The Hillary Lesson

In today’s New York Times, Peggy Orenstein writes an important piece about what “The Hillary Lesson” is for our daughters:

One recent morning, as my 4-year-old daughter and I strolled to our favorite diner, she pointed to a bumper sticker plastered on a mailbox. A yellow, viraginous caricature of Hillary Clinton leered out from a black background. Big block letters proclaimed, “The wicked witch of the East is alive and living in New York.”
“Look, Mama,” she said. “That’s Hillary. What does it say?”
Let me state right off that I don’t consider Senator Clinton a victim. Her arm is so limber from the mud she has lobbed during her political career that, now that the whole president thing is doubtful, she may have a future as the first woman to pitch for the Yankees. So it is not the attacks themselves that give me pause, but the form they consistently have taken, the default position of incessant, even gleeful (and, I admit it, sometimes clever) misogyny. Staring down the sightline of my daughter’s index finger, I wondered what to tell her — not only at this moment, but in years to come — about Hillary and about herself… (continue)

I’m with Orenstein on not revering Clinton, but I am also with her on worrying about how the vitriol against Hillary has often been totally sexist and extremely offensive. One offensive jab that came through my own liberal neighborhood’s email list compared HRC to a certain Kentucky Fried Chicken assemblage. To my neighborhood’s credit, after this post many other people responded expressing how offended they were by his “joke.” To this he replied:

Doesn’t anyone have a sense of humor or believe in FREE speech…I see that anyone’s future comments can be silenced depending upon one person’s point of view… is this America ???? Or do we have to conform to editors….what does that remind you of….I have not liked comments made by certain people but I have NOT complained or tried to silence them…..Happy New Year and get a life !!

Free speech, speech free to attack women? Is that America? Not my America.

The best thing about this campaign, to my mind, is that it has allowed all of us to support people for their positions regardless of their skin color or gender. This isn’t really possible when it’s a campaign between a bunch of white guys and one white woman, or a bunch of white guys and one black man. But in a race between a black guy and a white gal, both of whom are progressive people with good values, then the scene changes considerably. I can lean to Barack more and Hillary less, but not because of some deep sexist stuff but because it’s finally possible to glean, however hazily, a post-sexist and post-racist future. But clearly there are still plenty of people caught up in old mind games over sex and race that still make this campaign a truly fraught one. And it’s only going to come to the fore more once the general campaign begins.

By Noelle McAfee

I am professor of philosophy at Emory University and editor of the Kettering Review. My latest book, Fear of Breakdown: Politics and Psychoanalysis, explores what is behind the upsurge of virulent nationalism and intransigent politics across the world today. My other writings include Democracy and the Political Unconscious; Habermas, Kristeva, and Citizenship; Julia Kristeva; and numerous articles and book chapters. Edited volumes include Standing with the Public: the Humanities and Democratic Practice and a special issue of the philosophy journal Hypatia on feminist engagements in democratic theory. I am also the author of the entry on feminist political philosophy in the online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and well into my next book project on democratic public life.