Tuesday, April 4, 2017

pathologically ambitious, shrill & scary

I was very hard on Hillary Clinton in the months leading up to the November 2016 election. Very hard. I voted for Bernie Sanders in the Oregon primary because I felt his message and track record were so much better than hers - not just more in line with mine, but better.  I was enraged over Clinton's choice for Vice President. I was also furious over her comments lauding Nancy Reagan for her response to HIV and AIDS, and her ridiculous backtracking regarding those statements.

I also got angry that, when I criticized her track record, I was sometimes accused of being sexist, despite the fact that I never criticized her hair or her voice or her ambition, and staunchly defended her when anyone did go after her for those things - including Obama supporters back in 2012 (she wasn't running then, but a lot of his supporters, online, felt the need to refer to her in vile terms). In the end, even in my endorsement of her, I was tough on her. But as I said over and over, online and in conversations with others, I also believed - and still do - that Hillary Clinton was absolutely qualified for the job of President, that she would serve with honor in and respect for the office, that she would try to be President for all Americans, that she would be true to her pro-Choice beliefs, that she is incredibly smart, that her political ambition is a thing to be lauded, not to be derided, that she responds to political pressure from the Democratic Party base, and that I had similar reservations about Barack Obama in terms of lack of political courage and progressive credentials and, yet, he surprised me in quite a few areas - maybe she would too. I did not vote for the lesser of two evils; I voted for a highly qualified person for President, one that would, at the very least, serve with solid competence.

Hillary Clinton received more votes than any white man that has every run for President, including the man that is now President. She won by a margin of 2.10% of the popular vote - that’s more than Jimmy Carter won over Gerald Ford, more than Richard Nixon won over Hubert Humphrey, more than JFK won over Richard Nixon. It’s close to the 2.46% margin George Bush won over John Kerry, and it's far more than the margin Gore had when he won the popular vote over George Bush in 2000. Altogether, it should have been enough to make her President, but because of our archaic election laws, it didn't.

So, here we are, months after the election, and the hateful comments about Hillary Clinton seem to have actually increased. And I take it personally.

Many weeks ago, someone I considered a friend, someone who did not vote for Trump, talked about why he hadn't wanted to vote for Clinton, and not once did he talk about her policy stances or time as Secretary of State or Senator, as I had when I criticized her; he just kept saying things like "I don't like her tone" and "she just doesn't seem Presidential" and "she's a career politician" and "she gets so shrill" and "there's just something about her I don't like." And the more he talked, the more I realized almost everything he was saying could be said about me.

Hillary Clinton was all that stood between us and a reckless, unstable, ignorant, inane, infinitely vulgar, climate-change-denying white-nationalist misogynist with authoritarian ambitions and kleptocratic plans. A lot of people, particularly white men, could not bear her, and that is as good a reason as any for Trump’s victory. Over and over again, I heard men declare that she had failed to make them vote for her. They saw the loss as hers rather than ours, and they blamed her for it, as though election was a gift they withheld from her because she did not deserve it or did not attract them. They did not blame themselves or the electorate or the system for failing to stop Trump.

That's from an essay by Rebecca Solnit, a columnist at Harper’s and the author of many books, including Men Explain Things to Me: And Other Essays. And I burst into tears when I read it - and I read it after I had written most of the text for this blog up to that excerpt.

Below is more from that same essay:

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Clinton was constantly berated for qualities rarely mentioned in male politicians, including ambition – something, it’s safe to assume, she has in common with everyone who ever ran for elected office. It’s possible, according to Psychology Today’s headline, that she is ‘pathologically ambitious’. She was criticised for having a voice. While Bernie Sanders railed and Trump screamed and snickered, the Fox commentator Brit Hume complained about Clinton’s ‘sharp, lecturing tone’, which, he said, was ‘not so attractive’, while MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell gave her public instructions on how to use a microphone, Bob Woodward bitched that she was ‘screaming’ and Bob Cusack, the editor of the political newspaper the Hill, said: ‘When Hillary Clinton raises her voice, she loses.’ One could get the impression that a woman should campaign in a sultry whisper, but of course if she did that she would not project power. But if she did project power she would fail as a woman, since power, in this framework, is a male prerogative, which is to say that the set-up was not intended to include women.

As Sady Doyle noted, ‘she can’t be sad or angry, but she also can’t be happy or amused, and she also can’t refrain from expressing any of those emotions. There is literally no way out of this one. Anything she does is wrong.’
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I remember back in 2008, the first time Hillary Clinton ran for President. Then-Fox News contributor Dick Morris said "I believe that there could well come a time when there is such a serious threat to the United States that she breaks down like that," adding, "I don't think she ought to be president." New York Daily News' Stanley Crouch said Clinton seemed "hysterical." He claimed that while Clinton was charismatic in person, on television she seemed: "...by turns icy, contrived, hysterical, sentimental, bitter, manipulative and self-righteous. In short, dehumanized by the mysterious dictates of technology, she takes on qualities that most people hate. Perhaps because of the way camera lights hit the planes of her face and the tinny distortions of her voice imposed by television microphones, something apparently evil happens."

I, too, am "pathologically ambitious." I, too, have eschewed work in the private sector, choosing to concentrate on the nonprofit/mission-based sector instead. I, too, have been constantly interrupted by men when it's supposed to be my turn to speak, either in a meeting or even when I am presenting, as an expert, to an audience. I, too, have been criticized for my tone rather than what I'm proposing or defending. I, too, have been criticized for the clothes I've worn to work. I, too, have been called "sentimental, bitter, manipulative and self-righteous" - though usually not all those words are used at the same time. I, too, have been told at work, at incredibly inappropriate moments, that I need to smile more. I, too, have been criticized for either being or acting "too smart" with men. In other words, I'm a lot like Hillary Clinton. And that means that I, too, have been criticized for presentation, appearance and my gender rather than the quality of my work and character.

As I've seen and heard Hillary Clinton criticized for those things, I have slowly realized just how often people must have criticized me, either just in their head or to each other when I'm not in the room. I realize just how much I'm not liked by so many, many people, not because of lack of ability or for transgressions, but for image, and for daring to reach for assume roles usually reserved for men. Not because of my words or what's in my heart or my work or my character, but because of my tone, because of "something" about me.

Where is the place in the world for Hillary Clinton, or for me?