Hillary Clinton has denounced Bernie Sanders far more times
than she has denounced her friends Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Bill
Clinton, Ghislaine Maxwell and Jeffrey Epstein.
— tweet from Anonymous (the group)
On the same day that we learned about the zany
double-endorsement of Klobuchar and Warren by the execrable New York Times, the
capitalist press was also regurgitating remarks by Hillary Clinton which
included, “Nobody likes Bernie Sanders.”
In the past few weeks, we have seen the acknowledgement by
these stenographers for power that Senator Sanders is positioned, his army of
millions mustered, to grab the Democratic nomination. This was followed by a barrage of
smear campaigns dutifully echoed and amplified by that same capitalist press.
Hillary Clinton’s anti-Bernie jeremiad is just the latest. On the other hand,
her bomb went off like a wet squib and had the same anti-effect as the hit job
during that buffoonery they called a debate: Sanders’ fundraising spiked, and
the political semiosphere exploded with stuff like the Anonymous tweet above.
I admit to disliking Clinton, the Clintons actually, her and
Bill both. I dislike their perfidious center-right politics, but I also have a
problem with the way she attacked women who spoke out about Bill Clinton’s
career as a slimy sexual predator. It’s astonishing to me that she continues to
use the senescent playbook of the same handlers who engineered her loss to Trump.
Her judgement seems even more flawed than I could have imagined; on view as she
attempts to resurface in the post-#MeToo, post-Epstein “suicide” era — an era
that exposes Bill and her craven complicity with him.
Goldwater Girl meets the Rhodes Scholar who grew up in a
town built by the Irish mob. And she stands by her man — even if she despises
him . . . because she refused to sacrifice that stepping stone to her own embittered
At the same time that Elizabeth Warren is deploying
bourgeois “feminism” to tar Sanders with the “Bernie is a sexist” smear,
cribbed from the Clinton campaign, Clinton herself has popped up again . . .
like the perfect target.
Last year, Wipf and Stock, my publisher, released a little
book of film crit I did called Tough Gynes —
Violent Women in Film as Honorary Men.
It looked at nine films with violent
female leads, unpacking the bourgeois “feminist” tropes in these films that
correspond to “lean in,” “girl power,” and “post-feminist” feminism. Liberal
feminism, if you like. That brand of “feminism” which demands only the most
symbolic forms of “equality” by promoting women in positions of unjust power
instead of men . . . and which leaves the circumstances of the overwhelming
majority of women untouched. Instead of a golden bull-calf, we can worship a
golden cow-calf. There was one anomalous chapter in the book, which
deconstructed the film Michael Clayton
. I’m posting that chapter here, because
it mentions Clinton in the most compassionate way I know how, acknowledging the
double-bind of women ascending through the old ceilings of power, and I’ll
follow with a few concluding comments.
Chapter 6: Monstrous Women and the Idol of Success: Karen
Tilda Swinton, superb in Michael Clayton, makes a virtue of
being the only gal in her own otherwise male-dominated ensemble. Her
performance as the morally decentered opposition lawyer Karen Crowder is a
brilliant reproach to a frankly wretched part: the role is tinged with
misogyny, but Swinton makes Karen, with all her neurosis and terror, seem like
the stricken victim of a man’s world.1
I agree with Silverstein. Michael Clayton is partially
redeemed by Tilda Swinton’s performance from the clueless misogyny of its own
writer, director, and producers; because Swinton takes a Monstrous Female and
humanizes her in a way that bridges — in my view — the contradictions of a film
like this and the contradictions of women in the real world contesting for the
traditional power of men. When I saw Swinton’s “Karen Crowder,” I found myself
empathizing with her even in the face of her murderous calculations. I thought
of the real Hillary Clinton, not the persona she has been driven by her
ambition to project in public for so many years, but the more tragic private
one — obsessive, perpetually worried, terrified of any whiff of vulnerability
being discovered, and thereby cut off from the kind of vulnerability that is
the precondition of intimacy. Sacrificing all before the idol of success.2
Karen Crowder is not the main character in Michael Clayton,
Michael is, played by George Clooney. Along with Arthur Eden, the brilliant,
bipolar attorney at the mega-firm that employs Michael as its fixer. Michael is
“fixing” the problem of Arthur going off the rails as lead attorney defending
U-North (a kind of fictionalized Monsanto) in a class-action law suit over a
highly carcinogenic herbicide. Karen Crowder is U-North’s General Counsel, a
position that we can infer is relatively new, and relatively tentative, given
her obvious anxiety and obsequiousness in the company of her boss, CEO Don
Jeffries, and her embarrassed reference to a bumpy start in the not-too-distant
Karen Crowder is not the main character in this film, but
she is the main villain. She organizes a contract killing of Arthur, followed
by an attempted assassination of Michael Clayton, to neutralize the threat of
her employer losing its multi-billion-dollar class-action lawsuit.
In a sense, I am departing from the theme of honorary male
with Karen Crowder, because — even apart from the casual misogyny of the film —
Tilda Swinton’s performance hits inadvertently on a paradoxical truth about
real women trying to make it as honorary men in the real world of high-powered
politics and business. If it degrades men, it will degrade women. But that is
not what this film is meant to convey, at least by intent.
Let’s talk about misogyny first.
The writer and director, Tony Gilroy, is the author of the
screenplays for the Bourne series, high-powered, fast-action thrillers starring
Matt Damon as the amnesiac former government assassin, Jason Bourne. Gilroy was
nominated for an Academy Award for Michael Clayton, as were others; but his
comfort zone is obviously with the boys; and his one female action lead was
actually Jen, in Star Wars: Rogue One, which he co-wrote with Chris Weitz and
Gareth Edwards. Jen was a Smurfette, the only significant female part in an
otherwise all-male film. Jen kicked ass, for sure, and she was “hot.” [earlier
references in book to the trope of Exotic Hot Girl with a Gun]
Michael Clayton centers its initial action around the manic
monologue of Arthur Eden, after his middle-aged infatuation with Anna, a
nineteen-year-old member of one of the plaintiff families, triggers a
man-epiphany about the depth of the evil of the company he represents. This is
the Insider Becomes Outsider trope. Arthur’s monologue opens the film as a
voiceover, then the movie circles around to re-capture that monologue again in
person after Arthur is locked up for stripping naked at Anna’s deposition.
During this carpet-chewing monologue, Arthur describes his
Damascene moment, which happened while he was with two prostituted Lithuanian
women. Understand, that Arthur is meant to be the absolute most sympathetic
character in the whole film;3 and this is important, because as he describes
this epiphany — after he has understood the difference between Good and Evil —
I look up and there’s Marty in my office. He’s got some
champagne. He tells me we just hit 30,000 billable hours on U-North and he
wants to celebrate. So an hour later, I find myself in a whorehouse in Chelsea
with two Lithuanian redheads taking turns sucking my dick. I’m laying there and
I’m trying not to come and I wanna . . . I wanna make it last, so I start doing
the math. I think, “Thirty thousand hours, what is that? That’s 24 times 30.
That’s 720 hours in a month, 8760 hours in a year . . . No, wait, wait, wait!
Because it’s years! It’s lives! And the numbers are making me dizzy and, you
know . . . now, instead of trying not to come, I’m trying not to think, and I
can’t stop. I mean, is this me? Am I this freak organism that has been sent
here to sleep and eat . . . and defend this one horrific chain of carcinogenic
molecules? Is that my destiny? Is that my fate? Is that it, Michael? Is that my
grail? Two Lithuanian mouths on my cock? Is that the correct answer to the
multiple choice of me?
I’ll wager that this monologue strikes men and women
differently. I’ll further wager that many men will feel himpathy for Arthur
without giving much thought to how thoughtlessly he has simultaneously
objectified and marginalized two probable victims of sex trafficking4 whom he
has exploited with none of the remorse he now feels for defending his client.
Two women whom he reduces without a second thought to two
mouths on his cock, and is that his destiny, his grail, the answer to the
multiple choice of him. Because as we identify with Arthur, in his moment of
revelation, we know that it is all about Me. Man-Me. Those exploited women who
have been ordered by a pimp to stick Arthur’s rich, middle-aged dick in their
mouths are not the equivalent of (virginal) nineteen-year-old Anna, the
Midwestern farm girl who has stolen Arthur’s heart — “God’s perfect little
creature,” Arthur calls her — and inaugurated his redemption. Two throwaway
Lithuanian “redheads” are just part of Arthur’s symbolic background music,
Arthur’s account of probable rape5 being kind of funny and cute. Another “cute”
throwaway line is Michael himself, on the phone with another attorney, saying, “Look,
what can I say? Don’t piss off a motivated stripper.” Whore-Madonna, anyone?
The Monstrous Feminine takes a turn with Karen Crowder.
Generally speaking, the term, as coined by Barbara Creed,6 refers to men’s
sexual anxieties with regard to women, to toothy vaginas and castration
complexes. But with Crowder, who is systematically de-sexualized in the film,
her monstrosity is based on her inability to handle man-stuff in a man’s world
without resorting to the worst of the man’s world, in this case contract
killing through a shadowy Blackwater-type security agency. So when one man,
Arthur Eden, suddenly faces a moral dilemma and tries to put justice aright
(albeit by breaking his oath as a lawyer) for the virginal nineteen-year-old
Anna and her family, it is the woman Karen Crowder’s inability to deal with the
crisis that leads her to a fatal escalation — which, by the way, will be put
aright by another man who comes face to face with his own moral dilemma —
Michael Clayton (joining the Insider Becomes Outsider trope).
Crowder’s de-sexualization — accomplished with unflattering
shots of her rubbing her sweaty armpits and non-provocatively half dressed in a
hotel room, emphasizing rolls of fat along her midsection, dressed for work in
suits that efface any hint of sexuality — highlights her loss of (sexually
attractive) womanhood (in the mind of the writer-director) as she attempts to
make it in the world of real (ruthlessly competitive) men.7
Her loss of womanhood, in contrast to the fair Anna, is
precisely the basis of her monstrosity, monster in its meaning as something
that deviates from the norm.8
Crowder’s “unexcused” incompetence raises the damning
possibility that women per se may be ill-suited for the world of high-powered
lawyers. This is a more troubling conclusion than other lawyer films that imply
women can be competent lawyers if they reconcile the inherent tensions between
their professional and personal lives. Karen Crowder epitomizes the depravity
that exists once women venture from the private sphere [not the position of the author], where they are thought
to find their ultimate satisfaction, into the public sphere of the legal world.
Stripped of her femininity, she is a shell of a human being with no sense of
purpose, no significant personal relationships, and no redeeming personal
traits. Whereas being a workaholic can be seen as a sign of passion and
dedication in a man, in a woman it is portrayed as a sign of weakness. With no
sense of self, she looks to other people for answers, for confirmation of her
role and identity. With her entire identity defined by her performance as
general counsel of U-North, Crowder does the unthinkable [contract killing].9
Karen Crowder becomes simultaneously the antithesis of both
sweet Anna and the Hot Chick with a Gun (redeemed, at least, by “fuckability” [earlier reference]).10 Her
character is an expression of men’s sense of dislocation in the face of women
with economic and political power. This male discomfort extends far back into
literary history. Just look at Chaucer and Shakespeare (un-reformulated by
decontextualized modern readings), when the monstrosity of women in power was
codified in philosophy and law, and this same trope re-emerging in Michael
Clayton is as unsurprising as men’s casual acceptance of the story line and the
narrative’s casual misogyny.
The distorted image of women lawyers in film is fairly
widespread and is the subject of frequent commentary. Most women lawyers in
1980s and 1990s films are unmarried or divorced, struggling to reconcile their
professional lives with their personal lives . . . The prevalent theme in these
films is that women cannot exist in the legal world without sacrificing their
“female self” — their roles as mother, daughter, wife, or girlfriend.11
Compare this with the spate of popular ruthless (black!)
women-in-power series that now dominates the television scene (How to Get Away
with Murder, Scandal), and we can gain a glimpse of three different, related
phenomena: how reactionary Karen Crowder’s character is, how popular race and
gender decoys can conceal actual power structures, and how modernity’s moral
anchor, stretching its line back into the past, has broken loose and left us
ethically adrift. In Murder and Scandal, two different but both brilliant
professional black women — both trained as lawyers — are portrayed as
successfully playing hardball with the Big Boys, amorally and ruthlessly so,
each with a multi-racial, sexually-diverse posse, who bang their ways through
hyperactive, life-and-death plot twists with the alacrity of Serena Williams
knifing back fast serves at the Australian Open. Annalise Keating (Viola Davis)
and Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington), characters created by a very successful
African American woman — Shonda Rhimes — represent black women who have “made
it,” albeit at the expense of nearly all remaining moral ground (a postmodern
conceit), in ways that look remarkably post-racial and post-feminist (both
characters are highly sexualized; and both series use a good deal of fast and
furious sex involving almost all the main characters to salaciously retain
their tempo). In the real world of the audience, however, the majority of
racial minorities and/or women are still getting the shitty end of the stick.
This is classic race-gender decoy signaling (falsely) that
if you work hard (and set aside any moral scruples) you can make it (in the
white “meritocracy”). It abandons any and all criticism of the actual system
within which these women are “succeeding.” This, in turn, indicts our
“post-theoretical,” post-modern period. Old moral strictures held on through
the evolution of a political economy based on avarice and ruthlessness, waning
vestiges of some long-forgotten attachment to actual human virtues. Now they
are being discarded in favor of raw power, and that raw power is celebrated as
virtue; just as symbolism (underdogs “making it”) comes to trump reality:
unreconstructed racial and gender inequality created and maintained by the very
system within which that inequality nests.
Karen Crowder is meant as a warning from men to women, an
old fashioned one that predates the MTV kick-and-punch narrative pace and
post-Tarantino moral destitution of Scandal and Murder. It says that at the end
of gender, as a system that divides power between men and women, is chaos and
horror. In a very real sense, Michael Clayton is a 1970s Reluctant Hero
trope,12 and women are seen through that (male) lens. This is why the
predominantly old, white, male Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was
quick to bestow multiple Oscar nominations on the film. It was familiar: film
noir (concrete jungle), hero-lawyer (male), Insider Becomes Outsider (male),
Western (white male, reluctant hero). This is why many of us enjoyed the film
with our first uncritical viewing. The conventions were familiar, the
production values high, and we like those things for the same reason I can eat
a large bag of Twizzlers — they’re tasty, strangely addictive and familiar
satisfactions without much nutrition.
Katarzyna Poloczek makes some interesting observations about
Michael Clayton and Karen Crowder in her essay, “From the Kitchen into the Bathroom.”13 Women characters, prior to the backlash against feminism, were portrayed in the kitchen: the Angel in the Kitchen trope. Think I Love
Lucy, Leave it to Beaver, Little House on the Prairie, and more recently Soul
Food. Poloczek notes that as women were confronted (in the male mind) with the
drawbacks of feminism, the site of their angst became the bathroom. She cites
episodes of House, Black Swan, and Michael Clayton.
In Michael Clayton, this happens in the first scene after
the opening sequence in which Michael’s car is mysteriously blown up. We flash
back. On screen: “Four days earlier.” We are in the swarming hive of the big
law firm, “Kenner, Back & Ledeen.” One lawyer approaches another with a
telephone, announcing, “It’s that cunt from the Wall Street Journal,” whereupon
his Big Boss takes this unseen but uppity “cunt” and puts her quickly and soundly
in her place. That’s what the “cunt” gets for playing with the Big Boys. The
next thing the boss asks, during a frantic midnight crisis management scene in
the Big Office, is, “Where in the fuck is Karen Crowder?” Her name called,
Karen does not make her entrance in the film with the protagonist’s first-scene
backlighting. Instead, we find her cowering in a bathroom stall, mouth agape,
overwhelmed with anxiety, lifting up her arm and showing the audience a huge
sweat stain that would have been covered by her suit jacket.
Likewise, throughout the rest of the film, the official game
of (self) deception that the Swinton character plays is interrupted and
undermined mainly in the bathroom scenes where the nearly out-of-her-mind woman
puts aside her professional mask, and we can discern her true emotions. Unseen
and unjudged by others, it is only in the bathroom that Crowder can be in touch
with her body and her real feelings. Karen escapes to the bathroom each time
when the situation becomes too overwhelming and when she is about to lose
control. The audience examines Karen’s exposed body, with all its
imperfections, corporeal fluids, and strained nerves when her entire organism
revolts against what her mind is rationalizing.14
Paradoxically, these are the most compelling scenes in the
film, in my opinion. In spite of the male misogyny that permeated this film and
motivated her scenes, Swinton humanized them with her amazing performance. They
confront us with a reality for women trying to make it in a “man’s world” that
is difficult to acknowledge without setting the stage for certain ideological
confusions. This is where I think we can usefully compare the fictional
character of Karen Crowder with the real politician, Hillary Clinton.
Managing a public persona, especially for people driven by
powerful ambitions, requires the most profound kind of compartmentalization —
the separating out of one’s performances, even one’s professional duties and
obligations, from all other aspects of one’s life that might be categorized as
personal. There is no more emblematic role for compartmentalizing than that of
the combat soldier, who might engage in the most barbarous kinds of violence
and calculated cruelty in a war zone, then be expected to behave in
dramatically different ways as a brother, husband, or father.15
In an interview, Tilda Swinton explained how she got into
character for Karen Crowder, saying, “For me, she is like a soldier. She wears
a uniform. She follows the flag. It is reductive to think this is only about
lawyers or America. It’s about systems that require people to leave themselves
outside while following orders.” Swinton went on to describe Crowder as a “good
girl” who wanted to do a good job, but in her need to prove herself surrendered
to desperate measures. “My lawyer was at the screening . . .” said Swinton,
“and I said to her, ‘Tell me this isn’t true.’ And she said, ‘Well, I believe
Hillary Clinton began running for the presidency of the
United States sometime between 1992 and 2000. We can’t read her mind about
exactly when she set her cap for it;17 but in 2000, she changed her address to
New York for the express purpose of using her and former President Clinton’s
political capital to run for the safe, soon-to-be vacated US Senate seat of Daniel
Patrick Moynihan. Few people doubt that this move was calculated as the logical
springboard for an eventual presidential run, or she’d have run for Senate in
Arkansas. When she did run in 2008, her willingness to perform in accordance
with the cynical machinations of several of her husband’s former managers
(winning her a reputation as a highly scripted, and even wooden candidate)
backfired in South Carolina, and set Barack Obama on a course to defeat her for
the nomination. Her consolation prize was to be appointed Secretary of State,
whereupon she very predictably threw her hat back into the ring for 2016. What
was going to be a party coronation ran into a roadblock as a populist revolt
threw up Bernie Sanders, an avowed “democratic socialist,” as a serious primary
opponent. The rest, we know, is history, as she was narrowly and stunningly
defeated by the unlikely, terrifyingly stupid, and dimly venal Donald Trump.
Politics is gendered, and when anyone is running for
President, the highly gendered question is raised, again and again, of who is
tough enough (read: macho enough) to be a “strong Commander-in-Chief.” Clinton
knew this, and as a Senator, she was already erring on the side of military
action, voting yes on every military action proposed, including the disastrous
war in Iraq. As Secretary of State, she hawkishly promoted the expansion of US
attacks from two to seven nations, the (again disastrous) overthrow of Libya by
military action, and even facilitating a coup d’etat against a democratic government
in Honduras. No one was going to out-macho her as Commander-in-Chief; and she
amassed a body count to prove it.
Like Karen Crowder, though, where men could get away with
doing these amoral man things in the tough “man’s world,” women were caught in
a double-bind. On the one hand, when you commit big crimes, you deserve to be
punished; and both women were willing to have others killed to get where they
wanted to be. On the other hand — and this recalls the contradictions of the O.
J. Simpson trial — the public sphere is infected with sexism (and racism), and
there is little doubt that the difference between the way Clinton was treated
for doing the same things that men had done was — for a substantial part of the
population — based on a profound double-standard. So, for some the opposition
to Clinton during the nomination process was based on opposition to particular
policies that were similarly opposed in their male guises by Bush and Obama.
For others, there was explicit sexism. And so many people found themselves
simultaneously opposing Clinton’s policies while trying to defend her from
attacks that were based on sexism, as well as defend themselves from those who
took any opposition to Clinton as evidence that they were guilty of sexism.
In the film, Michael Clayton, speaking for myself, I had a
glimpse, through Swinton’s portrayal, of the special price paid by women for
that kind of ambition — and I felt empathy for the character as she rehearsed
and rehearsed, fighting always with a kind of latent self-loathing at a
perceived inadequacy drilled into a woman for her lifetime, lapsing into a
terrible sadness between “takes” on her upcoming performance in that bathroom
mirror. And it makes me wonder about Clinton, in her moments of highly privatized
vulnerability, and how unbearably sad she may actually be. Justice aside,
because I’m not clean either. I was a combat soldier; and I committed brutal
actions in pursuit of my own ambition to prove some version of masculinity.
The danger here, in acknowledging the moral and emotional
cost for women who are trying to fill what were formerly male shoes, is
First, by focusing on the cost for women, we might miss what
is wrong with these forms of power in the first place;18 and second is that
anti-feminists will be quick to attempt, as Poloczek points out, laying this
issue at the feet of feminism for “taking women out of their proper roles,”
emboldening the anti-feminist backlash.
Has Hillary Clinton made herself over to be an honorary male
as a route to the top? I would suggest the answer is a qualified yes.
Traditionally male roles do not adapt themselves — or their “masculine”
character — to liberal feminists. The liberal feminist, if her goal is to “make
it” in the existing hierarchies, will be forced to adapt herself to the norms,
goals, and attitudes of the job description, developed by foregoing patriarchal
males within a meshwork of patriarchal social relations, some pregnant with
A related problem is the “cult of success.” For Christians [I
wrote this book from a Christian perspective], who follow
an itinerant beggar rabbi who was killed by the authorities, the notion of
meritocracy, and its “cult of success,” ought to be anathema. Moreover, the
“cult of success” mindset is one that easily substitutes individual and
symbolic success stories for the goal of systemic justice (for all). It is a
powerful temptation, because any group of people who have been systematically
put down by being told how they are unfit to “make it” will understandably
celebrate anyone who proves this particular claim of unfitness wrong —
simultaneously rebelling against the system while accepting and reiterating its
Hillary Clinton did make it, even if she didn’t make it to
the very top. And while I wonder about the price she paid, morally and
emotionally, to get there, I would ask the same question of the men who
Recognizing that her status as a woman really was an
impediment in a sexist society, I also have to recognize that the price she
paid may have been steeper than the price paid by men. In real life, I imagine
this is very difficult for her. Clinton did engage in directed violence, though
unlike Karen Crowder, who is represented as pursuing violent goals for personal
gain, Clinton — like all politicians — wrapped her violence in the flag and
characterized it as redemptive. In real life, it is true, she continues to
benefit from her status and power; but I wonder if she might also be sad in her
Karen Crowder, on the other hand, must be made to pay.
Ironically, now as a converted neophyte, Clayton executes
the conclusive justice on Karen . . . Clayton triumphantly and patronizingly
preaches Crowder a backlash lesson . . . “For such a smart person, you really
are lost, aren’t you?” . . . Swinton’s character seems to epitomize aptly . . .
the recent backlash against women. Ingenious as the acting performance is, it
does maintain the negative stereotypes of professional women clichés: Crowder
[note the surname, crowding in where she does not belong] is viewed as
desperate; an emotionally disturbed person with no personal life who decided to
build her career over the dead bodies of her competitors — not just for money
or power but to prove to men that she “can have it all.” She is ultimately
overcome and victimized by the very same patriarchal system that she tried to
serve so dutifully.19
In 2017, as the Weinstein revelations came out, Hillary
Clinton said of her old friend that she was “appalled.” Her appallment has
never extended to her estranged husband, and she is loathe to mention the name
“Epstein” now, because everyone knows that Bill and Jeffrey were tight.
In fact . . . and this is where the latest from Hillary is
the most indecipherable except as her handlers’ incompetence . . . in the era
of #MeToo, the best thing she would do for the Democratic Party establishment —
up to its neck in sexual predators — is to keep a low profile. So what’s going
Let’s begin with her own history of complicity in defense of
her own spouse. Surely she understands that this just re-exposes her, Bill, and
much of the geriatric Democratic establishment, to exactly the kind of
childishly simple opposition research that could sink political careers. Her
own bourgeois “feminism” is a fallen statue in the wake of #MeToo, a movement
that has put patriarchal sexual relations between men and women back at center
stage. It’s very difficult to say “believe women,” when you’ve tried to attack
and discredit the numerous victims of your own husband’s sexual predation.
Say their names: Juanita Broaddrick, Paula Jones, Gennifer
Flowers, Leslie Millwee, Kathleen Willey, Sandra Allen James . . . all asking
at once to Clinton’s bourgeois “feminism” what Sojourner Truth asked to the
Women’s Convention of 1851: “Ain’t I a woman?”
What’s going on, I suspect, is another Hail Mary play from
the establishment in their absolute panic about Sanders as he is positioned to
sweep Iowa, New Hampshire, and — with that momentum — Nevada . . . prior to
South Carolina and Super Tuesday. And like every play they’ve tried so far, it
will crash on the rocks, because they are using old maps to navigate a new
political terrain. They “really are lost.”
I believe they are trying to re-nominate her. Hulu is
featuring a miniseries on her, and the press is going nuts republishing her
remarks against Sanders. I think they’re floating trial balloons for a strategy
that involves inserting her into a brokered convention.
It’s an idiotic ploy, consistent in every way
with how they’ve snatched defeat from the jaws of victory again and again. And
every attack on Sanders, trying to paint him as a closet sexist over the last
week and a half, has resulted in backlash against the perpetrators, a
continuing loss of credibility among the sycophantic press, and another surge
in support and fundraising for Sanders.
I want to tell them something about being in a hole . . .
stop digging. But they can’t hear. It’s like they’re trapped in a bubble that’s
broken away from the political firmament and started floating away . . .
further and further away from reality . . . and everyone in it listens to
everyone else obsessively saying the same things over and over, in complete
denial about the fact that they are no longer attached to anything.
1. Silverstein, Women & Hollywood.
2. Film that portrays this idolatry in men tends to redeem
the male protagonist from his personal failures by making him very good at his
job. Perhaps what will redeem films is when they can portray this idolatry in
men the same way they did for Karen Crowder. But, as it stands in this film,
Michael Clayton — also a failure in personal matters — is stereotypically
redeemed in the public/professional world by solving the whodunit and taking
down Crowder. Swinton’s portrayal does make Karen Crowder come across as a
victim, which I will argue is the truth in many respects about what happens to
women trying to “make it” as honorary men — the moral hazard of “equality” in a
world where men have the prerogative, even the obligation, to engage in
cutthroat competition. However, the film goes on to subvert Swinton’s
performance, and its implications, by depicting Crowder, and not patriarchal
cutthroat competition, as somehow monstrous.
3. A trope that Kate Mann calls “himpathy.”
4. “It’s lives!” But there are two Lithuanian women whose
lives are incidental.
5. Department of State, “Lithuania.” More than forty percent
of people trafficked from Lithuania are women and girls destined for the sex
trade, mostly in Britain and the United States. These women are under the constant
control of pimps, “broken in” by gang rape, often at the ages of fourteen to
fifteen, and “work” virtually as sex slaves. Therefore, anyone who pays
(ultimately pays a pimp) to have sex with them is engaging in nonconsensual
sex, i.e., rape. This condition of coerced servitude is true of most
prostituted women, and should give pause to the people who try to sanitize this
situation by calling prostitution “sex work,” and try to pass off this vicious
and highly-organized form of sexual exploitation as a “contractual” relation.
6. And seen through a Freudian-Lacanian frame, again.
7. There is a whole field of psychology, called “disgust
psychology,” studying how disgust is learned as a social policing mechanism.
Who is in? Who is out? There is a long history of hatred for the female body,
sexualized and de-sexualized, reinforced by culturally encoded disgust. This
exists alongside the idealization and sexualization of women’s bodies — which
are infantilized with compulsory hairlessness and thinness, demobilized in high
heels, and silenced in representation (with its opposites represented as
disgusting). The body’s boundaries are policed by socialized disgust; and
women’s bodies, as the boundaries that are breached, by menstruation,
lactation, and childbirth, are represented as disgusting objects. This
body-boundary disgust is symbolically associated with something called
“animal-reminder disgust,” which is likewise associated with the fear of death.
Culturally, the object of disgust is dealt with by expulsion, often using a
scapegoat mechanism. The object of disgust is expelled from within the social
boundary, exiled or destroyed. Karen Crowder will eventually be destroyed
figuratively (as she collapses to the floor) and expelled (arrested and
presumably sent to prison), this being the cathartic moment in the film.
8. Monstrosity for females comes in several guises:
castrator, bad mother, black widow, ambitious woman, etc. Mythically, monsters
are often “unnatural” hybrids — centaurs, minotaurs, etc. Androgyny, the
manifestation of both “masculine” and “feminine” characteristics, is still
perceived by many as monstrous, or “unnaturally” hybrid.
9. Banks, “Women Lawyers Betrayed,” 119.
10. The criterion of “fuckability,” reviewing now, is
related to the maintenance of men’s sexual prerogative, a perceived entitlement
to women’s bodies, and an entitlement to define women as sexual objects,
particularly in the face of women’s “incursions” into formerly male fields
apart from sex, like certain work and sports. It is a way in which men can
continue to “enclose” women, reducing them to a figuratively possessable
object. Where men are seeing their control over women diminished in other
fields, they will more aggressively reassert that control in the sexual realm.
You can have that gun in my story, as long as you meet my “hotness” standard.
12. Kamir, “Michael Clayton,” para. 23.
13. Poloczek, “From the Kitchen to the Bathroom.”
15. Real combat soldiers are overwhelmingly men. The same
applies, however, to sisters, wives, and mothers in armed service.
16. Wloszczyna, “‘Clayton’ revives conspiracy genre,” para.
17. Carroll, “10 times.” She stated in 1994 that she wanted
to be the President, then played it off as a joke. By 2006, she admitted she
was “looking at it.”
18. Or the fact that men are, likewise, emotionally damaged
19. Poloczek, “From the Kitchen to the Bathroom,” 231.