Shapely Prose is dead; long live Shapely Prose! This place felt righter than any to drop a couple of passionate pro-Hillary blog posts, for reasons that will be obvious to anyone who knew me in 2008. Unlike 2008, I will not be dealing with comments, and I will not write a zillion more blog posts after this, telling myself each time that it’s the definitive one. I’m back for two posts only, and then the closed sign goes back up.
First, please note how I said “my vote,” not yours, in the title. I’ve been asked repeatedly to lay out the reasons why I support her in one place, so that’s what I’m about to do. This is not “Why You, Person I May or May Not Know, Should Vote for Hillary or Eternally Lose My Good Will.” It is simply a long (but by no means exhaustive) list of reasons why I, Kate Harding, would gladly cast a vote for her in the primaries, except I live in a caucus state now and am going to be in England on Super Tuesday. 😫😫😫
I’m trying to resist the temptation to add a lot of disclaimers, because frankly, I’m tired of that being the expectation. In a post titled “Why I’m Supporting Hillary with Joy and without Apologies,” Joan Walsh covers the whole “there are reasonable reasons not to support her” and “of course you don’t have to vote for a woman to be a feminist” thing. So did Katha Pollitt, in a post titled “Why I’m Ready—and Excited—for Hillary.” So did the New York Times in their endorsement of her. If you really don’t know the answer to questions about whether Hillary supporters are actually coming for Bernie supporters’ feminist cards, or whether women who have been voting and watching Hillary Clinton in public life for decades are aware that she voted for the Iraq war in 2002, supported Goldwater when she was 16, has engaged on different levels with a great many nasty rich people, et fucking cetera, the answers you seek are but a Google away.
I’m not going to declare that I’m not apologizing, or I’m not ashamed, because it pisses me off that so many liberals and progressives have decided that should be the default position for anyone who likes one of the most accomplished and admired women in the world. In history. I reject that framework entirely.
Today, ostensibly left-wing journalist Glenn Greenwald—author of a much-shared article declaring aggressive, Clinton-hating “Bernie Bros” non-existent, based on the truly puzzling data point that they don’t flood the Twitter mentions of white male Sanders supporters—tweeted a link to a 2008 post by my friend Rebecca Traister.
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) February 8, 2016
It’s a great post, and you should read it. Hell, if you get a chance to read anything by Rebecca, I highly recommend it. The entire book she wrote about women and the 2008 election, for instance, is terrific.
But Greenwald—who “believed [in 2002] that the president was entitled to have his national security judgment deferred to,” that Greenwald—in tweeting out the Traister link, was not trying to demonstrate that virulent sexism among progressives has existed at least since 2008. He was trying to demonstrate that there’s a narrative that’s been around since at least 2008. A narrative feminists push in every primary that has a serious woman candidate, so, you know, the last two.
Ostensibly left-wing journalist Matt Taibbi explained:
The point being that we got more or less the same argument about “Obama Boys” eight years ago. https://t.co/kyemYdBVoi
— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) February 8, 2016
“Yes, it’s as though sexism on the left were still a thing,” said Traister. And me, and every female activist who’s ever been shouted down by a bunch of guys who are not even the slightest bit sexist but just really need to tell certain objectively ignorant, whiny, overreacting, time-wasting women to get on board or GTFO.
Rebecca and I and a lot of other women complained about it coming from Obama supporters in 2008 because it did. For a lot of us, the Bernie Bros are Obama Bros redux: (mostly) young (mostly) men who are aggressive in their hatred of Clinton and their need to ejaculate that hatred in the direction of any woman who publicly supports her. What amuses me, as someone going through the same shit for the second time, is that even the arguments are practically identical. Clinton’s a monster for all the usual reasons, but her opponent is a true progressive who is going to do a million glorious things the “establishment candidate” never could.
The main difference this time is that her opponent has a legitimate claim to being slightly more progressive. Last time, she was running against her political twin (save for one vote that happened before he was a senator), who just happened to be far savvier about using progressive rhetoric. (I mean, we all understand this now, right?) If I have to get screamed at again that she’s “business as usual” while her opponent is poised to spearhead a revolution, at least this time the candidates are 7% different on the issues.
Anyway, If you’re still with me, now I’m going to completely blow your mind: Sexism on the left wasn’t born in 2008. It’s even older than that. Just like racism on the left! Racism and sexism on the left are both really, really fucking old!
I tell you all of this for two reasons:
1) Because it’s the immediate context in which my brain is forming the words before you right now, hence ongoing subtext of “grrrrrrrrrrrr” in a post that’s meant to be positive.
2) Because if you don’t get that sexism exists on the left and everywhere else—I mean, really, really get it—you can’t make a fully informed argument for or against either of the two Democratic candidates running right now.
Saying “gender doesn’t factor into my decision at all” or “gender doesn’t matter to me,” is, in fact, sexist. Gender matters to you because you are a citizen of a society where gender matters a great deal in ways large and small, spoken and unspoken. You are a citizen of a society that openly scorns ambitious women, women with power, women who act decisively, women who dare to get older, women who don’t fucking care if you like it. You are a citizen of a society that has never had a woman president, that until 2008 had never seen a woman win a single primary, and that is not an accident. Gender matters.
No, it’s not the only thing that matters, and I fucking resent that I feel obliged to say that because OBVIOUSLY it’s not the only thing that matters, and the constant demands that we spell that out are, yes, also inherently sexist. The message is, “Since you brought up gender, please immediately clarify that you are not some crazy bitch whose political positions are a centimeter deep.” See, if you assume that feminist commentators are just as likely as any other commentators to be thoughtful, reasonable, and capable, you won’t need that reassurance. Conversely, if you’re automatically suspicious that feminist commentators are overreacting, or perhaps fabricating offenses for some sort of never-specified personal gain, it’s possible you’re not as progressive as you think.
And it’s impossible for me (or anyone) to talk about why I support Hillary outside of this context: that sexism is real, pervasive, insidious. That gender matters, whether we like it or not. 🚨YOU CAN ACKNOWLEDGE THIS FACT AND STILL NOT PREFER OR EVEN LIKE HILLARY CLINTON.🚨 But if you insist that it’s possible to divorce gender from the dynamics of this primary season, or 2008’s, or really any in American history—psst, when it’s all white guys running, race and gender are factors—you are denying reality. End of.