silencing uppity women. And, no, a threat to punch a man doesn't work quite the same way—care of the double standard brought to you daily by the patriarchy.

(I feel pretty confident that I can safely say, on behalf of feminist women everywhere, we'll happily give up the disparity between threats to hit men and women in exchange for full equality. Just FYI, for any dudez who might be feeling the harrumph of unfairness.)

Here's the thing: Hillary Clinton can't escape the context of womanhood by wishing it away, and you can't wish it away, either. She can't wave a magic wand and erase it to her benefit, and you can't declare it irrelevant while discussing how you want to pummel her. She doesn't get to say, "I'm not running for president as a woman; I'm running for president as a person," because being a woman still matters in this culture; womanhood still precludes full personhood. You don't get to pretend that's not the reality in which we live to declare you're punching "Hillary Clinton the person," not "Hillary Clinton the woman."

Consider what it means, just for a moment, that we are still meant to regard those as mutually exclusive concepts.

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