Microaggresions and Hillary Clinton

I should come clean right now: I am a Hillary Clinton fan. In my view, this is a woman who has dedicated her life to championing the causes of education and access to healthcare for children and families. In the aftermath of the election last year (tears), I was surprised at the reasons that many people I know – otherwise reasonable people – didn’t vote for her. The discussion around her new book has brought these discussions back into focus for me because the same (somewhat surprising) vitriolic hate that inspired people to A) not show up to the voting booth or B) vote for a man so completely unqualified for public service seems to be rearing its ugly head again.

The hate perplexes me. Would people so fervently demand that Barack Obama retire from public life? How about George Bush? I’ve not heard anyone suggest other politicians basically disengage from public life, especially people who have had a large influence in the public sphere for decades.

Hillary Clinton is being told to go away, but she’s not going to because, well, she’s Hillary. She wouldn’t be where she is today had she listened to all the naysayers in her life. I can only assume that if you have a problem with Hillary Clinton – whether you’re a man or a woman – it’s rooted in sexism. You may not even realize it, but it’s there, simmering under the surface. So, this week I want to help you to dig a little deeper to understand how sexism impacts your daily life – because contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to consciously hate women to be sexist.

You’re a Participant in Our Culture

Look, just being an active member of the culture we live in predisposes you to give men privilege, especially white, straight, cisgender men. You actively participate in this culture or at least benefit from it in some way. So, while you don’t have to actively hate women in order to be sexist, your unconscious thoughts, words, or your small actions in everyday life can still be rooted in sexism, without realizing you’re even doing it. You know, like holding politicians that happen to be women to different standards than their white, male counterparts.

You’re probably saying “Now, just wait one minute – that’s not right at all!” It’s a tough pill to swallow for sure, but once you stop and look around you, then you can begin to recognize how it happens and what you can do to change it. Realizing that your actions are sexist really isn’t about you at all, it’s about other people. Think about how our society helps to create situations that are sexist and how you may perpetuate it without even realizing it. Private servers, anyone?

The Microaggressions of Sexism

Probably one of the biggest ways people contribute to a sexist culture is through microaggressions. A microaggression is defined as a subtle, small, and often unconscious action that ostracizes people in oppressed groups. These are the little things you may be doing every day that hurt people.

Microaggressions often rear their ugly heads as presumptions, stereotypes, or biases about groups of people. These things may not even be true, but they are reinforced by our culture as fact, leaking out into our words and actions. A great example of this is when men interrupt women in conversation. In the first Presidential debate last year, Trump interrupted Clinton 51 times in 90 minutes. He talked over her, which I admit happens to me quite frequently in daily life. That is a microaggression often perpetrated against women to belittle them publically, dismiss them, or assert power over them – whether you recognize you’re doing it or not.

Microaggressions are also rooted in the language we use every day. Referring to humans as “mankind” is a great example. Whether you realize it or not, referring to people as mankind instead of humankind expresses a belief that men are the most important part of the whole thing or at least deserve the first mention.

A few more microaggressions you may recognize:

  • Slut shaming
  • Victim blaming
  • Sexual harassment
  • Mansplaining
  • Sizeism
  • Mom shaming
  • Objectification
  • The wage gap
  • Gaslighting

Are you seeing the pattern here? And they say sexism doesn’t exist anymore.

What Can You Do

The first step is not to take any of this personally. Taking a look at the ways you participate in sexism can be tough and it’s certainly something that goes beyond whether you voted for Hillary Clinton or not. What you need to do is stop and listen when you get called out on something instead of arguing back that you love and revere women or are a feminist.

If you don’t think that sexism has influenced the way women are seen in this country or the way Hillary Clinton was treated during the election and continues to be treated, then please share whatever it is you’re smoking because you’re living in an alternate universe. Think about the ways your language, your actions, or even your passing comments impact the world around you and then tell me that we don’t need feminism anymore.

The most important thing is not to give up on kindness, just don’t be afraid to examine why you do, think, or say the things you do. Hillary Clinton is as good a place to start as any.