The other day, when discussing the Colin Kaepernick controversy I had a controversial and yet painfully obvious thought. At least, it seemed painfully obvious at that time and in that conversation:
“There is a word for it when you have that ‘gut feeling’ that causes you to take a position that a black man exercising his First Amendment right to protest is somehow offensive to you.
That gut feeling is called racism.”
In the conversation that preceded this insight, it wasn’t merely that someone had advanced the thought that there was something wrong with protesting. It was the opinion – unsupported by any fact – that Colin Kaepernick was somehow not to be trusted. That lack of trust is created—by our society, culture and media—and is the basis of systemic racism.
Our Presidential Election has caused me to take a look at whether that same dynamic holds true with women and sexism?
People don’t really have any facts about why Hillary Clinton is untrustworthy.
In fact, nothing she has done is really even close to what every other President, Congressman, or Secretary of State before her had done.
Every other (male) President has made mistakes, made bad decisions, lied, changed course, or done things that were outright criminal. For example, this meme-like post that is making the rounds on social media today:
It’s the nature of the beast—the nature of being an imperfect human in a job that thrusts you into the limelight and demands you make difficult decisions based on imperfect information every day for years on end.
And yet there are a lot of otherwise liberal people (and, of course, plenty of conservatives) who are buying the into the idea that Hillary Clinton is somehow more dishonest—or worse, has committed actual crimes. But this idea doesn’t come out with proven facts, it is often expressed like this: “There’s just something about Hillary I don’t like.” or “I just don’t trust her.”
Now why would that be?
There’s a word for it, my friends, and the word is ‘sexism.’
For the record, I’m not saying that EVERYONE who doesn’t support Hillary Clinton is a sexist or misogynist. There are valid reasons why she may, as a candidate, not be your choice. For example, her hawkishness, her being relatively center of left, her close ties to Wall Street. But what I am saying is this: if your reason is “I just have this feeling about her” or you are accepting the oft-repeated but factually unsupported “untrustworthy” trope, that “feeling” is one you should be examining.
Now, I’m certainly not the first to come up with this theory.
For example, as the above-linked Daily Kos piece, which has the catchy title of “The Most Thorough, Profound and Moving Defense of Hillary Clinton I Have Ever Seen,” recounts:
Politifact, the Pulitzer prize-winning fact-checking project, determined for example that Hillary was actually the most truthful candidate (of either Party) in the 2016 election season. And in general Politifact has determined that Hillary is more honest than most (but not all) politicians they have tracked over the years.
Jill Abramson, a former reporter for the Wall Street Journal as well as former Executive Editor of the New York Times, had this to say about Hillary’s honesty: “As an editor I’ve launched investigations into her business dealings, her fundraising, her foundation and her marriage. As a reporter my stories stretch back to Whitewater. I’m not a favorite in Hillaryland. That makes what I want to say next surprising. Hillary Clinton is fundamentally honest and trustworthy.”
The same piece also recognizes the serious impediments that our sexism-based theory faces:
“1) Almost nobody will admit to it. Conservatives decided long ago that all such accusations (sexism, racism, homophobia, etc) are standard liberal bullshit whose only real intent is to shut down debate, and liberals tend to possess a sense of moral entitlement which leads them to consider themselves automatically exempt from all such accusations. (Side note: if you did roll your eyes above, there’s a good chance I’m describing you here. Sorry.)
2) Overt sexism is significantly more likely to be tolerated in our society than overt racism. It is a low-risk form of bigotry and discrimination that rarely damages professional or political careers. Because of this, far fewer people worry about crossing that line.
3) We have formed a sort of collective blindness to sexism that allows us to pretend that we are on top of the issue while simultaneously ignoring the many ways in which it actually permeates our society. (Side note 2: There’s a reason it’s called a “glass” ceiling.)
4) Unlike men, women who make demands are still often seen as unfeminine and inappropriately aggressive, bordering on deviant. And if the people most aggressively pushing against the glass ceiling are “broken” or “deviant”, it’s easier to justify dismissing both them and their concerns.”
But let yourself go a little. Get a little more fact-y than we’re used to these days. And tell me what your gut tells you.
Doesn’t it make a lot of sense?
Photo Credit: Associated Press/File