Hillary Hating & Sexism

Hillary 1

Hillary Clinton

When people hate on Hillary I ask why.

The complaints are often curious:

Michael Arnovitz posted the following to his Facebook, which was reposted on Daily Kos:

How many conservatives see her:

A radical left-wing insurgent who has been compared to Mikhail Suslov, the Soviet Kremlin’s long-time Chief of Ideology.

How many progressives see her:

A Republican fox in Democratic sheep’s clothing. A shill for Wall Street who doesn’t give a damn about the working class.

They can’t both be right!

In the course of a single conversation, I have been assured that Hillary is cunning and manipulative but also crass, clueless, and stunningly impolitic; that she is a hopelessly woolly-headed do-gooder and, at heart, a hardball litigator; that she is a base opportunist and a zealot convinced that God is on her side. What emerges is a cultural inventory of villainy rather than a plausible depiction of an actual person.

So says Henry Louis Gates, a historian, literary critic, filmmaker and Harvard University professor in a 1996 New Yorker article called “Hating Hillary.”

So many contradictions. Someone must be making up stuff in their heads.

The real problem? Discomfort with women in power

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton

Michael Arnovitz tracked Hillary’s popularity and found that whenever she sought a powerful job she became unpopular. We are still uncomfortable with women in power.

A couple bullet points from Michael’s post:

  • Unlike men, women who make demands are still often seen as unfeminine and inappropriately aggressive, bordering on deviant.  (Nate Silver polling since 90s)
  • Presidential campaigns favor men, and the men who campaign in them are rewarded for those traits perceived as being “manly” — physical size, charisma, forceful personality, assertiveness, boldness and volume. Women who evince those same traits however are usually punished rather than rewarded, and a lot of the negativity aimed at Hillary over the years, especially when she is seeking office, has been due to these underlying biases.

Now look at these data points — Hillary-hating when she seeks power:

  • In the early 90’s Hillary’s polling was great, which was typical for an incoming First Lady.
  • As soon as she took charge of Universal Health Care her negatives skyrocketed.
  • During the ongoing Whitewater “scandal” investigations her polling improved dramatically
  • When she decided to run for Senate she was at one of the most popular periods of her life
  • As soon as Hillary declared a run for the Senate her favorables plummeted while her unfavorables rose sharply.
  • At nearly the exact time that she withdrew from the Presidential race her favorables took off again, rising to levels that many considered remarkable.
  • Before running for President in 2016 her favorables were very high.
  • Her favorables plummeted again with her 2016 run for President

So what does Michael make of this?

What I see is that the public view of Hillary Clinton does not seem to be correlated to “scandals” or issues of character or whether she murdered Vince Foster. No, the one thing that seems to most negatively and consistently affect public perception of Hillary is any attempt by her to seek power

Meanwhile, Gloria Steinem points out that voters had very similar reactions to Julia Gillard who became the first female Prime Minister of Australia, and to Barbara Mikulski who was the first woman elected to the United States Senate from Maryland.

Trump vs Clinton: metaphor for patriarchal reaction

MSNBC’s Chris Hayes points out that Trump vs Clinton is practically a metaphor for patriarchal reaction to strong women gaining equality.

Hillary Clinton is one of the most qualified people to ever seek the office of US President. Running against the least qualified man to ever run. Yet the race is tight.

She has also been demonized more than any politician — and for a quarter century. That may be due to our discomfort with powerful women.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on October 21, 2016, in politics/class inequality, psychology, sexism and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 28 Comments.

  1. this is interesting! I wonder if Mrs Thatcher in the UK had a similar rise in popularity before becoming Prime Minister and then a sudden drop in favourability… I would have been too young to know!

    • I did just watch “The Iron Lady” about Margaret Thatcher. She could have a different situation since Parliament elected her. Similarly, Hillary was popular in the Senate. Republicans even liked her. I think it’s different when you are dealing with a real person who you know rather than a caricature. Which is much more likely to demonize.

      But I thought it was very interesting that Gloria Steinem points out that voters had very similar reactions to Julia Gillard who became the first female Prime Minister of Australia, and to Barbara Mikulski who was the first woman elected to the United States Senate from Maryland.

      Just saw this in NYTimes: “She has “the lips of Marilyn Monroe, the eyes of Caligula.” — the former French president François Mitterrand, about Margaret Thatcher” in their article “‘Nasty Woman’: Why Men Insult Powerful Women” http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/21/upshot/history-of-insults-nasty-words-about-women-serve-a-purpose-for-men.html?emc=edit_tnt_20161021&nlid=41602665&tntemail0=y

  2. It is rare ANY politician is respected these days. Look at the world in general, countries with dictators who are literally insane, however everywhere these countries and terrorists are equipped with full strength Military weapons, not just a few rifles, but the whole military grades of weapons. How did they get these? I think by the political decisions to equip many of the these factions, who they thought were better than the opposition at the times. Bad Judgement.

    So just ONE example of how our politicians have failed us. We do not hate Hillary as a woman, we just hate politicians in general. You assume we hate her re she is female, seems to me this blog is about women’s views and the expression “if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail” applies. Ugh.

    Politicians get nothing done anymore; their decisions are based on lobbyists, getting their share at the trough and making deals / friends of the 1% wealthiest people who run the world since they own 40% of the worlds resources – – why we hate our politicians.

    2017 is the birth of more rebellions against politicians world wide is my guess. Had enough. So Donald, imperfect as he is for sure, represents this diversion from professional politicians.

    I only know of ONE politician I respect, he is a get-er-done type, a true gentlemen and very liberal re women, minorities, etc. Happens to be the mayor of Toronto and also a no nonsense and very strong leader. Our Canadian “leader” at present i.e. our country’s leader or PM is a “camp counselor” really. Don’t see him negotiating with a Donald type for sure and Hillary is way too smart and tricky for him also.

    • But it says something that we have never had a woman president before. Why is that?

      Hillary has had a much more uphill climb than most. You simply don’t find that pattern of men’s favorability ratings dipping steeply every time they seek power. We are comfortable with men in power. We still have unconscious bias against women.

  3. I disagree with this article in that not wanting Hillary Clinton to become president has nothing to do with sexism, which is just completely false. In my opinion I greatly dislike Trump and believe someone as idiotic and racist as him with the temperament of a child does not belong in a position of power. However, there are a plethora of facts that point to how Hillary Clinton and her campaign are opportunists that employ Machiavellian tactics to push her into office. How can she be seen as a symbol for equal gender rights when the Clinton foundation has received in excess of $25 million from Saudia Arabia, a country that treats women extremely poorly and frowns upon gay people? She has also been involved in countless scandals and lies to the public that has been exposed by wikileaks. I personally am going to vote for her simply to pick a lesser of two evils, but it isn’t fait to say that people frown upon her candidacy because of her gender. It is this type of thinking in my opinion that just perpetuates gender inequality and stereotypes.

    • As I mentioned to someone else, “Hillary was one of the first women to really challenge conventional gender notions, starting in the early 1990s, on the national level. I’m pretty sure that that early start has much to do with why she has been so vilified.”

      The thing is that the things you complain about — being political — is what men (and all politicians) do all the time in politics and no one thinks it’s a big deal.

      The so-called scandals were pretty much all made up. If you go to the link I have on the post you can see more details. For years the right wing charged the Clintons with a variety of things that were not true, because if you repeat false charges enough people start to believe them. And when Bernie Sanders started running for president many on the left wing started spreading the same lies. Whitewater, murdering Vince Foster, Benghazi, emails… there is no there there. Even the WikiLeaks have revealed nothing that you wouldn’t find in any campaign. If that’s the best they can find it’s amazing how clean Clinton is.

      Politico also found that Hillary was the most honest politician – even more honest than Bernie Sanders – with the exception of Obama. Again, I think I’ve got a link that you can check on that. Or Google it.

      I don’t see why the Clinton Foundation should not take money from countries that are racist or sexist. Who cares where the money comes from so long as it is doing good? If there were evidence that the State Department was giving these countries favorable treatment as a result that would be different, but there is no evidence of that. Because the Associated Press wanted to get attention they made it sound otherwise, but there’s no evidence.

      Made up scandals:
      http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/30/opinion/how-the-clinton-trump-race-got-close.html?action=click&pgtype=Homepage&region=CColumn&module=MostEmailed&version=Full&src=me&WT.nav=MostEmailed

      Speaking to corporate leaders, Clinton has stressed that what we need is the revitalization of the Middle Class.
      http://www.newyorker.com/news/john-cassidy/the-illuminating-but-unsurprising-content-of-clintons-paid-speeches?mbid=social_facebook_aud_dev_kwjunsub-the-illuminating-but-unsurprising-content-of-clintons-paid-speeches&kwp_0=252974&kwp_4=961672&kwp_1=461754

      Put it all together and unconscious bias against female leaders is the real problem.

  4. First of all AMEN. I have been saying many of these things like a broken record, not only this past election, but for about 6 years now. I still remember having to do a public speaking exercise in high school where we presented one of our “heros”, and my choice of Hillary Clinton was by far the most challenged and criticized. It didn’t matter that I had literally used her dedication on “Forbes List” of Power Women as my backdrop to present in front of. My peers simply could not understand why I wanted to be like Hillary Clinton. Even if you strip all of the political polices out of it, I just admire her as a contrast to some of the other role models that are presented to us as girls and young women. Here is a women that doesn’t ever need to display her femininity really: she is not going to win the attention of any make-up guru’s, and the only time her outfits are discussed in the media it is about their price not their fashion. Hillary Clinton touched me before I ever admired her policies and political prowess, simply because she was strong, intelligent, mindful, caring, and independent. You don’t need to be beautiful to matter and create change. Seems like such a simple concept but it meant the world to me growing up.

    • Hillary was one of the first women to really challenge conventional gender notions, starting in the early 1990s, in the national spotlight. I’m pretty sure that that early start has much to do with why she has been so vilified.

      My dad hates her. I told him I want to be just like her. The strange thing is that I think deep down he wants me to be just like her too.

  5. I feel it is very true that women who make demands are seen as unfeminine and somehow less of a woman. Women are expected to be submissive, gentle, and fragile. Therefore, whenever they exhibit characteristics that contrast with those things, they are viewed as less feminine. Men are so accustomed to being in a position of power, they grow uncomfortable when a woman seeks power. The way in which our society is structured benefits men, and caters towards them in multiple ways. Men (particularly white cis-gendered men) face no issues when seeking positions of power; women, on the other hand, find it more difficult, as their gender stands in the way of them achieving their goals due to sexism and misogyny in a patriarchal society.

    It is absolutely ridiculous that a woman as qualified to be president as Hillary Clinton, must compete with a man who is absolutely not qualified, and lacks all the experience Hillary possesses. Hillary deserves a more qualified competitor. Trump has displayed terrible behavior in the recent debates, and interrupts Hillary nearly constantly. Ironically, he accuses Hillary of having bad temperament, when she has remained calm and civil despite his misbehavior. Part of the reason for this may be that Hillary, as a woman, realizes if she were to emote too much, she would be reprimanded for it, despite Trump being able to have tantrums and get away with it.

  6. Yes! The real problem is “Discomfort with women in power.” She has proved in each debate that she is much better than her rival and possesses leadership qualities.

  7. I don’t like her because as Sec. of State, she was the most pro-interventionist, hawkish person in Obama’s cabinet… She seems to cater to the military-industrial complex and I’m afraid she’ll get us in another war or continue the concept of perpetual war…

  8. This article really caught my attention, I personally have been feeling really uncomfortable with all of the hatred from men (and women, though it sometimes feels out of pressure or because it is socially polite to agree with these negative sentiments) toward Hilary as she makes her advance towards becoming the president of the United States. Last summer, when I found out Hilary was running, many women (and some men) came forth and “liked my status” which excitedly said something to the effect of “It would be really cool to see a woman as president”, if I posted that comment now, wow I don’t even know the type of responses I would get. It’s hard to even hear her voice and her message through all of the negative static. Hilary has many strengths, she has been involved in serving the public for the majority of her adult life, she is professional, she focuses on issues that are really important to me such as human rights, mental illness, family/home related issues, education, and public healthcare. I also like that she would be the first ever mother to be elected. Which I find very cool.

    We as a country really need to look at how we view women, especially when they are powerful women. It’s really important to raise the awareness of our collective mindsets that don’t serve women at all. This article was a great challenge to our current political race and I really appreciated considering it.

  9. I really believe that if Hillary was a man, the e-mail controversy would not be as big a deal, but because she is a highly qualified, powerful woman, they want to find a way to disqualify her. They are scared of the fact that she does not fit the status quo, because she is not a white man. They are scared enough that they went so far as to elect the most unqualified candidate for president. Not only was she qualified, she was one of the most qualified candidate to ever run for the office of president. I can safely say that for the mere fact that she is a woman, Hillary Clinton, has been unfairly judged and treated.

  10. I have gotten almost identical answers when asking why someone doesn’t like Hillary. I feel like their answers are just excuses for the fact that they can’t contemplate having a woman president, but don’t want to sound sexist. While watching this election I was honestly surprised when it came down to Hillary Vs. Trump that so many women weren’t for Hillary because they don’t think a woman should be president. Some of their reasoning’s for this is because “women get hot flashes” and “a women could start a war in a 5 seconds because of her mood swings” and so many more outrageous statements like this. The one argument I couldn’t understand was “I just don’t like her”. I think if you are of age to vote, your reasoning for not voting for a particular candidate shouldn’t be so childish. I wasn’t a Hillary supporter, I supported Bernie. I didn’t vote for her at first because I valued Bernie so much more and saw the same fire in him that I saw of when I voted for Obama. When participating in an election, gender shouldn’t be any kind of focus but what their arguments are and what they stand for and support, what they want to improve and change, you know the actual important things in an election, the things that will grow and better our country.

    • Sexism isn’t the only thing that hurt Hillary. But the election was so close that it could have been the deciding factor. Pretty sad.

      Thank you for your thoughts.

      • Some of us men are not sexists. BUT many of us just do not like career politicians and by definition “politician” = self serving glory hunters at best and crooks lining their power grid or just cold cash is motivation. Your right to a certain point though, this “politician” stuff is mostly an old boys club. Cause men are better at bonding over gossip (contrary to the belief women gossip more, men just have different and more “serious” topics …what is traditionally perceived anyhow), joining clubs ( to facilitate gossip), and forming bonds to create an inner circle of power within the enabling gossip fraternity or club. Not to worry ladies, women are evolving much faster than men, both physically (mmm..e.g. .nicer shapes than 50 yrs ago I think) and mentally. Oh well…

      • Well I don’t think that sexism is the only reason why Hillary lost. But I do think it’s part of the reason.

        You might want to take a look at these posts:

        This one acknowledges that sexism isn’t the only thing that got Trump elected: https://broadblogs.com/2016/11/07/why-would-my-friends-vote-trump/

        I don’t even think that sexism is men’s fault, anymore than women’s:

        Is Sexism Men’s Fault?
        https://broadblogs.com/2011/01/24/is-sexism-men%e2%80%99s-fault/
        A World Before Male Dominance
        https://broadblogs.com/2015/04/17/a-world-before-male-dominance/
        Once and Future Gender Equality
        https://broadblogs.com/2016/04/15/once-and-future-gender-equality/

        By the way, see my comment policy. I don’t mind people disagreeing with me, But they must be polite in doing so. Oftentimes I just delete the comment when I see the first sign of discourtesy. For some reason I chose to keep reading your comment, So I edited it.
        https://broadblogs.com/comment-policy/

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