Over and over and over, I read variations on this concept: "My criticism of Hillary Clinton has nothing to do with her sex."
My saying I just have a vague but insistent distrust of her has nothing to do with her sex.
My calling her a liar has nothing to do with her sex.
My holding her to standards to which I wouldn't hold any other candidate has nothing to do with her sex.
My calling her a corporate shill has nothing to do with her sex.
My hatred of her voice has nothing to do with her sex.
My calling her part of a dynasty has nothing to do with her sex.
My shitty comments about her hair and clothes have nothing to do with her sex.
Yes, it does. It all does.
Lots of positive commentary on Hillary Clinton has to do with her sex, too—although that tends to be more frequently viewed through that lens. That Clinton is seen as strong and resilient and capable is largely because she is a woman who has overcome decades of misogynist garbage.
Even when I straightforwardly reference the gendered dynamics in a male candidate being credited for a female candidate's personal and professional growth, I am told that "making this about sex is beyond the pale."
But it's always about Clinton's sex.
I know this not because I am a mind-reader and can see the intentions of the people who are asserting that whatever commentary on Clinton has "nothing to do with her sex."
I know this because I am a woman—and not a single thing I do, not single thing I say, choose, think has "nothing to do with [my] sex."
I am indelibly who I am because I am a woman.
Even when I am not consciously thinking about my behavior and actions within that framework, the fact that I was socialized as a woman in a patriarchal culture, the fact that I am marginalized as a woman, the fact that I am always and unavoidably seen as a woman, with all the stereotypes and assumptions and expectations that entails, means that there is not a single goddamn thing about my life that can ever have nothing to do with my sex.
To suggest that any commentary about any woman could have "nothing to do with her sex" is just another way of asking women to wrench our personhood from our womanhood.
But our womanhood is inextricably tied to our personhood. The fact that we are not even given the right of full personhood is tied to our womanhood.
It's not fair and it's not just and it's not reasonable to suggest that you are ever regarding a woman in a manner that has nothing to do with her sex.
The good things I do are attached to my womanhood. The bad things I do are attached to my womanhood. Whether I want them to be or not.
I can't look at a choice I've made and know whether I would have made the same choice if I weren't a woman.
Even if I could, it's a theoretical construct that has nothing to do with reality, because I am a woman. And it is the patriarchal culture that defines me that way, which doesn't ever, ever, let me "just a person."
So I find it spectacularly objectionable when people argue that they're engaging in commentary on Clinton, or any woman, that has nothing to do with her sex.
Now, that doesn't mean that the commentary is inherently illegitimate, even when it's criticism. But it does mean that it's bullshit to pretend womanhood can somehow be set aside in making it.
I can't set aside my womanhood. Hillary Clinton can't set aside her womanhood. So no one else gets to set our womanhood aside, either.
Again: During the 2008 campaign, I wrote, in response to a commenter saying he wanted to "punch Clinton the person, not Clinton the woman":
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."What it means to treat personhood and womanhood as mutually exclusive concepts, as if any woman can somehow be a person without being a woman, is asserting the fantasy of an egalitarian culture at the expense of the people whose perpetuated inequality means it stubbornly remains a fantasy.
Consider what it means, just for a moment, that we are still meant to regard those as mutually exclusive concepts.
And doing so with the objective of concealing or denying misogyny ultimately serves to more deeply entrench the subjugation of women.
Asking me to stop talking about gender dynamics and make distinctions about Clinton's personhood vs. Clinton's womanhood—or any woman's, including my own—is asking me to participate in my own marginalization.
That is a request I will not accommodate.