In covering the recent presidential campaign, the mainstream media far too often made the perfect the enemy of the good, believes Leigh Gilmore -- “the good” in this case being synonymous with “Hillary Clinton.” Gilmore, a professor in the women's and gender studies department at Hillary’s undergraduate alma mater, Wellesley, claims that “the bias against Hillary Clinton was not simply a story the media reported -- it was the unexamined narrative the press repeated over and over.”
Notwithstanding Clinton’s “long and demonstrable commitment to public service and liberal reform, many voters…were persuaded that she was corrupt, mercenary and even murderous,” wrote Gilmore in a piece that ran Saturday at Salon and first appeared on the academia-oriented web site The Conversation. “A sinister Hillary…dominated conservative media, but also appeared in mainstream journalism…Why was the lie more persistent than the truth? Why was ‘Crooked Hillary’ a more compelling figure than ‘Fundamentally Honest Hillary’?”
Gilmore contended that when women seek power, it “threatens the association of masculine power with order…From Eve to Clytemnestra to Lady Macbeth, powerful female figures stir up deep-seated and irrational fears.” Moreover, “it is not only traditionalists who feel that women can’t be trusted with power; cultural narratives of blame make it feel right in general to doubt women.”
To Gilmore, it should have been obvious to everyone not long after the Donald Trump/Access Hollywood tape emerged that “Clinton was being held to an impossibly high standard…Even after Trump became the looming and groping embodiment of predatory masculinity, the old story that ‘Hillary lied’ could be revived and re-centered as ‘the’ story.”
Gilmore alleged that at times, the treatment of Hillary wasn’t only unfair; it was abusive (bolding added):
On the night after the election, NPR’s valedictory story reported everything that had been done to Clinton during her long career, suggesting she had brought it all on herself…What was done to Hillary Clinton became what she deserved. Where have we heard this before? It is the tactic of rape culture to blame women for failing to prevent the harm that is perpetrated against them…
…Derogatory names were directed at [Hillary] by her political opponent and a range of commentators in a way that was indistinguishable from sexual harassment.
For her, the standard was perfection, a standard against which only she was measured.