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Hillary Is The Screen On Which Our Feelings About Women Are Projected

"My husband ... has mentioned a couple of times that I should consider anti-anxiety medication, just as a precautionary measure, just until Election Day."
Hillary Is The Screen On Which Our Feelings About Women Are Projected
Rebecca Traister at a recent conference. Image from: Jewish Women's Archive

A lot of women are passing around this magazine piece by journalist Rebecca Traister today, and if you want to understand even a little about why women are so angry about the way Hillary Clinton is treated, you should go read all of it:

The magnitude of this historical shift—the election of a female commander in chief—has the opportunity to bring out something great in America. But before it does, it will show us the worst of us. For each of Hillary's shortcomings, there will be American shortcomings to match. There will be sexism, veiled and direct, from the right and the left. Democratic women will feel screwed by their friends all over again, as I did in August when I saw a poll showing Clinton ahead of her Democratic challenger Bernie Sanders by a mere 6 points with the party's men and 44 points with its women: a 38-percentage-point gender gap that seemed to speak volumes about how much men on the left care about women's leadership.

Yep. I've been talking about this a lot, and men usually respond by telling me I "must have gotten the numbers wrong." Or they defend it by insisting their opposition to her has nothing AT ALL to do with her gender, or that the reason they judge her on a different standard is because of her "horrible" positions. So they basically insinuate that women don't make choices on the issues, so we must be too dumb (or blinded by estrogen) to make a rational decision. Well, all righty, then! (As we feminists like to say, "It's only identity politics when you support someone who isn't a white man.")

And oh, those guys—my friends, my colleagues, my professional sparring partners—make me mad. Not just because they'd never in a million years admit that their preference for a white guy has anything to do with gender, or because they suggest that I'm the regressive one for caring that Hillary's a woman. I mean, obviously those things make me mad too. But the real bitch is when I hear her attacked by men who claim to be feminists but actually despise her with inexplicable intensity, when I hear her supporters belittled for their cute investment in a non-male presidential power. It makes me spittingly angry. It transforms me into a knee-jerk defender of a candidate about whom I actually feel very torn. I'm allowed to criticize Hillary all I want, but damn if another round of sniping from liberal white boys isn't going to radicalize me in her defense all over again.


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Anyway. Yes, there will be enormous animosity, directed at her and at those who support her. She'll make errors; we'll make errors. She will disappoint in ways that will make her adherents shake their heads sadly; then she'll be pilloried so harshly that even some of her critics will suck in their breath at the level of hostility. She is the screen upon which all of America's very long-standing, very complicated, fairly unattractive feelings about women will be projected for the next 13 months. Or, if things go well, the next 10 years.

And lots of us—including those who love her, those who hate her, and those like me who both love and hate her but mostly have spent far too much of our lives thinking about her—will feel all this acutely. Because we'll know that the reception she receives will not just be about her. It will be about us.

The "firsts," who are often the "onlys" for too long, unwillingly serve as reflections (distorted, incomplete, always dissatisfying) of the underrepresented populations from which they're drawn. The story of how they fare becomes our story. Living through a referendum on our status, our abilities, our deficiencies—that's what many of us are about to do. It's enough to make me want to pull up the covers and not get out of bed.

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