On Wednesday, I noted that Bernie Sanders' "brain trust," apparently comprised of three men, told some terrific (ahem) jokes about how Hillary Clinton would make a swell vice-president: "Look, she'd make a great vice president. We're willing to give her more credit than Obama did. We're willing to consider her for vice president. We'll give her serious consideration. We'll even interview her."
Immediately and understandably, a number of people criticized these comments as belittling and misogynistic.
Coming on the heels of Sanders' accusing Clinton of "shouting," which he insisted was not the misogynistic dogwhistle that it seemed to be, one might imagine that Sanders, who defended himself by saying, "All that I can say is I am very proud of my record on women's issues," might prove those oft-claimed feminist bona fides by forcefully condemning his team's demeaning "joke" about Clinton.
Instead, all Sanders could muster was: "Every campaign has statements come out which are inappropriate. That was inappropriate. Clearly, I have a lot of respect for Secretary Clinton."
Actually, Senator, that's not very clear at all. Especially when you refuse to name what's happening here as misogyny, substituting instead a lesser, vague categorization of the comments as "inappropriate."
Yes, those comments were inappropriate. But the reason they were inappropriate is because they were sexist.
Jeff Weaver, Sanders' campaign manager and the man who made the shitty comments, wouldn't even acknowledge they were inappropriate. Instead, he offered: "It certainly, I think, could be interpreted as edgy or snarky but nothing more."
Edgy? Really? He went there. The tired defense of the most odious comics, trading in ancient stereotypes and calling it cutting edge humor.
And he didn't stop there. He then victim-blamed Clinton, laying the responsibility for his own misogyny at her feet, and at the feet of feminists who defend her against misogynistic attacks:
"When we are the subject of attacks and innuendo from a super PAC that is openly coordinating with the Clinton campaign, when the opposing campaign is going to level accusations of sexism against the senator, which have been widely criticized in the media and condemned, I think it's important for people to know that we are not just going to take those attacks and be a punching bag for the Clinton campaign," he said. "It's just not what we are going to do. They launched a vicious attack on us, we let them know that we're not going to be a punching bag and now we're ready to resume important issues facing the country."So, because Clinton has "attacked" Sanders for using language ("shouting") that has a long and well-known context of being used to discredit women, and because his team thinks it's mean that she pointed out he had used marginalizing language against her, it's her own fault for being "uncivil," and thus she deserves to be targeted by more misogyny. Which isn't misogyny! Geez! It was just a joke!
..."We have controlled the agenda in this campaign, I think it's fair to say the other side has controlled the tone," he said. "We hope that tone returns to the kind of civil discourse on the issues we've been looking for the whole time."
This is literally the same dynamic that misogynistic men use in spaces like this one, day after day. Use loaded rhetoric, either as a deliberate dogwhistle or because they don't know or care the first thing about the history of sexist language, to imply that a woman with whom they disagree is a hysteric; then deflect being called out by rejecting feminist analysis of that language and its context, while simultaneously claiming to be a great feminist ally; then project blame for their hostility onto the woman they'd demeaned by accusing her of a lack of civility. All with a heaping helping of "jokes don't matter."
It's straight from the Misogyny 101 Playbook, and the best Sanders, who asserts an unassailable record on women's issues, can do is say it's "inappropriate."
This is a perfect replication of the abuse dynamic used against outspoken women every day of our fucking lives.
"Inappropriate" is insufficient. To put it politely. After all, I wouldn't want to be accused of being uncivil.