Hillary Clinton swept up a metric ton of delegates as a result of primary wins in Florida, Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina, and Ohio last week. Afterwards, she gave a victory speech. Now, I’m grateful whenever any cable outlet takes even a momentary break from their strict 24/7 coverage of Donald Trump. But this speech was difficult to listen to on account of how Hillary’s voice in rally settings sounds something a bit like “pterodactyl clawing its way down a chalkboard.” OK, not quite that bad, but it was really off-putting. I couldn’t even pay attention to the words she was saying because my instinct was to cover my ears, weep quietly, and leave the room.
Here’s the speech, which begins nicely enough.
Just listen from 2:00 to 2:30 and you’ll get a taste of it. It’s certainly not Geneva code torture, but it’s not enjoyable. As the speech continues, she shouts more, and her voice gets scratchier with odd instances of anger. By 6:30, her voice is seriously deteriorating. Trying to shout over her joyful supporters, she makes it worse. Before and after minute 11:00, as she begins shouting again, the midwestern accent and vocal chord damage are noticeable. The end, around 13:30, is borderline excruciating.
Like many other people, Hillary’s voice becomes less engaging the louder she speaks. And for some reason she frequently gets angry when giving victory speeches. Even Donald “I Insult Like An Emotionally Scarred 3rd Grader Who Misses His Mommy” Trump usually, if not always, switches to “somewhat decent” during his victory speeches.
Some of the millions of people watching Hillary last week noticed that she seemed angry while claiming victory. The friends I was with began discussing the pterodactyl (likely as a result of this funny and super short Maria Bramford sketch that you should listen to). I suggested she was unbearable to listen to (here and here, previously here). When I made comments, both male and female Twitter followers responded, mostly in agreement.
But some political reporters got extremely angry that people noticed Hillary sounding angry. Because, as we all know by now, you’re only allowed to notice things about male politicians, not female politicians. Here’s a Huffington Post reporter:
Multiple tweets tonight by prominent male media figures saying Hillary Clinton should stop shouting, smile more…
Amanda Terkel (@aterkel) March 16, 2016
Think Progress’ article was headlined, “Hillary Clinton Won Big Tuesday. Male Pundits Responded With These Sexist Tweets.”
The erudite Mashable site went with, “Bro news anchor tells Hillary Clinton to ‘smile’ because it’s her night.”
Here’s how NPR characterized widespread criticism of Hillary’s speaking style in a tweet to its 5.63 million followers:
Oh for crying out loud. Yes, MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough is male. Yes he wondered why, on such a big night for her, she wasn’t smiling more. While this is the year of extreme anger — and we have more than enough of that to go around in both political parties’ primaries — it’s also true that usually you are supposed to be happy when cleaning house on a major primary night.
NPR’s tweet — and accompanying story — play off of the fact that it’s super annoying when strangers on the street tell women to smile. These two things are not the same thing, not even close. Political analysts do, in part, analyze speeches and their delivery. Pick-up artists who tell women to smile should be punched. Joe Scarborough is not a pick-up artist and should not be punched. I mean, maybe he should be punched but not for doing his job well. He is a political commentator opining on the delivery of one of the most famous politicians in the world. It’s far more sexist to bash him in the style of the NPR story for noticing her delivery and accurately discussing it.
The other tweets were also spot on. And if lazy journalists bothered to follow a few female pundits outside their echo chambers, they might have realized that many women also don’t love Hillary’s style.
It’s also not sexist to notice that Hillary is untrustworthy. Even by politician standards, Hillary has a noteworthy problem with honesty. Perhaps you know this because you were alive in the 1990s. Perhaps you know this because you have active brain waves and follow the news lightly. Perhaps you know this because you listened to all the ways she has contradicted herself, since the beginning, about why she set up a private email server in her bathroom. Perhaps you know about her shady, off-book advisors who stood to profit off of our invasion of Libya. Perhaps you know this because you followed all the corrupt dealings of the Clinton Foundation. Or perhaps you know it because of a million other things.
If you listen to Amanda Marcotte, though, you’d notice Hillary’s trust problem only if you were sexist. She tweeted a link to a “fact” “checking” “analysis” arguing that Hillary hasn’t said more untrue things than others in recent weeks. She added the note:
What? How ridiculous. It does seem like we’ve been dealing with Clinton trustworthiness problems since ancient times, but really it’s only been a few decades. Here’s how one pundit responded:
He’s referencing the ways that the Clintons responded to the claims of alleged sexual abuse victims of Bill Clinton.
Not everything is sexism, despite our lazy media trying to fit everything into that box. Yes, Hillary likes to emphasize the fact that she’s a woman as a reason to vote for her for president. Fine. But noticing that she does not have the dulcet tones or speaking ability of an NPR host is not sexist. Neither is noticing that Bill and Hillary Clinton have legendary problems telling the truth. It’s not sexist. It’s not even that observant. It’s just obvious and true.