Sunday, July 6, 2008

Clinton, Criticism, and Misogyny

Original Link:

by Melissa McEwan
Once again, re: the below post, I'm finding myself having to stipulate in comments that I don't believe—never have, never will, not even close—that any criticism of Hillary Clinton is de facto misogynistic. That is categorically not what that post is saying (nor this one, nor any other).

I promise if I ever change my mind and decide that any criticism of Hillary Clinton is de facto misogynistic, what I will do is write a post that says, "Any criticism of Hillary Clinton is de facto misogynistic," instead of obliquely burying it within other posts ostensibly about other things, as people seem to think I'm doing.

What I actually am doing, below and elsewhere, is making that point that particular ways of criticizing Hillary Clinton trade on very specific and ancient misogynist frames, and that those particular ways of criticizing her cannot be divorced from their history. Examples:

• Wanting to punch Hillary because of some perceived personal or political flaw --> History of using violence to silence powerful women.

• Judging Hillary based on the sound of her voice --> History of women's voices and tones are routinely singled out as prohibitively unbearable.

• Holding Hillary accountable for something Bill Clinton did (with which she has not claimed participation) --> History of women's individual identities being subsumed into their husbands'.

• Interrupting Hillary at a campaign event with chants of "Iron My Shirt!" --> History of women being relegated to the domestic sphere.

• Casting Hillary as a "she-devil" --> History of powerful women being (literally) demonized as unnatural creatures (devils, monsters, witches).

Et cetera. There's nothing inherently misogynistic about not liking Hillary Clinton as a candidate, or even as a person. But if you express that dislike about her, or her policies, in a way that fits an existent misogynist frame, then it's a problem.

And it strikes me that many of the male commentators, in comments here or at other blogs—including dismissive snark like ending a post criticizing Hillary with "Cue the Clinton feminazis to tell cry misogyny"—are exasperated with the whole thing because they're totally bloody ignorant about women's history. (And not a few women, too.) They unintentionally use misogynist framing, then get annoyed when called on it, because they feel like their intent wasn't motivated by misogyny, so what they said couldn't possibly be misogynist.

Except, of course, that it can.

What's really become obvious to me during this primary is how profoundly unknowledgeable we are about the processes by which misogyny has been conveyed. (Clearly, this primary has exposed the same about historical racism.)

I beg Shakers to understand that it is possible for you to trade on misogynist frames without realizing it—and that saying "That is a misogynistic criticism of Clinton" is not the same as saying "You're a sexist pig!"

We all need to examine this shit. Exist in this space with the knowledge that no one believes criticism of Clinton is de facto misogynist and that calling out misogynist frames isn't de facto an accusation of misogynist intent.

Carry on.

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