The Common Denominator Is Hatred of Women

[Content Note: Violence, harassment, threats, misogyny.]

Since yesterday, when it was discovered that shooter James T. Hodgkinson, who targeted Republican members of Congress, was a staunch Bernie Sanders supporter with a history of violent misogyny, there has been a whole lot of #NotAllSandersSupporters going around.

And yes! Absolutely right. Not all Sanders supporters indeed. Not even most. Just a "small but vocal minority," whose intense harassment of Hillary Clinton supporters was visible and relentless enough that Bernie Sanders himself was obliged to comment on it, offering weakly: "We don't want that crap" and "Anybody who is supporting me that is doing the sexist things — we don't want them."

At the New York Times, under the headline "Attack Tests Movement Sanders Founded," Yamiche Alcindor writes:
But long before the shooting on Wednesday, some of Mr. Sanders's supporters had earned a belligerent reputation for their criticism of Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Party, and others who they believed disagreed with their ideas. Sanders fans, sometimes referred to derogatorily as "Bernie Bros" or "Bernie Bots," at times harassed reporters covering Mr. Sanders and flooded social media with angry posts directed at the "corporate media," a term often used by the senator.

The suspect in the shooting in Virginia put a new spotlight on the rage buried in some corners of the progressive left.
A new spotlight for whom, exactly? Certainly not those of us who have been targets of that rage for many years — for being Hillary supporters, for refusing to compromise on reproductive rights, for criticizing one of The Left's Great White Male Heroes: Bill Maher, Michael Moore, Keith Olbermann, etc.

Nothing, but nothing, brings out threats from leftists like criticizing a white male progressive. At least when you're a woman doing it.

I have never, in thirteen years, been on the receiving end of such vicious, sustained hatred and harassment as I have been since Bernie Sanders decided to run as a Democrat and has subsequently positioned himself as a Democratic reformer and progressive leader.

That is just a fucking fact. Which lots of Sanders supporters want to deny or ignore.

All because I have criticized some of Sanders' positions and leadership techniques, as I disagree with them. Like I imagine we're in some kind of fucking democracy or something! The nerve.

And that targeted harassment of women in particular is something with which everyone, across the entire political spectrum, needs to reckon. Because giving a home to that misogynistic hatred, by design or by indifference, is empowering public acts of violence.

Yeah, Hodgkinson happened to be a Sanders supporter. The Portland white supremacist killer, Jeremy Christian, was a Sanders supporter, too — before he became a Trump supporter. Such a radical ideological reversal makes no sense to most of us, but one of the things to which Christian was drawn, which he found in both camps, was the demonization (and attendant seething hatred) of Hillary Clinton, upon whom Christian wished death, along with all her supporters.

The common denominator among virtually every single man who commits an act of public violence, whether under the banner of progressive politics or anti-choice saviorism or white supremacy or jihadism, is a history of domestic violence and/or antifeminst views.

Which means, as I said right upfront, of course this isn't about all Sanders supporters; it's not even about only Sanders supporters!

It's about everyone — and that includes a not insignificant number of Sanders supporters — who provides space for people with violent misogynistic beliefs to feel welcome.

Extending such a welcome within political movements isn't just about policy. It's also about rhetoric, and it's also about decisions made regarding tolerance of expressed misogyny. Anything but a zero tolerance policy, anything but categorical rejection, gives space that is dangerous.

And it's dangerous because violent hatred of women is a red flag for future acts of public violence, even if women aren't the specific target of those acts.

The men who end up perpetrating such hideous acts often have a history of escalating violence toward women. Words on screens at MRA sites. Harassment of classmates or colleagues. Violent acts against female family members. And when they get away with it, over and over, they graduate to bigger displays of even more catastrophic violence.

It's easy — and enticing — to dismiss these men as lunatics. That's a neat way of avoiding accountability for what role we all might play in empowering violence that uses tolerance of misogyny as the canary in the coalmine.

The truth is, the men who commit these acts use women as their guinea pigs. And they take cues from the culture. And whether we want to admit it or whether we don't, Hodgkinson was part of a political movement in which there was — and remains — an active segment of vile misogyny.

It's not unique to Bernie Sanders' movement and supporters. But it's their responsibility to clean up their own space, and that can't happen if they won't even acknowledge that it exists.

And anyone who doubts its existence will probably need only follow my Twitter mentions after I share this post.

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