13 Months Out From the Election, the Sexism Card Is Already Being Played
Twice in the past week, charges of sexism have been fired at the Bernie Sanders campaign—are we at that stage of the race already?
"I haven't been shouting, but sometimes when a woman speaks out, some people think it's shouting," she said. While she clearly meant to imply that Sanders was being sexist and labeling her as an angry woman, he previously used the same exact line on fellow Democratic opponent Martin O'Malley. Sanders was, it seems, genuinely remarking that politicians should stop talking about gun control and instead do something.
Then, this morning, a new controversy emerged. When Sanders' campaign manager Jeff Weaver was asked in a Bloomberg Politics' interview if he thought Clinton was a "craven hypocrite," he replied, "That's a little bit harsh, don't you think?" Then added, with a chuckle, "Look, she'd make a great vice president. We're willing to give her more credit than Obama did. We're willing to consider her for vice president. We'll give her serious consideration. We'll even interview her."
It was a lame joke, one that any candidate might make at the expense of a rival, no matter the person’s gender, and precisely the sort of jabbing that goes on at this level of politics. But the optics were bad: A man joking about how a woman would be better-qualified for vice president than president. And so it was no surprise when Stephanie Schriock, the President of EMILY's List, the organization which seeks to encourage the election of pro-choice Democratic women and stridently supports HRC for president, called them out:
Condescending insult by a team who knows better. Hillary is possibly most qualified ever to run & Americans know it. https://t.co/LbmrcOPiS9— Stephanie Schriock (@Schriock1) October 28, 2015
Schriock's response was measured. Notice she did not use the word sexism in that tweet or any other tweet. But that didn't stop The New York Times from picking up her comment and running it with the bombastic headline “EMILY’s List Official Accuses Bernie Sanders Team of Sexism”. Suddenly, a saucy remark — or rather two — had snowballed into a Feminist Event. Without knowing the full backstory, any self-respecting feminist might feel compelled to decry the Sanders campaign.
Now, I'm an equal-opportunity sexism whistle-blower — small and large offenses both deserve to be called out. And if it felt like Team Sanders was implying that a woman's place is second, never first, I'd be among the clamoring feminist masses. But a newspaper whipping out the "s word" in a headline and pitting the prominent head of a women’s organization against a male candidate for a moment like this one just doesn’t rise to that level, nor does it feel worth if for Clinton to scrutinize Sanders for his use of the word "shouting." It diminishes the impact any of us — Clinton included — can have when real sexism inevitably rears its hideous head — as we all know it will at some point in 2016.
These two moments aren't examples of sexism — they're examples of faux sexism being unwisely used as a campaign tool or a media tool to drive clicks. The next 13 months of campaigning are going to be a long, tough haul. Let’s keep our reactions balanced and aim our arrows at the individuals who really want to keep women down.
Watch Hillary Clinton's exclusive MAKERS story here.
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