The appearance of Hillary Clinton’s campaign autobiography instigated yet another round of sexism excuses for her loss to Donald Trump. In the Sept. 18 issue of New York magazine, feminist author Rebecca Traister not-so-subtly suggested that America just can’t handle an (angry) powerful woman: “Hillary, Heated – She’s finally expressing some righteous anger. Why does that make everyone else so mad?”
Traister, writer-at-large for the magazine, lamented Hillary Clinton’s inability to express her justified anger in public:
....What Happened is 100 percent more candid than anything she has previously expressed in 25 years in national politics. But what makes it unusual and unusually valuable -- what sent its early critics into apoplexy even before its publication -- is that in it, Hillary Clinton is expressing anger, something she was not free to do during the election, even as her opponents, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, were admired for their ability to channel the rage of their supporters.
The question of whether Clinton could or should have found her own mad voice during the campaign hangs over What Happened. Should she have turned on Donald Trump as he paced behind her at the second debate, she wonders. Could she have found a way to communicate the anger many Americans were feeling? “I couldn’t -- and wouldn’t -- compete to stoke people’s rage and resentment. I think that’s dangerous … Besides, it’s just not how I’m wired,” she writes, describing the mental diagnostics she was performing as she listened to Trump’s wrathful inauguration, wondering if “maybe that’s why Trump was now delivering the inaugural address.”
But if her failure to win the Electoral College hinged on Clinton’s inability to traffic in rhetorical fury, then the question she raises goes beyond her own wiring. Because she never could have turned around and screamed at Trump, never could have slashed her finger through the air and called for revolution in the style of Bernie Sanders, at least not if she had any hope of winning the presidency. Hillary Clinton is a woman, and there is almost nothing that Americans view as more repellent in women than anger.
But a screaming fit on Hillary’s part wasn’t required; a simple eye-roll at Trump might have done the trick. During a 2000 town hall campaign debate, George W. Bush, when stalked on stage by Al Gore, dismissed him with a slight nod, making himself look clever and his opponent Gore foolish.
Recall that every time Clinton spoke too loudly into a microphone while debating her screamy opponents, Americans seemed to rear back; consider that the one deprecatory remark she threw out -- calling those who responded enthusiastically to Trump’s open racism “deplorables” -- is still regarded by many pundits as her fatal error. Never mind that she said it while running against a candidate who called Mexicans rapists. Censorious anger from women is a liability; from men, it is often, simply, speech.
Lost in the outrage is the fact that Hillary Clinton lost the vote among white women. Did those women simply vote the way their husbands or significant others told them too? And of course, Sarah Palin and her family were victims of vicious and vulgar insults from the left from almost the moment she took the national stage, without any sympathy from liberal feminists, who were often leading the charge.
Then it was on to what Traister considers the phony issue of Hillary’s email scandal (more accurately described as Hillary’s classified documents scandal).
This being her fury at the media, especially the New York Times, with its damaging infatuation with the email story. But also: her antipathy toward Donald Trump; her loathing for Vladimir Putin; her rancor toward Jim Comey; her disgruntlement with Bernie Sanders. And then there is her vexation with sexist double standards....
Traister overstated Clinton’s acceptance of responsibility for her own loss:
And those who continue to insist on hearing Clinton’s reasoned rage as a means to deflect blame are missing perhaps the object of her most blistering ire: herself...
People have been reacting with atavistic censure to Hillary Clinton for decades, and she’s been expected to simply absorb it all without returning fire. There are shirts, as she writes in What Happened, that feature an image of Trump holding her bloody severed head aloft; others, which she doesn’t mention, read “Hillary Sucks, But Not Like Monica.”
Traister concluded with this flourish:
<<< Please support MRC's NewsBusters team with a tax-deductible contribution today. >>>
And perhaps the reason the press, and some of Clinton’s critics on both right and left, react to her legitimate, if arguable, critiques by furiously wishing for her silence is the same reason women’s public airing of fury has long been discouraged and cast as irrational: because if we allowed women’s resentments the same bearing we afford men’s grudges, America would be forced to reckon with the fact that all those angry women might just have a point.