Why I Listen To Hillary

[Content Note: Misogyny.]

You might have heard that 2016 popular vote winner Hillary Clinton has published a book about the election. This book is currently a best-seller, and Clinton is currently traveling the country on a tour, sold out in many places already, talking about the book.

You might have also heard that many pundits, essayists, politicians, op-ed writers, and folks across the political spectrum are angry about this book!

For instance, the summary of one tabloid-esque Politico article is that various anonymous people, including Democrats even, think Hillary is, like, such a selfish bitch for writing the book. It's said that "people" just want to "move on" from the election, you know?

A New York Daily News article suggests that Clinton is, like, such a greedy bitch for requesting payment for her writing and speaking labor!

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders suggests that Clinton is, like, a such a lying bitch for writing a book full of, per Sanders, sad lies.

People, especially men, have also been all a-twitter with their musings on Hillary's book and tour. Many of them wag their fingers in disapproval or act concernedly perplexed as to why an accomplished public servant who participated in perhaps the most consequential election of our lifetimes would publish a book about it:

Jonathan Easley, in a widely-shared piece at The Hill, hyped a small excerpt from Clinton's book about Bernie Sanders' behavior during the election, claiming with grave concern that "it will reopen old wounds from the bitter primary between the two" and noting how popular Bernie Sanders is with the populace. Poor Bernie!

Huffpost took a moment to stand up for innocent Joe Biden, he of all the cute bro memes, who that mean bitch Hillary mentioned in her book: 

Since it appears the pundit classes have an unfortunate case of amnesia, allow me to recap. For the approximately two years predating the 2016 election, we watched as Donald Trump:
Yes, Donald Trump is a person with garbage morals who is actively hostile to many people.  But, I will never stop reiterating that, broadly speaking, Donald Trump was able to so effectively dehumanize Hillary Clinton precisely because women, in our society, are hated and distrusted.

Had Donald been an ordinary person inflicting this behavior on a co-worker in many workplaces, his actions would be referred to as "creating a hostile work environment." In the context of US politics, however, the prime operating principle has, more than ever, become "win by any means."

The practical, if not legal, effect of what we witnessed was that we the people watched as Donald Trump led a public campaign of gender-based harassment of Hillary Clinton. We watched as he not only got away with it, but was rewarded for it.

So, now what? Who narrates political events, and what exactly are they narrating?

With white men dominating the media and many women operating with, and rewarded richly for, internalized misogyny, Hillary is fed the same scolds we've heard since time immemorial: Get over it. Shut up. Liar. Admit that it's all your fault! Are you sure you want to ruin a good man's reputation?

Flash forward to a recent piece in The New York Times, by Amber Tamblyn, "I'm Done With Not Being Believed." Writing in the context of a famous man accusing her of lying about an encounter with him, she notes (emphasis added):
"For women in America who come forward with stories of harassment, abuse and sexual assault, there are not two sides to every story, no matter how noble that principle might seem. Women do not get to have a side. They get to have an interrogation. Too often, they are questioned mercilessly about whether their side is legitimate. Especially if that side happens to accuse a man of stature, then that woman has to consider the scrutiny and repercussions she'll be subjected to by sharing her side.

Every day, women across the country consider the risks. That is our day job and our night shift. We have a diploma in risk consideration."
These ongoing risk considerations are part of, in Melissa's terms, the terrible bargain we have regretfully struck. So often, aggressive, misogynistic toxicity is spewed at us, and we swallow it, rather than have an afternoon, an opportunity, a friendship, or a career ruined by people who operate with at best, privileged obliviousness, and at worst, brutal intentions.

Almost a year ago, I wrote about how I think often about the silence demanded of marginalized people so that other people don't have to feel badly about being bigots. I still think about it, and most specifically about all the heavy lifting that silence does in service of false and one-sided political narratives, particularly the narrative that has developed since the 2016 election: In the wake of one of the most brutally misogynistic, racist, and xenophobic campaigns in recent history, Hillary Clinton needs to blame herself entirely for the loss and then walk into the woods to live her remaining days in isolation at Grey Gardens.

Meanwhile, Amazon currently carries no less than two dozen books that have already, less than a year later, been published about the 2016 election. The vast majority of these are written by men. Do we think these books thoroughly detail the events of the 2016 election? What are the odds that these men have keen insight into the nuances of misogyny, racism, and xenophobia that those across the political spectrum employed to help deliver Trump's win? Are these voices truly the only perspectives needed to shed light on what happened?

Of note, these post-election publications also include a tome by Bernie Sanders, who lost to Hillary Clinton by more than three million votes in the Democratic Primary. He published his book one week after the election. In it, he shares his experience of his campaign, and here's how it literally begins:

Text: "When we began our race for the presidency in April 2015, we were considered by the political establishment and the media to be a 'fringe' campaign, something not to be taken seriously. After all, I was a senator from a small state with very little name recognition. Our campaign had no money no political organization, and we were taking on the entire Democratic Party establishment. And, by the way, we were also running against the most powerful political operation in the country. The Clinton machine had won the presidency for Bill Clinton twice and almost won the Democratic presidential nomination for Hillary Clinton in 2008."
Mentioning "the Clinton machine" without also acknowledging the "Clinton derangement syndrome" that has persisted for decades ought to be recognized for what it is: a narrative decision on Bernie's part. Yet, was the outcry and anger resulting from Bernie's book and tour comparable to what we're seeing now, for Hillary's? Was Bernie, like Hillary, deemed entitled to a fee for his writing and speaking labor? Were he and his fans widely deemed divisive and self-centered?

The broader point is that every narrative has a perspective.

I listen to Hillary Clinton, not because I'm a vapid fangirl as Clinton supporters are so often portrayed, but because history is often written, to paraphrase Howard Zinn, by and for the winners. Hillary Clinton, as a woman seeking the presidency and the most qualified candidate in the 2016 race, was a history-making candidate.

Yet, she lost.

And, so did we, the many women who experienced the 2016 election as a deeply-painful endorsement of gender-based harassment and misogyny. In the too-cool-to-care world of sociopathic Internet culture, I also admit to a deeper heartbreak that transcends Clinton herself:

If Trump could get away with inflicting on a wealthy, powerful white woman what he did with no repercussions, what hope is there for the rest of us?

The white male pundit class likewise talks a lot about populist politicians, as they fetishize the "ordinary people" who voted for Trump and who are drawn to the generic, class-based railings of Sanders. What they speak much less frequently about is that, to quote Laurie Penny, "most of the interesting women you know are far, far angrier than you'd imagine."

We have good reason to be.

White male rage is taken seriously, by politicians and pundits alike, as a political force that deserves to be reckoned with. Yet, the political kowtowing to white male rage is close kin to the entitled demand for female, and marginalized people's, silence. That chorus of calls to ditch identity politics right after Trump won was no odd coincidence, but a verification of the high value placed upon white men's narratives about the world.

Women, as Tamblyn aptly notes, too often don't get to have a side, not one that's deemed valid, anyway. We are, too often, supposed to shut up and take it because our silence serves some purportedly-greater purpose. Like, a man's reputation, a job opportunity, or another cause that is "more important" than misogyny or abuse.

No more.

As those in the mainstream media have largely absconded their responsibility and complicity in Donald Trump's rise, I find hope in listening to the narratives that these voices want to shut up and drown out.

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