Diary

Warning: Even saying "hello" to Hillary Clinton could be dubbed sexist in the general election campaign

If Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee for president, watch out. The “war on women” will take on a whole new meaning. And here it is: Everything the Republican nominee says, whoever he is, will be criticized as sexist. Everything.

For the template on this strategy, look no farther than what’s happening as she battles Sen. Bernie Sanders for the nomination. The latest sexist offense he’s committed against Madame Secretary? He asked her to respond to a question in the April 14 debate with a “yes or no” answer. The topic was Social Security, and Sanders wanted to know if she supported legislation he believes will save the program. He pressed her to answer “yes or no.” Which, according to a Daily Kos writer, is “angry sexism,” especially when combined with his gestures and “height.”

I saw this complaint passed around social media with many “likes” and affirmations from Clinton supporters, most of them women. Yes, this is what we’ve come to–where aggressive debate stances used against men can’t be used against women because…it’s sexist to expect women to perform the same as men on the debate stage?

That’s not the only sexist complaint Clinton supporters have, though. Apparently, saying Hillary Clinton isn’t “qualified” to be president is sexist, too. Sanders was criticized for making this claim about Clinton because of the PAC money she raises. He subsequently walked back his comments, but not before the meme had raced through social media that Sanders, once again, was resorting to unfair rhetoric because…calling women candidates unqualified is a “pernicious” form of sexism.

Before these incidents bedeviled Sanders, there was the sexism of “Excuse me, I’m talking.” Yes, Sanders dared to say that during a debate when Clinton interrupted him, and he used some hand gestures while uttering the offensive words. I am not making this up. Google Bernie Sanders Sexist Interruptions. Or read this fairly benign Chicago Tribune column that explains what the poor guy did wrong. This incident, too, made its way throughout social media, once again with head nodding approval of those pointing out Sanders’s feminist perfidy.

Let’s take a deep breath here and acknowledge a few facts. Sen. Bernie Sanders is a socialist. Small s or big s — it doesn’t matter. He’s a true believer in the socialist approach. And whatever you think of his policy ideas, the man is supportive of feminist ideas and approaches. His age means he grew up in a time when men’s views on women weren’t as enlightened as they are now, but if he weren’t running against Hillary Clinton, can you imagine any Democrat accusing him of being a sexist? I can’t.

What I can imagine, quite easily and vividly, is Clinton supporters calling the Republican nominee a sexist if he so much as smiles the wrong way when he walks on the debate stage. So, be warned: the sexist label will be thrown around with wild abandon once we get to the general election. But maybe I’m sexist for saying so.

Libby Sternberg is a novelist. One of her publishers has informed her that digital copies of this book are on sale for a limited time, and she cannot resist promoting it.