We all know that there's something about Hillary Clinton that brings out the hyperbolic side in people, from the right-wing conspirators (who actually did exist,) to fading icons of the feminist movement who see sexism under every dark remark.
What gets lost in this avalanche of dubious analysis is both the reality of the state of sexism in these United States of America, and the weakness and errors in the campaign of the first potential woman President.
On the one hand, you have op-eds like these:
Misogyny I Won't Miss by Marie Cocco:
I won't miss reading another treatise by a man or woman, of the left or right, who says that sexism has had not even a teeny-weeny bit of influence on the course of the Democratic campaign. To hint that sexism might possibly have had a minimal role is to play that risible "gender card."
But for all Clinton's political blemishes, the darker stain that has been exposed is the hatred of women that is accepted as a part of our culture.
Cocco makes a big deal of the many Hillary t-shirts out there, without mentioning the Curious-George Obama t-shirts. The marketplace is an equal-opportunity put-down.
and Belittled Woman by Libby Copeland
The person who once conjured a vast right-wing conspiracy now refuses to exit a race she's almost surely lost, and it Drives. People. Crazy. "Poor Hillary" is their response, an attempt at death by condescension. Hillary hate is something profound, something that may never be fully unraveled. It is her very name, so polarizing; it is Slick Willy and Vince Foster and Whitewater and that nickname "Shrillary" and her supposed unending ambition and . . . something else, something ancient.
Copeland says '"Poor Hillary: right gender, wrong woman," goes the headline on the Web site of a Scottish newspaper as if you can separate the two."' But why can't you?
And then there's Rachel Sklar's misguided rant in HuffPost, Hillary Hate: Making Sexism Acceptable. where she wonders why "people [are] so stubbornly resistant to allowing that sexism might have been part of this campaign?" Do they? All of them? No-one admits there's sexism?
It's good to note, appropos Sklar's story (which considers the previous two "great op-eds,"), that the collective wisdom of the Net's responses are almost uniformly against the notion that it was sexism that derailed Clinton's candidacy. There's more "fair and balanced" commentary (to use a loaded phrase) in the 200+ responses than in Sklar's original post.
And for a refreshing counterpoint there's the Guardian piece with the unfortunate title (Sklar would see more proof of sexism in it) Hell hath no fury by Michelle Goldberg:
Infuriated by Barack Obama's ascent, Geraldine Ferraro, erstwhile feminist icon, has transformed herself into Archie Bunker in heels.
In January, the venerable Gloria Steinem made a more sober version of Ferarro's argument in the New York Times, arguing (though she claims not to have been) that gender trumps race in the victim sweepstakes, and that if young women are voting for Obama over Clinton, it could be because of false consciousness.
The irony is that, for the overwhelming majority of women, voting against Clinton was never about repudiating second-wave feminism. But the more leaders of the movement insist on conflating their noble struggle for social justice with the fate of an uninspiring and nepotistic candidate, the less relevant it will be. Many progressives, male and female alike, see Clinton as cynical and narcissistic, pandering to interest-group sectarianism even as she compromises on important principals. It would be a hideous shame if they came to see feminism the same way.