• Texts About Hillary

    Friends, let me take you back to a dark time in our nation’s history. The time is late July 2016. After four days of insanity at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, the country is settling down to watch the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. Despite the cries of “lock her up,” many people are genuinely excited about officially declaring Hillary Clinton our first female nominee for president.

    Just as things are about to get underway, the news breaks that the Democratic National Committee’s email server was hacked, and that the DNC might have conspired against Bernie Sanders in the primaries.  Many of his supporters take to Philadelphia’s streets as the controversy swirls. After the events of the Republican National Convention, this latest scandal makes it feel like our country can’t get anything right.

    And what am I, a 17-year-old resident of the City of Brotherly Love, doing during this time? I’m minding my own business and not leaving the house the entire time the DNC is in town. That’s not to say I’m not watching—I’m definitely watching! My family is glued to MSNBC every night, and I’ve marked the occasion by tweeting out pictures of America’s new dad, Tim Kaine. I’ve started to jokingly refer to Elizabeth Warren and Hillary Clinton as “my moms.” I am so psyched for Hillary to take the stage on the last night of the convention.

    In the midst of all these exciting political goings-on, I receive a text. “f*** this country,” it reads. Another one: “f*** hillary clinton.” The texts are from my closest male friend, a boy we’ll call Justin, who has also been avidly following the summer’s political events. I’m immediately on guard. I know that Justin was a strong Bernie supporter during the primaries, but lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the role sexism is playing in this election, and I’m not so sure that his rejection of Hillary is just about policy. “Now hold on a minute there buddy” I text back.

    I already feel the headache settling in. I like political discussion, but I’m not sure I can stand to see election sexism enter into my personal relationships. Justin begins the litany of common complaints disseminated to us incessantly through the media: she lied, she’s untrustworthy, she conspired with the DNC against Bernie. Most of his accusations are based on the on-going email scandal.

    I defend Hillary as best I can, pointing out that the world didn’t fall apart because she used a private email server, that other top officials have done the same thing, and that at this point in time there is no link between her campaign and the DNC. This is hard to do, because I don’t entirely agree with Hillary’s actions, but Justin’s anger at her distresses me. Nobody is a perfect candidate! All politicians have done some messed up things in their time! I can’t help but feel that Justin’s rage is due to the fact that Hillary is a woman. It seems like he’s holding her to an impossible standard that he wouldn’t expect from a man.

    “There should be no ‘ugh our only choice’ feeling about it,” I tell him, after he expresses dismay that she’s the only candidate who won’t lead us into World War III. “She SHOULD be the next president because she IS going to be a good one,” I text. To Justin’s credit, he qualifies his next argument by saying that his anger isn’t “because she’s a woman, [as a] discussion can be had just the same for literally any male politician.” Justin is one of the most feminist male friends I have; he tries really hard to call out the sexism around him, and he’s constantly asking me if he’s been inadvertently offensive to other female friends.

    I want to believe that he’s sincere in his criticism of Hillary, but when he won’t even allow a discussion about Bernie’s faults as a candidate, I question the true reasoning behind this argument. Is he angry with Hillary for legitimate reasons? Or could it be that he’s not thrilled that a woman is about to be our next president? Even though Justin is a feminist, sexism is so deeply rooted in our society that it’s possible he doesn’t even realize that it may be coloring his perceptions.

    Because I’m getting angry and I don’t want to be, I cut the conversation off before things go too far. We agree to disagree, and I turn off my phone. Justin doesn’t text me again until two weeks later. We don’t mention our discussion.

    I was disappointed to see that Justin seemed to have fallen prey to the sexist discourse surrounding Hillary. I respect him a lot, but his use of foul language and unproven facts in response to my “all-things-considered” arguments made me feel small. It made me feel like I can’t enthusiastically support Hillary, because to so many she’s just the lesser of two evils in this election.

    The written text of Justin’s argument was reasonable, but the subtext was rooted in sexist nonsense that I can’t stand anymore. While I wish I had confronted Justin full on about the underlying sexism in his argument, I’m glad that we were able to have a political conversation that stayed fairly civil. Hopefully the next time I find myself in this kind of situation, I’ll feel more confident about calling in. Until then, I’m With Her.

    This piece was originally published on the Jewish Women's Archive's blog, Jewesses with Attitude.

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