Tuesday, February 12, 2008

On Hillary Hating

Fear not. I'm not going to write another long diatribe on the question why Hillary Clinton is so hated. Instead, you can go to Shakes and read through her series of all the posts on sexist coverage of Clinton's campaign. The NYT has a good blog post on the topic, too. It attempts to categorize and name the different reasons for the hatred:

Comments like these would seem to lend support to the view (voiced by many respondents) that sexism is what ultimately motivates the Clinton bashers. "A woman who doesn't apologize for who she is. What's not to hate?" (79). "Any woman who is anything more than a wallflower will always be attacked" (105). "People just can't tolerate a woman in power" (111). "Why not get right to heart of the matter? It's sexism. Most women on this planet face it every day" (168). If so, they face it from women as well as from men, at least on the evidence provided here. Carol Maloney (158) reports that many of her intelligent women friends are unable "to discuss Hillary in a logical manner." Kat (23) wonders why "women seem to be on the Hillary hatred bandwagon." Carol (359) says "What I find most disturbing is the amount of hatred spewed at Hillary by those who are so much like her … It is very odd. Is it really self-hate?"

One might ask, can it really be sexism if it is women who are practicing it? Sure it can. If sexism is defined as the conviction that women are unsuited by gender to perform certain tasks or hold certain positions, that conviction is as available to women as it is to men. Still, sexism doesn't seem an adequate explanation of the Hillary-hating phenomenon if only because so much of the venom in the comments is directed at the Clintons as a team. The idea is that nothing but evil can emanate from them; they are a moral blot on the nation's escutcheon, a canker-sore on the body politic, and they must be removed (perhaps by any means necessary). No doubt sexism is a component of such sentiments–a number of women respondents accused her of riding on her husband's coat-tails and lambasted her for not leaving him–but sexism doesn't really account for an anger that sometimes borders on the homicidal.

I disagree with that last sentence. Homicidal rage is pretty much how extreme misogyny shows itself. To regard the strength of the hatred as evidence of its non-sexist origins is not a mistake a woman would make.

Yet I agree that the Hillary hatred is not just about sexism. Bill and Hillary Clinton have become a mythical Most Evil Couple Ever, and whenever I try to gently ask for anecdotes to explain how they gained this status I get a recounting of how horrible the Clinton persecution years of the 1990's were, and how the Clintons should not have caused those years to happen. It almost seems as if the Bush Reich has been preferable to some of those expressing these views, and it is this dislocation in reality that I find interesting to probe. But, alas, my probing gets the reaction it would if I was sticking my finger into someone's infected tooth.

To be absolutely clear, I'm not saying that Hillary Clinton shouldn't be criticized on her past political decisions, on her hawkishness or on her triangulations. Neither am I saying that it's not ok to hate the idea of dynasties in a democracy or that Bill Clinton's sexual escapades aren't worth discussing. I'm talking about the quality of the anger, not its existence, about its unreasoning, dark and, yes, in some cases murderous intensity. And it is the reasons for that quality I want to understand. Because I suspect that repressed sexism does lie deep inside that hatred if you dig deep enough.
P.S. Here's the daily nutritional supplement of sexist Hillary commentary for you.