Hillary Clinton Faces Social Media Sexism Which Cannot Be Minimized
by Anita Finlay
26 Feb 2016
The Washington Post presented a 6-chart study documenting how much sexist verbiage Hillary Clinton receives on social media, and how many of these slurs can be blamed on “Bernie supporters” versus “Right Wingers.” While this study offers useful information, it cannot capture the long term effects of what Clinton and her supporters endure by way of sexist attacks, and owing to the anonymous nature of social media, cannot provide definitive conclusions as to the sources of them.
While WaPo’s article cites journalist Joan Walsh’s complaints of “vile online trolling, harassment and sexism coming from “Berniebot keyboard warriors”, they also quote The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald as an arbiter of what is fair or foul treatment of Hillary Clinton, which is suspect. Mr. Greenwald dismisses her supporters’ accusations of sexism as a deflection of legitimate criticism of Hillary. But since he seems to live to bash her, no treatment of her appears unfair. Many older white males on mainstream media also have an attitude of “What do these woman want?” when it comes to complaining of double standards, so I cannot take Mr. Greenwald’s word as gospel here. Being on the receiving end of such attacks (simply because I endorse Secretary Clinton), I can attest they are not a fiction.
Greenwald also declares that many of Bernie’s supporters are women, as if to pretend that women are not adept at calling each other “b*tch,” “c**t” and “whore.” Sadly, they are, as they have been unconsciously trained to do. And they are only giving misogynist men the stick to later beat them with if they ever become likewise inconvenient.
While the study determines that Clinton receives a good deal of sexist invective, it finds the vast majority of filthy words (b*tch, c**t) are from Right Wing haters. While that would seem logical, anyone can pretend to be anyone on the internet, so there is no way to make that determination to a certainty. It would be unfortunate and incorrect for anyone to begin with the assumption that because someone claims to be “progressive,” they cannot also be misogynist. Ask any woman who has long been in the workforce in “progressive” circles, especially in academia (thought to be a bastion of the Left). You’ll get an earful.
Disgusting as they are, the grotesque words cited above may be ultimately less damaging than the “Wall St. whore,” Benghazi, Email slurs and faux scandals trumpeted by those who pretend at objectivity while incessantly parroting Right Wing smear. This study cannot communicate the gravity that repetition of these attacks has on Hillary Clinton as a public servant. Opinions infested by trash talk can penetrate the psyche over time, creating a convincing negative portrait of someone that is disconnected from the facts of their record.
Further, sexist words are meant to silence, shame, and scare Hillary supporters, as well as defeat her by making her undesirable, so the percentage of time these words are used should not be disconnected from the intimidation factor attached to them. Since past is prologue, the behavior captured on social media in the 2016 election bears resemblance to the filth in the blogosphere against her in 2008 that was coming from the Left as well as the Right.
The study’s charts are also shocking in illuminating how many on both sides blame Clinton for her husband’s infidelity and his policies as President (though she was not in elected office at the time), while giving a pass to her opponent, Sanders, who voted for the very policies being derided.
In the charts referenced, you will notice there is barely any negative verbiage about Senator Sanders. Mainstream media, in their quest for a horse race, have done their best to let him catch up to the formidable Hillary by a) not vetting him, and b) not bashing him with equivalent dog whistles or terminology to which Hillary has been subjected since she stepped onto the national stage 25 years ago.
This leads to the most disturbing conclusion that, while not the focus of the study, cannot be omitted – some of the filthiest name calling came from mainstream media itself, from a number of more progressive outlets like MSNBC and CNN. So if Chris Matthews, MSNBC, called her Nurse Ratched, She Devil, and Domineering Mother and Alex Castellanos of CNN called her a “white bitch,” isn’t the behavior of men in suits giving permission to those on both sides to deride her with this type of filth? Isn’t that stuff from 2008 (and even earlier) part of the collective psyche now? This might help explain why the misogynist curses the researchers detail are so readily used.
While social media lore has it that Hillary supporters go after Bernie as hard as they go after her, by the stark differences in the samplings WaPo provides, that would not appear to be so. And for obvious reasons, no Republicans go after Senator Sanders. They would much rather take Hillary out and face an unscathed but easier to beat Bernie in the general election.
I don’t pretend to be able to quantify how many Bernie supporters (male or female) are abusive on line. While I would hope the tiny .17% number the researches came up with is accurate, by the number of fellow travelers who have shared the abuse they received, that number is much higher. The disparity is owing to the fact that researchers only charted tweets directed to @HillaryClinton. There are exponentially more directed to her supporters and their followers on social media, without tweeting the same to the Secretary herself.
The number of people using these slurs or from whence they came is not as damning as the fact that they are used at all, by anyone. Any argument against any candidate must be about that person’s stated policies and documented record. Gender, race, sexual orientation, Party or repetition-of-smear-absent-fact-checking-should have nothing to do with it.