The Misogyny Stings

This is so personal to me. It’s not that I wanted *any* woman to be president. While I wanted *this* woman to be president, that’s not even the point. It cuts me to the bone. I’m mourning right now. It’s important to understand that Hillary Clinton’s loss, and now the loss of all viable female candidates this year, feels like a direct and personal attack for many women in this country – especially while we are watching our rights get chipped away at.

I imagine that when the last non-white candidate dropped out, it may have felt similar for minority voters.

This is not about all the reasons Warren should have won, or should be president, or this or that. This is about the misogyny surrounding our presidential contests and the fact that it hurts.

One of the things that cut me so deeply in 2016 – and a lot of other women, for sure – was that there was no stone unturned, no fault unexamined, and no benefit of the doubt given to a highly qualified presidential candidate; opposite her was a dumpster fire of a person with literally no redeeming qualities and all the same faults tenfold, and he got the benefit of the doubt, his skeletons were largely left in the closet (and when Hillary dared point them out, she was mocked by right and left alike), and he beat her. Yes, he lost the popular vote, but it was too close.

Whatever hatred you have for Hillary Clinton, you cannot look at her and look at Donald Trump and say that he should be president over her. You can look at her in an existential way and say that perhaps Trump has goosed the progressive movement or awakened the sleeping masses, but tell that to the children in cages, the people of Puerto Rico, the planet, etc. What we needed to happen was for Hillary to win and have to spend four years answering to the Bernie faction of the party; not a total regression. And to boot, Trump managed to continue to be the warmonger everyone thought Hillary would be, so you can tell that to the people of Iran, the people of Syria, and countless others.

We don’t have the same situation today losing Warren, but there are parallels to be drawn. The left has a misogyny problem, and women who bring that up are routinely shut down. It’s not that other political alignments aren’t misogynist; it’s that the left pretends it doesn’t have that problem. It’s the male feminist who can be the most dangerous – sometimes drowning out the woman in the room, propping up their own leaders as what’s best for women, etc.

It’s that Trump calling her “Pocahontas” over and over was going to seal the deal for a Trump victory, but his nicknames for Bernie wouldn’t. That she sounds condescending and scolding when she speaks about all her plans and the culture of corruption, but Bernie sounds exciting while he’s screaming at everyone in power and yelling vagueries at his audience. If Elizabeth (and by chance, all women once they do well) being smart and direct turns people off, that’s because of misogyny.

And the rush to write her off is only going to hurt the progressive cause.

When we say that Bernie Sanders is entitled to Liz Warren’s votes, it ignores the fact that there are people who want Liz Warren, NOT Bernie Sanders, to get the nomination. As if she only exists in comparison to him. In 2016 we said that Clinton needed to earn Bernie’s supporters’ votes; does he not need to earn Warren’s?

And what of the people who have decided she’s a corporate capitalist shill after her “spat” about some sexist shit she says Bernie said to her in the past? Are Warren supporters supposed to be accused of being corporatist war supporters and then simultaneously “owe” those votes to Bernie? I think we can all agree that they are very politically aligned; but to spend months acting like she is Hillary 2.0 and then that they’re almost the same so just choose Bernie – that argument is just batting a woman around and controlling the narrative about her without listening to her or respecting that she might ::gasp:: have support on her own merit and not in comparison to a male candidate.

Bernie Sanders isn’t sexist. The whole system is.

Obligatory caveat that I’m not talking about all Bernie supporters, or Bernie himself – but rather the culture of misogyny that totally shut out someone so closely aligned with the left, and with a track record to prove it. Y’all know I would be happy to see Bernie president; that’s not what this is about.

Then there is the added widespread misogyny of proving that America is exactly as sexist as we’ve been saying all along: “My top choice is Elizabeth Warren, but America won’t vote for a woman so I won’t either.” Assuming the rest of your fellow citizens are sexist, and then acting to appease the sexists, makes your actions sexist.

All this in the aftermath of a discussion about whether sexism was a factor at all in Clinton’s loss. For sure, there were a million reasons she lost and any one of them could have tipped the scales the other direction, but to erase the role of sexism is to open the door for it to happen again. To simultaneously refuse to support a woman because you think she can’t win, and lament that people think she can’t win, makes you a direct factor in the problem.

And look, I get we’re all scarred and shell-shocked by 2016 and what that revealed about our friends and family; but returning to the days where we shut women (or people of color) out of certain parts of society is no response to that. The response would be to prove your asshole neighbors wrong.

None of this is to say that Warren would have won the nomination without the role of misogyny, or that she’d definitely win the presidency against Trump. She has long had problems with voters of color and less educated voters and she never managed to get around that. But she so dramatically under-performed, despite raising tons of money from grassroots donors and kicking ass on the debate stage, it’s hard to not see how thoroughly she has been erased, especially after picking fights with powerful men.

Do me a favor, and next time there is any sort of election, stop yourself from saying that we cannot elect a woman – not because of you, but because of everyone else. We could if people stopped believing this.



      • …I was in two minds as to whether that’s a different facet of the same problem or a different problem in its own right…but I can certainly see that being a valid reading of it?

        …I think there’s an aspect to a lot of this stuff that’s a sort of feeback loop that amplifies more noise than signal…but in a fundamental sense it seems to largely stem from the continual reinforcement provided by day to day personal observation of imbalanced dynamics of one sort or another all boiled down to a sort of instinctive “judgement call” that says to them that it isn’t them being part of the problem but a grudging acceptance that the problem isn’t going to be fixed before they have to make *this* decision?

        …not that that’s any more palatable, really…but it seemed worth a bit of consideration to me

      • Posted elsewhere that I don’t think folks understand how good Barack Obama was just to get black people to vote for him, and I have a feeling it’s a similar thing for Elizabeth Warren or any other female candidate when it comes to female voters.

  1. The “America won’t elect a woman as President” thing is particularly frustrating because, like…it would if people would just accept that it’s a thing that could happen!

    But…it’s the same thing as black people saying there could never be a black President. It wasn’t out of place of spite or because they didn’t want it; the system had just beaten us into submission. It was never going to happen because America was never going to be brave enough to buck conventions. It came from a place of racism, but it was racism that had been placed upon black folks systemically.

    I always say that white people don’t under how good Barack Obama had to be to get *black people* to vote for him. Because the idea that we could vote for a black man to be President and for him to have a legit shot. Obama had to practically be perfect. He had to code switch in front of white audiences. He had to selectively and slowly ponder his way through his sentences so as the achieve both maximum impact and the least amount of offense. He had to be measured, calm, restrained, and never show the least bit of anger, while also appearing strong-willed. He had to be close to fucking perfect for America to overcome it’s biases, and for black people to believe it might actually be able to change.

    I mean, did ya’ll see how people reacted with Julian Castro (rightly) pointed out that Joe Biden couldn’t remember what he said two minutes ago? As soon as Castro put some bass in his voice and came for a white dude, he was done. His election campaign had no chance. He got buried for that moment. He got buried for telling the truth.

    I thought Elizabeth Warren was good enough to bridge that gap, but America collectively put their fingers in their ears, decided she was exactly like Hillary, and refused to believe. For America to vote for Liz, Liz would’ve had to run essentially perfect campaign. Problem is that no one is fucking perfect, and everyone was looking for reasons and ways to not vote for her.

    • Yeah I definitely had this in mind when writing this screed. They said the same thing about Obama and he had to be a one in a million candidate, and even now his progress and legacy are just being erased. I have a lot of criticism about his presidency but I think a lot of people fail to understand just how out of the ordinary the obstacles he faced were. They only seem predictable now. He was obstructed in a way we’d never seen.

      And to the women who are part of the above problem, I get it. Some of it is malicious, some of it is just internalized misogyny, some of it is fear and exhaustion. It would be easier for me to not accept the inherent power of men and to stop hoping and fighting for a female president. If you’re held with a choice between Trump and other men, which is what many perceive this to be, you happily accept one of the other men.

      Regardless, it stings.

      • Obama had to be a one in a million candidate to win, and that one in a million win upset so many people that it led to Donald Trump. That’s how good Barack Obama had to be; he was so good that white folks had to elect literally the fucking worst possible candidate for the job to fuck up anything remotely good he ever did.

        America’s inherent misogyny and racism is baked into its systemic roots. That cancer is hard to cut out. And when you do manage to cut the smallest sliver of it out, that son of a bitch comes back stronger than it was before and tries to kill you.

      • It is a multi-pronged problem with women not to mention the obvious ones with men. Many women of boomer/evangelical persuasion just truly don’t see women as equal to men. Then you have evangelical white women which, half of whom feel the same as the above group and actively vote against their own interests. Then you have the women who believe in equality and a candidate Lie Liz but don’t vote for her because they don’t think she can win and don’t want to “waste” their vote (which seems ludicrous in the primary). Then you have a sub-section black female voters that also may believe in a candidate like Liz but won’t vote for her because they don’t trust white women will vote for her. Just an insane amount of hurdles to clear.

    • Liz was by far my first choice and you are correct, she had to overcome not just the other candidates but also a hell of a lot of biases within the electorate

    • so, when people say “America won’t elect a woman as President” can we reply “of course it will vote for a woman, it voted for a black man, something much much much more difficult”? and the boomer voting pool keeps getting smaller

      maybe, we could also mention the rates at which women are elected at congress. I don’t have the numbers but they have to be better than those of black men…

  2. Thanks for writing this. If I tried it would just look like this:
    Which is me, banging my head on my keyboard.

  3. This. So fucking much. But in particular:

    I think we can all agree that they are very politically aligned; but to spend months acting like she is Hillary 2.0 and then that they’re almost the same so just choose Bernie – that argument is just batting a woman around and controlling the narrative about her without listening to her or respecting that she might ::gasp:: have support on her own merit and not in comparison to a male candidate.


    This bullshit. This attack from the left front is exactly what caused me to leave LOD. When you have a supposedly leftist space, where the majority of commenters are men, applying this argument, or implying it, you have a misogynist leftist space. Full stop.

    The canary in the coal mine is when male voices greatly outnumber women. That’s when the introspection into what is being done wrong should begin.

  4. I take a bit of solace from one thing: America did actually elect a woman president. Electoral college fucking bullshit aside, Hillary won that election. She got more votes than the orange dumpster fire. Should she have gotten even more? Oh, yeah. But even with all the shit she had to deal with, she got. more. votes.

    It WILL happen. It absolutely will. Just not this time. And if both the elderly Democratic frontrunners choose female running mates, which let’s be clear they absolutely SHOULD, you may see a woman President within the next four years.

    • Can you imagine how much different America would be if it got it actually had a representative democracy where one vote really meant something instead of the endless number of systems in place to weaken the votes of it’s citizens, consolidating that power in “super delegates” and “conventions” and “electors in the electoral college” and any number of asinine bullshittery that maybe made sense when the founders put it in place but DEFINITELY makes zero sense now?

      Our elections are still on fuckin’ Tuesdays and the popular vote is functionally useless in primaries and presidential elections. Who else does shit like this?

      • Right? And then it’s THIS vote counts THIS much and THAT vote counts THAT much but only sometimes and bla bla. In Louisiana we have a jungle primary for everything except president. It means that everyone is on the same ballot, regardless of party, and if someone gets 50%, they win outright. If not, the top two go to runoff. It sucks somewhat in an imbalanced culture like this, because it is damn near impossible to primary out an incumbent because they have to not only beat the person in their own party but everyone else as well to even land in the runoff, but I’m starting to wonder what that model would look like for president. Like, what if the presidential primary was Trump vs. literally everyone else and then he went to a runoff to face the top challenger.

      • It *is* a regression out of fear. It absolutely is. That’s another crime we can lay at Trump’s feet. The absolute horror of facing four more years of his corruption, dysfunction and dementia are driving people to look for “safe harbors.” And, like it or not, Uncle Joe is perceived as a return to normalcy that everybody wants. Everybody sane, that is. MAGAs don’t count.

    • Yep, Hillary did win more votes and may have one the electoral vote too if all votes were counted. That, even though she was a very flawed candidate gives me hope it will happen again soon. I thought Warren had a better chance last election and really wanted her to run. If as some are saying Stacey Abrams gets picked to be VP, this could happen sooner than later.

  5. I get annoyed at people who fall in love with candidates.

    In 2008, I was the joyless buzzkill who fretted over what I saw as Obama’s cult of personality. I felt it would leave him very vulnerable to defections once shock and joy ended and the hard work started.

    The thing is, candidates are always imperfect. No one person can hit all of your political sweet spots — and if you think they do, it’s more likely you’re straining yourself to match them, not the other way around.

    But. Liz Warren is the closest thing to a candidate I could stan for in my lifetime. The whole package with her: The whip-smart, sharp tongue, fuck-the-fucking-billionaire-ghouls and fuck-the-party-for-sucking-up-to-them attitude, her absolute lack of care about pissing off people in her party if she thought what she was doing was right … her quitting today has hit me in a way I’ve never felt about a primary candidate quitting before and I hate it so much.

    • Yeah, same. I mean, 2016 devastated me but not because I wanted to see Hillary Clinton win so bad (though I was excited about a woman). This is the first one I can remember where I was so emotionally invested in the candidate. It’s not necessarily healthy but I caught a glimpse of what a truly good president could look like.

    • One of the problems is that campaigns like Clinton’s in 08 and 16 used that exact same tactic during the primaries. Anyone who was for Obama/Sanders was clearly a starry eyed cultist who was incapable of rational independent thought. Which meant that every time I talked to someone about my choice I always got tagged with that BS supposition.

      Clinton’s campaign tactics were basically fertilizer for 2020.

  6. I would have voted for her gladly if I had a chance. I hope she lands a high profile position, but she’s already great to have in the Senate. Maybe she could take Leader from McConnell (I know, pretty unrealistic).

  7. Warren was my first choice, so I share your disappointment, as do others. And yes, it’s a small part of the larger problem that you’ve outlined very well.

    I wish I had something hopeful to say. Right now I don’t.

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