No, You Can’t Address Misogyny in an Election Year, Comments Edition

Yesterday, I posted something about the race for the Democratic nomination. It wasn’t an endorsement of either candidate. It made no argument in favor of either candidate. It didn’t even express my preference for either candidate.

What I posted yesterday was a critique of the political process as it’s playing out this year. It pointed out that allowing our progressive selves to embrace decades of right-wing character assassination of Hillary Clinton harms more than Clinton. It pointed out that doing this harms me and other women who have been subjected to similar campaigns for being politically active and effective. And it pointed out that it’s nearly impossible to get people to pay attention to this problem.

It also said this:

Commenting note: If you think a personal reflection like this is a place to argue for or against your candidate, whoever that might be, think again. Think hard. Trying to talk about this problem–and having that treated as though I were campaigning instead of engaging in the same cultural critique I do every day as a feminist–has been exhausting and disheartening. My reserves of diplomacy are running low.

Here are the comments I received on that post that you won’t see there.

This would have a lot more weight if CNN and the mainstream media hadn’t been pushing Hillary Clinton as the inevitable nominee for practically an entire year now. You look at the treatment Bernie Sanders got at the CNN townhall at Iowa and the questions were completely unbalanced. Chris Cuomo asked Hillary questions like “Gosh look at all these amazing endorsements for you. Why does Obama love you so much?” Directly after, btw, all the media put up blaring out-of-context “We will raise taxes, yes we will – Sanders” headlines when he was referring to a Medicare-For-All system. Sanders has gotten seriously terrible treatment by the press as well, with corporate media practically openly campaigning for Hillary.

I’m not saying that to make some sort of false equivalency with the sexism directed at Clinton. I’m trying to say that the establishment media (esp. CNN and MSNBC) have all been pushing Hillary Clinton as the nominee, dismissing and deriding Sanders constantly. So to suggest that those same forces are somehow against her politically is obviously ridiculous (if that is what is being suggested here). She’s not the underdog.

The commenter doesn’t even know what I’m saying, but instead of asking, they had to talk about anything but misogyny.

… a woman whose major “crime” was pushing for progress faster than post-Reagan Republicans were willing to allow…

So the US share of the mayhem in Honduras, Iraq, and Syria during Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State counts as merely a minor crime? Voting as a Senator to give blank checks and get-out-of-everything-free cards to the Bush-Cheney gang and the financial industry ranks as somewhere between misdemeanor and peccadillo?

Stephanie Zvan doesn’t qualify as a monster, because she did none of those things. Clinton, however…

No, the “crime” that got Clinton dumped into the right-wing lie machine was entering the White House as First Lady with an ambition to single-payer health care. I’ll take that time machine if you’ve got it, though. And thanks for letting me know I’m not a retroactive monster…yet.

I don’t see any reason to respect your commenting guidelines, frankly. I see no reason you get to say something personal, publicly, and then threaten that your reserves of diplomacy are getting low. I don’t have reserves of diplomacy at all. You deal with that and I’ll deal with your commenting guidelines and that’s fine.

I agree with you that there has been a tremendous amount of sleazy shit thrown at Clinton. It’s being thrown by horrible motherfuckers that are probably worse than she is. I say ‘probably’ because – unlike her – they haven’t shown their colors as thoroughly. Clinton backed an illegal and immoral war in Libya, and gloated disgustingly over Ghaddafi’s being killed with a bayonet up his asshole. Her opponents have to nitpick her because they’d probably be worse. But Clinton has done that. “We came, we saw, he died.” What the fuck. If that’s not monstrous, can you please tell me what is? And – yes – if you don’t have truly harsh words for Clinton; not “nitpicking” I mean serious “do you want that person to have the reins of power?” harsh words then there is something wrong with you.

And this from the same commenter.

Because the republicans are fucking awful human beings, too, restricts their moral range from which they can criticize Clinton. I’m not that kind of human being and I can criticize Clinton for being a nationalist warmongering asshole; if the republicans did that it’d be insane hypocrisy coming from them. Decent people should not feel limited to the moral landscape that the two party system has carefully constructed and is selling as “the lesser of two evils” Where it gets tricky is when someone sides with one of those lesser evils to the point where they become an outright apologist for those evils. I hope you’re not going there.

Neither comment has anything to do with anything other than the title on the post where they were left, despite mentioning the commenting note at the bottom of the post. Both comments come from someone I’ve actually enjoyed interacting with and who’s been good at looking at and seeing misogyny in the past. When I say it’s really hard to get people to look at this problem, this is the kind of thing I’m talking about. The part where they note the boundary I stated then trample over it is also a problem.

Clinton directly changing her position on, say, same-sex marriage is not flip-flopping.
But okay, you’re basically saying that her slimeballiness is a necessary evil to enact good policies in a political environment.
That, say, Bernie Sanders is not PC enough and therefore cannot enact his polices.
Well, YOU’RE just wrong. Studies have shown that Bernie Sanders is MORE electable against a Republican. Hillary Clinton is the greatest enemy to progressivism.
She was an ARDENT support of the war in Iraq (if that’s not a deal-breaker, what is?), and she has an ABYSMAL track record on finance reform.
Of course, I strongly suspect you support her JUST because she’s a woman, like a little feminist faggot.

And another from this commenter.

I don’t give a shit, Steph.
Hillary Clinton supported the Iraq War. I will never miss an opportunity to give her shit.
Nothing you’ve written in this blog post compares to the slaughter of 500,000 innocent people that she voted to authorize. Even as late as 2007 she was defending the war.

And another.

You didn’t even know, did you? That’s how much of a deluded privileged feminist you are.

All three over the course of about half an hour. No one I know this time, just someone who had to spend that much time telling me about their obsessive, misogynist hatred.

I don’t know if this is an acceptable argument to make here. But, coming from a mexican perspective, I do view Hillary Clinton as a monster, or at the very least the newest face of the eternal humiliation that my country has had to endure.

A little bit of context. It’s a bit of a mexican history lesson but please, bear with me:

There had been several socialist programs in Mexico, almost all of them product of the 50’s policy of “The Mexican Miracle”, probably the period of greater stability in mexican history. Nearly all of them were privatized one by one and bought by foreign (mostly american) corporations during the 90’s. Only a couple of public universities and two major programs remained, Social Healthcare and the Oil Industry (PEMEX).

I don’t expect you to be aware of any of this but PEMEX has been one of the main job sources for mexicans and its earnings produce a third of the mexican government’s budget.

Well, now PEMEX is getting it too. A recent reform passed that is going to open the oil industry to foreign (mostly american) corporations, breaking PEMEX down and creating an influx of jobs (for other people).

Now Why would a mexican politician draft such a terrible thing? Well they didn’t.

Among the e-mails that the American State Department released one of them was the Mexican Energetic Reform, as drafted by Hillary Clinton.

Right now the healthcare of my sister, the retirement pension of my father, the entire industry of my hometown, Tula de Allende, are under threat because of her. I don’t pick her out on her gender, I pick her out because she is the face of american interventionism in my life and the life of basically everyone I know.

And now she’s posing herself to gain even more power as President of the United States. How can I see her as anything but a monster?

And who benefits from her actions? Well… not the american people, from what I understand. But corporations like Exxon, Mobil, Chevron and BP. So when people accuse her of just looking out for the benefit of her corporate donors all I can say is “Yep, she does. Thought you guys knew that already.”

Well, no. I said it wasn’t acceptable here, but nobody seems to care about that any more than they care that the problem I’m talking about damages me. Who gives a fuck about me if you can hurt Clinton by any means necessary?

I have no intention of putting up with another nine months of this, so I’ll take my leave.
You are a disgusting fat cunt.

Yeah, this is the one I woke up to this morning. This is also someone who’s been commenting here for a while. I’ll be enforcing that flounce.

I’ll be enforcing my boundaries on commenting here too, same as they were on the last post. There are huge swaths of the internet where you can talk about hating Clinton for any reason–good or bad–and get cookies for it. You don’t get to do it here. You particularly don’t get to do it here in lieu of giving a shit about me.

No, You Can’t Address Misogyny in an Election Year, Comments Edition

28 thoughts on “No, You Can’t Address Misogyny in an Election Year, Comments Edition

  1. 1

    Okay, I really don’t understand how you can say that you “made no argument in favor of either candidate” when your article’s title was “If Clinton Is a Monster, So Am I,” and you state within the article that Clinton’s “major ‘crime’ was pushing for progress faster than post-Reagan Republicans were willing to allow.”

    Now, maybe I’m interpreting things more literally than they were intended, but to me, saying “[i]f Clinton is a monster, so am I” really sounds like you’re saying that Clinton isn’t a monster. And as someone who thinks Clinton has supported some rather monstrous policies, that sounds like a defense of Clinton’s politics, and thus an argument in her favor as a candidate. Moreover, claiming that her “major ‘crime’ was pushing for progress” too quickly is outright dismissive of a million legitimate complaints about Hillary as a candidate, and is therefore really freaking hard to interpret as anything but an argument in favor of Hillary as a candidate.

    Please explain how I am interpreting your words incorrectly.

  2. 2


  3. 3

    My original post specifies exactly the arguments that people are bringing to me that are invalid and specifies the behavior of the right-wing lie machine that pushed them into the public consciousness. If you can’t clear your head long enough to read what is on the screen, this is not my problem. It’s yours. Plenty of people got it. I find it no coincidence that they’re mostly women.

  4. 4

    Considering that these were people leaving these comments here, I see no problem with naming them. Especially that last one and whoever left the “little feminist f****t” comment.

  5. 5

    Holy shit. There is an awful lot of wanting to miss the point and just hate on Clinton some more.

    I know you aren’t a monster. And I know you’ve dealt with a ton of shit in the last few years. Thank you for doing that. Thank you for putting yourself out there for the rest of us. It’s not fair and it’s not right. I hope it just feels worth it as much to you as it has been to those of us who benefit and don’t suffer.

  6. 7

    You didn’t actually answer my question. I’m not trying to defend sexist attacks, and I’m not saying that you didn’t have plenty of legitimate, accurate points. I’m just pointing out that you also said some things that you’re now denying having said.

    Am I just being a sexist if I point that out? If so, then I reject your brand of feminism.

  7. 8

    Actually, I didn’t deny anything. I just told you that you were having trouble reading things other people got just fine. Because, you know, it’s not like the term “monster” has an entire post linked in mine for context. And it’s not like I didn’t already explain “crime” right here in this post. But sure, blame it on my feminism.

    Then go away if that’s your tack.

  8. 9

    invivoMark: Hey, uhm, I wrote one of the comments showcased here, and have apologized for being part of that dog pile. Actually Stephany did answer your question, you think that her defense of Hillary Clinton is an endorsement of her as a politician but it’s not. It’s really a conversation on the way people (particularly women) get demonized by the media. If you refuse Hillary Clinton as an example of that, you still can’t refuse Bernie Sanders being demonized as a Socialist or Obama as a black man.

    That’s the conversation topic. The media machine using whatever tools they have (misogyny, racism, xenophobia, transphobia) to discredit a person based on What they are instead of Who they are. And in the context of that conversation, your arguments against Hillary Clinton can be understood as an advancement of that misogynistic attitude. Much in the same way that you confuse Stephany’s defense of Hillary Clinton for an endorsement of her as a politician.

    The thing is, I agree with you in the monstrous policies that Hillary Clinton has endorsed and spearheaded, but Stephany doesn’t want to have that conversation right now and it is her absolute right as the owner of this blog to decide what gets talked about in it.

    And really, the misogynistic smearing campaign is a more relevant discussion to a feminist blog than any policy criticisms.

  9. 11

    If Stephanie doesn’t want to have a conversation about policies, that’s totally fine, and I’m happy to respect that. The issue I have is that I do believe that Hillary is a monster, for reasons entirely unrelated to mischaracterizations of her that stem from sexist assumptions and slander, and I don’t think that it should be taboo for me to say so. Especially when Stephanie gets to start out her post by outlining an ultimatum about whether Hillary is a monster. It ought to be allowed, I think, to disagree with a portion of Stephanie’s post and to state reasons for the disagreement.

    By forming the ultimatum about the characterization of Hillary as a monster, I think that Stephanie is erasing legitimate discussion elsewhere about some very real problems that some people have with Hillary’s politics. I don’t need to have that discussion here. I’d just prefer that its existence not be outright denied.

  10. 14

    Dude, I’ve tried. If you can’t read the context of “monster”, or if you think my blog is your place to free-associate over the term no matter how I was using it OR HOW IMPORTANT THE POINT I WAS MAKING WAS, there’s no help for you here.

  11. 15

    Okay, so you’re using the word “monster” in a different way from how I’m used to seeing it. That helps. Maybe I’m just slow to pick up on that. I generally expect titles to be self-explanatory and not require many contextual clues, and your writing clearly has some stylistic differences that I am not used to.

    In my defense, your post does not exist in a vacuum, and I have seen a lot of unfair accusations of sexism against people who are not Hillary supporters (along, of course, with plenty of totally fair accusations of the same). But I will gladly grant you the benefit of the doubt in this.

    However, do you understand the point I was trying to make? If so, do you think that might explain (not necessarily excuse) some of the comments that you received on your post?

  12. 16

    I generally expect titles to be self-explanatory and not require many contextual clues

    invivoMark @ #15: Translation: I want to come to conclusions about articles based entirely on the title, without actually reading them.

  13. 19

    I didn’t blame you for my misinterpretation, because I didn’t realize there was a misinterpretation at first, because instead of just fucking telling me that you meant “monster” in a way that I misinterpreted, you fucking yelled at me and treated me like an idiot. I did nothing to deserve that treatment from you. I am a decent and reasonably intelligent person, and if you disagree, you can go fuck yourself. I don’t need that kind of disrespect.

    It is not a coincidence that many other people also misunderstood your post.

  14. 20

    After ignoring three versions of “stop and go away”, invivoMark is now in moderation. He won’t be able to answer comments addressed to him here, so it’s probably not worth making them.

  15. 21

    “Don’t talk about your problems with policies. Let’s talk about disproportionate demonization of women because they’re women.”

    “But I really want to talk about policies!”



    “No. Talk about the misogyny or leave.”


    It’s like you people don’t even own a fucking mirror.

  16. 23

    Subsumed within my observation that the republicans are fucking awful is that they are fucking misogynistic.

    OK. That’s a big piece of “so what?” Are we shocked that republican assholes are being misogynistic assholes? I’m not, are you? Are you shocked that there are misogynistic assholes that say fucking awful things to you? I doubt it. I’m not, either.

    But saying nasty things about Clinton that are not because of her gender is not automatically misogynist. There are legitimately nasty things one can say about Clinton. In fact I think there are legitimately nasty things one should say about Clinton. I don’t think that you’re an international exporter of warfare, so I don’t levy that criticism against you. That doesn’t make me misogynistic or not misogynistic.

    I get frustrated when someone tries to force that dichotomy on everything. I have occasionally encountered a similar forcing when discussing the fucking awful actions of Israel. It’s possible to say “Israel is doing some fucking awful shit” and not be anti-semitic. It’s possible to say “Hillary Clinton is a warmonger.” It’s a cheap rhetorical trick to conflate the two because it’s attempting to imply the person criticizing has no legitimate reason because their motives are wrong. Genetic fallacy, probably. Whatever. Sorry I had to mansplain it to ya.

  17. 24

    Marcus, you’re arguing against the same damned strawman that everyone else has been every time somebody has tried to bring any of this up. Literally no one is talking about all criticisms of Clinton being misogynistic. Not me. Not anyone else. That’s why there was a special commenting note on the post to begin with–because I’m not going to engage or even dignify the strawman. If you’d followed it, maybe you wouldn’t still be spinning your wheels on the topic.

  18. 25

    … the “crime” that got Clinton dumped into the right-wing lie machine was entering the White House as First Lady with an ambition to single-payer health care.

    Clinton’s “reform” plan was a complicated and compromised scheme in service to the biggest insurance corporations, with not even a “public option” and certainly nothing like any of the extant single-payer proposals.

    And I submit that Hillary Clinton’s “crime” was speaking out while married to a president that the Republican hate machine had set out to destroy, regardless of policies or personalities: she would have caught the same sexist shit regardless of what she advocated.

  19. 27

    Pierce – Interesting you think the anti-hillary stuff from the 90s was all about the man. Maybe there was a notion of attacking the dude somewhere in the background radiation, but by the time it was in full swing people hated her so much they’d actually say *she* was the evil mastermind (and a literal murderer) to his dopey chump. From the street level where I’ve lived this whole time, anti-hill stuff is like 90% misogyny 10% conspiracy theory, mostly motivated by a terror of any woman anywhere being close to the powers of high office.

    I’m not interested in the clintons at all, but anti-hillary information is so polluted with toxic misogyny that you almost have to practice a saintly level of kindness while you criticize her worst policies, otherwise it’s adding juice the pre-existing ocean of bile. I can’t even watch this crap. The 90s were shitty enough the first time around, this time they’re looking far worse.

  20. 28

    Hrm. I’m also finding this post and the previous post and the comment thread rules a bit hard to navigate. Everyone seems to be very intense.
    I empathize greatly with the experience you’ve had in the atheist community. I think it’s awful and I’ve been deeply disappointed by the community as a result of that and similar campaigns. I totally agree that Clinton has been at the receiving end of misogyny and smear campaigns for a very long time from all corners.
    I’m sorry that you feel like you are hearing a repeat of those smear campaigns from other progressives which parallels your own personal experience.
    I am having a harder time quantifying how much of that is reflected in progressive criticisms of Clinton than I think you are, but I have spent a lot of time wondering how much of her troubles in getting the nomination are based on policy and how much is based on the fact she’s a woman in power who has been put in a no-win situation (too emotional/too cold, too progressive/conservative, the obvious fact that a bernie-style Clinton wouldn’t have been taken seriously because a woman can’t also be a radical progressive, etc.) for decades.
    Some of that difficultly is due to the fact that as much as I would like to support a female candidate for president, she hasn’t excited me as a candidate at all and I’m trying to pick that apart in my own head. And that’s unfortunate because they probably don’t have to get everyone to think she’s a monster to win, if they’ve succeeded in just making me and others feel luke-warm that’s probably good enough.
    Anyway I’m sorry this election cycle is playing out in a personal and hurtful way. I hope the (I’m assuming) Bernie supporters around you calm the fuck down.

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