[Content Note: Misogyny.]
When Hillary Clinton ran for president in 2008, a curious thing happened when I started routinely blogging about the misogyny she was facing in the campaign: Every defense of her was axiomatically interpreted by lots of people as unilateral support of her. Not just that I was supporting her as a candidate (despite the fact that she was not my first choice and I actually worked—briefly—for another candidate), but that I felt she was above criticism on anything and everything else.
Now the same thing is happening again.
For the record, I haven't endorsed a candidate and I won't endorse a candidate. I also live in a state where there is a vanishingly slim chance I'll even get the opportunity to cast a primary vote.
I strongly believe that everyone has the right to vote however they want and that there is no one right way to vote. My choice for this election (as it has been every election thus far in my voting life, though that may change someday) is to get behind whomever the Democratic nominee is, barring some unexpected fuckery, because even if I have major policy disagreements with them (and I will), I prefer all of the major Democratic candidates to any Republican nightmare clown.
That's my choice. Doesn't have to be yours.
When I criticize Democratic candidates, it isn't because I want any of them to fail. (Except Jim Webb.) It's because I want them to do better. I want them to do better out of basic decency, and I want them to do better so they get elected, and I want them to do better so we get better policy.
And when I praise Democratic candidates for things I think they do well, it isn't implicit condemnation of the other candidates. I believe that part of the role a progressive base has to play is to communicate what we like, too. So that we get more of it.
And when I defend Hillary Clinton from misogyny, it isn't because I'm "in the bag" for her. It isn't even because I imagine she needs my defense; I'm quite certain Hillary Clinton has figured out how to take care of herself.
It's because it's useful to deconstruct and examine how systems of misogyny work, in order that we may begin to dismantle them.
It's because there are little girls and young women who might want to run for office someday, many of them without the many privileges that Hillary Clinton has, and they are watching. They watch what happens to a female candidate as privileged as Hillary Clinton, and they weigh the costs of following a path not dissimilar from hers.
Feminists will disagree with me, in good faith, about the value of defending Hillary Clinton, and even more about the value of defending rightwing women like Sarah Palin, from misogynist attacks. But the one thing on which I think we all agree is that we don't want to see the next generation of female leaders deterred from politics, or any kind of visible work in the public sphere, because it is simply too hostile a space for their participation.
And surely we don't want to see the attacks levied against Clinton go without censure, thus tacitly condoning those sorts of attacks on all women, most of whom will suffer them in less public spaces, with fewer people willing and ready to step to our defense.
No woman should have to weather this garbage in order to seek elected office. Or in any other context. And the only way I know how I can contribute to changing that is to resist it with everything I can muster.