The Everest-sized mountain of male (and some female) opinions about why Hillary Clinton should not have written her latest book, What Happened, illustrates almost point by point the argument set forth in Joanna Russ’ great work, How To Suppress Women’s Writing. From the troll-based campaign to inundate her Amazon stats with one-star reviews, to opining that she really shouldn’t have written about her campaign experience at all, the overwhelming message from many is, “Little lady, shut up.”
But she did not shut up, and she did write a book, to the consternation of many who wish she would just go away. In some cases, they seem surprised to find that a graduate of Yale law school and long-time speaker could create an entertaining narrative:
Meanwhile, other voices, largely male, were less charitable:
Had it been good, it would have been an instant classic. It isn’t good, but it’s bad in ways that are instructive. It turns out Mrs. Clinton does not have a gift for genuine introspection; most of her acknowledgments of error are grudging and incomplete, or accompanied by passionate self-justifications and accusations of unfair and unjust treatment at the hands of Trump, the Republicans, the media, men, racists, right-wingers, Matt Lauer, and Bernie Sanders. It’s hard to blame her for this; most of us could not examine our own faults comfortably in print. But it makes the experience of reading the book somewhat tiresome.
~ John Podhoretz, Commentary Magazine
Translation: I don’t recognize my own experience in this, so it cannot be good. In the book, Hillary most assuredly takes the blame for her own defeat; I don’t find it grudging in the least. (Perhaps, Mr. Podhoretz, you find it difficult to read about feelings?) And to deny that other forces and characters were at work during a complex election season is unfair at best. (It’s worth noting that Russia Today’s headline read: Everyone’s fault but hers: Media reviews Hillary Clinton’s ‘What Happened.’) The comment about not having a gift for introspection is, I think, classic projection from a member of the media that is guilty of obsessing over emails while the Russia-Trump connection went unexamined.
Of course, there’s plenty of mansplaining to go around in reviews of her book:
Most revealing was the scene her publisher released as part of promo for the book: the debate where Trump acted like a “creep” stalking her across the stage. It was “one of those moments,” she wrote, “where you wish you could hit pause and ask everyone watching, ‘Well, what would you do?’ Do you stay calm or turn as say ‘Back up you creep.’”
Hit pause and poll the audience? Why not just react humanly? She was too disciplined, packaged, and cautious for that.
Robert L. Borosage, The Nation
Why not just react humanly? There’s the old Hillary-is-a-Robot narrative again. Gee, why would a woman who gets attacked whether she smiles, laughs, relaxes, frowns, withdraws, cries… Women are either too emotional or not emotional enough. Imagine, Robert, that you are running for president and that you are onstage for a very serious and important debate. Imagine that your opponent is acting like a stalker. What exactly should she have done that would not be taken as over-emotional, unhinged, shrill, hysterical? Here’s the thing, dude. YOU have the privilege to “react humanly” all the time without your intellect, emotional fitness, and temperament being questioned. (See: Donald Trump.) Hillary does not and never has. Most women do not. Damned if you do; damned if you don’t.
By the way, here’s how you describe Hillary’s performance on that stage, Robert: brave.
Michael Sainato at The Observer, clearly no fan, assumes that Hillary wrote the book for pragmatic and financial reasons:
On top of being an opportunity to make money and rehabilitate her image, the book gives Clinton further control over the narrative of the election.
Ah, yes, the automaton is just looking at her place in the history books and, of course, money. Because no writer on earth has ever cared to profit from their work.
Let me explain something to you guys who don’t understand what’s going on with this book. A number of the female reviewers get it, but some of you men don’t. What Happened describes an incredibly emotional period in this country. You’re not accustomed to thinking about things this way, but I assure you that we do, and the emotions of this time matter. Trump’s voters didn’t vote for him because of logic. They voted emotionally, from their gut. What the rest of us feel about this matters, too. When my wife and I started listening to Hillary read her book, my wife cried through the entire first part. We. Are. Sad. We’re upset. And by God, we are angry.
Hillary, bless her, says in her book that she will have to live the rest of her life knowing that she let us down. But Hillary couldn’t cast millions of votes for herself. The Comey letter DID make a difference. The Russian involvement DID make a difference. The media focus DID make a difference. There were many things involved, and in the end, we ended up with a sexually-assaulting, body-shaming, openly racist asshole in office. This felt like a collective slap in the face to every woman, immigrant, Muslim, and gay person. It still does. The winter of 2017 was a time of extreme grief and depression, and it’s still going on. The nation is divided and dispirited because that’s how we FEEL.
“I have come to terms with the fact that a lot of people — millions and millions of people — decided they just didn’t like me. Imagine what that feels like.”
~ Hillary Clinton
There are a lot of women who understand what this feels like. All they have to do is put themselves out there. Write. Speak. Run for office. Expose injustice. Be visible. There’s always an army of trolls with no self-esteem ready to try and sink them. The hatred of Hillary has never made sense, particularly from women, but it’s easy to see that a lot of men can’t stand to be outdone. Like the racists who are trying to undo everything the black guy did, the misogynists (often the same folks) would like to obliterate all traces of Hillary from the earth. So yes, we need this book.
We need to examine what happened, process it, understand it — work through our significant anger — and move forward. Hillary Clinton was the first serious nominee for president of the United States, but she won’t be the last. Women are not inferior creatures, who should hush up and care more about the opinions of men than about our own opinions of ourselves. No, no, no. We are done with that. And we don’t care what you think.