In the coming months, America will decide whether to elect its first female president. And amid a techno-media landscape where the wall between private vitriol and public debate has been reduced to rubble, Sen. Hillary Clinton is facing an onslaught of open misogynistic expression.
Step lightly through that thickly settled province of the Web you could call anti-Hillaryland and you are soon knee-deep in “bitch,” “slut,” “skank,” “whore” and, ultimately, what may be the most toxic four-letter word in the English language.
We have never been here before.
No woman has run quite the same gantlet. And of course, no man.
Thanks to several thousand years of phallocentric history, there is no comparable vocabulary of degradation for men, no equivalently rich trove of synonyms for a sexually sullied male. As for the word beginning with C? No single term for a man reduces him to his genitals to such devastating effect.
In times past, this coarser conversation would have remained mostly personal and subterranean. But now we have a blogosphere, where no holds are barred and vituperative speech is prized. We have social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace, with their limitless ability to make the personal public.
There are no rules. And so far there is little recognition in the political and media mainstream of the teeming misogyny only a mouseclick away. …
Facebook, popular with high school and college students, has dozens of anti-Hillary groups, many of which take great, sweaty delight in heaping abuse on Clinton as a woman, imagining her reduced to a subservient role, and visiting violence upon her.
One is “Hillary Clinton: Stop Running for President and Make Me a Sandwich,” with more than 23,000 members and 2,200 “wall posts” : Internet graffiti in which discussants have fantasized about Clinton being raped by a donkey.
Eschewing the slightest wit or subtlety, some high school boys in Olathe, Kan., created “Punch her in the c—!!”. With about 200 members, this group features the discussion topics “Why we hate Hillary Clinton,” “Why you REALLY hate Hillary Clinton” and “What will we do if Hillary becomes president,” which drew two replies : “death” and “shooter in the cooter?”
Another Facebook group, more temperate in tone and with about 13,000 members, is “Life’s a bitch, why vote for one? Anti-Hillary ’08.” Like several other anti-Clinton sites, this one promotes a T-shirt: “Hillary for President. She Puts the C— in Country.” …
Via The Garance, who writes: “I sometimes wonder if we haven’t all massively underestimated what a major shift it would be to have a female president : or even female major party nominee : and the sort of backlash that could go along with it.” Possibly, but I don’t think too many female law professors didn’t see this coming.