In America, where election cycles last over a year, we're so deep into the 2016 cycle that people are already dropping out of the presidential race, but two front-runners for the Democratic nomination are dominating headlines left and right.
The battle of democratic socialist versus Washington insider is characterized by a lot of things, but there's one thing in particular about Hillary Clinton that's on the rise: The amount of sexism being leveled at her.
I'm not planning on voting for Hillary Clinton — I'm sure she's a perfectly lovely lady, but I'm not entirely on board with all of her policies and her platform. While she does a lot of great things and some of her positions on issues like climate change (I agree, it is a pressing national security threat) are in alignment with my own, I find her too hawkish for my tastes, and I have some other concerns about her campaign as well.
I'd very much like to discuss these concerns like a grownup having a conversation about politics, except that criticizing Hillary Clinton is dangerous in a political climate where women in politics are basically damned no matter what they do, and I don't want to add to that.
When any criticism of Hillary is taken as an opportunity to go all-out with running her into the ground, I can't actually have those conversations. I can separate Hillary the person, and her gender, from her policies, but apparently this distinction is challenging for much of the American electorate. Which is unfortunate, because it's going to seriously hinder the ability to make informed choices in the various primaries that will be sweeping the nation in 2016. (Voting: In for fall.)
Like high-achieving women everywhere, Hillary is tasked with the responsibility of being 150 gajiliion times more qualified for her position than any male counterpart — if I'm to believe the expectations laid out for her, she shouldn't need a cabinet, because she'll be able to run everything from the Department of Education to the Army. Even though she has, for example, much more foreign policy experience than Sanders, who roots much of his campaign in domestic policy, specifically economic issues, people still argue that Sanders is more qualified than she is. Because...magical reasons that no one can really explain?
If Hillary or her supporters point out that sexism is playing a serious role in this campaign and how people are responding to her, bring out the accusations that she's "playing the gender card." No, like really, the gender card thing, it keeps cropping up, over and over again. It's gotten to the point where Hillary, exhibiting her streak of dry humor, has actually made fun of people who say it.
Because it's ridiculous. Stating a fact is not "playing a card," it's stating a fact. People are being sexist about Hillary Clinton, and it's not just Republicans trying to tear her down with arguments that a delicate lady can't possibly head up the nation in times of crisis. I guess her wandering womb might lead her into unspeakable acts in the West Wing or something. She'll be too busy picking out drapes to respond to calls from the Secretary of State.
The people being jerks are also Democrats advancing their own candidates, including, I'm sorry to say, the fervent Berners who believe not only that their own candidate can do no wrong, but that the best way to convince Clinton supporters to come over to their side is to be viciously inappropriate and misogynistic. They seem to be winning with this strategy when it comes to race, so, hey, why not gender too.
No seriously, you should see what some of them say.
So if we acknowledge that Hillary is a woman, we're playing the gender card. And I mean, let's face it, "women" are led around by their vaginas anyway (because every lady has a vagina, and all people with vaginas are ladies). So we can just assume that all women are voting for Hillary, and I can see why some Sanders supporters are feeling anxious. (I'm, uh, not sure what the female Sanders supporters are doing. Maybe painting their nails in the sauna like the fifth columnists they are.)
By this twisted logic, if we point out sexism, we're suggesting that women are fragile and weak and they can't handle criticism. Because I mean come on, if we can't critique a candidate without having a bunch of boo-hooing coochie owners come a-whining, imagine what it will be like if she's elected president. So that's out.
What about just not discussing the woman thing at all? And focus on, like, her actual platform and what she's proposing to do as president? Sexist detractors still can't get past the fact that Hillary Clinton, she's a woman. And to them, she's not just unfit for the presidency by nature of that fact; her entire agenda is secretly totally vagina-driven. Especially all that stuff about gender equality and trying to improve outcomes for women and girls in the United States and abroad. You don't see MEN going around and doing things just for MEN, do you?
It's not just Hillary I can't criticize because of gender problems. If you criticize Sanders in any way — including if you're a supporter — you're presumed to be a rabid Hillary supporter, and this requires that everyone come down like a ton of bricks on you. If I say anything bad about Hillary, I'm feeding the notion that she's unfit because of her gender.
There is seemingly no constructive way to have an actual discussion about the Democratic field in many forums, which is patently ludicrous, and it's all because of sexism. I've got 99 problems right now and to be honest sexism is starting to feel like a significant percentage of them.
Look. There's a lot to dislike about Clinton — and Sanders, for that matter — but her gender ain't it. In 2008, I found myself constantly defending Sarah Palin from sexist attacks on all sides of the political spectrum, despite the fact that it was one of the most repugnant personal experiences of my life (seriously, I'd rather clean out the clogged septic line again), and here we are in 2016, and I'm having to do the exact same thing.
I kind of expect this level of misogyny from Republicans, but Democrats, really? Have you guys seen what comes out of a blocked septic line? Because you can totally come over to my house some time and find out.