Since Ms. Clinton began her campaign, there certainly has been a public resurgence in misogyny, starting with my long-lost father sending me Hillary Clinton jokes via email. No call on my birthday or Christmas, but I warrant jokes in which a presidential candidate ends up dead, raped, and mocked? That’s emotionally-charged action from a man worth standing up and questioning!
I don’t care if you think her politics are straight from the devil himself; what I don’t get is how so many men are freely telling jokes, using Clinton as a prop, as a basis for venting their anger toward women — and they’re doing so while the women in their lives stand by and either laugh along or remain silent. I mean, she’s just a strawman, so to speak — Clinton is being used by these guys as a cause to make fun of attributes assigned to the female population. Let’s check out a random Clinton “joke”. In fact, let’s just pull the recent one up sent courtesy of my father:
Hillary Clinton and her driver were cruising home along a country road one evening when an old cow loomed in front of the car. The driver tried to avoid it but couldn’t.
The aged cow was struck and killed. Hillary told her driver to go up to the farmhouse and explain to the owners what had happened and pay them for the cow. She stayed in the car making phone calls.
About an hour later the driver staggered back to the car with his clothes in disarray. He was holding a half-empty bottle of expensive wine in one hand, a huge Cuban cigar in the other, and was smiling happily, smeared with lipstick.
“What happened to you,” asked Hillary ?
“Well,” the driver replied, “the farmer gave me the cigar, his wife gave me the wine, and their beautiful twin daughters made passionate love to me.”
“My God, what did you tell them ?” asked Hillary.
The driver replied, “I just stepped inside the door and said, ‘I’m Hillary Clinton’s driver and I’ve just killed the old cow.’ The rest happened so fast I couldn’t stop it.”
Let’s be clear: this “joke”, like nearly all of them, has nothing to do with Clinton herself or her politics. It sounds like something Rush Limbaugh himself would have told. But nope, our fathers, brothers, husbands, boyfriends, uncles, and friends are guffawing over the basic elements of sexism, ageism (Women get old and become “cows”), the sexual trade in women (the driver’s reward is the farmer’s two daughters), and general misogyny (Clinton’s death is celebrated and rewarded in this joke, after all). If this joke cast McCain as the butt, would my father and his pals be elbowing each other in the ribs and mass-emailing the joke on to their co-workers and daughters? No, they’d be asking where women get off celebrating the death of a man with champagne and cigars. They’d be asking how this joke is relevant to the presidential campaign. They would be angry and demand that the idiots perpetuating such jokes be sat in a corner with the dunce cap on.
To the few women who are going along and “fitting in” with these guys, I offer this quote from Maragaret Atwood, “She even had a kind of special position among men: she was an exception, she fitted none of the categories they commonly used when talking about girls; she wasn’t a cock-teaser, a cold fish, an easy lay or a snarky bitch; she was an honorary person. She had grown to share their contempt for most women.” Your compliance and passivity will only get you so far. Eventually, you’ll learn to hate yourself too well. . . .
From The Feminist Reawakening: Hillary Clinton and the Fourth Wave (New York Magazine) by Amanda Fortini:
Of course, we weren’t delusional. Even before Tina Fey declared, “Bitch is the new black,” before female outrage had been anointed a trend by the New York Times, many women were clued in to the numerous gender-related issues that lay, untouched and unexamined, at some subterranean level of our culture: to the way women disproportionately bear the ills of our society, like poverty and lack of health care; to the relentlessly sexist fixation on the bodies of Hollywood starlets—on the vicissitudes of their weight, on the appearance and speedy disappearance of their pregnant bellies—and the deleterious influence this obsession has on teenage girls; to the way our youth-oriented culture puts older women out to graze (rendering them what Tina Brown has called, in a nod to Ralph Ellison, “invisible women”). But who wanted to complain? It was easier—and more fun—to take the Carly Fiorina approach: to shut up and compete with the boys. Who wanted to be the statistic-wielding shrew outing every instance of prejudice and injustice? Most women prefer to think of themselves as what Caroline Bird, author of Born Female, has called “the loophole woman”—as the exception. The success of those women is frequently cited as evidence that feminism has met its goals. . . .
Who wanted to think of gender as a divisive force, as the root of discrimination? Perhaps more relevant, who wanted to view oneself as a victim? Postfeminism was also a form of solipsism: If it’s not happening to me, it’s not happening at all. To those women succeeding in a man’s world, the problems wrought by sexism often seemed to belong to other women. But as our first serious female presidential candidate came under attack, there was a collective revelation: Even if we couldn’t see the proverbial glass ceiling from where we sat, it still existed—and it was not retractable. . . .
A greatest-hits selection provides a measure of the misogyny: There’s Republican axman Roger Stone’s anti-Hillary 527 organization, Citizens United Not Timid, or CUNT. And the Facebook group Hillary Clinton: Stop Running for President and Make Me a Sandwich, which has 44,000-plus members. And the “Hillary Nutcracker” with its “stainless-steel thighs.” And Clinton’s Wikipedia page, which, according to The New Republic, is regularly vandalized with bathroom-stall slurs like “slut” and “cuntbag.” And Rush Limbaugh worrying whether the country is ready to watch a woman age in the White House (as though nearly every male politician has not emerged portly, wearied, and a grandfatherly shade of gray). . . .
And so, in our reluctance to appear nagging, scolding, hectoring, or petty, many of us have made a practice of enduring minor affronts, not realizing that a failure to decry the smaller indignities can foster blindness to the larger ones. We then find ourselves shocked when one of the smartest, most qualified women ever to run for public office is called “fishwife-y” by a female pundit on national television. . . .
Old-guard feminists, for their part, seem not yet aware—or prepared to believe—that the younger generation is coming around. “Young women take a lot of things for granted,” Geraldine Ferraro told me . . . For another movement to reach critical mass, she said, women in society may need to experience what she calls “an accretion of insult.” But with the inequities highlighted by Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid reminding us of the inequities we experience on a regular basis, the insults may have, well … accreted. . . .
“It’s just a vibe when you’re a woman and you walk into a room and you’re in a position of power and you have to convince them of something,” a movie producer told me. “You’re constantly juggling: When you’re soft, you’re too soft; when you’re strong, you’re too strong. It’s a struggle in business and a struggle in relationships. It’s always a struggle.” . . . They may be more likable, more approachable, when playing to notions of traditional femininity (mother, wife, victim), but this doesn’t fly in the workplace. “To try to hide her womanliness or enhance it—that’s a decision Obama would never have to make,” said one woman. “I’m not saying it’s harder to be a woman. It’s just a choice she has to make that he doesn’t.” . . .
The past few months have been like an extended consciousness-raising session, to use a retro phrase that would have once made most of us cringe. We’ve parsed the gender politics of the campaign with other women in the office, at parties, over e-mail, and now we’re starting to parse the gender politics of our lives. This is, admittedly, depressing: How can we be confronting the same issues, all these years later? But it’s also exciting. It feels as if a window has been opened in a stuffy, long-sealed room. There is a thrill at the collective realization. Now the question is, what next?
–From The Feminist Reawakening: Hillary Clinton and the Fourth Wave (New York Magazine) by Amanda Fortini
P.S. Did I mention I’m hosting this fabulous poetry reading this coming Friday? And that I’m feeling a bit better? And that you should come?!!!
Amy King is the recipient of the 2015 Winner of the Women’s National Book Association (WNBA) Award. Her latest collection, The Missing Museum, is a winner of the 2015 Tarpaulin Sky Book Prize. She serves on the executive board of VIDA: Women in Literary Arts and is co-editing with Heidi Lynn Staples the anthology Big Energy Poets of the Anthropocene: When Ecopoets Think Climate Change. She also co-edited the anthology Bettering American Poetry 2015 and is a professor of creative writing at SUNY Nassau Community College.