It’s Time to Talk about How Hostile this Election was for Women

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I hope for your children’s sake that you kill yourself, you fat cunt.

Ya might have noticed I’m a bit spiky right now when it comes to the emerging conversation around values and messaging in the Dem party. Namely, that I’ve turned from a view of hands-across-America and towards a view of hold-on-a-minute-we-need-to-sort-some-shit-out. As I said last week, I agree strongly with David Roberts’ analysis of the male resentment (esp white male resentment) underscores the divide between Clinton and Trump and their supporters.

The liberal side of the spectrum isn’t down with that, but the prevailing message claiming that we should eschew “identity politics” (which I am going to stop saying and instead say “civil liberties” and “civil rights” because that’s what they are) promotes the fantasy that race, gender, sexuality, age, etc, are separate from and subordinate to class concerns. And class concerns, as we have discussed before, become code for the fears of white people. I am not on board with that message or the values it represents for my party. A party that doesn’t vigorously represent and defend the rhetoric and policies of civil rights is not a party of, by, or for the people. I think we all want to skip to the part where we’re making things happen, but this nullifies the experiences of women and marginalized people during the election (experiences arising from and a testament to how much we are not respected). The urgency of coming together to resist Trump seems to be supplanting actual reconciliation across Dem circles, and that needs to change for us to work together.

Only a fat libtard like you would think Killery is anything other than a crook and a bitch.

It wasn’t everyone, it wasn’t just one person, and it wasn’t just one party; each stage and level of interaction involved a lot of unpleasantness for women who were vocally supportive and active advocates of Hillary Clinton both in-person and online during the primary and general election.

At the local/personal level, in a very blue county in what used to be a blue state, our party divided into factions fairly early on. We had a strong but small O’Malley group and large and thriving Bernie and Clinton groups, but the talk was all Bernie all the time and often, support for one or the other was some kind of ideological litmus test. I know that sounds overly simplistic but that’s how it felt. It was uncomfortable at times, and downright hostile at moments, but locally I had the benefit of at least being a minority within a majority; a lot of women simply had no one to go through this with.

Broadly, it felt like the Clinton supporters were characterized as “smug,” we were compromisers, we were corporate shills, we undervalued the importance of economic equality and overvalued planning. We were tragically unable to be inspired by the “movement.” There was, consciously or unconsciously, a lot of mansplaining and concern trolling. The underlying sense that I felt emanating from different conversations was that we simply couldn’t be genuinely inspired by Clinton and that if we were just explained to enough we would see reason. Foolish women blinded by their vaginas! ENLIGHTEN OR SHAME THEM! (That’s a bit of an exaggeration.)

You’re a fat shill and your husband is a cuck.

I’d wager that the minute I stepped past the [online] boundary of my immediate, personal circle to talk about politics, I immediately encountered some form of trolling either from the far left or the far right or both.

Some people probably think trolling is kind of isolated; that it’s some random wacko out there hassling you but you can block them and move on. Easy peasy. Well, trolling has evolved. It isn’t a single person, it is often a horde (that is, a coordinated attack). One person raises the alarm (maybe on Reddit, maybe on 4chan, maybe via retweeting) and dozens of others come out of the woodwork to say, without question, really cruel and horrible things intended to demean, degrade, humiliate, and silence women and it happens all. the. time.

I’ve been targeted by garden-variety women-hating men’s-rights-activist brony 4channers. The fact that we can call them “garden variety” illustrates how normalized this aspect of internet culture is. The Bros were real and they were mean. I experienced no difference in treatment among Bernie Bros, MRA/gamergaters, and Trump supporters. They all melt into a miasma of fetid troll ooze and what is the common denominator? Being dudes, and within that, being white dudes.

This is why Hillary supporters — especially women — need the oft-derided “safe space” of Secret Hillary Groups. Because anywhere else, we run the risk of being ambushed by the worst kind of hateful and threatening messages you can imagine, from all sides. Because we are being ganged up on.

It’s true that trolls thrive on attention and the best way to handle that is to disengage. But that doesn’t change the fact that you have to go through and individually block people. It doesn’t change the fact that you encounter these words over and over and over and over again. Being an outspoken, politically active woman online guarantees that you will have to engage in this, which is total bullshit. We would never tolerate this kind of behavior on the playground. Yet here I am, having to explain why being a figurative punching bag for angry white men is hard.

“Don’t feed the trolls” also doesn’t account for the more dangerous and threatening emerging trends of serious internet trolling; that is DOXXING and threats of direct violence.

Jessica Valenti, a feminist writer and Guardian columnist, left social media because trolls threatened to rape her five year old daughter.

Anita Sarkeesian, a video game enthusiast who made a documentary series about the mistreatment of women as a theme of video games, had a bomb threat called into a campus event.

That’s not funny to me and I feel, especially after Nov 8, that my privacy and safety are at an even higher risk than they were before. Maybe I don’t want to stick my hand too far out as a possible candidate or as a speaker. The risks are higher for me, and far higher for a lot more people, than they are for white men right now. I don’t trust the world to have my back today, and I’m not trusting my party a ton in this moment. But I do trust my women.

You know what is actually really fucking powerful?

When a bunch of women back each other up against a bully. When one of the women in my secret group says “my uncle is getting in my face about Benghazi” or “I’m on twitter and a bunch of Trump supporters are swarming me.” And we all put on our fucking superhero capes and we are

WITH

HER

It’s like at the end of Buffy when Willow casts the spell that grants slaying power to all potential slayers. Remember that shot where the girl’s Dad goes to hit her and she grabs his hand and pushes it back? Well, that’s us. We’re all slayers now and we are with HER and with EACH OTHER and maybe you can not understand that, but you need to acknowledge it. And you have to know that we are not going to fold because freaked out liberals think it’s too upsetting to the 30% of our population who actually voted to institutionalize that shit. They get all the compassion? Why?

Hopefully your kids realize what a fat bitch they have for a mother.

My point is: when Men’s Rights Activists, Trump Supporters, and Bernie Bros all use the same terrorizing language and tactics to attack women for being Hillary supporters, that is revealing about these groups. It’s disturbing to me, and should be disturbing to everyone, that misogyny and harassment are elements of the ethos of their/your/our movements. This Venn diagram should not have so much overlap. An outgrowth of that is the red flag raised when concerns about Bernie being tone deaf on gender and race during the primary — linked to the white working class populism he has espoused and that is now being espoused by the party— are now being manifest in the post-election rhetoric of economic inequality, “broader messaging,” and “I Told You So.” It looks to me like the Democratic party — at least in Iowa — is about to back off on the politics of diversity and civil rights in favor of a message that whitewashes those goals with the desperate hope of appealing to Trump supporters. A lot of that has its roots in Bernie’s campaign. That’s fine, but people need to know that there are a lot of us who felt dismissed before and during the election, and now we’re being written off after.

And here was the root of my pain. This wasn’t just about the disappointment that my candidate lost. Or the fear of what Trump will do to this country. It felt like my very soul hurt and I realized that it was because of what this election said to me as a woman. It said no.
No, woman, stay in your place. No, woman, you are not good enough. No, woman, no matter what you do, you will not win, you will not be the boss of me.
It crushed a part of my female core to realize that yes, the world at large really does hate women that much. And while there are other reasons to dislike Hilary [sic] Clinton and disagree with her policies, misogyny and sexism are the gas that fuels the fire they burned her with.

I don’t believe that the intention of Democrats is to subsume civil rights as a pressing and urgent concern, but I believe it is happening. I believe it because I’m seeing it and hearing it. I believe it because I’m being sold it. I believe it because I’ve thought it myself. I believe that Dems are afraid and we are running from the fundamental contradictions in our culture that have brought us to this point instead of figuring out new ways to span that schism. I feel like I’m being encouraged to be complicit with the rhetoric and policy of appeasement. I feel like women were dismissed before and we’re going to be dismissed again. Dems all need to slow down and talk. We need some reconciliation among Dems who had difficult experiences during the primary, not only because we are in the middle of an urgent political shift that will have longterm impact on our ideals, focus, and message, but also because I am simply not bailing on my girls. I’m not bailing on my women because they wouldn’t bail on me. Make no mistake, the treatment of women at the hands of friends, family, colleagues, bros, and trolls during this campaign has radicalized a lot of women and re-radicalized many of us. We have learned, again, how powerful it is when women come together and have each other’s backs. I’m With Her wasn’t just a slogan, it was a call to action.

*** Caveats real quick: the goal here isn’t to replicate hostility with accusations; I’m not here to trash Bernie or Bernie supporters; it isn’t to prompt apologies from individuals with nothing to apologize for; this is written from my perspective.

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