Before we dive in to this, I want to cut everyone off making the “Paste has it out for Hillary Clinton” argument. Yes, most of our writers turned this site into something of a Bernie-PAC during the primary, but not all of them. Go to my history from last year, and you will see me writing articles pleading with the progressive wing of the Democrats to move past our squabbles and support Clinton. I have never made a decision in a presidential primary faster than I did in 2016, and Hillary was the only choice for me given my political beliefs (this said far more about my available choices than her). I believe that Hillary Clinton is one of the most qualified candidates I have ever voted for at any level of public office, and I also believe that she should never run for anything ever again because she’s too radioactive (she’s also far more wonk than politician, which is the crux of most of her problems). This puts me in direct conflict with the online outrage machine, even though I was ostensibly on their team last summer.
Nothing is ever as simple as these Twitter mobs make them out to be, so let’s begin with the video which has caused an uproar amongst Hillary Clinton’s most ardent supporters.
In case you missed what is fueling this anger, it is literally one word from Maya Kosoff's three suggestions: knitting. Kosoff covers technology for Vanity Fair, and her great article from early November about the difficulty of policing Twitter is prescient in this case. Hillary Clinton supporters set the internet ablaze with Kosoff's seemingly harmless suggestion (that does have a sexist connotation to it, but I highly doubt that Kosoff was connoting it or the other example that I will use later), and they painted an entire magazine with a single word. Viewing this one word in context with the rest of these one minute videos makes it incredibly difficult to call Vanity Fair sexist, but that didn't stop the stampede.
Obviously, the optics of a man telling people that their sexism claim is illegitimate is not a good look—especially right now (although, a man telling a woman that her words—or word—were not meant how she said they were meant, but instead are the “nastiest, most sexist disgrace” is demonstrably worse, but I digress). I do not come alone in this fight, and the target of this sexist charge at Vanity Fair is a woman. This saga is another demonstration of the utter failure that is identity politics.
This isn't really about sexism. The anger is mainly pointed towards the fact that this video implores Hillary Clinton not to run for president again, and that anti-Hillary 2020 attitude is being framed as sexist (despite the fact that three women—Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren—have emerged to the forefront of the 2020 race for the Democratic nominee, which may have something to do with people's desire to not see Hillary run again).
Some see this as a cheap shot against a woman who has shown no public interest in running for president, and this is where the mob could trend back towards rationality if they abandoned their anger for reason. If you didn't like the video, that's fine. I didn't think it was good either. The jokes were milquetoast, and ultimately, it's a forgettable year-end piece of content. All of us content creators have made something we regret, and it should simply be chalked up to a swing and a miss. There are cogent arguments to be made against this trite video, like sarcastically dunking on it with data.
Or hanging it with its own hypocrisy.
Or simply dismissing its lack of importance.
This really isn't a big deal, but some Clintonistas can't just leave it at “well that was dumb, whatever.” They will throw their body on the train tracks to exempt Hillary from any criticism, even when no train is coming. They fire off righteous indignation and assume the context without earnestly looking for it. Here is a prime example.
Vanity Fair also did videos like this for Trump’s top economic advisor Gary Cohn, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and President Trump. Hillary is the only one of the four not serving public office, so it is fair to question why she was included in this batch of deplorables—but again, the righteous outrage doesn’t meet the seriousness of the crime. If this really were about Vanity Fair being sexist, this line from Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ video would assuredly be getting more attention: “it’s time to quit your day job, and double down on your penchant for taking pictures of the baked goods that you so love making.”
If Maya Kosoff had said that about Hillary instead of Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Clinton Twitter would be at DEFCON 1 as we speak. Lerner’s tweets at the top of this article about the message sent to women applies even more to Sanders’ video if they apply to Clinton’s, yet I have seen no rants from Clintonworld defending the White House Press Secretary—saying something like “no matter how much you accomplish, society will always be more comfortable with you in the private sphere, not the public one where you can exert power & influence.”
And this is the problem when Clinton sycophants cry sexism—they make it seem as if Hillary is the only politician capable of being victimized by sexism, when the lesson of #MeToo is that this shit is pervasive. If you want to fight Vanity Fair over alleged Hillary sexism, you’re telling on yourself by not including Sarah Huckabee Sanders in your charges. No one is immune from this pandemic of sexual harassment in America, and turning Hillary into a martyr over “knitting” while completely ignoring the “quit your job and focus on baking” insult to Sarah Huckabee Sanders proves your bias and betrays the seriousness of your charge.
Vanity Fair made some bad, boring videos about four public figures, yet one contextless word from one video about Hillary Clinton is presently defining the entire magazine—thanks to a handful of powerful online outrage merchants who are completely ignoring a contextless and far more stereotypical sexist trope that was levied at a Republican woman. When we talk about how social media is ruining our ability to converse with one another, this is a prime example.
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.