Smarsh sees candidate burned at the stake: Did sexism and misogyny defeat Candidate Warren?
Sexism and misogyny on the part of the mainstream press? On the part of (Democratic Party) voters?
Sexism and misogyny on the part of black women in South Carolina? Also, to what extent did the sexism / misogyny of these various players bring Warren's effort down?
In theory, these are important questions. In practice, they've often been treated like toys. Consider some of the things which were said, in our most revered newspapers, as the keening and wailing began in the wake of Warren's departure from the race.
Start with Monica Hesse, the Washington Post's "first gender columnist." On Friday, March 6, she offered this assessment:
HESSE (3/6/20): From almost the beginning, [Warren's] candidacy was haunted by the gauzy, shapeless specter of sexism, which it turns out is the worst kind of sexism, because some people can feel it in their bones and some people don’t believe it exists at all.Full disclosure—we'll discuss "electable" and likable" at some point next week.
Voters, especially Democrats, knew it wasn’t going to fly to call female candidates “she-devils” and “witchy,” as plenty of folks called Hillary Clinton back in 2016. Instead, this time around, they just had endless debates about being “electable” and what it meant to be “presidential,” and we decided that none of the female candidates—not Kamala Harris, not Kirsten Gillibrand, not Amy Klobuchar, not Tulsi Gabbard—were either of those things. Coincidentally.
As you can see, for Monica Hesse, it was sexism right from the start. Like an army of similar readers of script, Hesse didn't seem to have any doubts about this point.
As a general matter, Hesse can be relied upon to say whatever feels good. But how about that claim about Candidate Clinton in 2016? Did "plenty of folks" call her "witchy" and "a she-devil" during that race, as Hesse now pleasingly said?
How odd! Hesse offered no example of same; online, she provided no links to any such statements. For ourselves, we haven't found any such statements in somewhat cursory online searches, although we feel sure that if, you search long and hard enough, you can eventually find someone saying whatever you wish for.
Citizens, can we talk? We don't think a whole lot of people called Clinton "witchy" or a "she-devil" during that campaign. She was called plenty of names along the way, with the progressive, liberal, Democratic and feminist worlds generally staring off into space until the year 2008, and fairly often thereafter.
Clinton was called every name in the book from 1992 on. But was she called those particular names by "plenty of folks" during that last campaign? We're going to guess that she was not, while noting again that Hesse provides no examples at all.
Hesse went on to offer the passage shown below. Sadly but unmistakably, this is how human minds work:
HESSE: Sometimes I wished that some Warren-doubting pundit would just let loose and call her the C-word on live television. At least then we could stop wondering if the sexism might all be in our heads.If only they'd make it hurt so good! Hesse, who pretty much shouldn't be in print, felt quite sure that she secretly knew what those (still unnamed) pundits secretly had in their heads.
If only they'd dropped a live C-bomb! Then we all would have know what they secretly meant!
People like that are playing with toys when they write newspaper columns; they're unhelpfully overwrought. Inevitably, along came the New York Times to go beyond Hesse's effort.
It fell to Sarah Smarsh to perform the task. Online, the headlines above her column say this:
I Am Burning With Fury and Grief Over Elizabeth Warren. And I Am Not Alone.Poor Hesse had been left in the dust! As she burned with fury and grief, Smarsh started her column as shown below, after a Wichita dateline:
She might not be bound for the presidency, but she has lodged herself in another powerful place: the female psyche.
SMARSH (3/6/20): Consider every moment, since the dawn of woman, when a female aspired but to no avail. She asked to attend school but was denied. She raised her hand but wasn’t called on. She applied but wasn’t hired. She enlisted but wasn’t deployed. She created but wasn’t credited. She ran but wasn’t elected.For Smarsh, it wasn't enough to imagine The Others dropping C-bombs on live TV. She asked readers to "consider every moment, since the dawn of woman, when a female aspired but to no avail."
Imagine the sadness and frustration of every such instance as a spark, their combined energy the size of many suns. That is the measure of grief and fury I felt rise inside me as I watched Elizabeth Warren’s bid for the Democratic nomination wane.
When Hillary Clinton lost in 2016, it hurt in similar ways but didn’t surprise me. Out here in the red hinterlands, it was plain to some of us that centrist ideas did not excite in times of historic inequality. This election, though, I thought Senator Elizabeth Warren—a class revolutionary to match the moment—might go to the White House.
It turns out that she won’t even go to the general election. Now the same pundits who in 2016 proved they know very little will list the reasons, without realizing they’re among the reasons.
Only if readers took that step could they imagine the size of this privileged person's "grief and fury." Before long, she was picturing this, as she lounged on the Florida sands:
SMARSH: After the fund-raiser and after watching Ms. Warren’s dismal returns on a hotel television, I spent the next day on the beach with a Geraldine Brooks novel I’d randomly purchased at a bookstore on Sanibel Island. The book, it turned out, was about a bright girl in the Massachusetts Bay Colony who is indentured as a servant in Cambridge to pay for her brother’s academic studies. Along the way, she tends the miscarriage of a girl whose rapist goes unpunished.In fairness, that is correct! "A woman must step aside as a man"--a man who received way more votes--"ascends to [his party's nomination]."
I looked out at the sea and considered that, for all our advancing on gender matters, the novel’s story is alive today: A woman must step aside as a man ascends to the presidency...
In fairness, that's the ways it's done. As we've noted,, long lists of fully qualified male candidates have "stepped aside" in this manner before.
(Ronald Reagan "stepped aside" in 1976. Four years later, so did Ted Kennedy. Sad!)
How sad! Like reams of presidential candidates before her, Smarsh's candidate wasn't going to win! In response, Smarsh wanted us to consider every time a female asked to attend school but was denied.
Today, in the modern actual world, women substantially outnumber men in college. But people like Smarsh have no time for what's real and actual now. Outperforming even Hesse, Smarsh decided to make it hurt so good by imagining every woman who was ever mistreated during the Middle Ages.
As she finished her opening passage, Smarsh pointed the finger at "the pundits" who were "among the reasons" why the best greatest candidate lost. But sure enough:
As she continued, she didn't cite any such pundit. Instead, in the self-involved manner of the modern memoirist, she recalled a conversation between her father and her grandmother in March 2019, a remembered conversation which sheds light on exactly nothing at all.
As you can see, Smarsh had already told us, in her opening passage, why Hillary Clinton lost. Her explanation had all the value of the latest rant from the red-faced drunk way down at the end of the bar. But so it goes as the New York Times pretends to offer analysis.
Monica Hesse wanted to hear C-bombs on TV. Smarsh wanted us to imagine how it felt when (female) witches were burned at the stake. When our young analysts read garbage like this, anthropologists appear to them, late at night, and explain such strangeness thusly:
This is the way the human race always "reasoned," these despondent future authorities say, speaking, as always, in the past tense as they discuss our kind.
It's been like this since the dawn of time, they glumly tell the youngsters. It was all our species was wired for, all we should really expect.
We intercede the following day with a bit of cool clear reason. "Imagine all the (white male?) editors who put keep putting this crap into print," we skillfully tell the youngsters.
Are those editors really helping women's interests? Are they advancing the human project? So we thoughtfully ask.