This primary has demonstrated nothing if it has not demonstrated how Americans view misogyny as opposed to racism. Let me begin by stating that I know that the United States is a very racist nation, and nothing I am about to say should be interpreted to mean that I think racism is not a huge problem in our country. Bigotry of all types abound here–racism, misogyny, gay-hating (the term “homophobia” is just to soft for me), hatred of the poor, and so forth. There is, however, an unwritten rule that it is unacceptable to state one’s racist beliefs publicly. There is a corresponding unwritten rule that it is perfectly acceptable to state one’s misogynistic beliefs publicly. Digby quotes a Clinton-supporting steelworker who sums it up well: “People don’t want to speak out against Obama because of the fear of being seen as racist,” he says. “It’s easier to say you want to keep a woman barefoot and pregnant….You can call a woman anything.”
Imagine, for a moment, that members of the news media made bad jokes or snide remarks about Sen. Obama’s “nappy” hair or about his tendency to play basketball in his spare time. There would be outrage, and heads would roll. But commentators of all types have felt free to discuss Sen. Clinton’s hair, her clothes, her voice, her face, her former marital problems, and her age. These include so-called “liberal” commentators, such as Margaret Carlson. Sen. Clinton is in the same trap that all women are in: If you speak out strongly and take charge, you are a “bitch.” If you take someone to task, you are a “schoolmarm.” If you fail to speak out strongly and do not take anyone to task, you are proving that women are “too weak” to lead.
A visit to the Web’s leading “liberal” forum will show you just how much “liberals” value the fight to end bigotry toward women. In this forum, Sen. Clinton is called a bitch, a witch and a schoolmarm, as well as “wifey” and–of course, that old standby, “shrill.” And when women complain about the sexism, it is called “whining.” This is undoubtedly why Sen. Clinton did not complain about it, though I think she should have–and from the very beginning, which means sixteen years ago, when the attacks began.
There are genuine reasons to oppose Sen. Clinton. I know what those reasons are, and I respect the opposition. But opposing her voting record and her political associations is one thing; opposing her by tearing down her gender is another. I hear people say “I don’t oppose her because she is a woman; I oppose her because she is Hillary Clinton. But then, when asked to explain what they mean by “Hillary Clinton,” they respond with a series of media-manufactured, sexist descriptions of her. How on Earth do they think she got to be “Hillary Clinton” in the first place?
Several days ago, I wrote that if the tables were turned, things would be very different. Imagine, for a moment, a television talking head actually making those snide remarks about Obama’s race or his hair or skin color. Not only would there be public outrage, but if Sen. Clinton did not immediately condemn the racism, she would be called racist and probably unpatriotic. Yes Obama has stood by silently while the worst kind of bigotry has been directed at his opponent. His silence can have only two meanings: Either he agrees that misogyny is acceptable, or he has chosen to exploit misogyny in order to get votes. Either way, his behavior is totally unacceptable.
There are no bumper stickers suggesting that Obama should be murdered. There are no bumper stickers calling him the racist version of “bitch.” And there are no bumper stickers that make crude allusions to his sex life. The misogynistic venom poured out against Sen. Clinton is now a national movement. It sickens me, and it would sicken me no matter which candidate I supported. Opposing Sen. Clinton on the issues is one thing; opposing her on the basis of her gender, or using her gender to voice your opposition to her policies, makes you a bigot. The sad thing is that in America, your bigotry goes unchallenged.