Grrrl. If you’re not for Hillary, you’re SEXIST.

photo from the Pajiba website accompanying article by Courtney Enlow, February 2, 2016

Hillary Clinton Supporter and Pajiba Features Editor Courtney Enlow has unleashed a primal scream on behalf of her candidate which has touched a nerve and, at last glance, generated over 7,000 comments (which, of course, no sane person should read) and a flood of Go Girl! tweets from female Hillary supporters.

Ms. Enlow expresses her thoughts in all CAPS and drops the F-bomb liberally which must have been extremely cathartic. After re-reading her screed, it seems her basic point is that she is mad, very mad, that Democratic voters don’t all love Hillary Clinton and that it is completely unfair because she is a woman and female politicians are constrained in ways that male politicians aren’t. In other words: SHE IS DOING THE BEST SHE CAN!! CAN’T YOU SEE THAT? STOP YOUR SEXIST HATING ON HER.

Here is a summary of the arguments Ms. Enlow seems to be making about Hillary Clinton’s struggle vis-a-vis Bernie Sanders:

She doesn’t get to be all wild hair and yelling.
  • As a woman, Hillary Clinton has had to be measured, logical, and calm because no one likes a screechy woman. She doesn’t get to yell her way to a revolution so it’s not her fault that she doesn’t inspire passion. (never mind that Howard Dean didn’t get to yell his way to a revolution either.)
  • Hillary has had to play the game because, as a woman, she didn’t have a choice. For women to have any access to power, they have to play the game. Bernie never had to play the game, Hillary always did, so her establishment ways should be forgiven because that’s just the way it had to be for a woman in power.
  • Hillary’s lack of strong, long-held progressive positions (like on gay marriage) is forgivable because she’s been around a long time and times have changed. (Of course, this rule never, ever applies to Republicans.)
  • Women are always trying to “be it all” and “do it all” so it’s not fair to expect her to be funny and cool and stuff because no one can be it all.
  • It’s unfair that she has been put down, diminished, and hated her whole career.

So, where to begin? Of course, it is true that it is often more difficult for women politicians who have to thread the needle between likability and competence in a way that men don’t. Women candidates have a more narrow bandwidth of acceptability in which to work and they do, in fact, have to be likable as well as competent whereas men often get a pass on likable.

However, not all perceptions of Hillary Clinton are twisted around the gender pole.

Our firm, Burning Glass Consulting, has conducted polls and focus groups on how voters perceive Hillary Clinton and in Enrow’s rush to view everything through the prism of SEXISM, she misses some significant points about Hillary Clinton — the person, not just the woman — and her specific lack of appeal.

This same type of over-zealous sexist detection caused the group known as Hillary Super Volunteers to warn a New York Times reporter about the words they forbid to be written in association with Hillary Clinton because of their blatant sexism. The words or phrases that they declared off limits were:

“polarizing,” “calculating,” “disingenuous,” “insincere,” “ambitious,” “inevitable,” “entitled,” “over-confident,” “secretive,” “will do anything to win,” “represents the past,” and “out of touch.”

Hmm. Okay. Good luck with that.

The fact is there are specific reasons voters — Democrats and non- Democrats — don’t like Hillary Clinton that really aren’t about her gender. Most significantly, it is that she is not seen as trustworthy or honest. Now, that’s a chain Hillary Clinton has built link-by-link and it’s not because she’s a woman. In fact, female politicians score higher on trust and honesty than their male counterparts, so it seems she’s out-performing gender stereotypes in that area by being seen as untrustworthy. Most polling has her in negative territory on “honest and trustworthy” and we saw an expression of this sentiment in Iowa’s Democratic caucus on Monday. One in four voters in the caucus entrance poll said “honest and trustworthy” was the most important quality in deciding their vote and Sanders just decimated Clinton with these voters 83% — 10%.

Another problem that Hillary Clinton has is that voters view her as very political and politically calculating. To be seen as politically calculating means not being seen as authentic. And voters aren’t saying this because they aren’t comfortable with a woman’s ambition. It’s based on watching Hillary Clinton for more than 20 years and seeing a pattern. Women in focus groups say that it’s as much what Hillary Clinton doesn’t say or refuses to admit that seems calculating, like refusing to acknowledge a problem with a home email server handling classified emails or refusing to take full responsibility with Benghazi. In fact, in one group a woman compared Hillary Clinton unfavorably to GM CEO Mary Barra who took responsibility for her company’s ignition recall failure: “People were hurt and people died in our cars” One woman demonstrated real leadership and the other one didn’t.

Timing is also a problem for Hillary Clinton. This election cycle is about upheaval. The problem with being the pragmatic resume candidate, which is what Hillary Clinton is, is that this is not the year for that. Democratic primary voters are more interested than Republican primary voters in a candidate with experience, but they don’t want someone who represents the establishment. And while it is technically true that Sanders came to Washington in 1991, a year before Clinton did, he has never operated like a typical politician and is in no way part of the establishment.

As to the point Enlow makes about Hillary Clinton being hated throughout her career, that’s not true. As Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton’s favorability ratings were consistently in the 60% range. In fact, in our focus groups, women make it clear that they think Hillary Clinton probably had to fight the boy’s club while serving as Secretary of State and will often say “If she were a man, she wouldn’t have had to…” She actually gets bonus points for doing this job with the added obstacles that come with being a woman.

However, once Hillary Clinton moved back into a political role — as a candidate for president — her favorability ratings declined precipitously.

While Enlow doesn’t want to be criticized for liking Hillary Clinton because she’s a woman, she seems to be saying that to not like Hillary Clinton is somehow wrapped up in the fact that she is a woman.

For most women, however, Hillary Clinton’s gender is a thing, but not THE thing. Two-thirds of swing women we interviewed in battleground states said the idea of electing the first woman president would have no impact on their decision making, including a majority of Democratic leaning women.

This is particularly true for young women. Although six in ten identify as feminists, Democratic Millenial women didn’t support Hillary Clinton in 2008 against Barack Obama and they aren’t supporting her against Bernie Sanders. Are they sexist? Or are they looking for someone who inspires them? Isn’t that what feminism is about — making your own choices and not being told to do something because of your gender? A common refrain from these young women is that they would like to see a woman president, just not Hillary Clinton.