Saturday, June 4, 2016

Hillary Clinton and Misogyny

The visceral, irrational hatred for Hillary Clinton shared by millions of men stems from one basic fact: They feel THREATENED.

For the first time, we are on the verge of electing a woman to the most powerful position in the world. This is incredibly threatening to most men, particularly because of the kind of woman Hillary Clinton is.

Misogyny, you see, does not mean hatred for all women. It means hatred for UPPITY women. Submissive women are fine.

Consider this mentality in historical perspective. There was a time when women,  particularly highly competent women, were at great risk: From Cleopatra and  Joan of Arc to Anne Boleyn and the innumerable women who were persecuted, tortured and killed in the past, what many of them had in common was that they were not submissive, and that they were ABOVE average in aptitude, intelligence, strength and courage. This was their unforgivable sin. They were THREATENING  to the rulers of the world, i.e. to MEN. Their tormentors were possessed by a mixture of fear, desire, envy and guilt. They were subconsciously aware that their victims were innocent as well as far better human beings than themselves, and they hoped that destroying the victims would free them from those nagging feelings.

Internationally, the treatment of women is a continuum: Some places still practice honor killings and they stone women for having a drink with a male acquaintance. Such unspeakable horror only reveals that these places are culturally a thousand years in arrears. These things happen in Third World places, many of them Muslim, for example Pakistan, India, the Middle East and Africa. To be sure, they happen primarily in the most backward rural regions. After all, India and Pakistan have elected female heads of state, which America has yet to accomplish. At the opposite end of the spectrum are the advanced countries of Northern Europe, where Margaret Thatcher and Angela Merkel are no longer exceptions. The level of misogyny in the US seems to be somewhere between those two poles. As in other respects, America is a very large and diverse society.

Hillary Clinton’s undoing is that she is anything but submissive. She is exceptionally qualified, cool and calm, but feisty and capable of staring you down so devastatingly that you might feel that you are being robbed of your manhood. Yes, a woman whom sexist assholes would describe as a “castrating bitch.”

To deconstruct this ugly term: It refers to a woman who is strong, who is better than you, who is right when you are wrong, and who doesn’t mince her words and dares to tell you that she is right when you are wrong. In other words, a woman who does what many average guys do, a woman who behaves like some of the best (female or male) teachers you had when you were a kid.

Hillary Clinton is a lightning rod for misogyny because in addition to the characteristics just mentioned, she is also eloquent, charismatic, attractive, tough, successful, smart, with a proven track record of leadership and achievement, a tough fighter, loyal, principled, committed to justice. In other words, she has everything that any opponent should be afraid of. She is a formidable opponent.

It is not just ANY woman we may be electing to the most powerful position in the world. It is a woman who has slogged through the political wars of the past thirty years - health care, foreign policy, economic justice, the whole nine yards. She has been faithful to her convictions and consistently a moderate centrist/liberal. She has also survived decades of scandal mongering, being even blamed, in her detractors’ twisted logic, for her husband’s sexual dalliances. She has paid her dues, she has fought, won some and lost some, and always stood back up after each defeat. Losing the presidency to Obama, she then joined his team, admirably. Now she is roaring back in her race for the top job.

Such a woman is deeply threatening to many men, especially men who are insecure, who feel inferior and inadequate, who lust for power, who secretly admire and envy a power which they do not have. I bet you Sean Hannity is green with envy that he can’t command $300,000 for one Wall Street speech.

Social Psychologists have shown that, alas, human communication is largely non-verbal. (See for example E. T. Hall, The Silent Language). According to Albert Mehrabian, only 7% of a message between sender and receiver is based on the verbal component - what is being said - and 93% is based on HOW it is being expressed - body language, etc. 

I was recently chatting with a rabid “anybody-but-Hillary” Republican at my health spa, and he said: “When I see Hillary on TV, I walk out of the room.” Eight years ago, when she and Obama first competed for the presidency, I noticed very similar hatred. Back then, many fellows in the locker room were already describing her as a witch and a female Satan.

So this is visceral and illogical. Clinton can give a brilliant speech as she did on June 2 in San Diego, a speech eloquently outlining her policies, a speech contrasting with Trump’s foul-mouthed ego-maniacal gibberish, and a majority of Americans will utterly ignore the substance of the speech while fixating on something they didn’t like about her tone of voice.

The determination to hate her precedes and survives anything she might say. Such men are unconvinceable.

As with the high inquisitors during the Middle Ages, there may be, in addition to fear, also an element of subconscious guilt. The high priests of our propaganda machine - the Rush Limbaughs, the Krauthammers and the Hannitys - have been lying and slandering their enemies for decades. They probably fear that if their enemies win, there will be retribution.

I don’t mean this in a literal sense. If Hillary Clinton were to be elected president, there would obviously not be an “enemies list” à la Richard Nixon. This is the 21st century. At worst, some of the folks at Fox News might be assigned back seats at White House press conferences, or some such minor revenge.

However, some of these folks might have a diffuse feeling of some pending “poetic justice.” They might, irrationally, fear that with their enemy’s victory, the world may turn in a way that is detrimental to them. As I said, some sort of “poetic punishment.” This tends to be part of human nature. When people have done wrong, they often fear that punishment is coming. I suspect that the opinion leaders who have spread lies about Hillary Clinton for years and the millions of trolls who have polluted the Internet with anonymous vile obscenities for so long feel both fear and guilt.
© Tom Kando 2016
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