Filmmaker Michael Moore has a message for men when it comes to potentially electing the nation's first woman president: "Get over it." Moore, most recently known for his anti-Donald Trump documentary Michael Moore in TrumpLand, spoke to MSNBC's Chris Hayes on Nov. 1 about his support for a Hillary Clinton presidency. But Moore's warning for men arguably oversimplified things.
Hayes asked Moore to respond to a clip of President Barack Obama pointing out sexism against Clinton. "When a guy’s ambitious and out in the public arena and working hard, well that’s OK, but when a women does it suddenly you’re all like, ‘Well, why’s she doing that?’" Obama had said to the crowd.
"It’s the muscle memory of 10,000 years that’s in our DNA, where we’ve run the show forever," Moore said. “Next Tuesday possibly, hopefully, a woman is going to lead the most powerful country on Earth. In other words, the 10,000-year reign is over."
“That is an oversimplification, obviously?” Hayes asked, to which Moore said, “No, I don’t think so. First of all when you say oversimplification and men, you’re being slightly redundant.” Moore went on to compare the advent of women to political positions to the end of segregation. "The future came in, everything moved forward," Moore said.
Moore might have been trying to be supportive of women and individuals of color, but his words reinforce stereotypes that seem positive at first glance but actually have negative impacts. For one thing, by saying that "everything moved forward," in terms of racism, Moore erases the struggles of people of color who continue to face discrimination. The idea of "separate but equal" may officially be over, but housing and school segregation continues in this country due to poverty and bias against people of color, according to the NYU Furman Center.
And the idea that men are all "simple" plays into gender roles and stereotypes — the same types of troublesome gender stereotypes that promote the idea that women belong in the kitchen and men belong in office. Even so-called "positive" stereotypes, like the idea that women are more nurturing than men, or that Asians are good at math, can actually lead people to "choke" under the pressure of living up to these expectations, a Northwestern University study found.
Moore has tweeted about this idea of women being less likely to do reprehensible things than men, writing, "No women ever invented an atomic bomb, built a smoke stack, initiated a Holocaust, melted the polar ice caps or organized a school shooting." He continued, "Not that women can't. They just usually don't." This is highly inaccurate; women were part of teams that created atomic bombs. There were women among the high-ranking Nazis. They've shot their children. As Vox pointed out, it's not that women haven't done these things; it's that their actions aren't necessarily publicized.
To be fair, even Obama oversimplified a little in his speech about sexism. “I know that my wife is not just my equal, but my superior," he said. But the point here is not that women or men are superior to the other. The point is that, just like men, women are people — people who can commit horrible acts, but who can also save the world, have jobs, and govern.
Clinton doesn't deserve to be president just because "it's going to be a lot less stress on [men]," in Moore's words. Rather, she has the right to run for election because, as Hayes said, "it’s more about the fact that we’re all independent thinking citizens and we should be making judgments about who we think are the best.”
“Yeah, we should," Moore replied, "but we’re still guys," he finished, as Hayes protested in the background. Moore's message that a woman can be president isn't wrong, but the way he's going about spreading the word needs to change. Maybe he could take a couple of pages out of Hayes' book.