Flat White

Impropriety? Sexism and misogyny, puh-lease

3 November 2016

7:23 AM

3 November 2016

7:23 AM

Australian Prime Minister Julia GillardA new bit of Clinton-media rot is making the rounds on social media, this one from the formerly estimable Time. Robin Lakoff, professor of linguistics at the University of California, writes:

The only reason the whole email flap has legs is because the candidate is female. Can you imagine this happening to a man? Clinton is guilty of SWF (Speaking While Female), and emailgate is just a reminder to us all that she has no business doing what she’s doing and must be punished, for the sake of all decent women everywhere. There is so much of that going around.

I am mad. I am mad because I am scared. And if you are a woman, you should be, too. Emailgate is a bitch hunt, but the target is not Hillary Clinton. It’s us.

Read the whole thing if you want, but I wouldn’t bother. Professor Lakoff goes on to say… well, exactly what you’d expect her to say.

First of all, Mrs Clinton isn’t guilty of ‘speaking while female’. She’s guilty of mishandling classified information, violating the 2009 Federal Records Act, and violating the treasured Freedom of Information Act. Those aren’t obscure regulations lost in dusty tomes that have been dragged out by pinstriped patriarchs to prevent a female presidency. They’re well-known statues that have all been invoked in several high-profile cases since the late ‘90s. Most of them, in fact, were invoked against powerful men long before they were thrown at Mrs Clinton, most notably General David Petraeus.


This is the sort of thing that makes feminism appear redundant at best, and malicious at worst. Whenever a woman (and generally a left-wing woman) is criticised or scrutinised in any way, we can count on the Sisterhood forming a phalanx to shield her from scrutiny. It was true when Jules was PM and it’s true now. Without fail, whenever a man says something unflattering about a female public figure, his character is assassinated. He’s branded a ‘misogynist’ and a ‘sexist’ and thrown to the wolves of public opinion. He risks losing his career and becoming a social pariah. And the woman he accused, who’s clearly guilty of mismanagement (as in Gillard’s case) or even criminal activity (as in Clinton’s) is allowed to walk away scot-free.

So Professor Lakoff is, in fact, exactly wrong. Put it this way: Can you really imagine the media and political classes defending someone in Clinton’s position so viciously if they were a man? If it was Bill who was found guilty of mishandling classified information, do you think his female critics would be accused of misandry?

Let me mansplain this to you, ladies: every time you blame your screw-ups on ‘the patriarchy’ (or ‘internalized sexism’, if the critic happens female), a misogynist gets his wings. When you say that legal and political realities should be ignored because of the defendant’s gender, you make the real sexists’ case for them. You suggest, whether you mean to or not, that women can’t handle the responsibilities and scrutiny required for a career in public service. You suggest they have to be sheltered from the big, bad world of laws and duties – that they’re not intellectually or morally competent enough to perform the jobs traditionally held by men. That’s Sexism 101. Whether it’s (trigger warning: phallic symbolism) erected to protect women or suppress them, a glass ceiling is still a glass ceiling.

So go on and take a swing at Clinton. She deserves it. And, frankly, you deserve better than her. The first female POTUS should stand on a lifetime of public service and hard-earned success, not corruption and double standards. She should be a role model for our daughters and granddaughters, not Frank Underwood in a pants suit.

You get one shot at this, ladies. Make sure she’s worthy of you.


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