This morning, a 70-year-old visually impaired African American woman called in to C-Span’s “Washington Journal” to express her support for Obama and her opposition to Clinton. She spoke for a moment about the discrimination she had experienced as a black woman and about the hope Obama gives her. Then she spoke about how disappointed she is in Hillary and Bill Clinton and about the negative aspect of Clinton’s campaign. Then she went into a higher gear and called Clinton a “shrill, shrieking, shrew.”
Here is a person who has been discriminated against four ways: In the U.S., you are the target of oppression if you are African American, if you are a woman, if you are older, and if you are disabled. She is all four, yet she apparently had no inner conflict over delivering a viciously sexist attack against Clinton on national television.
Can you even imagine what would happen if a Clinton supporter phoned C-Span to call Obama a racist name?
The internalization of misogyny is so strong that women–even a woman like the C-Span caller–think nothing of projecting it onto any female they dislike. This is what is so hard to get across to the thousands of Obama supporters, including many women, who say “But…but…Clinton did this, and Clinton did that”: That is not the point. Work against Sen. Clinton all you like. Attack her policies. Attack her campaign. But when you attack her gender, you display bigotry, pure and simple. And if you are a female and you spew bigotry toward Clinton or any other woman, you are spewing it at me, your mother, your sister, and–most of all–yourself.
As a Second Wave feminist, I frequently feel that everything we did, we did in vain. That is because women’s dependence on a patriarchal system is so powerful, women would rather trash themselves than give it up. Obama’s supporters call themselves “progressive,” but those who make gender-based attacks on his opponent are no more progressive than the right-wing culture-builders who have attacked Clinton and other women for decades.