Much as I agreed with Sady Doyle’s post, I wasn’t going to front-page it until a commentor on a late-night thread here expressed great astonishment that calling someone “hysterical” could possibly be construed as sexist. But I can attest, from personal experience, that male Progressives can be… well…
… “We’re a progressive site,” the man across the table begins, “And our readership, as with most progressive sites, is mostly men. You’ve focused a lot on women’s issues. Would you be comfortable writing something that men would be able to read?”
I’m silent for a second. I keep smiling — always smile at the job interview — but I cannot speak. Largely because I believe that what I just heard cannot possibly be what he really said. I misinterpreted something. I missed a word, misheard a word. He can’t actually be telling me that I would have to stop being so feminist to get a job at his “progressive” site. Or that “progressive” media is mostly for men.
“I read your most recent article,” he adds, helpfully. “That seemed very sympathetic to the male character.”
Okay. So I heard him right…
“Secretary Clinton, first ladies, as you well know, have used their position to work on important causes like literacy and drug abuse,” the moderator says. “But they also supervise the menus, the flowers, the holiday ornaments and White House decor. I know you think you know where I’m going here.”
I watch Hillary Clinton’s face. She smiles. You always smile at the job interview. She smiles like a motherfucker, that woman.
She smiles while she assures the moderator that she won’t make her husband do stupid lady things like – ick! – decorating. She smiles while assuring the world she won’t forsake her duty as a woman, that she will still “pick the flowers and the china for state dinners and stuff like that.” She smiles while answering the question of whether female Presidents are fundamentally unnatural, whether she is fundamentally unnatural, whether electing her will emasculate not only Bill Clinton but the nation itself. And she has been the second-most popular Secretary of State in history, and she has been the member of the Obama administration with the highest approval rating, and she has been one of the most liberal Senators in Congress, and she has been an early pioneer whose work laid the ground for both CHIP and eventually Obamacare, and she has been one of the single most visible advocates for feminism globally and in the United States since the mid-90s, and she has done the work, the basic work level of the work, the coming-in-when-you’re-sick-don’t-be-late-don’t-take-a-vacation work, and she still has to answer this fucking question – the one that’s not about her, but about her gender; the one that’s not about policy, but whether she could govern in a way men can accept – but smiling is just what you do, if you’re a woman, and a feminist, and you have to field questions like these. You don’t challenge the premises. You don’t tell them to fuck off. You let them test you to see if you’re an angry feminist, and you pass the test by letting them insult you to your face and not getting angry. Because after everything you’ve done, everything you’ve fought for, that’s still what most men want to know. They want to know they can insult you and get away with it. They won’t work with you if they can’t.
Hillary Clinton lets them insult her with a smile on her face, because she wants the job. Because there is no way to just flip a table, throw the coffee, walk out of this bitch in protest, and get the job she wants. There never is. Not for her, not for me, not for any of us. She smiles…
I know some of you remember Clarence Thomas’s confirmation to the Supreme Court, and the intense vitriol directed at Anita Hill and every other woman who cautioned that Thomas would be a terrible, terrible choice. One of the things I remember is how astonished a lot of otherwise thoughtful, progressive men — and quite a few less-thoughtful, unprogressive ones as well — were, to discover the level of mistreatment and abuse that women in the workplace were exposed to as a matter of course. Their wives, their moms, their daughters: The women who never said anything about the filthy ‘jokes’ and the body-touching and the assumption that every woman (whatever her credentials or gifts or relationships) could be, should be, treated like a barely-housebroken domestic animal whose only real value was its sexual attractiveness.
Anita Hill failed to deter the revanchists determined to put Clarence Thomas on the only Supreme Court we have, but when she spoke up, she changed the conversation around “sexual harrassment in the workplace.” And whether or not Hillary Rodham Clinton is elected President in November (and I most sincerely hope she is), she’s already changing the conversation around whether “feminist” is a component to any genuine use of the word “progressive”.