Bernie Sanders Is Facing Sexist Backlash That's Only Hurting Hillary Clinton
Throughout this election cycle, Bernie Sanders has earned a lot of love — and some hate — for his no-nonsense attitude. When he's ranting about corporate America in a way that most people's grandfathers do about the lost television clicker, it tends to be seen as endearing, genuine, and even hip. However, when he said, "Excuse me," to Hillary Clinton during a March debate, his cantankerousness was no longer construed as charming but sexist by many people. In that latter vein, Sanders is now facing criticism for telling Andrea Mitchell, "please do not moan to me about Hillary Clinton's problems."
On Wednesday during an interview with the Vermont senator, the MSNBC journalist made a series of comments sympathetic to Clinton's current position of having to fight critiques from both the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump, and Sanders. She pointed out to the Vermont senator that Clinton is "fighting two big candidates and you’re fighting one." Sanders immediately rebuked Mitchell's line of argument:
Andrea, in every state we have won, in 19 states we have had to take on the entire Democratic establishment. We've had to take on senators and governors and mayors and members of Congress. That's what we have taken on, so please do not moan to me about Hillary Clinton's problems.
That last clause "please do not moan to me about Hillary Clinton's problems" has earned Sanders the brunt of his latest backlash. A number of people have taken to Twitter to call out the Vermont senator for being unfairly insensitive in his response and even, to a degree, being sexist for using the word "moan."
Some went as far as saying that Sanders' comments, particularly the use of "moan," put him in the same league as Trump.
In case you forgot, Trump is a man who has referred to women, as Fox News' Megyn Kelly famously noted, as "‘fat pigs’, ‘dogs’, ‘slobs’, and ‘disgusting animals.'" And, of course, he later called Kelly a "bimbo" and made menstruation-related insults about her.
It's irksome to see Sanders receiving such flak for, essentially, appearing unsympathetic to Clinton, a person he is currently competing against for the Democratic nomination. It's not his responsibility to be worried about whether a person who wants to be commander in chief is being criticized too much. The fact that Sanders is being seen as somehow sexist — because of his choice of a single word — is especially disturbing to me. Overly reading meaning into "moan" is grating to a feminist, like myself, who wants to call out sexism when she sees it and not get bogged down in debating whether basic words are inherently loaded with an anti-woman bias. Folks, we have a presidential election where one candidate suggested women seeking illegal abortions should be punished (yes, he then backtracked) and another thanked women who "left their kitchens" to vote for him. We have some legitimate fish to fry — and a decidedly pro-choice, proudly self-declared feminist using the word "moan" and not overflowing with sympathy for his political rival is not one of them.
By the way, I think Clinton would be the first to say that she doesn't need Sanders' or anyone else's sympathy (even if she weren't, you know, the front-runner in this race). Clinton can more than handle facing criticism from opponents on both sides of the aisle.
In fact, I would argue it hurts Clinton, maybe even more than it hurts Sanders, when people are quick to criticize the Vermont senator for being too harsh/rude/abrasive in his response to Mitchell's question. To me, this backlash against Sanders does more to feed some completely false impression that Clinton is too sensitive or, even worse, too delicate to handle an aggressive debate than it does to paint Sanders as some anti-woman brute (which, regardless of how I feel about his other policies, I so sincerely believe he is not). If Clinton is elected president, she will almost certainly face actually sexist comments from the media and world officials — and I'm sure she is confident that she will persevere. Her supporters need to have that kind of faith in her, too.
Image: Caroline Wurtzel/Bustle