Let's Talk About These Optics

This is a very good piece by Charles Pierce at Esquire about one of my central subjects of interest: The media's special set of rules for Hillary Clinton and why, in fact, she shouldn't "go away," no matter how much members of the press insist that she should.

Filed under the wonderfully blunt headline "Hillary Clinton Must Not Be Silent," I particularly appreciated this section:
As a matter of fact, I think the nation would have been better served had Gore raised holy hell about what happened to him for as long as he possibly could. I think the nation would have been better served if some Democratic senator had stood with, say, John Lewis, to contest the results of the 2000 election. I think that Kerry should have hollered louder and longer about the shenanigans in Ohio that helped re-elect George W. Bush. Maybe if they had done this, the subsequent flood of voter-suppression laws, and the ensuing gerrymandering of various legislatures, which continues to rage through the political process today, could have been partially stemmed.
I couldn't agree more.

And I want to add another observation about media double-standards, specifically with regard to the press' obsession with "optics"—the optics of Clinton's emails; the optics of her speaking fees; the optics of her continuing to speak about Russian interference in the election. So intransigent was much of the political media's focus on optics that the campaign between the most qualified candidate ever to run and the most unqualified candidate ever to run centered on optics to the almost total exclusion of policy.

But suddenly optics don't matter anymore when it comes to the optics of telling a historic female presidential candidate to fuck off and shut up.

This is something to which I alluded in my April piece, "On Hillary Clinton's Beautiful Refusal to 'Go Away'."
And I—selfishly, I readily admit—am incredibly relieved, and grateful beyond measure, that Hillary Clinton refuses to go away.

That she continues to speak, that she continues to advocate, that she continues to be seen, that she continues to exercise her right to speak freely, and to be heard.

Though I am ever despondent about the misogyny that obliges her to model such tenacious gumption, I am exhilarated by the example she is setting (again, and always) for young women who will, inexorably, be told in their lives to "go away."

And for we not-so-young women, too. That Hillary is also an older woman who refuses to go away is tremendously important. Older women occupy a very particular space in our culture—a space frequently defined by an abandonment of listening. Rather than valuing the lived experiences of older women, and the wisdom those lives have imparted, we turn away from them, dismissing them as irrelevant; we neglect to listen, just at the moment where they may offer insights most profoundly worth listening to.

Hillary has a voice. And people listen to it. She has experience, which people respect. She has knowledge, and it is widely valued. This is not the typical experience of older women, who are devalued at the intersection of misogyny and ageism—and whatever other parts of our identity (race, disability, body size, sexuality, gender) are used to devalue us, too.

Hillary's refusal to go away is a direct challenge to the habit of tossing away older women, like so much useless rubbish.
The optics of media influencers sneering that Clinton should go away are not good, to put it politely.

Naturally they would assert that it's not because Clinton is a woman, or an old woman, but because she's Hillary Clinton.


No woman can wrench her personhood from her womanhood, nor can anyone else can do it to us, least of all for the purposes of silencing us.

And let me be abundantly clear on this point: That is exactly what the members of the press who engage in this execrable codswallop are doing. They are arguing that they're not telling the first-ever major-party female presidential candidate to FOAD; they're just telling Hillary Clinton. As if those are separable.

It's decidedly inconvenient that Hillary Clinton, the woman who they want to silence (as if they wouldn't criticize her for that, too), is a history-making candidate. But that is a stone-cold fact that even the most mendacious critics of Clinton's cannot dispute. So they're never just telling Hillary Clinton to "go away." They're telling the only woman who's ever had a real shot at the U.S. presidency.

They also, not incidentally, happen to be telling a former Secretary of State, a former Senator, a former First Lady of the United States, a former First Lady of Arkansas, an advocate for women and children, a key player in the Irish peace process, an undercover investigator of educational segregation, a researcher on educational accessability for disabled students, and a girl avenger who punched a boy in the nose for endangering neighborhood bunnies.

Among many other things. Hillary Clinton has lived an extraordinary life.

So you tell me what the optics are of telling a woman who has been and done all of those things that she has nothing to say worth listening to.

Tell me what message women all across this country, including and especially all the women who do not have Clinton's immense privilege, are meant to take away from seeing one of the most accomplished women in the nation be told that she has nothing of value to offer anymore.

Do tell why I shouldn't care about the optics of a woman giving a lifetime of service to her country and being told to go away.

Actually, don't bother. Because I do care about it. And that isn't going to change.

[H/T to Aphra_Behn.]

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