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Despite her historic nomination, I’m puzzled as to why supporters of Hillary Clinton are feeling pressure to remain mute.
I have been live streaming the Democratic National Convention at my desk for 4 days now. I have got no work done, but worse than that I also have no vote in the US Presidential election. The live stream is continuing on the screen behind this page on my computer as I type, so if this article is a bit disjointed, you’ll know why.
Why do I care so much about an election in a foreign country? I am sure there are virtually no Americans who have ever watched an Australian election with any interest at all. (Mind you, our elections are so boring, who can blame them?) So part of it might just be that the Yanks really know how to put on a good show.
However, I care about the American election for many reasons, not least because what happens in America affects everyone on the planet. But this election matters because the choice is so stark. The two candidates represent the two oppositional forces currently at work in the world. Will the Americans choose hope and turn towards an inclusive, post-patriarchal future? Or will they choose fear and turn backwards towards an exclusionary, grimly patriarchal past?
Anything can happen, and I am no pollster and have no crystal ball, but as things stand at the moment I still think Clinton will win in November and America will choose the future, despite their fears.
Also on The Big Smoke
- Today’s female leaders: Closing in on a fifty-fifty ratio
- Women at the helm of politics
- Women with guts: The invisible incline
- The banes and burdens of political responsibility
As a life-long feminist, of course, I care about this election not just because a woman is within striking distance of the most powerful office in the world, but because of who that woman is. My view of Hillary Clinton – much to the disgust of many who usually agree with me – is a very positive one. She has been a hero of mine ever since she burst onto the public stage as Democratic Presidential candidate Bill Clinton’s fiercely feminist wife. In the 1990s her bold, uncompromising voice was thrilling to hear as it cut through the mellifluous tones of the frilly-feminine phalanx of usual First Ladies. Not since Eleanor Roosevelt had we heard such a voice demanding she (and therefore all of us) be taken seriously. My God it was wonderful.
I have long believed that feminism is really a fight by one half of the human population to be taken seriously by the other half. A demand we not be dismissed, trivialised, flattered, insulted, bullied, ridiculed, intimidated or – if all else fails – beaten into silence. I think that is why Clinton is seen as so “unlikable”. She insists you take her seriously. She will not be silenced no matter how hard her enemies try to count her out. They knock her down and, as so many have admitted, she just gets up again. Whatever you think of her politics, you have to admire her dogged courage.
Her supporters (and to the constant shock of those who detest her, there are many of them) are not as courageous as Clinton (hardly anyone else on the planet is) and are not as noisy about their support as others. Perhaps that is why so many of those who supported her closest Democrat rival Bernie Sanders still can’t quite believe their candidate was beaten to the nomination fair and square. Despite their claims, it is hard to rig 3.5 million more votes.
Clinton supporters often keep quiet because it is tough to speak up for her. If you do so you will be abused, sneered at, patronised (oh my God, how you will be patronised) and sent endless propaganda purporting to prove she’s corrupt, a criminal, a murderer, a warmonger etc. Worse, you will be lambasted by those on the Left as vigorously as you are by those on the right. Misogyny, it seems, knows no politics.
If you want to know how sexism still operates in our modern world, you need go no further than the nervousness Clinton supporters (many of whom are women) feel about expressing their support.
After I wrote an article in support of the first woman candidate for the highest office in the world, I was surprised to be invited to join a secret Facebook page which operates as a safe space for Clinton supporters to speak freely and seek respite from the battle they must wage if they voice their support in public. That such a thing existed interested me so since joining I have discovered many more such pages. In fact, a quick Google search revealed article after article discussing the phenomenon of the silent Hillary supporters. If they have experienced what I have experienced, they shut up because they know if they speak up they will get shouted down.
The articles I found have titles like “Many Hillary Clinton supporters in New York keep their allegiances quiet” (Slate.com), “Hillary Clinton supporters may be hiding in plain view” (npr.org), “Closet-Hillary Clinton supporters’ Facebook secret groups” (New York Times) and “As Clinton clinches the nomination many of her supporters tiptoe in the shadows” (yahoo.com). And that’s just a quick sample.
I have even been told that Clinton’s campaign offices are often deliberately located in out of the way corners of shopping centres so supporters can visit without being noticed. If true, no doubt it saves on rent as well.
If you want to know how sexism still operates in our modern world, you need go no further than the nervousness Clinton supporters (many of whom are women) feel about expressing their support. Yet it is these same quietly supportive voters who may well carry the day for their champion. As they do in most Western countries, women make up over 50 percent of the population in the US and – this is the important bit – despite their relative lack of noise, they are more likely to turn up to vote than men.
It is on the women, Latinos, African Americans, the educated, the urban, the young and, frankly, the sane that I place my confidence that Trump will be trumped by a woman.