Don’t call me a ‘Bernie bro’
Recently I wrote a widely received article on Salondetailing my reasons for never voting Hillary Clinton. Though these were policy-related, I included the inarticulate line, “her personality repels me.” By this I was referring to Clinton’s pandering persona, and habit of using gender to avoid the undesirable aspects of her record.
Just recently, in the MSNBC debate, Hillary responded to Sanders’ “establishment” charge with this:
Well look, I’ve got to just jump in here because, honestly, Senator Sanders is the only person who I think would characterize me, a woman running to be the first woman president as exemplifying the establishment. And I’ve got to tell you that it is… really quite amusing to me.
Still I received backlash. Clinton supporters like Kaili Joy Gray of Wonkette, Amanda Hess of Slate, and Joan Walsh of The Nation, all branded me a ‘Bernie Bro’—a misogynistic, stupid, twenty-something male, oblivious to the fact that he dislikes Hillary because she’s a woman.
— Joan Walsh (@joanwalsh) November 30, 2015
Someone even called my cartoon on Huffington Post sexist. And I worried about pixelation…
Just as the fuss seemed to disappear, a friend called my attention to an article by Amanda Taub of VOX:“The Debate Over ‘Bernie Bros’ Isn’t About Bernie Sanders At All.”
[T]he term started to shift in meaning, and became a way to discuss young male Sanders supporters who were a little too, shall we say, bro-ish when it came to women. That included some who wrote about Hillary Clinton using gendered and tone-deaf language, like Walker Bragman…
This article received widespread attention. The Sanders campaign reposted it on Twitter. Bernie Sanders then publicly decried ‘Bernie Bros.’ Hillary Clinton, followed up by announcing that her supporters were being harassed.
I know that as a white male in a patriarchal society, I’ll never understand what it’s like to experience oppression under the glass ceiling. And I know online sexism is a very real, primarily male problem that is symptomatic of rape culture. But it’s not a Bernie supporter vs. Hillary supporter problem. Lumping progressives who target Clinton’s policies in with trolls who use devaluing language to harass women online not only wrongly politicizes the issue, it hurts feminism by promoting double standards.
If we are to have a real discussion, we also cannot ignore the sexism against female Bernie supporters at the hands of Hillary supporters.
Gloria Steinem accused them of following “the boys.” Madeleine Albright, said “there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.” Even more outrageous was Hillary herself, laughing along and later defending these remarks.
Nor can we ignore arguments from Clinton defenders like the one so eloquently made by Joan Walsh of The Nation, whose daughter works for Clinton’s campaign. In her article titled “Why I’m Supporting Hillary Clinton, With Joy and Without Apologies,” Walsh makes the case that she will vote for Hillary because of what she represents–a protest against so-called “misogyny”–ignoring serious concerns about her judgment, integrity, and record.
Still, the larger message to Clinton supporters is that our demand for equal representation at the highest level of government at last, by a supremely qualified woman who is thoroughly progressive if not a socialist, must sadly wait. Again.
I won’t wait. I’m supporting Clinton, joyfully and without apologies. That’s not the same as without reservations; I continue to wonder whether she’ll be more hawkish on foreign policy than is advised in these dangerous times. I’m concerned that she’s too close to Wall Street; I really wish she hadn’t given those six-figure talks to Goldman Sachs…
…I really don’t want to see her abused again. I’m tired of seeing her confronted by entitled men weighing in on her personal honesty and likability, treating the most admired woman in the world like a woman who’s applying to be his secretary. I’m stunned anew by the misogyny behind the attacks on her, and her female supporters.
But likability and honesty are legitimate concerns in presidential elections—as are the other issues raised progressives like myself, regarding Clinton that have nothing to do with gender. Walsh’s reasoning begs the question: What if Hillary were a man? Would her defenders ignore the serious concerns about her integrity and judgment? Would they overlook her terrible civil rights record and willingness to use racial dog whistles to win elections? Could they vote for someone who isn’t an intersectional feminist?
We should not stifle legitimate discussion to protect a candidate.
Bragman is a political cartoonist, blogger, and law student at Brooklyn Law School.
The Hill has removed its comment section, as there are many other forums for readers to participate in the conversation. We invite you to join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter.