Is the pro-Hillary backlash antifeminist?


In today’s Boston Herald, columnist Margery Eagan touches on an interesting point:

This mess just won’t end.

And if it doesn’t end soon--like today--the Democrats will lose in November. Again.

The mess I refer to? Hillary supporters’ continued up-the-ante demands for respect and validation, for hurt feelings to be soothed, voices to be heard, etc.

Mostly they’re middle-aged women, like me, and I’m feeling embarrassed by association.

Is this really about Hillary and politics, or some deeply resented dissing by a husband, ex-husband, ex-boyfriend or boss?

Hillary’s disgruntled supporters may or may not be projecting, but their pique carries a real cultural risk. It bolsters the pernicious, age-old stereotype of the over-emotional female--and that, in turn, could make things miserable for the next female presidential contender.

Here’s political theorist Mika LaVaque-Manty's description of how this stereotype has previously been used to justify women’s exclusion from politics:

There is a common tendency to discount or even ignore political action that seems to issue from strong emotions or just appears “emotional.” For example, many local grassroots movements, especially those led largely by women, have had to struggle simply to get standing as agents in political processes. They have been dismissed as “hysterical housewives,” too emotional and thus too myopic to engage in what political action requires, namely, reason and reasonableness....

A related and sometimes indistinguishable way of dismissing other actors’ agency is to make claims not just about the grounds of engagement--“They’re being emotional, not reasonable!”--but to shut out others by claiming they are simply incapable of what it takes to engage in politics. Where in the previous case, “mad women” are ignored, in one instantiation of this phenomenon all women are ignored because they are, “by nature,” mad, or emotional, or whatever. [emph. in original]

Those female Hillary backers who remain piqued by her defeat may honestly believe that if they don't aggressively support Barack Obama--or if they go even further and vote for John McCain--they’ll be striking a blow for feminism. But they should at least consider the possibility that they'll be doing just the opposite.

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