It’s been clear that Hillary Clinton and her camp have fired charges of sexism at Bernie Sanders and his supporters for the entirety of this election season.
Once the campaign heated up, certain criticisms the Vermont senator or supporters levied on Clinton were immediately twisted into proof that the Sanders campaign was operating on misogyny.
Clinton’s numerous mainstream media backers were more than willing to oblige in this manipulation and feed talking points to the pundits.
This occurred several times. When Sanders prevented Clinton from interrupting him during a Democratic debate and dared to say, “Excuse me, I’m talking,” the internet blew up with a myriad of think pieces, blasting Sanders for having the audacity of wanting to finish his point.
Late night hosts such as Samantha Bee piled on with censorious segments devoted to the incident, and CNN headlines weren’t even attempting to disguise the narrative they were shaping: “Is Sanders' 'Excuse me, I'm talking' line sexist?”
This was only the beginning. Following the debate, the idea of “Bernie Bros” took hold, as Clinton fans insisted that all Sanders supporters were young, privileged, white males intent on harassing women who backed Clinton.
It has been exposed that Bernie Bros were a concept cooked up by the Clinton camp in order to paint Sanders fans as inherently sexist (the exact same tactic they used in 2008 to fabricate the nonexistent “Obama Boys”). Yet mainstream journalists latched on, with everyone from the New York Times to The Atlantic bolstering the fictitious claim. Now, it’s impossible to argue in favor of Sanders without being labeled a Bernie Bro.
Other instances, such as protesters throwing dollar bills at a Clinton motorcade due to her grotesque fundraisers were also suddenly somehow sexist, as was when a Sanders surrogate called members of the Democratic Party “corporate democratic whores.” (While a poor choice of words, he was undoubtedly referring to their wedded corporate interests, rather than attempting to smear anyone’s gender.)
One of the most egregious examples came just last week, when a New York Times reporter asked Sanders if it was sexist to continue in the race, despite the unfavorable delegate math. Sanders was flabbergasted, as he should have been—how in the world can simply running against Clinton also be considered sexist?
These allegations were no mistake or misunderstanding. It was a calculated method used excessively by the Clinton campaign in order to tie any legitimate criticisms of her, whether it be her hawkishness or her allegiance to Wall Street, as sexist to even question.
Unfortunately, this line of attack will not work on Trump; it has watered down any actual misogynistic comments Trump has already made, and will continue to make as he and Clinton battle until the November election.
False accusations of sexism only delegitimize authentic sexist attacks and derail feminism—what Clinton has faced from Sanders and his supporters is valid criticism based on policy, never based on her gender. Condemning the most liberal senator in the country of this will ultimately likely backfire, as Trump is the true individual who holds no real regard for women.
Even recently, when Clinton was criticized for hypocritically wearing a $12,500 Armani jacket during a speech on income inequality, media outlets attempted to connect this to a sexist attack on her sartorial appearance (Mic told us “Why We Need To Shut Up About Hillary’s $12,000 Jacket Already”). These are all ridiculous claims—the criticism was a credible point concerning her privilege and inability to empathize with those facing income inequality.
At some point, despite the best efforts of the media, these charges of “sexism” will fall flat with the public and Trump will have free reign. The Clinton campaign made a short-sighted mistake when they attempted to smear Sanders as sexist, and they will be facing a much more formidable and truly sexist opponent in Trump.
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