Feminism is being used to silence criticism of a corrupt and self-serving status quo and glorify a candidate who doesn’t deserve glorification.
There’s a certain kind of feminism that gives feminism a bad name. Like Jess Phillips’s ludicrous but headline-grabbing allegation that Jeremy Corbyn was guilty of ‘low-level misogyny’. Or the way the media rallied round Laura Kuenssberg to depict those who accused her of an anti-Corbyn and pro-Tory bias of sexism.
In the first case, an ambitious MP and an opponent of Corbyn used a phony feminist argument in order to a) attack Jeremy Corbyn and the ‘misogynist’ left and b) get her name in the papers – in the knowledge that there are sections of the media that will always respond eagerly to anyone who suggests that a leftist leader of the Labour Party is guilty of discriminatory practices.
In the second case, accusations of sexism were used to discredit legitimate criticism of Kuenssberg’s snide editorialising. We can expect to hear a great deal more of this kind of feminism over the next few months, now that the Democratic Party machine has completed its work and elected Hillary Rodham Clinton as the presidential nominee.
It goes without saying that Clinton’s critics on the right will be accused of sexism. In the case of many Donald Trump’s supporters, such accusations may well be correct – some of the time. But criticize Clinton from the left- or even refuse to get behind her – and you are likely to find yourself painted with the same brush by Clinton’s supporters.
Yesterday The Guardian’s Polly Toynbee delivered a taste of things to come, in a piece calling on the left to ‘ put aside its sneers and pray that this strong woman will get to rule the world.’
Toynbee might find this odd, but there are some of us – quite a lot of us in fact – who don’t actually want anyone to ‘rule the world, regardless of whether it’s a ‘strong woman’ or a strong man, and resent the imperial assumptions behind such a statement. Toynbee has looked closely into our dark hearts however. She knows that in an era where ‘insurgency and novelty trumps experience’, left-of-centre opposition to a woman who ‘ all her life…has fought the feminist cause, for abortion and for equal rights, fearlessly’ can only be motivated by sexism.
‘ If you are naturally left of centre, especially if you are a woman, yet you find you instinctively dislike her, ask yourself why, ‘ she asks. The answer, she insists lies in the fact that a ‘wall of noise from hostile men warps many women’s perceptions too’, to the point when ‘ if women of the left do break into the bastions of power, the sisters often view them as sell-outs to the establishment, as if permanent outsiderdom and victimhood is the only true mark of feminism.’
Yeah, the sisters will do that, won’t they? Given that they have allowed themselves to be dominated by ‘hostile men. ‘ And naturally Toynbee can’t help noticing that this disorder is ‘ a wider disease of the left among Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn supporters too. To win is to lose.’
Meanwhile, beyond that nihilistic sexist fantasyland:
‘Outside, the world looks on aghast at any possibility America could choose a racist, sexist brute over a feminist with a long track record of standing up for the right causes. For the young, she’s been around all their lives, not new enough to be exciting. Yet the prospect of a strong woman leading the world should be a beacon of hope to women everywhere.’
Really? Of course I can’t speak for women, but I don’t like Clinton at all, and it has nothing to do with her gender. I don’t like her because I regard her as the worst kind of machine politician, who advances by networking with the powerful whilst pretending to represent the powerless. I don’t like her because she is a Wall Street shill, like her husband, who rakes in millions giving speeches to the likes of Goldman Sachs while promising to take on bankers, and doesn’t even have the guts to publish transcripts of her speeches in case their damage her progressive credentials.
I don’t like her because she has been one of the most recklessly hawkish and warmongering politicians in a country that already abounds with them, who has promised to pursue an aggressive and militarist strategy as president. Of course politicians who ‘rule the world’ can say stuff like that, and Clinton’s feminist supporters are entitled to think differently, but I don’t see a woman who laughingly says ‘we came, we saw, he died’ in response to Gadaffi’s sodomisation with a knife as a ‘beacon of hope’ the most inspirational role model for young girls.
I don’t like Clinton because she lies consistently, about big things and small things, whether misremembering a sniper attack in Bosnia or lying about her emails. Of course male politicians do the same thing, but I don’t like them either. I don’t like Clinton’s belligerent and uncritical support of Israel. I don’t like the fact that she wrote a letter to a Jewish donor last year, in which she said ‘As president, I will give the Jewish state all the necessary military, diplomatic, economic and moral support it needs to truly vanquish Hamas – and if that means killing 200,000 Gazans, then so be it. ‘
As Shania Twain once sang, that don’t impress me much. And despite the endless talk of her ‘experience’ and ‘competence’, I find her track record of supporting strategically incoherent and criminally destructive wars and regime changes without any regard for the consequences either before or after them just a little bit alarming.
And those who ask what might happen if Donald Trump had his ‘ finger on the nuclear button’ should remember that Clinton once boasted that America could ‘totally obliterate Iran‘. Maybe that’s an expression of female empowerment, coming from Clinton, but I would have been no less appalled if a man had said the same thing. I wasn’t that impressed by the fact that she once provided political support to a coup in Honduras, either.
I could go on, but I might bore you. So I’ll conclude with this. In the end my hostility to Clinton isn’t about Clinton. I just think it’s a testament of massive political failure that the US presidential race should be fought between the two most hated contenders in American history. I think its a grotesque travesty that millions of Americans are now forced to choose between Trump and Clinton, because the Democratic Party machine chose to support the Clinton dynasty and ignore one of the most inspirational grassroots campaign in recent memory.
And I resent the fact that feminism is being instrumentalised to silence criticism of a corrupt and self-serving status quo and glorify a candidate who doesn’t deserve glorification, and who, as far as foreign policy is concerned, is no less dangerous than Trump himself.
And contrary to what Toynbee and others say, there are many other people – both men and women – who feel the same. And we are not sitting in caves chewing on mammoth bones and looking for new ways to express our hatred of women – we are simply tired of lesser evilism in a world that is crying out for something better, and will not get it, either from Donald Trump or Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Matt Carr blogs regularly at Infernal Machine.co.uk