Monday, April 18, 2016

Feminists want to have fun

Let's stipulate that Bernie Sanders is not deliberately stoking overt misogyny. Yes, he condemned "corporate Democratic whores." No, he did not plan the demonstration where supporters threw dollar bills at Hillary's car -- as, in Joy Reid's accurate framing, at a strip club. Even though he has a history of "going there" in his campaign in 1986 for Vermont governor against Madeleine Kunin, let's say that he doesn't consciously intend it.

Let's put Bernie aside entirely.

What's striking now -- as in the 2008 primary, as in the anti-war '60s, as, it seems, forever -- is that women are simply not permitted to feel joy or exhilaration -- even at the prospect of a woman becoming president of the U.S. Exuberance itself is yucky -- when it's female, but not about a man. Winning is something men do. Fun is something men have. Girls may want to have it -- but we'll be standing by the side of the road to make sure it's not pang-free, make sure it's tainted.

Even if you don't think those dollar-bill-throwing Hollywood hipsters were intentionally echoing "whore," what they were unmistakably saying was: "YOU don't get to lead a parade. WE decide where and what the party is." The not-so-sub-text of a media stunt like this to deride, to diminish, to demonstrate contempt, to reassert who the Master of Revels is.

Destroying the emotional meaning of Hillary's run in 2008 was basically MSNBC's editorial strategy. Along with the Times and the rest of the media, all joy, excitement and inspiration were reserved for Obama and his "movement." Bernie, too, is presented as leading one of those. Hillary was presented then -- and a bit more subtly now -- as the house mother, the dorm proctor... or worse, Nurse Ratched. As I've noted elsewhere -- indeed, it was the genesis of this blog -- the MSNBC "coverage" of the New Hampshire primary in '08 was a party to celebrate her humiliation. Once again, we're the ones who have fun -- and you're the one at whose expense we have it.

Of course, a requirement to justify this deep, sadistic wish is the demonization of the object of ridicule. Doing this -- even feeling this -- isn't nice. So you tell yourself that the evil witch deserves it. She's the interloper, she's corrupt, she's voracious and hateful and dangerous. It's only right and proper that she be publicly scorned. It's a badge of honor to wipe any smile off her face and darken any gleam in her eye.

This is what Robin Morgan was reacting to in her remarkable "Goodbye to All That 2" rant in 2008. And sadly, it is so pervasive, so deeply embedded in the humans' psyche, that lots of women feel it, too. Boys will be boys, and girls will love them for it. Girls may want to have fun, but it's only available on our terms.

So, yes, Hillary, you may doggedly, grimly slog your way to the White House. But we're here to make sure you don't enjoy it.

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