This Bumper Sticker Is the Perfect Example of Anti-Hillary Sexism
Sometimes, cultural misogyny is subtle: tone policing, mansplaining, implicit bias about gender stereotypes. Sometimes, it is not. Sometimes, it comes in the form of a bumper sticker using a sexist pejorative to equate the presumptive Democratic candidate for presidency with a female dog.
I’m talking about the above bumper sticker, and ones like it.
Anyone who’s been following the rhetorical typhoon that is this election knows that this is hardly the first of it’s kind. It’s not hard to see why followers of Trump, an ardent misogynist known for using gendered, sexist attacks against his opponent, would be quick to stoop to sexism in their bumper stickers, memes, email forwards, and various other totally valid methods of political critique.
But you see the same sort of below-the-belt, sexism-perpetuating language from opponents on the left, including the much-discussed “Bernie Bros”, whose epithets of choice include “Shrillery” and offensively irrelevant reminders of her husband’s infidelity. Sexism, it seems, is one of the few things uniting people across the aisle.
This is absolutely not to say that Hillary Clinton is beyond reproach. There are a number of reasons why her policies, actions, and track record could be found lacking or outright objectionable.
Her hawkishness, her morally suspect PAC contributors, her problematic stances regarding race issues: these are things to address. These are things to legitimately question, and even to ultimately oppose.
However, the general tone of most of her opponents, both on the left and on the right, goes above and beyond any sort of legitimate policy critiques. The “bitch” trope, the one that calls out her perceived lack of femininity, her “shrillness”, and her lack of ability to “satisfy” her husband (as if that’s how infidelity works) are all based not in opposition to her policy but in opposition to her being a woman in power.
As a Jewish woman, I’m familiar with the “bitch” trope. In media depictions, the Jewish woman is often either the mother or the bitch (and, sometimes, both). She’s the one raising her voice, often—yes—shrilly, and berating her hapless spouse into submission. Think Susie Essman on “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” And while I happen to think Essman’s character is hilarious, I’ve all too often see the bitch trope translate into how people view me and fellow Jewish women in our everyday lives.
It would be hard to recall the number of times I’ve heard men, and sometimes women, talk about how aggressive Jewish women are, in some variation or another, even when meant as a “compliment.” On the less innocuous end of things, our “aggressiveness” (read: bitchiness) is an effect of our participation in one or another worldwide cabal and/or attempt to subvert the traditional white, Christian order of things.
So it’s all too easy to recognize when a woman — even if she’s a woman I disagree with — is being attacked with specific, gendered language, rather than taken to task for her actual beliefs and actions.
Again, this is not to advocate identity politics above accountability: I believe firmly that there are legitimate critiques of Clinton, and that she should be held responsible for addressing them. But really, guys, “bitch”? Your misogyny is showing, and it’s not a cute look.
Lana Adler is a Forward Summer Fellow working on opinion. Follow her on Twitter @Lana_Macondo