You Might Be Sexist If You Call Hillary Clinton 'Polarizing.' Or 'Secretive.' Or Anything Else Bad.

"You are on notice that we will be watching, reading, listening and protesting coded sexism."


Hillary Clinton
Frank Plitt / Wikimedia Commons

You shouldn't note that Hillary Clinton is polarizing. You sure as hell better not call her ambitious or inevitable, either. And whatever you do, don't say she's out of touch or represents the past. These are sexist code words, and political reporters should stay away from them, a pro-Clinton activist warned The New York Times.

NYT reporter Amy Chozick received an email from a group titled "Hillary Clinton Super Volunteers" that instructed her not to use 13 different adjectives to describe the likely Democratic presidential candidate. Chozick tweeted parts of the email: "You are on notice that we will be watching, reading, listening and protesting coded sexism," it read.

Who is the "we" in that sentence? The HRC Super Volunteers' own Twitter profile is hardly daunting; it only has 145 Followers (as of the time I'm writing this article) and a handful of Tweets. This does not exactly suggest some network of highly influential, numerous, or dedicated grassroots activists.

The Daily Mail's Francesca Chambers did a little bit of digging and found out that the account is run by John West, a Chicago-area landscaper and former male model who hosted a Clinton event at his home recently. West was involved in Clinton's 2008 campaign; he claims to be involved with 600 "loosely affiliated" pro-Clinton activists:

'I wrote [the email] as an individual,' he said, and made clear that 'we will responding back, like any consumer.'

'We are consumers, and that's all this is,' he said, explaining that they are 'very sensitive' the the way that Clinton has been described in the media in the wake of her email scandal.

West said 'it's one thing to report, and be critical, and be fairly critical,' and another to call Clinton out for not acting in a transparent manner without balancing reports with a critique of the behavior of her predecessors at State or her competition for the White House.

The problem with his argument, of course, is that many if not most of these so-called sexist code words have been used to describe non-Clinton candidates—some of them men—as well.

As The Washington Post's Aaron Blake points out:

"Polarizing," for example, is a word that now describes pretty much every well-known politician in the country, up to and including Barack Obama and George W. Bush. The politician who isn't polarizing is the exception rather than the rule. And it usually means that the politician just isn't well known enough to be polarizing. Yet. …

As for "ambitious," nobody runs for president without having an extraordinary amount of ambition. Not Ted Cruz, not Barack Obama, notMitt Romney or Jeb Bush, and definitely not Bill Clinton — all of whom have had their unusual amount of ambition chewed over by the media.

More from Reason on Hillary Clinton's email scandal here.