Poppin’ Molly’s Handy Guide to Sexism on the Campaign Trail

Molly Regan

Molly Regan

Hey, remember that time when I said voting for women didn’t give you a feminist free pass? When all I said was that voting for men didn’t automatically make you sexist and what’s most important is that you think critically about your choices? Basically, all I want is for women to be treated with dignity, both as candidates and as voters.

I don’t know what happened this past week, but society went full force in the opposite direction and knee-jerk cries of sexism echoed across news outlets in response to anyone who chose not to support Hillary Clinton. I, of course, agree that sexism plagues Clinton as much as it does any woman in a position of power – probably more so because she doesn’t present herself as instantly relatable and likable. But sexism – along with any other “ism” – falls into a rather large gray area and thus it is not the only reason someone may not agree with a woman.

Now I realize, given the influx of stories regarding this topic, it can be hard to keep up with all of them. So I’ve organized them into a handy guide for you.

Poppin’ Molly’s Handy Guide to Sexism on the Campaign Trail

*Particularly helpful for those who want women to be treated as equals in all ways except for professional critiques

Come On, Gloria

Like many other women, Gloria Steinem was the woman who first sparked my interest in feminism. I remember telling my mother when I was 11 years old that I wasn’t a feminist because they were all ugly and hated men (internalized misogyny at its finest). My mother, horrified at that notion, pulled out a book of Gloria Steinem’s essays, pointed to a photo of her and yelled, “Is SHE ugly?! Because SHE is a feminist! And SHE is awesome!” It’s not the most nuanced way to convince a young woman that feminism is right for her, but it was exactly what I needed at the time. I remember sitting down and reading A Bunny’s Tale and thinking what an incredible woman Gloria Steinem was.

Now, I’m not going to pretend that she’s a flawless human being. Like many other second wave feminists (and all other humans), Gloria Steinem has her flaws. But her messages have always been backed by the idea that women are powerful individuals who can stand on their own two feet and speak for themselves.

Which is why her remarks on Real Time with Bill Maher are all the more infuriating. “When you’re young, you’re thinking, ‘Where are the boys? The boys are with Bernie,” Steinem said. She went on to claim that women become more radical as they age (maybe?) and those of us in the 18-25 age bracket only vote in order to get some of that sweet democratic socialist dick. Gloria should know better than anyone that women make decisions based on more than the desire to endear themselves to men and she should be well aware that her status as a feminist icon has the power to shame a lot of young women out of fear of appearing overly flirtatious and uninformed.

She has issued a pretty transparent non-apology, claiming her statement was interrupted. It would be a lot more powerful if she owned up to the fact that she said something rather sexist and smug. Age doesn’t make you radical, Gloria, owning your mistakes does.

There’s a special place in hell for women who manipulate other women

“We can tell our story of how we climbed the ladder and a lot of you younger women think it’s done. It’s not done. There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other!”

Madeleine Albright passionately spoke these words as she introduced Hillary Clinton at a rally in New Hampshire this past week. She’s half correct – a lot of young women DO think the work is done and it’s rather disheartening to see women refuse to embrace feminism because they are already benefiting from the struggles of the women who came before us.

But supporting other women is not the same thing as backing someone’s chosen candidate. If we follow this logic, then we’re all pretty fucking sexist for not backing Carly Fiorina – because apparently politics and social stances don’t matter, it’s all about empowering female candidates.

Support women by calling out news outlets that criticize Hillary’s clothes, marriage and feminine graces. Support women by embracing Title IX. Support women by standing up for Planned Parenthood when Congress tries to defund it every five days.

But support whichever candidate you like. We’ll meet up in Hell and have a grand ol’ time.

Enough with the Bernie Bros

If you are a woman who makes your presence known on the Internet, it’s almost guaranteed that you will be subjected to sexist vitriol at some point. So it naturally follows that if you are a woman who expresses support for Hillary Clinton, you will receive some sort of misogynistic backlash that likely has more to do with your appearance and sexuality than your politics. It’s a nasty reality of being a woman who has an opinion.

But can we stop writing off all Bernie Sanders supporters as hate spewing misogynists (who might not even exist)? I have no doubt in my mind that there are some douchey Sanders supporters – there are assholes on all sides of the political spectrum. But to claim that his entire base is made up of nothing more than young men who harass women online is not only wrong, it blatantly erases the numerous women and people of color who have helped to build his campaign.

The claims of sexism from his supporters were so big that Bernie Sanders himself came out in a statement recently, simply stating, “We don’t want that crap.” Sanders has always come off as terse and professorial, but it has never been more perfect than when he targeted the sexist douchebags who were giving him a bad name.

So can we move on and stop ascribing sexist motivation to every Bernie Sanders supporter?

I’m not saying we need to drop the “Bernie Bros” tag – it’s a perfectly suitable name for your boobs – but let’s keep it in our Bernie Bras and out of legitimate political discourse.

A properly-capitalized response to the infamous Pajiba rant

People on the Internet really like yelling. Few things demonstrate this as well as a column entitled “An All-Caps explosion of Feelings Regarding the Liberal Backlash Against Hillary Clinton” by former Hobotrashcan columnist Courtney Enlow.

First of all, let’s give credit where credit’s due. The column is essentially a rip off of Key & Peele‘s Obama Anger Translator sketch, with Courtney playing the role of Luther as she yells all the things Hillary cannot.

Look, I agree that Hillary wouldn’t face the same level of criticism if she were a man. That’s a pretty fair statement to make about any woman in a position of power. But this idea that she has to play the game because she has no other choice is nonsense. Sexism does not keep you in a prison just out of reach of ethics. A more progressive stance would be more heavily criticized coming from Hillary than Bernie because, once again, that is how patriarchy works. But fear of that criticism is not a justification for conservative policies 20 years ago. It is not a justification for flipping on the liberal switch when you realized your competition was as far left as it goes.

And no, Hillary and Bernie are not basically the same. To give just one example – on issues of foreign policy, Sanders is strongly opposed to expanding military involvement in foreign lands. The same cannot be said of Clinton. This is not exactly a trivial issue, so if the idea of policing the world sounds gross to you, voting for Bernie Sanders may sound more appealing. I’d hardly call that sexist. And no, Hillary doesn’t have to support foreign entanglements in order to bolster her chances in the primaries because sexism is holding her back.

Everyone’s allowed to feel their feelings, but the idea that Hillary just can’t help but play the role of unethical politician because of the patriarchy does nothing more than portray the feminist movement as a joke.

It’s an odd campaign, to say the least. While acknowledging that Hillary Clinton is facing an uphill battle against sexism in her race to be the first female President of the United States, her campaign has inadvertently directed a sexist attack against young women across America. We’re being reduced to a bunch of googly-eyed school girls who can’t help but crush on those cute votin’ boys and yell at everyone who doesn’t agree with us.

I’m not gonna tell you who to vote for, but please, don’t just sit back and take that shit.


Molly Regan is an improviser and writer in Baltimore. She likes chicken pot pie, Adam Scott’s butt and riot grrl.

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