Ditch the Pitch: Clinton and the Feminist Posture

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On the lawns of Parliament House in 2011, discount one man took a significant dump. Tony Abbott led a rally notionally opposed to the then Labor government’s modest program of carbon pricing, malady but much better remembered for its open, diabetes and pregnancy putrid sexism. The man who would briefly become Prime Minister smiled at press beside signs whose loathing, previously unthinkable in this context, helped bring us to a nasty present. You know. That one where you can publish terms like “ugly slut” and it just feels normal.

The nation saw Abbott endorse the feudal message “Ditch the Witch” to describe Prime Minister Julia Gillard, and a more contemporary pitchfork skewering her as the “Bitch” of a minor party leader. There can be no defence of these declarations, and there is no telling me that their effect was limited to just one woman. You shit like this in a public arena, all us chicks get smeared in it.

Actually, we’re drowning in it, at least in the terms of public conversation. I can’t remember a time where I’ve felt my gender carry so much extra public weight. I’ve been a media worker for twenty-five years, and it was around the time of “Bitch” and “Witch” that my contributions seemed to grow huge boobs. Man. The menarche was a less painful passage than this era which both demeans and elevates my byline in the terms of its imagined organs. I have asked several editors if I could change my name to Gavin, but they, understandably, don’t want to give up the hate-clicks.

I do not seek to complain especially about my own lot. It would be unseemly for a paid member of the knowledge class to do so, and if we overlook the problem of stalkers, the OH&S conditions of my working life are adequate. I am quite aware that the men and women who call me sexist things do so because they feel powerless, and that I, paid to hold the power of analysis, will cop this frustration. These days, there are few of us, when impassioned, who will not use the terms of identity category to make a point. “You are wrong because you are a woman” is common. But, then again, so is, “she is right because she is a woman”. These are equally offensive assessments.

So. What point do I seek to make by saying that sexism—and its cousins racism, homophobia etc.—is very real and currently undomesticated? Why am I letting you know that my working life has been impeded by the assertions of a man like Tony Abbott? Because current discourse leaves me no choice.

“Lived experience” has emerged to become the register of merit for nearly any public argument—and this is as true for many people who say their politics are “intersectional” as it is for the cultural right. I do not like that “lived experience” is a falsely intellectual measure used by nearly everyone, and I am not going to offer you up evidence from my Facebook page that I am a victim whose victimhood itself proves a case. Fuck that noise. If Lindy West and friends feel that they have made an enduring case for “structural” oppression of women by describing the individual hard time they had on social media, they’re deluded.

But I know that in the current climate, with the western world arguing over the role that personal sexism has played in the US election, I need to say plainly, yes, sexism is real, and I have felt it. I need to say that I know beyond doubt that every argument advanced by anyone in any identity category will be received in these terms: you are right because of who you are; you are wrong because of who you are. I probably also need to say that I do recognise the intrinsic value in, for example, an argument about race delivered by a person of colour and I do absolutely acknowledge that women are frequently the most qualified persons to talk about gender, being that we are the bearers of it.

But. Jeez. Being a woman does not make me right and pure any more than it makes me wrong and fundamentally evil. Being a woman is no kind of ethical guarantee.

There is, of course, the social guarantee that what a woman says in public will be immediately devalued by many, and thanks for your part in re-establishing that, Tony Abbott. This is even truer for people of colour, who are disproportionately excluded from public debate. Think, for example, about the current conversation on Australian Indigenous life. We are arguing about the “right” of insubstantial thinkers like Andrew Bolt and Bill Leak to speak. Like, that’s even an issue. These men are already employed to speak, and, in the case of Bolt—nobody reads The Australian—do so to vast audiences. Meantime, there are literal dozens of engaging Aboriginal intellectual voices who have lived and studied the matters at hand. I look at the good and often funny work of, say, Amy McQuire and Nayuka Gorrie and I am not even sure in a market sense why it has not been ruthlessly monetised.

So. Yes. There are excluded voices. Of course there fucking are, because the world is a hate cake baked in an oven fuelled by shit. But this does not mean that every hitherto excluded voice should be hailed for its wisdom because—do I even need to say this?—that is a form of intellectual prejudice.

All of which is to say, Hillary Clinton is not good because she has suffered sexism.

If you want to make the case that Hillary Clinton is good, there are ways to go about it. Personally, I will not be persuaded by these arguments and I believe that any person paid an enormous fee by Goldman Sachs for the direct private assurance that she’s just joshing to the non-investor class when she says she’s going to regulate the finance industry is a dangerous liar. I believe that Hillary Clinton is a war hawk whose reckless interventions are motivated by foul ideology even more than terrible realist strategy. I believe that any Secretary of State who greets the news of the death by anal rape of a leader with a joke is “qualified” for the fucking bin. I believe that the Clinton Foundation is an execrable tank of economic fuckery whose mild claims about helping those less fortunate with idiot schemes that cannot possibly work in nations whose extreme poverty is the precondition for US wealth is a figleaf, if not a corporate-political dating service. I believe that any person whose unrelenting, baseless criticism of Russia, a nation not one tenth as powerfully interventionist as the US, will lead us to war for the sake of her presidential dream.

And, fuck it, now I am fucking angry, so let’s talk about Russia, shall we? And then let’s have a little fucking chinwag about WikiLeaks, and the obscene local evidence that many Australian journalists want to see one of our most fearless colleagues, Julian Assange, directly face the wrath of that strong woman, Hillary Clinton.

Russia, a nation with a GDP that matches Italy’s, might not be a nice place. But, you know, take your fucking pick of nations that offend a western liberal sensibility, and you’ll probably end up at Saudi Arabia. Now, there’s a bunch of leader fucks. What should a “humanitarian” like Clinton do to a nation that is starving, bombing and generally defiling the people of Yemen, one that prevents participation by its own women in breathing fucking public air, exploits the bodies of migrant workers and lashes, executes or destroys its internal critics? Does she apply sanctions as Secretary of State? Does she even call them out on Twitter?  No. She gives the nation support as Secretary of State.  As a member of the Clinton Foundation, she accepts millions of dollars of their support.

Look. Even if you don’t give a shit about what is happening to all those distant brown people, you might care that Saudi has been able to export “more extreme ideology than any other place on earth over the course of the last 30 years.” Whose assessment of the threat that this nation poses to Western nations is this? Clinton’s. How do I know? WikiLeaks.

Leaving aside my own “extreme” view that the nation that has most successfully exported dangerous ideology is the US, how is she not helping the export of dangerous ideology? And how has the work of WikiLeaks become viewed not as courageous, but as sexist and reprehensible? Well, by two means. One, its founder, Julian Assange, is not  charged but  currently wanted for questioning regarding a crime that best translates from the Swedish as “sexual molestation”, and I encourage you to read this reputable account of that history. Two: Russia, Russia, Russia, Russia, Russia.

Oh, for fucks’s sake. Putin is no greater threat to life as we know it than was Saddam Hussein. And that Clinton has simply switched the Islamophobia that worked so well for her and others in 2003 with Russophobia should be obvious. Again—for those up the back—this is not to endorse those regimes. But nor is it to permit the extreme interventionism of the US. Sure, it’s a hegemon that can do what it likes, but does this mean we should endorse that? Sure, Hillary. You go and intervene in the business of other nations, and make sure not to intervene when your “humanitarianism” declares that you probably should. You pretend that a coup is not a coup when it suits you, and let’s never talk about the strategic part you played in the murder of Honduran activist, Berta Cáceres. Because: Russia, Russia, Russia, Russia, Russia.

What is this pugfuckery? I am old enough to remember the last time we were supposed to hate Russia, and even then, criticism of the reds-under-the-bed McCarthyist heirloom was more possible than it is today. I can’t say “Putin is not to be feared as much as he currently is” without being called delusional. I can’t say “There is no shred of even mildly convincing evidence that WikiLeaks is in league with Putin” without being called a rape apologist, a terrorist, an opponent of humanity itself.

Where do you get this shit that (a) Putin is an enormous monster to be feared, and (b) Assange is his puppet/collaborator/publisher? You get it from the campaign that this message will benefit the most. And—again to be gracelessly clear—this is not to offer full endorsement to either Putin, who is a tool, or to the methods of WikiLeaks, with which, in the case of redaction, I am not entirely in accord.

It is to say, however, (1) you need to calm the fuck down about Russia and (2) you might consider that WikiLeaks is just doing what it has always done, except this time, without the endorsement of snivelling liberals. Who were very happy to receive evidence that the Bush administration were murderers, but are reluctant to receive the same news about successive administrations. It’s not murder, apparently. When Hillary does it, it’s a “hard choice”. Well, call me old-fashioned, but I think a dead body is a dead body, and I don’t care if that corpse was produced by a sassy lady forced to make a tough decision in a sexist world. This is not the delightful movie Working Girl starring Melanie Griffith. It’s foreign fucking policy.

My reservations about WikiLeaks’ failure to redact notwithstanding—and let’s not forget that the world’s press remains in the profitable business of unnecessarily destroying private lives—I am ineffably grateful for their attention to all those deaths.

And I will not fucking participate, especially as an Australian citizen, in this dangerous demonization of an Australian. Bring him home. Fuck your Russia, Russia, Russia, Russia, Russia. Fuck your calls to have him delivered to Clinton’s “justice”. And generally fuck your defence of Clinton’s “justice” which is not sanitised by the fact of her being a woman.

Look. I hate sexism. I really do. Not just in the terms of how it hurts me as an individual—but even there, I understand how resonant Clinton’s very real experience of sexism is with individual women. Yes, when Trump interrupts her in debate, I can keenly feel the pain. I am a natural loudmouth and the worst form of social torture I can imagine is to be silenced.

I will continue, directly and indirectly, to wrest control from men. Even genuinely leftist ones with whom I might almost entirely agree. I will tell them to STFU. If Julian Assange or John Pilger ever have occasion to diminish me on the basis of my gender, I will do my utmost to metaphorically tie their genitals in knots. I will hang the last patriarch with the dong of the last misogynist. I will suffer physical sympathy when I see another woman silenced by an unjustly amplified masculine voice.

But I am not going to fucking sit here while you take the idea of feminism and re-cut it to tailor the body of a bloody interventionist, use it to call for the orange jumpsuit—the possible execution—of a man who has been committed to exposing war crimes for ten years, make it into a uniform for war with a nation that hasn’t provoked it.

Well. I probably am. All I do is sit here. All I do is offer my private account of a public disaster. One that unfolds on the lawns of Parliament House just as it does in the narrow, hawkish endorsements of putative feminists. It’s all gone to shit. The last we can do, surely, is allow ourselves to trace the history of that downfall without recourse to the talking points of the Clinton Campaign.

14 comments for “Ditch the Pitch: Clinton and the Feminist Posture

  1. Carlene
    November 4, 2016 at 2:04 pm

    And sometimes one is correct because one is correct! (Would have said right, but you know actual lefty!)
    You are correct

  2. Dan Brown
    November 4, 2016 at 3:24 pm

    There is a clear problem when a politician tries to hide behind a legitimate social issue, just to hide their own hideous political agenda. Yes Trump is a douche with a litany of public indiscretions that, in any other contest, couldn’t be supported. But so too is Clinton a charlatan who is willingly heading a campaign to subvert democracy. Which is the greater evil? Hands down it is the contemptible process of wresting government away from a clean contest to pursue the aims of a select few. Shame on both US political parties for letting it get this far, but particularly the Democrats for allowing the rail roading of a good candidate, Sanders, out of the contest through a lack of internal democratic principles.
    Either way the world is probably fucked.

  3. November 6, 2016 at 9:20 am

    America is a lie where everything is true but the truth. The Republic was always a pimp and Democracy was always its whore.

    The lesser of two evils is still evil and if you think electing either candidate is the solution, you just don’t want to acknowledge the problem.

  4. November 6, 2016 at 10:54 am

    It’s pretty pathetic when Hillary’s greatest plus is who she isn’t and her greatest minus is who she is.

  5. Robert Bennett
    November 6, 2016 at 2:37 pm

    Helen , I love your stuff and I agree that Clinton is a horrible candidate but I think the point is that in the current climate many feel that Trump is a real and present danger so it’s all aboard (albeit reluctantly) the Clinton boat. It’s a bit like so many issues today (terrorism, climate change, gay marriage…etc ) where the stakes are so high and the threats so imminent that each side believes that nuanced views or appreciation of the shades of gray is tantamount to betrayal.
    Australians and American voters respond to fear equally well – is it any surprise that our politicians play that card reflexively (look how much scorn M Turnbull’s “exciting time to be an Australian” line attracted ” )

    • November 6, 2016 at 5:05 pm

      Yes. But you know. The go to war with Russia thing. You don’t think that’s a real worry?
      And that we shouldn’t seriously discuss Trump’s claim that he wishes to avoid it?
      I know there’s all this concern about the pumpkin having the nuclear codes (and, please, same sex marriage, which is legal in any case in the US is hardly up there with that threat) but Clinton has a proven war hawk record, and is absolutely threatening “justice” against a nation that simply hasn’t provoked it. And we are to say “well gee she is obviously qualified”? For what? Qualified to wage reckless, possibly self-serving war. Well, yes she is.

  6. Anita
    November 6, 2016 at 4:32 pm

    In the unlikely circumstance Trump wins, do you think it will finally bring about socialist revolution? Or just make the capitalists worse? Serious question. I can’t stand HC either for all the cogent reasons you’ve espoused.

    • November 6, 2016 at 5:02 pm

      The two things aren’t mutually exclusive: capitalism gets worse, socialists get motivated.
      But, geez, no. The ideology is too strong for a revolution, the left too weak.

      • November 6, 2016 at 5:15 pm

        Which is to say, it’s idealism of the worst order to hope that Trump will bring about anything good. Neither nominee will. I have heard Susan Sarandon say these Trotskyist things, and it is cheering, but ultimately silly.
        The point is to talk about what we do want, as people who are impacted by US foreign policy and trade. Clearly, the way the US does business is not good for the world or their own nation. And this doesn’t even mean “have a revolution and start again”. I mean, brilliant etc and bring it on. It’s more to look at the very moderate and achievable possibilities set forth by someone like Sanders. He’s not a revolutionary. Not even a socialist. He is a New Deal guy who proposes, as Yanis Varoufakis did in Greece, a way to stop capitalism from declining by taking on the proven method of demand side (the opposite of supply side or trickle down or Reagan-Clinton) economics. Middle out wealth. Very moderate.
        At this point, I would just be happy if someone like Reich resumed his position as Secretary. There is no big structural change on the way. As Varoufakis says, capitalism needs to save itself. And even a Marxist might agree with this in the present era. If we don’t civilise capital, the racists will win.
        Many actual socialist people I know loathe Varoufakis’ “confessions of an erratic Marxist”. And I know there are problems with his view on tax and the end of the welfare state. But I would say there is some sense in his proposal that what we need is some breathing space.
        The angry Marxist in me says “let the world burn! We can start again!” The centrist who lives in the actual world says “Geez. Can we have a bit of Keynes AND some leaders who explain it all to us in a coherent way so we are not shooting each other in the streets”.

  7. November 6, 2016 at 9:19 pm

    Bravo, these words sing with sweet and necessary fire!

    +1 also for Amy McQuire. Her work has been vital for a while, so all the more power to it. It would be great to have a mainstream debate about whether or not New Matilda and Crikey were over-dominating the media, rather than News Corp and Fairfax, or The Guardian for that matter…

    Congrats also for having this writing noticed by WikiLeaks, although being described as a pugnacious, scurrilous Helan would be off the mark. The western average consciousness is so thick that energised point-making is sorely needed. Especially when there’s a prevalent affect of mature seriousness, often laced with the hidden poison of “civil people have to make the tough decisions”. That is, drone-murder the 99% with rational authority. May all of us be slapped in the face. Constantly. We need it. And may there be a little more wise solidarity in fighting for the truth, such as you have done here.

    Everyone privileged enough to be literate in English needs to read The WikiLeaks Files. There can be found definitive answers about what the US Empire is truly up to in a global chess game against China and Russia. The rest of us are the pawns of Empire. All that bogan, national pride is an empty farce. Clinton’s inevitable, establishment consensus, rise to be the central cog in the machinery of darkness will herald terrible things to come if we do not collectively wake up. And what nightmare will we be delivered to? A Saudi/Qatari-USGov-SiliconValley triangle of power, ready to control the world renewable energy economy once the oil runs out, to have geopolitical pivot dominance over China/Russia, and turn the 99% into slave system with digital-leashes. No amount of brute bogan “such is life” chest beating is going to stop the tide where we too will be in the camps, or in the mines, or being used as batteries for Google Hive Mind bespoke artisan eco-village AI genocide robots. There must be Global Woke. We must keep on following the threads of energy where the truth thrives. I am grateful that much is allowed to still exist.

    Hopelessness. Just walk around our Malls – what hope do we have? But fight we must. None of us are pure saints, but we need to find in one another where we are fighting for the truth, the better way, and encourage that fight in one another. I can not fully agree with a Chomsky, Foucault, Zizek, Varoufarkis, Snowden, Greenwald, Klein, Assange, or whoever, but I can choose to find what rich goodness they reveal in the broad fight against a common foe. Affirm the common-good in each and all. Ideas, not egos. Hopelessness is fought by firmly holding space for brilliant ideas. It is service.

    It is an interesting debate regarding whether WikiLeaks is curating enough in terms of redaction. It would take some robust thinking to engage with the idea of what privacy is sacred and what is not in 2016. To what extent is the bourgeois Washington Elite exempt from radical transparency? Anyone who can afford lobster? Who decides where the line is drawn? I can see your point of view about careful redaction, which makes me recall a discussion that Greenwald and Klein had about WikiLeaks’ non-redaction. While this all seemed measured and well considered, part of me felt like I was being served up a cold plate of limp. WikiLeaks, while being a publisher, is clearly engaged in mental warfare. Remember the fog of war. What is a war crime? Like you say, a dead body is a dead body. Does this apply in the same way for the mental sphere and matters of privacy? Who is pure? Who is a saint? WikiLeaks are playing this game of chess very strategically, with an eye to stripping the Empire naked as never before. If one ‘plays fair’ then what chance for better life on Earth lost? Can the human race work it out without any more blood being spilt? Doubtful. No, this does not excuse injustice, nor does it excuse the violation of privacies that should be kept sacred. What to do? What to think? Yes, we grab both popcorn and armour.

    Cheers and thanks.

    • November 7, 2016 at 11:13 am

      Oh, and two other things I forgot to mention:

      A very, very minor objection: There is quite a persistent misconception that Assange has been charged under Swedish law, where the fact of the matter is that he is wanted for questioning. The difference is crucial, even if Swedish law defines these things differently. Even more absurd was the fact that he was already cleared by a previous prosecutor, before Marianne Ny took over as the obvious servant for US interests. This is further explained here under point 2: https://justice4assange.com/Assange-Case-Fact-Checker.html This is not to say that perhaps Assange was up to no good, living the rock-star life and crossed boundaries where he shouldn’t have. If so, then of course justice must be done. But anyone who isn’t a programmed automaton of the Empire knows that he awaits Advanced Interrogation Methods as a western political prisoner. All the more fog to distract from what good work WikiLeaks does an organisation, as an idea full of power.

      And lastly, I really loved how you put into perspective that Russia has a similar GDP to Italy – gives things a sense of proportion. It’s a useful and easy to understand point.

      • November 8, 2016 at 11:00 am

        Yes. Quite right.
        I have corrected the error.
        *This* is why we need subeditors.

  8. Bab
    November 13, 2016 at 12:25 pm

    Hello Helen, prescient comments as always.

    In the same vein, there was an article by Kathleen Geier in the Nation that absolutely dead-set fucking nails it. I would encourage everyone to read it. She throws a lot of hard rights and connects with every punch:-

    https://www.thenation.com/article/inequality-between-women-is-crucial-to-understanding-hillarys-loss/

    “The class divisions between women came to a head in the 2016 election, when Big Feminism failed women, big-time.
    But if you’re a woman living paycheck to paycheck and worried sick over the ever-diminishing economic prospects for you and your children, you’re unlikely to be heavily invested in whether some lady centimillionaire will shatter the ultimate glass ceiling. Exacerbating the problem is that Clinton, the person whom feminists blithely assumed that working-class women would deeply identify with (because after all, didn’t they?) was such a painfully flawed candidate. In addition to a political record littered with betrayals of women, people of color, labor, and other key constituencies, she showed arrogance and terrible judgment by giving the Wall Street speeches and setting up her own State Department e-mail server. That was gross political malpractice.”

    and

    “But it’s not only the Democratic Party that is badly in need of reform. The feminist movement, too, needs to reorient itself. Feminists would be well-advised to ease up on pop culture navel-gazing and corporate pseudo-feminist drivel like Lean In. They need to shift their central focus from the glass ceiling to the sticky floor, which, after all, is the place where most women dwell. A feminism that delivers for working-class women by addressing their material needs could expand feminism’s base and bring about a much-needed feminist revival. A feminism that delivers for working-class women by addressing their material needs could radically expand feminism’s base. And should feminism once again become a vibrant bottom-up mass movement instead of a top-down elite concern, there’s no telling how far it could go.”

  9. David Mitchell
    November 18, 2016 at 7:22 pm

    Gees I love reading your stuff. I thought it was only me that thought Australia treated Ms Gillard disgracefully. I feel embarrassed to be Australian when I think about it and the Saudi stuff has been bothering me for decades especially since I’ve taken the time to find out what’s been going on there in the name of democracy. I thought I had a handle on Afghanistan too having travelled for a year through the Kashmir many decades ago. Then I read the Kite Runner last year and realised that I had no idea whatsoever. The suffering in Syria is sickening and what are we talking about here? Trying to justify our treatment of some poor unfortunates that we locked up for political reasons on Nauru and PNG. Some of the best, most intelligent and compassionate people that I have ever met have been women on school councils and other volunteer forums. In an ideal world they would have leadership roles and do good work. What actually happens is that, when a bloke starts yelling at them or insulting them, then they don’t want to play anymore ( hell I don’t want to play anymore when it happens to me ! ) and so the only women who seem to get to the top are hard, bombastic women. This is ridiculous because the reason that I want the compassionate, intelligent women there is to counter the bastards and the compassionate, intelligent women don’t want to know and go back to doing things that require compassion and intelligence without the competition and abuse. In the words of Leonard Cohen ” I wish the women would hurry up and take over.

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