The Constant Unending Misogyny [Many] Men Don't Even Know They Use: Clinton Edition

>> Friday, August 19, 2016

I have read quite a few political posts recently, like more than the rest of my life combined. I started out this election not sure how I felt about Hillary Clinton and growing to respect and admire her the more I educated myself. I will not pretend I'm anything but a dedicated supporter.

But, in addition to all I learned about her dedication and commitment and intelligence and experience and fortitude that I respect about her, nearly as compelling has been the opening of my eyes to her heinous treatment by media (yes even women) and almost everyone else that gets a voice. I found myself getting hot around the collar (and identifying with it from my own history and my own friends during this election) as people felt perfectly comfortable putting the ugliest possible spin on the most trivial and inconsequential items, beating her up, not just once or twice but at every mention for decisions that other people had made: her husband, Congress, other Dem Presidents even Republican Presidents. Even "pro-Hillary" pieces were filled with apologetic comments and praise for Bernie (if written by women) and filled with "of course she's got tons of issues and here they are again but she's better than total insanity" pieces often by men. And those are most of the pro-Hillary pieces. The anti-Hillary pieces are disgusting, beating the same dead horses, spinning everything from her clothes, her tone to the New York Times criticizing her for putting her hand over her heart when she talked. Seriously? Same week Trump is tearing into Gold Star families.

But one I read yesterday, a piece ostensibly praising Hillary, sent me over the edge. I mean I was and am so livid I wrote the bulk of this at 4 am because I couldn't go back to sleep. That's how much it pissed me off. The piece was called "Understanding Hillary: Why the Clinton America Sees Isn't the Clinton Colleagues Know" in Vox by Ezra Klein and it was the absolute pinnacle of self-congratulatory patronizing misogyny I have ever read, masquerading as an apology piece. And it's clear the author had absolutely no self-awareness of it.

Let's start by that title. Let's start by the premise that, though she had more votes than any other candidate (Trump [by nearly 3 million] or Sanders [by nearly 4 million]) this primary, we have to hear again how America can't see the real Hillary, with no awareness that, hey, maybe media's complicit in that.

In case that didn't come through, he makes sure to remind us the first four paragraphs that (a) he's not going to talk (just like every other journalist) about any of her policies or achievements, (b) will remind us (again) of her many failings we need to mention whenever her name comes up, and (c) let's not forget the focus is on why she's so unlikable that everyone's talking about and, of course, (d) she proves the media's point by being everything the media insists she is even if everyone who knows her says she's not like that. Oh, and people that meet her. And people that have studied her history. Why? Because it *has* to be her. It couldn't possibly be that *he's* prejudiced or that *he's* refusing to see her clearly. Nope, we all know, she did it herself even if those that have known her for years say differently.

He spends two paragraphs acknowledging that those that actually know her, have worked with her, think that perception is totally whacked and were angered at how people treated and perceived her that way. Of course, since he's interviewing her, let's not miss the opportunity (again) to confront her with how much people don't like her because that's not rude or unkind or in any way attacky. He actually uses this line to describe his interview with her: "As you watch this clip, remember this is a real human being — a human being who really believes she’s dedicated her adult life to helping others — trying to understand why most Americans say they don’t like her." [My emphasis]

Really? I need you to remind me that she's a real human being? That she has the effrontery to think she's dedicated her adult life to helping others just because she has? And has to be confronted in every exchange with the media on why people don't like her? 

Her response is hey people love the work I do and I get very high approval ratings when I do the job [which is absolutely and objectively true] and that she thinks, if the media constantly pounds away at someone indefinitely for years it might affect people's perception of her [as has also been shown repeatedly by studies]. His response? "I don’t buy it. Other politicians find themselves under continuous assault, but their poll numbers strengthen amid campaigns."

Yeah? Welcome to the world of women. And, hey, thanks for being part of the very process you insist isn't behind it. Since he's decided it couldn't possibly be on his side of things (and, in fact, dismisses it as absurd), let's ask the staff and colleagues and confidentes and coworkers what is it about Hillary that doesn't come through on the campaign trail.

He was amazed they all had the same answer, and it was also the same answer that argued she'd be great at governance  She listens.

Now listen to his response to this:

The first few times I heard someone praise Clinton’s listening, I discounted it. After hearing it five, six, seven times, I got annoyed by it. What a gendered compliment: “She listens.” It sounds like a caricature of what we would say about a female politician.

But after hearing it 11, 12, 15 times, I began to take it seriously, ask more questions about it. And as I did, the Gap began to make more sense.
He spends a paragraph reminding us that presidents [all men, by the way] are supposed to be great orators first and foremost, then spends three paragraphs explaining how the media scoffed at her listening tours when she was running for senator as if that was perfectly reasonable (although she won). Who would have guessed people appreciate being heard instead of just talked at? You'd think a journalist of all people would appreciate that, but then, apparently not.

Then, when he got to this part, I just about lost it.
Clinton began her 2016 campaign with a listening tour, as well, and it is worth considering the possibility that these tours are not simply bullshit. This is, to be honest, a possibility I had not really considered until speaking with past and present Clinton aides who have been forced to take their boss’s process seriously.
Take a moment and, whether you hate Clinton or not, just think about the prejudice, the patronizing in that paragraph as if a listening tour was (a) strictly a gimmick with no meaning (even though, I reiterate, she won the election for Senate with it) and (b) had any bearing on a person's ability to, I don't know, look out for the best interests of the populace because she bothered to find out what people thought. Take a minute and let that sink in. He's not apologizing for thinking they were bullshit, folks, he's implying you should be as amazed as he was that they they weren't. Who would have thought giving a shit about the actual people would be important. Damn!

He could have stopped it right there, really, on the gap. Asked and answered as well as demonstrating how it was communicated to the public by, hey, his and his media's brethren's doing it again. Their insistence giving their own preconceptions precedence over what she says and does can explain the gap right damn there.

Then he noted how she actually took those notes and comments and local articles she'd gathered from listening to people and had her staff follow through on them, actually try to get some issues resolved, actually see if there was a way to address it in her work. Unbelievable! It may sound like I'm being flippant, but his reaction comes across that way, as if the notion that real people would influence Hillary Clinton's policies and actions is beyond belief.

Then he says, "Let’s stop and state the obvious: There are gender dynamics at play here."


He goes on for several paragraphs on how women work vs. how men work (stereotypical but not entirely untrue either) with no apparent awareness of how everything he said before this followed exactly the same pattern. Then, of course, the obligatory praise of Sanders oratory but that Hillary was better at building coalitions (I could write a blog post on that alone, but I won't; the primary's over). In fact, after noting that her listening/coalition building skills won her the primary, he adds the also obligatory:
I want to be very clear here. I’m not saying that anyone who opposed Clinton was sexist. Nor am I saying Clinton should have won. What I’m saying is that presidential campaigns are built to showcase the stereotypically male trait of standing in front of a room speaking confidently — and in ways that are pretty deep, that’s what we expect out of our presidential candidates. Campaigns built on charismatic oration feel legitimate in a way that campaigns built on deep relationships do not.
That's right folks, just because she had far and away the most votes and most delegates, that doesn't mean she should have won. He certainly wouldn't want to credit her with it.And his perception that her campaign felt less legitimate is, he's sure, universal. What we expect. And that couldn't, in any way, be y'know, sexist. [Rolls eyes]

He then notes, surprisingly, that hey, listening might actually be a useful skill when it comes to governance. He noted that her contemporaries marveled that she listened, that she took the time and effort to learn about who they were and what they were about before they spoke (he seemed to think this was at least somewhat a gimmick, too, but an effective one instead of, hey, maybe genuine). That she learned and absorbed. Then he pointed out examples where people had come to her with legitimate concerns, she listened and enacted changes to address those concerns, not just a few times but repeatedly, impressing people who, y'know, actually cared about those issues. 

But heaven forbid we keep giving her credit for something unique she does that few if any other politicians do without telling us what's wrong with it.  This was followed up quickly by a condemnation of its effectiveness despite, of course, his unfamiliarity with it (since he didn't even think it existed before now) or the fact she's never actually been governing anyone.

He begins by noting there's a downside (which while likely true; most things have a downside), I just don't think he's qualified to say that. He says she's rarely taken tough stands as a result (which is utter bullshit. Remember universal healthcare she wanted to push through? Going to China and telling them to treat women better? Standing up against the NRA when most won't? Give me a frickin' break!) He blamed this listening on the failure of the healthcare she tried to get enacted rather than the tough fight she, as a non-legislator, had against people who resented her because of that and her gender and, let's not forget, the huge lobbying effort by the same folks that fought ACA and are still fighting it. But, sure, let's blame it on her listening. Then, of course, he brings up the Iraq war vote (which wasn't a vote for war) that 76 Senators voted for but is constantly levied against her and her alone despite the fact it wasn't an authorization for war.

But, hey, no prejudice here. No bias. Just the facts, folks.

Then, of all things, we have to go again into why she lost in 2008, all the mistakes she made to win nearly 18 million votes, at least as many as Obama did. It couldn't be that she was up against someone good (a masterful orator, for instance), whose race fired up the minority base, whose youth and idealism inspired many and made him a media darling in the primary. She won nearly as many votes by herself as the entire votes cast in the Republican primary that year for all four top contenders, but she's somehow a failure.

Just like, even now, after having won the primary, she still is. What is she doing wrong?

(Because it couldn't be us, right? It couldn't be the spin we're always putting on it. It's got to be her, right?)

She's slammed because her vision isn't sharper - so many interests represented. Because it's somehow a bad thing to incorporate support for as many different people and issues as possible instead of brushing off everything but a few pet items? Really?  He notes Robert Reich saying, "It is hard to say what she stands for because she has not singled out a few very large, very ambitious ideas on which she would like a mandate to govern." Why is that so? Why do I need a few sound bite ideas to govern well instead of nuance and understanding the intricacy, of realizing that many issues are interconnected and you can't effectively deal with one without addressing all the aspects that intersect with it. What if, I'm just throwing that out there, that's just a perception men have that, gasp, isn't actually true? What if the world is actually complex?

But Ezra Klein's ready to predict Clinton's failure as a result of it already (surprise!):
It is easy to imagine reading an article, in the third year of Clinton’s presidency, that sees this process as the root of her presidency’s failures. She could run a White House weighted down by endless meetings, fractured between too many competing priorities, riven between different advisers constantly fighting for her favor, and paralyzed by a search for common ground that Republicans won’t let her find.
Guys, I don't think you've been paying attention to women. Multitasking and addressing the subtleties, big picture and detail, is one of our strengths. But, hey, let's not forget to couch her strength in the form of a weakness (as he decried the media for doing earlier while, um, doing it himself).

Then, after explaining at length how he ignored what she said (which was absolutely accurate) and what she said she did (which was just as accurate) and what her close supporters said until (after dozens said the exact same thing) it occurred to him that maybe it was the truth, he's going to give us the skinny on why she has a problem with the press. Really, Sherlock? I'm pretty sure I can figure it out myself from your own prime example.

And he'll start off by making it all about Hillary's hatred of the press. He'll tell us what she thinks and what she feels because, apparently, as he was busy ignoring the absolute and obvious truth she and her folks were saying, he can totally read her mind. We women call that mansplaining, when men feel like they have a better handle on your motivations and thoughts than you do yourself. And it's no less charming when you see it as an intro to why Hillary and the press are often at odds. Because it primes the pump to dump it all on Hillary. Again. Of course. Couldn't possibly take responsibility for our inability to take her words and actions at face value. She's obviously a bitch for telling us stuff we refused to believe so she thinks we don't trust her. You know, 'cause we say she's untrustworthy. But, I'm jumping the gun. Perhaps he's about to present a mea culpa (ten bucks I'm right, though).

He accuses her of carelessness. Other people give speeches when they're not in office and use personal servers to get their jobs done when no other alternate exists so she foolishly does so, too. Because, hey, it's not like the press treats her with a different standard or that she thinks she should get the same damn yardstick as every-damn-body else. The nerve! After all, Trump, who talked about running in previous elections, also has given speeches at much higher price tags (which is mind-boggling in and of itself having seen his speech making), but no one has demanded an explanation or a transcript or that he prostrate himself on the altar of public opinion.

But, of course, it's all Hillary's doing, not the bloody double standard.

He's nice enough to ask her, give her the opportunity to shoulder the blame as women are supposed to do but, no, she says the media has given up being gatekeepers of the truth and are focused on what's outrageous. And it doesn't matter that what she's saying is absolutely and obviously true. He's not only disbelieving, he patronizes her that she believes it:
It comes in response to a question about her favorite books. She really does believe this.
 He gives her another chance. She gives him more absolute truth:
At another point, I asked her why trust in so many major institutions in public life — politicians, the business, the media — had fallen in recent decades. She turned immediately to the media. “I really believe that none of us have done what we should have done in being really straightforward about what we know and what we don’t know,” she said, “in being willing to say, ‘We reported that story last week; it turns out we were wrong.’”

She's absolutely right again. Story after story of inflated nonsense (as, again, he noted earlier, so much written that turned out to have no substance) across stories with tiny little retractions buried weeks later than no one talks about. His response is that there's "some of that" but she's used it as an excuse to play fast and loose with the public trust herself. Does he explain how? In what way? What's the basis for that (or in fact any of the beliefs and emotions he's ascribed to her)? Nope. We just get to assume he knows all and she's deluded herself into betraying our trust in some unknown fashion, perhaps by telling us the truth. She's a politician. Can't expect that, can you? How canny.

But, no, not sexist at all.

Then, of course, we have to go into why Republicans hate her (it can't be because she actually gets shit done and won't be cowed and stay quietly at home like they prefer or nothing. It's got to be her). They can chant "Lock her up" in their actual convention but if she says she's good at making enemies of Republicans, she's the bitch.

He sneers at her partisanship, at the fact she believes she can still get stuff done with the Republicans and then admits, when she was Senator in a very similar situation, that's exactly what she did. She (gasp!) listens to what they say, finds out what's important to them, uses it to her advantage, refuses to play grudge matches. You know, exactly what they hell she says she does. But we get to be shocked it might be true because, y'know, Hillary. Mr. Klein, while marveling at it, makes sure we know this unique ability to let bygones go by and do the work they were hired to do is somehow unhealthy. Reminds me of a Molly Ivins quote.
As they say around the Texas Legislature, if you can't drink their whiskey, screw their women, take their money, and vote against 'em anyway, you don't belong in office.
Gee, maybe Hillary just doesn't think like a male politician. It's almost like she's, y'know, a woman.

Mr. Klein, confounded (and apparently blind) to the honesty he's been shown seems clueless how acting like a woman would work for a female politician. When she's so hated.

And never once seems to notice his own fingerprint on that particular conundrum.

He might not get it. I do. The road she's paving is going to be hell, but I can't think of anyone more capable of puttin' it down. And folks like Mr. Klein will likely be the last to notice, despite the political acumen they seem so proud they have. Too bad it doesn't come with a little self-awareness.

Ezra, if you're reading, Sandy wanted you to know "Sandy Knauer Morgan approves this message"


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