There is a lot of talk right now about “Hillary’s women” and how the two remaining candidates can win them over.
Americans try so hard to act as though we are so far beyond the emotional baggage of race and gender and yet few of us pack as lightly when we travel as we think.
The wound that has been inflicted by Hillary’s defeat is not so much the result of Obama winning but the result of how Hillary was treated in the process of her defeat.
Reading this, many will think (and will probably respond) that they did not dislike Hillary because of her gender but because of her character. The problem, however, is that her gender was used to undermine her stature as a presidential candidate; it was used in satire and in personalized attacks. It was a fundamental characteristic about herself that she cannot change that was used to ridicule or debase her in a way that has not been done to McCain (re: his age) or Obama (re: his race).
Hence the message or conclusion to some women that sexism is still acceptable and racism and age-ism are not. Consider the chanting at her speech: â€œiron my shirt.â€ Â Or the questions to McCain about how he plans â€œbeat the bitch.â€ Â Or, my personal favorite, the Hillary “nutcracker?” Â
Consider the allegation on the part of Chris Mathews that Hillary only became a Senator and Presidential candidate because Bill Clinton cheated on her. Never mind the fact that she had years of successful legal practice and her involvement in politics before she married Bill Clinton.Â Hillary is not the first women to put her own career temporarily aside for her husband (military spouses do it all the time, as do women with small children), nor will she be the last. I doubt that Bill’s infidelity was the source of the State of New York’s faith in Hillary as a Senator.Personally, I have never understood why Hillary was expected to step down after Obama won Iowa. Â After he won Iowa, FOR GOD’S SAKE. She won New Hampshire and they were already calling for her to step aside. I remembering thinking, “well, why not ask HIM to step aside?”
Yes, she was and is disliked because of WHO she is and not WHAT she is (a woman).Â However, her gender was nonetheless used to portray her in negative ways and/or to tap into stereotypes that many people still have about women. Â (The Bitch is Back.) Â Consequently, some women are angry because nobody called the media out on it: ignoring it makes you complicit in it. Â As with racism, silence is acquiescence.Â Silence says it is okay–at least if we don’t like you.
Could you imagine jokes and comments based upon McCain’s age?Â Jokes about urinary incontinence and whether he can still get it up for Cindy and what will happen in the White House if he can’t? Â Or what if he gets lost in the White House once Alzheimer’s sets in?
Or comments at an Obama speech: “Wash my car!” (Or whatever the equivalent in a racist situation would beâ€”I canâ€™t think of anything, sorry.)
This hasn’t happened because there is a collective sense that those things would be deemed unacceptable while the things that were done to Hillary were acceptable. Thus, sexist imagery, humor, and commentary must be less offensive as it caused little to no reaction from anyone other than the women who supported Hillary. This is where theÂ allegation of sexism comes from by Hillary supporters.
The images utilizing Hillary’s gender and the comments referencing her gender when attacking her did, in fact, transcend the target (Hillary) and hit the hearts of thousands, if not millions, of women and girls who were witnessing it. Therein lies the tragedy of Hillary’s candidacy and the wound inflicted by her defeat.
Had she won the nomination, perhaps the damage could have been minimized or at least overshadowed by the greater good of electing the first female President of the United States. Without that, all we are left with are the insults, the denigration, and the images. Which brings me to the mourning.
I remember living in San Francisco when the DNC had their convention in 1984. Geraldine Ferraro was the Vice Presidential candidate and I was 11 years old. My mother made a huge deal out of that. She told me that maybe, someday, I could be the President of the United States. I remember my mother crying.
In college in DC, I had a chance to intern at the White House. I got to choose where to work and I chose the First Lady’s Correspondence Office (the only non-Presidential office and the only office with the First Lady). I really liked Hillary Clinton for her work as an attorney and with the Children’s Defense Fund. I remember meeting her and thinking she should run for President.I am not saying now that I was a Hillary supporter, but during this primary season, I can tell you that more than once I have been angered and frustrated by the inequities in how she was treated by the media.
So now Hillary has ended her candidacy and hundreds of thousands of women are devastated. These women chose Hillary for reasons that are greater and deeper than her policy positions; these women identified with Hillary’s ability to persevere and prevail over humiliations, public and private.Â For this, they believed in her, they trusted her, they saw themselves in her. A victory for Hillary was a victory for them. Her loss was their loss.
Her loss was our loss.
And they are in mourning.
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry uplike a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
I suggest that both Obama and McCain tread carefully.
Carissa Picard is a freelance writer, an attorney, and a military spouse.Â She is currently a political correspondent for www.military.com, the President of Military Spouses for Change, and the founder of Military Spouse Press.