Supposed to take it on the chin

Michelle Cottle at The Atlantic warns us to be ready for a new avalanche of misogyny. Hahaha we’re already in that – she must mean a new even bigger avalanche of misogyny.

Raw political sexism is already strutting its stuff. At Donald Trump’s coming-out party in Cleveland, vendors stood outside the Quicken Loans Arena hawking campaign buttons with whimsical messages, such as “Life’s a Bitch—don’t vote for one” and “KFC Hillary Special: Two fat thighs, two small breasts… left wing.” One popular T-shirt featured a grinning Trump piloting a Harley, grinning as Hillary tumbled off the bike so that you could read the back of Trump’s shirt: “IF YOU CAN READ THIS, THE BITCH FELL OFF.”

That’s not new though. We mouthy women who do our being mouthy online have been getting that kind of thing for years. There are lots of people – some of them women – who have no hesitation about raw political sexism. (Many of them have a lot of hesitation about doing it under their own names though. That might mean they would face consequences, and that wouldn’t do.)

The home-crafted humor was equally tasteful, like the guy in a Hillary mask brandishing a large “Trump vs. Tramp” sign or (my personal favorite) the conventioneer who put together an elaborate “Game of Thrones”-themed ensemble incorporating a life-sized, inflatable Hillary doll—naked, of course.

Social media is awash in references to Clinton as a bitch, among less-flattering terms. “Trump that Bitch!” T-shirts are this season’s must-have couture at Trump rallies. And how about the tween boy yelling, “Take the bitch down!” at a recent Trump event in Virginia? Pure class.

Cottle says don’t go thinking it will get better after the election. Nope, no worries, I wasn’t going to. I’m well aware that there are countless people who are entirely happy to do this kind of thing forever.

One of the most annoying parts of all this? It can be tough for women leaders to push back against sexist attacks without inviting even more sneering. “You can try to call people out on it, but you have to be a little bit careful,” said Huddy. “People will say you’re playing the woman card, that you’re a crybaby, that you can’t handle it.”

That you’re “playing the victim card,” as Richard Dawkins actually said to me a few months ago. The irony is thick. We’re attacked for being women, and then attacked again when we object to being attacked.

“Sexism is more socially acceptable than racism,” said Jennifer Lawless, of American University. Multiple women, in fact, brought up a couple of examples from Hillary’s 2008 campaign. One was the low-grade sexism of some in the mainstream media. (MSNBC’s Chris Matthews is still considered the worst offender, with his “Nurse Ratched” crack and gripes about Hillary’s “cackle.”) Then there were the two hecklers at a New Hampshire rally who waved signs and chanted, “Iron my shirt!” Clinton laughed it off, and the incident was reported mostly as dumbass 20-something guys acting like dumbass 20-something guys. But if someone had yelled an equivalently demeaning remark at Obama—like, say, “Shine my shoes!”—the public response likely would have been very different.

Gillard agrees. “In some ways, I think we put a burden on women in the face of gender attacks that doesn’t necessarily play out in the face of racist attacks,” she told me. Take the episode with the anti-tax protesters, she said: “I have made the point since that, if Australia had an aboriginal Australian prime minister and the opposition leader went and stood in front of signs that said, ‘Sack the black,’ or inserted any of the dreadful words we have for aboriginal Australians, it would have been a career-ending moment. And if an indigenous Australian prime minister had complained about that, I don’t think people would say, ‘Oh, he is just playing the victim.’ But that is what gets said about women who complain about sexism. There is an added kind of layer that women leaders are just supposed to take it on the chin and not complain about it.”

Wearying, isn’t it.

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