by Wise Woman Emily Simon
We hear a lot about “mansplaining” these days, and so I’m going to do something I have only dreamed of doing (something our gal Hillary Rodham Clinton nobly and notably refrains from) and drop some Middle-Aged-Ladysplaining down right here.
Not everyone who was reluctant to vote for Hillary Clinton hates Hillary Clinton. But people who hate Hillary Clinton are the reason Donald Trump is President. And almost everyone who hates her—certainly anyone younger than 40 who hates her—hates her because of sexism, plain and simple.
But they usually don’t understand that they do, because the sexism of hating Hillary Clinton does not exactly resemble any other form of sexism. It is unique.
Hillary Clinton is historically unprecedented, and will not be historically followed. She exists in a very specific time as a very specific person, and the sexism she faces is a concentrated, nuclear, Godzilla-scope sexism that is a product of the culture wars that have transpired in her lifetime.
There are people of voting age who grew up in a culture that hates Hillary Clinton—it’s all they know. They’re like fish in water who don’t know water exists. This generalized distaste is a simple reality: a fact of life. It is gaseous, and congeals into solid form around various issues—war, Benghazi, emails, Goldman Sachs. All of which could be legit on their own merits, but all of which are also easily seized Trojan Horses in which to transport the diffuse miasma of Hillary Hatred that fills the American air.
She is, reluctantly and uncomfortably, an archetype: the witch, Jezebel, Eve—though she does not have the personality for this role, she has been thrust into it anyway.
During Bill Clinton’s first campaign, when we first nationally noticed her, she was the embodiment of the threat to the patriarchy created by the 60s counter-culture’s transition into 70s feminism.
She had a powerful job. She didn’t want to bake cookies. She either WAS your mom, or she threatened the validity of your mom. Men hated her because she was the wife who could afford to leave you, and didn’t care how big her boobs were. Women hated her because of the damn cookies, or because she didn’t care how big her boobs were, or because her husband was unfaithful and she didn’t leave him.
Her existence was, is, will always be, a threat to many people on a core level. When you have watched her closely, for 25 years, as a woman—you get this. It’s impossible to NOT see.
But if you’re a 25-year-old dude who has breathed all of this in with your oxygen since literally the minute you came out of someone’s vagina, you can dismiss it as not influencing you, and grab onto something on the endlessly rotating Lazy Susan of intellectually defensible “reasons” to hate Hillary Clinton. Every second of her life is watched like a hawk, by people looking for new morsels to add to the spread.
Or, if you’re a middle-aged woman who has self-defensively aligned herself with patriarchy, maybe you’re honest and just say “I don’t LIKE her” and that’s the end of it.
Our culture will give anyone with the slightest inclination to hate Hillary Clinton a “valid” rack to hang your hat on.
Even though, when one compares her to literally any other politician throughout history, it becomes instantly clear that she is certainly no worse and objectively miles better. There’s no question that she would have been an excellent President, by any realistic understanding of that job description. But there was no way that an America that has shaped its identity around rejecting her was ever going to allow her to lead it.
Women who come after her will certainly face sexism. Women before her certainly did. But no one will ever again REPRESENT the changing status of women in our culture the way she has, and so no one will ever inspire the passion she has.
America, our beloved white supremacist capitalist hetero-patriarchy, still needs to define itself largely in opposition to everything she is.
And anyone who claims to hate her for any other reason simply doesn’t fucking get it. I don’t pretend to feel otherwise anymore.
People I otherwise respect constantly pull out their laser pointers and refer to charts and graphs, and appeal passionately to my intellect and character and sense of freedom and justice and outrage, and I just sit there murmuring “mmmm-hmmmm,” waiting for them to be done.
I listen to them as well as I can, with as much respect as I can, until their words turn into Peanuts–parent dialogue. I sit there, tired, irritated, knowing that I know why they hate Hillary Clinton, but they never will.