This week for Connect, I wrote about “Love Her, Love Her Not: The Hillary Paradox,” a book recently published by The Broad Side editor-in-chief, Joanne Bamberger and including writing from a local Savannah author, Lisa Solod. The book is a collection of essays that delve into the issue of Hillary’s likability. Anyone who’s paid even a lick of attention to current politics knows that everyone hates Hillary, and this book does a great job of trying to unpack why. I won’t get too much into the reasons why, because I think my article does a pretty good job (I hope!), but I’d like to address a point that I wasn’t able to include in my story.
Since Lisa and Joanne are both feminists who are familiar with politics, I wanted to talk about women’s involvement in politics, particularly among my own generation. I’ve heard a lot of women my age say that politics intimidate them and that they don’t want to get involved, but they decline to say why they don’t want to get involved. I find that curious and a little troublesome, so I wanted to ask these two ladies, who weren’t the least afraid to “get into politics,” their opinion on it. Lisa addressed the issue from the perspective of a woman trying to understand politics more, and Joanne addressed it from that of a woman trying to break into the political world.
Lisa: One of my guesses is that they’re being thrown a lot of information and they don’t know how to parse it, what’s accurate and what’s not. It takes hard work to figure out what the truth is — you have to go to four or five sites, read rumors, then figure out what the truth was. A lot of people don’t want to do that. It’s time-consuming, one, but people don’t know where to look for information.
I don’t like the way Bernie Sanders yells. He is very loud and I always feel like I’m being lectured. When Bernie starts yelling at me, all I see is Daddy screaming. It doesn’t connect with me. The guy has the right politics for me, but I shut down. You’ve got Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz — they’re all big screamers and they start yelling at each other, so watching a debate with a bunch of men yelling and being ugly to each other and insulting each other, yeah, that is intimidating. I get that. It’s not the way a lot of people want to spend their evening. It’s stressful, it’s scary. Are these people going to be running our country? You feel helpless, you don’t know how to push back.
There’s a disconnect. These candidates’ lives are so alien to ours, how they move in the world, that it’s hard to identify with them.
Women who are perfectly well-intentioned and probably great people don’t feel confident to make a decision which is, again, rather tragic because we need them to make those decisions. I’m not going to tell anyone how to vote, they just have to do it.
Joanne: I think [feeling intimidated] is true for a lot of women regardless of age that it’s just become so vitriolic, such a horrible game. “How many horrible things can I say about my opponent?” I think that’s why. I think that’s where the disconnect is with great groups and very well-meaning groups that try to encourage people to do that — they’re with the assumption that women are afraid to raise money and afraid to ask for money. I think there’s a tiny bit of that, but I don’t think that’s why women steer clear of it. You can get that training to knock on doors and fundraise, but I think the off-putting aspect is thinking you’re going to have to submit yourself and your family. Maybe for [the younger generation] there aren’t kids, but with people I know, if you have kids, they think, “Do I really want to subject my family to that?”
There’s one woman in Maryland I know who’s a state legislator; she’s a single mom with two kids. She does really great work, but she was going through a divorce and was seeing all these horrible, ridiculous, non-relevant things in her divorce proceedings.
I think women see that and say, “I will find other ways to get involved in my community.” I think that’s too bad because I don’t think we’re going to make changes until we get past 20 women in the Senate. We have to find women who are willing to say, “Okay, I’m just going to do it and accept this is part of the deal.”
I think these responses prompt a lot of questions about the way our political system is structured. Is the shouting by the male political candidates Lisa named done as a tool to gain dominance? Do they shout to intimidate women into voting for them, or do they shout because they assume they’re only appealing to a male audience? What about the vitriol candidates face that Joanne addressed? Do men check themselves around women, or do they unleash the vitriol around women because they use that as another form of bullying to force women into submission? These also bring up the question of whether a woman should “act like a man” to better fit into the patriarchal political system, or if she should carve out her own niche by ending the negativity. What appeals to voters more, vitriol or empathy? Shouting or level tones? Is there a happy medium we could achieve?
In any case, “Love Her, Love Her Not” is a must-read for anyone interested in the intersection of feminism and politics, and I hope you’ll check it out.