A Catastrophic Failure to Listen to Women

[Content Note: White supremacy; misogyny.]

In August of last year, Hillary Clinton delivered a powerful address, as unvarnished as it was important, detailing how her opponent Donald Trump was running a campaign centering white nationalism — and urging us to recognize that Trump had been showing us for decades who he really is.

[Full transcript.]

At the time, I called Clinton's address "the speech of the campaign," and wrote:
Hillary's transfixing speech was among the best of modern political speeches. It was not a fiery speech, although she showed flashes of welcome anger about the direction in which Trump is trying to lead this nation. Her steady, quiet delivery befitted the grave content of her message: We have a choice to make, and it is not just between two candidates, but about what we want our country to be.

...This is a moment of reckoning.

It is a moment of reckoning for voters, who must choose between two vastly different visions for the country.

It is a moment of reckoning for the Republican Party, who must choose whether they will limply concede the takeover of their party by white nationalists.

It is a moment of reckoning for the media, who must choose whether they will continue to mischaracterize Hillary and promulgate a grotesque caricature of her, even after she stood at a podium and delivered an important, powerful address in which she put the love of her country — and the marginalized people in it — above any pretense of reaching out (or indulging) extremists; above any sense of hesitation, as she called out the "racist lies" Trump has told and made clear how she feels about the Confederate flag; above any inclination to center herself, though she, too, has been targeted, in alarming ways, by Trump's escalating rhetoric; above any worry about how this will be "spun," because it was necessary.

It is a moment of reckoning for us all. Including Hillary. Who had a choice of her own to make. And who made the choice to lead, because that is what we expect — and need — our presidents to do.

"The hard truth is," said Hillary, "there's no other Donald Trump. This is it." She quoted Maya Angelou: "When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time." Trump, she said, "has shown us exactly who he is. We should believe him."

She's right. He has.

And Hillary has shown us exactly who she is, too.
Tens of millions of people chose to ignore her. Many of them ridiculed her address and what they deemed its hyperbolic content. They aimed their mockery and ire at those of us who found her words necessary and critical.

It was one of many warnings that Hillary Clinton issued about Donald Trump during the campaign, and it just might be the most important warning we collectively failed to heed.

Clinton, of course, is hardly the only woman to have loudly voiced warnings about the resurgence of empowered white supremacy. She was not the first, either — though she was certainly the most well-known, with the biggest platform.

And it was not only women: A number of men, particularly men from marginalized classes, have sounded the alarm, too.

But the fierce, urgent warnings emanated relentlessly from women: Black women, Latinas, Native American women, AAPI women, Muslim women, Jewish women, atheist women, immigrant women, disabled women, trans women, queer women, fat women, feminist and womanist women — women who were and are, for various reasons, disproportionately targeted by organized white supremacists.

Women who noted in calm voices, who yelled with expletives, who screamed in desperation that the online mass attacks from fanboys, gamers, supporters of particular candidates were insistently and increasingly suffused with white supremacy.

Women who asked and begged and pleaded and demanded that social media sites like Twitter and Facebook do something about the Nazis that were attacking them (us).

Women who had long, private conversations with one another about how no one was listening and no one was paying attention and no one fucking cared about resurgent white supremacy that was increasingly making it unsafe for marginalized people online and offline.

Women who never found Trump "entertaining." Who warned that Trump would empower white supremacy. Who urged scrutiny of his own record of white supremacy. Who cheered when Hillary Clinton said something. And wept when our countrypeople failed to listen to her, too.

It wasn't just that these women were ignored. They (we) were mocked, bullied, harassed, targeted, silenced. Called hysterical. Called alarmists. Called reactionary. Dismissed as snowflakes. Accused of hating free speech. Charged with divisiveness. Told we were the actual problem. Lectured on civility.

Women of color who passionately urged attention to emergent fronts in organized white supremacy were told they were the real racists. White women who took up space in solidarity were them were called "race traitors" from our right and "performative" from our left.

All of us were told that we were playing identity politics. And that it was harmful.

The one person who definitely did not ignore these women was Hillary Clinton, who amplified their concerns in an important speech almost exactly a year ago.

But she was ignored, too. By too many people, anyway. By the people who "matter," according to the political press — a demographic in which they include themselves.

So here we are.

Over and over I see people expressing surprise by what they saw in Charlottesville. And it's a sickening thing to behold, especially for the women who never had the luxury of such surprise, by virtue of having been victimized by the people about which we warned you.

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