Anti-Hillary Does Not Equal "Sexist"

Carol Platt Liebau
|
Posted: Mar 30, 2008 5:03 PM
Conventional wisdom acknowledges the damage to Democrat standing among the young and African Americans if Barack Obama is denied the nomination.

Now, it appears, the Democrats are going to have to be every bit as careful about how they push Hillary from the race if they don't want to alienate lots of working class white women.

In fact, the Wall Street Journal has reported that, in general, many women are dismayed by the tone of the attacks on Hillary -- and seem to detect in them a sense of general sexist backlash against the strides that women have made.

Don'g get me wrong --  sexist rhetoric is always unacceptable.  No defender of Hillary, I have nonetheless objected in the past to snide remarks about her thighs.  Everyone -- man, woman, rock, paper, scissors -- deserves to be evaluated (or criticized) on the basis of policy, not on perceived personal shortcomings when it comes to petty things .

And of course, there's no denying that there are avenues for criticizing a woman that don't necessarily apply to a man -- and that's unfair.  It takes much less for a female to be criticized for her appearance, to be characterized as being too soft to be Commander-in-Chief if she cries in public (spontaneously, that is, not just for effect), and too tough to be likable if she doesn't.

But all that being said, it's still the fact that being anti-Hillary -- even in the case of those whose invective veers, from time to time, into the unfortunate realm of the misogynistic -- doesn't necessarily equate with being anti-woman.  

When people dislike someone, the bottom-feeders will always go for the ugly remarks in two general categories: Whatever makes the object of their disaffection different from them (whether it's gender, race, religion, class, whatever), and whatever they sense to be a weakness in the one they dislike (whether it's lack of intellect, strange hair, a history of addiction, the absence of dress sense or anything else).  

In fact, women who are generalizing from the treatment of Hillary to the status of women in our culture are actually getting it exactly backwards.  Those making sexist remarks or otherwise manifesting sexist attitudes aren't doing so because they hate women generally, and therefore hate Hillary.  Rather, they dislike Hillary, who happens to be a woman, and hence the remarks.  Her sex provides one avenue for attacks, but it isn't the reason for them.

Again, none of this is intended to condone or excuse sexist remarks.  But if these allegedly "alienated" women understand what's going on, perhaps they won't take all of it so personally and think that any of it is saying something about them -- or about how men feel about them -- in their own lives and careers.