Bernie Sanders, What Are You Even Doing?

[Content Note: Misogyny; video may autoplay at third link.]

During the first Democratic presidential debate, Senator Bernie Sanders got defensive when former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton challenged his record on gun rights, and implied that she was shouting: "As a senator from a rural state, what I can tell Secretary Clinton, that all the shouting in the world is not going to do what I would hope all of us want, and that is keep guns out of the hands of people who should not have those guns and end this horrible violence that we are seeing."

This was a terrible answer for a couple of reasons—not only because the proverbial rural hunting guns are also used to kill and threaten, especially by domestic abusers, and the dichotomy often drawn between guns used by rural hunters and guns used by urban criminals is a false (and implicitly racist) one, but also because Sanders was engaging in some good old-fashioned tone policing and dogwhistling about women's shrillness.

On Saturday, Clinton pushed back on Sanders' categorization of her "shouting," saying: "I've been told to stop shouting about gun violence. Well, I'm not shouting. It's just when women talk, some people think we're shouting."


One might expect that Sanders would have learned something, anything, from the general criticism of his failure to be sensitive to marginalized populations' individual and intersectional concerns since the beginning of his campaign, or from the specific criticism of his "shouting" comment during the debate, but one would be wrong!
Sanders on Sunday laughed at her suggestion that his remarks were about gender.

"All that I can say is I am very proud of my record on women's issues. I certainly do not have a problem with women speaking out—and I think what the secretary is doing there is taking words and misapplying them," Sanders told [CNN State of the Union host Jake Tapper].
Wow. So, treating as laughable the suggestion that the language he used has a misogynist connotation, even if it wasn't intended that way, citing his record on women's issues (I bet some of his best friends are women!), and accusing Hillary Clinton of misunderstanding and looking for things to get mad about. ONE MORE SQUARE AND I'LL HAVE BINGO.

See, here's the thing: I am willing (barely) to take it in good faith that Sanders didn't intend to accuse Clinton of shouting, but was instead, as he further claims, referring to the general tone of the gun debate in the US. But who cares. The reality is that, by all appearances, he was accusing Clinton of shouting, and that necessarily carries with it a context repeatedly and ubiquitously used to discredit outspoken women.

Irrespective of Sanders' intent, he needs to acknowledge that and apologize and promise (meaningfully) to be more sensitive to the language he uses to address a female candidate, instead of laughing it off and doubling down by accusing Clinton of being an oversensitive hysteric.

I get the feeling that Sanders is exasperated that Clinton is "playing the woman card," without the most infinitesimal awareness that sometimes we women have to put that card on the table specifically because the men around us haven't bothered to secure for themselves the most basic education on the sorts of marginalizing language and diminishing tropes used against women.

[Related Reading from the '08 election, for fuck's sake: Clinton the Woman vs. Clinton the Person; Clinton, Criticism, and Misogyny.]

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