Does Calling for Clinton’s Ouster Equate to Sexism?

Recently I have shifted my opinion from Clinton should be pushed out to she can stay in for as long as she likes. I have my reasons for both views, but even when I was hardcore for calling for Clinton’s ouster, I never thought of misogyny as the motivational force behind it.

Jeff Fecke writes a pretty solid post that I agree with almost completely about how and when Clinton should get out. I don’t go so far as to think that we should sit by if Clinton decides to stay in until August and be as damaging as possible the whole time, but barring that one extreme that I don’t think will happen, I think he’s spot on.

But something just kind of sits with me wrong;“I don’t, but I understand why you may think so; after all, more than a few of my fellow Obama supporters have been clamoring for Clinton to leave the race since roughly March 6 — and I agree, there is misogyny, or at the very least blindness to privilege, inherent in those calls.”

This has been a recurring theme at Shakesville for a while, and one that is echoed more vehemently on some of the pro-Clinton blogs; that by necessity all calls for Clinton to step down are inherently sexist. I don’t think it does, but then, that’s due to my take on the situation and my take on sexism, and even racism and other forms of bigotry.

Bigoted acts are, at least to my way of thinking, one part action, and one part mentality. This isn’t a hard set formula, of course, but it seems at least reasonable to maintain that to call an act one of misogyny the perpetrator of the act had to have done so at least based in part because of the victim’s gender. Thus, if your motivations for committing an act are not in the slightest bit influenced by gender, but because they are committed upon a woman, do they still fall under the umbrella as racism?

Equally, if Obama had been in Clinton’s position, and there were widespread calls for him to drop out of the race, would those calls have to be inherently racist?

These are not rhetorical questions, by the way. I truly want to know; dog whistles haven’t gained their stature in the political lexicon for nothing after all, and often times people can be deaf to actions and words that can carry with them severe implications.

Nor am I looking for an antagonistic discussion, either. I’m not trying to insult Fecke, nor the many people who hold a similar view, but instead am trying to understand it better.

As we like to say over and over again, having a woman and a black man battle for the Democratic nomination is a truly historic moment, but I think the only way we can truly reap the benefits from such an event is to use it to better understand the ideas and animosities that divide us, and explore the tensions that exist between genders and races.

Indeed, there are actions and words that are perceived with hostility by a group while exterior groups don’t even understand the damage done. Interestingly, this I think widens and braces the chasm between demographics the most because it creates an atmosphere in which people are afraid of expressing their thoughts and emotions and ideas.

Without the expression of those thoughts and ideas, there can not ever be a deeper understanding from those who, by biology, are coming from a different perspective. And I am as capable of falling victim to this as anyone else, especially given that I think I tend to be significantly more sensitive to racism than I am to sexism.

But this I think is where the politically correct movement of the nineties failed so fabulously, in that it condemned thoughts and ideas as wrong without taking the extra steps to understand why those thoughts and ideas persist, and the resistance to calling those thoughts and ideas morally wrong that may arise.

For example:

A: I don’t think a black man should be president.

B: You’re wrong and racist and should never say that again.

A: (thinks to himself) Well, I’m never telling you what I really think ever again.

In this rudimentary example, we know that conversations don’t go like this, but it does parallel the basic spirit behind what we see a lot today; that instant condemnation of something as right or wrong without taking the greater steps to proceed. The problem is, nothing is accomplished other than possibly a useless silence. Speaker A’s opinion hasn’t been changed one little bit, and speaker B may feel far better for having combated racism, but speaker B holds little understanding of speaker A, and the cultural and societal influences and his world view that have led him to his opinion.

By contrast, if we don’t automatically condemn, but ask why, and seek better understanding, and engage in dialogue, we may learn something, and even better, we may change opinions and minds. If speaker B, for instance, were to ask speaker A why he felt the way he did, then maybe speaker A would come up with some actually non racist points, or they may be very racist, but at least you understand where he is coming from now, and you can make counter points and do it on speaker A’s terms.

This won’t always result in changed minds, and shouldn’t necessarily always be done. Don’t expect me to email my new friend Bill White and ask him why he hates black people and Jews so much (for those who missed it, Bill White sorta almost gave me a death threat), as we have gone beyond the realm of personally held prejudices and transitioned into extremist ideology which is a different animal completely.

And so it’s time to bring this probably overly long analogous example to an end, and return to the original question of whether or not calling for Clinton’s ouster from the race, pushing her out, so to speak, is necessarily sexist. As I say, I don’t think it does, but I am more than open to arguments to the contrary.

If it is, I want to know why and how.

5 Responses to “Does Calling for Clinton’s Ouster Equate to Sexism?”

  1. Mark says:

    The trouble with so much of this style of debate is that it becomes a convenient cover for dismissing and falsely discrediting opposing viewpoints out of hand. Not only does it poison debate and prevent rational discussion of issues, it also has the consequence of cheapening real racism/sexism when it does exist.

  2. tas says:

    Fecke tends to see sexism in everything. So I tend not to take him seriously.

  3. Mark: I agree with you of course. Just about everything. But I am still waiting to hear a rational discussion from someone who doesn’t agree with us. I mean, i really want to know if it’s just a claim or if there is actually some substance behind it.

    Tas, I also noticed that he uses that “blind to privelege” phrase a lot. What the fuck does that mean, really?

    Blind to privelege.

  4. DrGail says:

    Having been the victim of sexism and discrimination on more than one occasion, as a woman pioneering a largely male-dominated field, perhaps I have a slightly different perspective.

    Let me first establish that, in this case, I don’t think it’s a reflection of sexism to call for Hillary to bow out of the primary race. Facts are facts and math is math: She can’t win this thing. That’s unfortunate and I can truly empathize with what has become (yet another) public humiliation for her, but she can’t win.

    There might be a better claim that sexism reared its head in the voting; that is, that some folks would not and did not vote for her simply because she’s a woman. I would actually be reasonably receptive to arguments of that kind.

    When one has been the victim of sexism, or any form of discrimination I suppose, it can be very tempting to see any failure or disappointment as further evidence of the discrimination. This, however, becomes self-reflexive. That is, it can block you from truly learning something from the situation which can perhaps help you overcome inherent or imposed disadvantages in the future.

    It’s much easier to say “I didn’t get that job because that company is sexist” than to admit “I didn’t get that job because I interviewed poorly” or whatever. Perhaps there was a kernel of sexism involved, but focusing on that alone really doesn’t help matters. Unless, of course, your objective is simply to be pissed off rather than to improve your chances for the next job.

    In some ways, it seems like putting every defeat a woman ever endures into the bucket of “sexism” really just serves to keep the whole problem alive by reinforcing observers’ sexist notions that a woman can’t take the pressure, isn’t willing to take responsibility for what happens to her, etc.

    I think that, as time permits later on today, I’ll put up a post expanding on these notions. Just as this primary race has brought issues of racism into the realm of serious discussion, perhaps sexism should be addressed as well.

  5. tas says:

    On the notion of being “blind to privilege,” it basically means the male privilege checklist. Which is good for us men to give a look over since there any many things on therer that we don’t think about, can’t experience being slighted for, and can only realize through the eyes of others.

    However, and sorta bleeding into Kathy’s points, I do think that sexism and pointing out of privileges can be used as catch-all excuses; a crutch. It makes matters too simplistic (which is something I’ve pointed out at Shakesville, only to get insulted, name-called, and berated. (So much for them arguing with friends using counterpoints; and back then, I was a friend of the blog, but no more.) So whenever women who support Hillary because of her gender accuse Obama supporters of sexism, I roll my eyes. None of them have asked me what my problem with Hillary is, they just assume my problem with Hillary stems from the fact that she has a vagina. I’m no longer in the mood to argue with people who reduce movements like feminism to mindless sloganeering — using the movement as a crutch to harbor simple-minded views and infest ignorance upon the rest of us.

    Given my proximity to feminism, and the support I received from feminist bloggers during my Loaded Mouth days, I guess I can speak as a former insider now looking in, embarrassed to see who has taken my place. All in all, if some bloggers in the feminist movement have trouble talking with people such as myself, then I think they need to reexamine their own rhetoric. I’m not the problem.


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