When the doctor checks to see if the patient is still breathing, it's disgust, not compassion, that leaks out between his syllables: "You couldn't kill her with an ax," he sneers.Keller goes on to detail much of the cast-as-inhuman and violent-death-to-the-monster imagery that we've detailed here, over the course of now nearly 100 posts, and notes, quite rightly, that, beyond the "normal" othering of sexism or racism, this is "something different and more sinister," because it is, cumulatively, "an unprecedented public call—albeit metaphorically, but still violently and persistently—for a person's death."
That patient—the wide-hipped, unwieldy woman at the heart of Dorothy Parker's 1929 short story "Big Blonde"—is a familiar image in books, films, songs, comic books, TV series, video games and, now, politics: The woman as monster. The over-large, over-ambitious, overbearing creature who irritates everybody, the death-defying witch who just won't go away—and who therefore must be destroyed.
...Revealed in the coverage of Clinton's campaign is the persistence of an ancient and distasteful cultural theme: the powerful, ambitious woman as cackling fiend, as fantastically terrifying ghoul threatening civilization. And because this creature (or "she-devil," as MSNBC commentator Chris Matthews called Clinton) is not human, the only solution is to kill it. Not just derail its career—obliterate it. Smash it to smithereens. Vaporize it. Leave not a trace of the foul beast behind.
Hence the appalling preponderance of violent, death-infused imagery in conversations about Clinton, smuggled into otherwise ordinary political discourse like a knife taped on the bottom of a cake plate...
Death, death, death. The steady, depressing drumbeat continues. What these commentators seem to seek is not just a proud female's withdrawal from a political contest—but her outright annihilation. They evoke the nightmarish vision of a commanding woman intent on destruction—thus she must be destroyed before she can launch her evil scheme.Hmm...a reluctance to give Clinton the room to drop out with dignity and on her own terms because that just wouldn't be humiliating enough. Now where have I heard that before?
What makes Keller's piece so interesting is that she's not a partisan. She's not even a political writer. Keller is a cultural critic, and her piece is filed in the Tempo section, which is where you'll find, among other things, the funny pages. And Keller, while tracing the history of the monstrous women through our cultural history via literature and film, makes the point that she is teasing out a cultural meme perfectly clear:
These observations, by the way, have nothing to do with the issue of Clinton's or Obama's continued candidacies. That's a subject to be debated on the editorial pages, not here. This corner is reserved for cultural imagery, for a spirited exploration of the way a shared belief or preoccupation ultimately manifests itself in our entertainment products. Such an idea is like a splinter driven so deep, resting undisturbed for so long, that for a time you may not even be aware of it. Then slowly, slowly, it begins to work its way to the surface. One day, the sharp tip breaks the skin, and you see what's been down there all along, spreading its poison.It's a distinction that is lost on every person who's accused me of being in the bag for Clinton. Feminism/womanism is a cultural critique first and foremost, and, although Chris Matthews calling Clinton a she-devil piques my political ire in the same way pernicious media misrepresentations of Al Gore did, the way the MSM's disfavor toward Democratic candidates always does, but that Matthews specifically goes for misogynist attacks against Clinton is not a political concern for me nearly as much as it's a cultural concern, akin to Jay Leno's homophobia and sexism and racism, David Letterman's transphobia, Adam Carolla's sexism and homophobia and fat hatred and transphobia, Bill Maher's sexism and rape jokes, and on and on and on. Our media is a giant tool of the kyriarchy, and, while there are certainly exceptions (we've spoken before in a great QotD thread about films that opened our minds about something), the MSM is largely little more than a jack-booted thug enforcing the biases that protect existent privilege, and politics is only a tiny part of that.
The Sexism Watch has way more to do with the larger culture than it does to do with the subculture of political discourse. Keller's piece clarifies beautifully how a critique of the rhetorical cudgels being wielded against Clinton is a cultural issue, not a specifically political one. And thusly, it underlines once again how a failure to address what's being done to Clinton is not justifiable because she's not your candidate, or because she voted for the AUMF, or because because because...
Not if you care about women and the means of their subjugation. Not if you're a progressive.
Truly, I cannot urge this more fervently, read the whole thing.
[H/T to Shaker Julie, via email.]