Project Wonderful

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Nobody’s Calling You Sexist*

*unless you’re being sexist

Look, I get it. I supported the white guy (oops) in 2008 in a primary between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. If you are a progressive, being called sexist sucks. No woman wants to be accused of being a traitor to her gender and any man who is truly an ally knows that in context, “I’m not sexist (racist, homophobic…)” is often the ugliest phrase that can escape your mouth. I get it. I really do. Good news for you is nobody’s calling you sexist just for supporting Bernie Sanders. At least I’m not.

There is absolutely a Feminist argument, albeit one I don’t find overwhelmingly compelling, to be made for supporting Bernie Sanders. Although I would challenge a few of her points, my former Professor Liza Featherstone makes the case brilliantly here. Even if you do agree with me that Hillary Clinton would be a fiercer advocate for women you might still find that the things that appeal to you about Bernie Sanders override that concern. None of that makes you sexist.


There is a difference, a gulf, a chasm if you will, between YOU’RE sexist and IT’S sexist.
It’s sexist that we have never had a woman President. It’s sexist that Hillary Clinton is held to every double standard in the book. It’s sexist that she—a woman who is in some circles reviled for being progressive—is also being portrayed as a calculating corporate shill for simply having a robust public record in professional politics, an accusation right out of the Republican playbook. No woman could have come this far without her enormous breadth and depth of experience, some of which inevitably involves political calculation. For better or worse Hillary Clinton is who she is and has had to make some of the decisions she has made in the way she has made them because of the confinements of her gender. And you can say "that's not a good enough excuse for me" and that's valid, but it's sexist to not acknowledge that that is the case. It’s sexist that the media consistently downplays her accomplishments. It’s sexist that people bring up her husband’s infidelity as a campaign issue. It is because of a long history of sexist attacks on Secretary Clinton that people think to themselves, “I can’t put my finger on it, but I just don’t like her.” It’s sexist that in a society that minimizes, disenfranchises, and is stacked against women that I am accused of simplicity for citing her gender as a reason I am excited to vote for her. And by the way, to accuse me or women like me of sexism for considering Hillary’s gender in our votes is to engage in the politics of people who ask why we don’t celebrate white history month or have straight pride parades. It’s sexist that I should even have to explain this to you.

I’ve started this post a half dozen times and put it down because it is so mind-numbingly evident to me that I barely know what to say. But apparently it is not so evident to some. My social media accounts have devolved into a litany of white men with neither my expertise nor lived experience attempting to explain Feminism to me. I am genuinely stunned by the number of intelligent people who have responded to my posts that laud the appeal of a woman president or criticize sexist media coverage with “yeah but big banks, but Iraq.” Look, if Iraq is your issue, if moving toward a more European style social system is your issue, then those are totally legitimate reasons to support Bernie Sanders. No candidate is perfect. We all have to use our values and histories to make a judgment call about which traits and issues to place the most importance on and who will do a better job at delivering our vision. There are in fact dozens of reasons to support Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton. I just don’t see what they have to do with Hillary Clinton’s shoes.

Were Bernie Sanders to face anti-Semitism-- and I can guarantee you he will should he be become the nominee— I would call it out, not just because I am Jewish but also because it is the right thing to do. When Carly Fiorina is critiqued for not smiling enough or for her lack of “likeability” I call out that sexism too, even though I believe she would be a disaster as Commander in Chief. I don’t worry that anyone will take my progressivism or support for Hillary Clinton less seriously when I do so, because by doing so I am demonstrating progressive values. Acknowledging that Hillary Clinton has faced an almost unfathomable amount of gender bias in her lifetime is not an endorsement of her, or of anything, other than common sense and decency. Admitting that sexism exists and gender needs to be talked about will not give you Clinton cooties, I promise. I have plenty of friends who have done so and still passionately support Bernie Sanders. On the flip side, refusing to do so is indecent even if it does not change your vote one iota.

It would be unfair of me and it is not my intent to imply that you are sexist unless you place the same priority on gender equality that I do or unless you agree with me on the means to achieve it. But if you obstinately deny that Hillary is being and has been treated unfairly because she’s a woman, if you belittle me for caring or accuse me of “voting with my vagina” then you, my friend are absolutely sexist. And if you continue to feign offense because you can’t tell the difference between “it’s” and “you’re,” well then it’s just acting like an asshole.

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