Great interview with Salon’s Rebecca Traister about her new book, covering the Great Primary Wars of 2007:
That actually leads into my next question, which is about how you make this very convincing case for how shabbily Hillary Clinton was treated with regard to gender. Again and again people would say, it’s not that I object to a woman being president, it’s that I object to Hillary specifically. But then there’s plenty of evidence to suggest, no, you do object to a woman. When did you personally start to see that pattern?
I actually assumed that anti-Hillary misogyny would take the form that it did in the beginning, the Hillary nutcrackers and the “two fat thighs and a left wing” jokes. This loutish, mostly right wing anti-Hillary spew that we have gotten for decades.
The thing that had a radicalizing impact on me began after [Hillary lost in] Iowa. Because there was this pile-on, and to me it was mind-bending. It was coming often from people on the left. It was like something they had been keeping inside as they bit their tongues and covered this woman who had the gall to be the front-runner and the “inevitable” candidate, which was the word that they threw out there. And finally she had shown weakness, and they were just going nuts.
I wrote a piece for Salon about how, despite the fact that I was not a Hillary supporter, had I lived in New Hampshire I would have voted for her that week, because I was so pissed off. I didn’t know it at the time, but Rachel Maddow said something very similar about feeling like she wanted to defend her on air. There was a video made by Dana Milbank at the Washington Post, just laughing, sneering at Hillary for giving a rally where she answered all the voters’ questions and it went on for a long time. Showing these voters yawning and saying, “Whoa, she’s such a snooze.” I began to see in this very active, palpable way how she was being talked about as Tracy Flick, or Margaret from Dennis the Menace, or Hermione Granger — you know, the know it all girl. And that’s when I began to switch.
The evolution of your feelings toward Hillary is really a central part of the book.
Well I was no fan of Hillary going in. For a long time, prior to her campaign, my feelings were negligible. In fact, I felt a kind of embarrassment that women were expected to have such strong feelings about Hillary. I admired her from a distance, but politically I had less and less in common with her as she moved to the center.
I was one of those few, proud, now deeply embarrassed John Edwards supporters. So when it came to super Tuesday I had to choose between her and Obama, about whom I felt roughly equivalent. I wound up almost flipping a coin and voting for Hillary, but I was still completely ambivalent about her.
Eventually I became a lot more aware of the ways in which not only Hillary but also her supporters were being talked about. I became increasingly sensitive to the scorn directed at her, and it built and built as she continued to fight, and it drove me nuts. Because I thought her continuing to fight was awesome and hilarious. I thought it was completely redefining how we view women and our expectations for them in public and political life. She would not comply. She would not give in. She would not do what the pundits wanted her to do, what her opponents wanted her to do, what reporters were insisting that she do, what everyone was telling her was the smart thing to do or, in one case, the classy thing to do. She just kept going.
But the more she did that, the more anger — biting anger — I began to see, both in the media and amongst the people I knew, and amongst Obama supporters, and that was what began to radicalize me in my support for Clinton, so that by the end I was an ardent Hillary supporter. That does not mean that I did not still find fault with her. I did, and I do. And there were a lot of terrible missteps she made during that campaign. But I was a devoted Hillary supporter by the end, so much so that I, with much humiliation, actually wound up crying after she conceded. I was in the [National Building Museum covering the story for Salon], and I had to run out of the press area, and I was trying to find a place behind a column, and I’m, like, choking out sobs, and I realize I’m standing next to Matt Drudge.
Sounds like her book closely mirrors my own experience. I’ll have to get it.