Bitch. Whore. Stupid. Hot. Disabled. Shrill. Mean Girl. Hag. Diva. Ice Queen. Slut.
The midterm elections of 2010 brought back a familiar rage and sick, queasy feeling as I watched women on both sides of the aisle being devalued with sexist diatribes. The hateful rhetoric that defined much of the 2008 presidential campaign was not an anomaly. When debating the merits of Hillary Clinton’s candidacy detractors could no longer say, “I don’t mind electing a woman – just not that woman.” Such a phrase was nonsense after all. Plenty of women seem somehow to be that woman. Though not seeking political office, even Michelle Obama did not escape. Once called angry and emasculating, she now tills a victory garden in designer jeans and Lanvin sneakers. Sarah Palin, derided as reactionary and “disabled,” seems a terrifying prospect to the left and even some on the right.
But none can compete with the twenty years of skewering Hillary Clinton has endured. In 2008, the breathtaking atmosphere surrounding Hillary and Obama’s first solo debate captured the imagination and hopes of millions, but my joy in watching a qualified woman vie for the presidency was marred by newsmen and pundits calling Hillary Clinton a hellish housewife, Nurse Ratched, she-devil and bitch.
Not content to take the word of the pundit class on Hillary’s character, I sought the reality under the damaging “divisive and polarizing” label that had long haunted her. Hillary Clinton’s accomplishments and tireless work ethic proved that she was not the harridan of pundits’ fantasies. I ignored my scattershot but steady career as an actor to work on Hillary’s campaign. That career was nothing fancy but I’d made a living in the business for many years. The only calling I have ever had or loved became an inconvenient distraction.
Did I want Hillary to win because she was a woman? No. Did I want her to win because I thought she had the best chops for the job? Yes. She was my candidate. But the long knives were out for Hillary, the media bias appalling. Her party turned a deaf ear and stood by as her policies were misrepresented, her character maligned, her womanhood degraded. The net result was to make me work harder.
Through my passion for Hillary’s candidacy, I evolved from actor and fearful news junkie to determined campaign grunt and citizen pundit. If you told me I would immerse myself in this effort, become a blog writer for the first time in my life, build a following on various political websites under the name “Ani” and write a book on the subject that I am currently working to get published, I would have said you were potzo.
In 2008, my reluctant odyssey into the world of politics forced me to examine the way women are treated in a post-feminist world. Especially women with high aims and hard heads. I questioned the bias against women in authority, the limitations women placed on themselves, my own preconceptions about party, my choice of career, and even some of my friendships.
The fever of that campaign is still with me for one reason only — as a society, we have learned nothing. We still practice the same behavior.
Speaking out on the internet, I raised my volume well past my comfort level. At the time, hiding my real name felt like a necessity. While I didn’t want my politics to interfere with my work as an actor, far more worrisome were the threats leveled at some of Hillary’s supporters. One friend received internet death threats. Another had someone vandalize her garage door painting “Hillary hag” on it for having a Hillary lawn sign in her yard. I read that a woman with a small Hillary sign in her car window was followed by a man in another car for blocks. When the man caught up with her, he screamed, “You can put up all the signs you want. That bitch will never be president.”