…She Said Shrilly

Goddammit. I just read the letters in response to this, and I don’t know whether to cry or put my fist through a wall.

As I just said to Spillah, the beginning of the real, no-fucking-around “Is Hillary Electable?” debate hurts my heart. My gut says she’s probably not electable. And under ordinary circumstances, I make every effort not get all single-issue-addled at the expense of pragmatic progress. But this time, I am fucking well doing it. I want her to run, and I want her to run her ass off. I would honestly rather see her go down fighting like mad than see a Democrat get elected. (I mean, ideally, I’d love to see her get elected. I’m just not terribly optimistic.)

Because the truth is this: there is not one thing wrong with her that isn’t wrong with every other Democratic contender (unless you’re super-passionate on a different single issue; if you just can’t vote for anyone who supported the war, fine, but that’s not most people’s issue with her). She’s got a terrible personality! An unintelligible voting record! A scandalous past! A history of capitulating to assholes! Okay, but… which of the other possible nominees don’t?

And those are the valid criticisms.

Basically, I will grant that it is possible to separate the invective directed at her from her lack of a penis only when I start hearing male politicians routinely called “shrill” (instead of just pussy-whipped by shrill wives), “calculating” (’cause we’d rather they wing it?), and “too ambitious.” The last one makes me want to eat my own head. We’re talking about people who are RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED FUCKING STATES. Is it humanly possible to be “too ambitious” under those circumstances? Would we prefer an unambitious president?

Oh, wait, I get it–you’re saying she’s too ambitious just because she wants to become president with the scant qualifications of 8 years in the senate, a distinguished law career, thirty years of intimately observing an enormously successful politician, 8 years of working with him from the goddamn White House, tremendous name recognition and fundraising resources, a history of taking vicious personal attacks in stride, and a lifetime of exceptional intelligence? Except, wait, that actually sounds like a pretty damn good candidate. So, her going for the presidency is “too ambitious” because…?

Oh. Right.

That’s the thing. I’m not saying there aren’t good reasons to dislike her. I’m saying there aren’t good reasons to despise her the way so many do–that shit is directly related to her being a woman who doesn’t know her place. A woman who has the gall to believe she deserves to apply for any job she’s capable of. A woman who knows exactly how smart she is and acts as if that should bloody well count for something. A woman who has not backed down in the face of more than a decade’s worth of brutal public criticism.

We don’t know what to do with a woman like that. We keep telling her what her place is, and the bitch just won’t listen! It makes a lot of people nervous. It makes me unutterably grateful. I hope like hell she gets the nomination, regardless of whether she wins. Sure, if she loses, they’ll say it proves you shouldn’t send a woman to do a man’s job; that’ll smart. But they’ll say that if she wins, too, every single time she makes a human mistake. They’ll say it, one way or another, every step of the way. What I admire so much about her is that she never, ever believes it. The power of that, of her simply staying in the goddamned game, is tremendous. And it’s something this culture needs to see a hell of a lot more of from smart, talented women.

Finally, it would take me about a hundred years to fully unpack my black hatred for the word “shrill,” but can I just take a moment to remind anyone who claims it’s not a code word for “woman I don’t feel like listening to” that its definition strictly includes “high-pitched.” As in, the problem is not just a sharp tone, it is the sound of a woman’s voice. And of course, the fact is, Hillary Rodham Clinton doesn’t have a very high-pitched voice, any more than Teresa Heinz or I do. “Shrill” is the last thing any of us are–“roaring with righteous fury and no small amount of plain old irritation” would be a lot more accurate. But the true meaning of this word that’s become synonymous with “irrationally angry” and “hateful” has absolutely nothing to do with a woman’s attitude, and everything to do with her speaking at all.

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