It’s not a surprise to people that politicians tend to get attacked on social media these days. This is how campaigns seem to run in 2016. It is all too easy to see what someone’s political opinion is by going on their Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. And because politics are always a controversial topic, it is not a surprise that politicians get attacked via the Internet.
In the current presidential race, I have personally noticed a disturbing trend: attacks on Hillary Clinton seeming to be more than uncalled for. This first occurred to me one day on Twitter when I was scrolling through a trending hashtag, “#WhichHillary”, and found a photo of Hillary posing like a witch with a silhouette of the Wicked Witch of the West behind her and the hashtag had been changed to “#WitchHillary.” I was disgusted. For ages, older women have been compared to witches. In fairy tales, we know that the women who are witches were often depicted as extremely old, childless and husbandless. This was because this type of woman was the least desirable to the general public, and in many ways still is. To see this trend repeating itself in 2016 was alarming to say the least. What perhaps was even more surprising was that this tweet was posted by a Bernie Sanders supporter. Despite the fact that the two democratic candidates agree on most issues, I have witnessed the most hate for Hillary coming from Bernie supporters.
By doing a quick browse through Twitter, one can find plenty of hashtags making jabs at Hillary and several crude photos.
One account criticized Hillary’s choice of dress for being too yellow during one of the democratic debates. No one degrades male politicians like this. During a debate, the last thing anyone should care about is what the candidates were wearing. But history has shown that when women attempt to be involved in politics, they are infinitely judged for their fashion choices.
Other attacks at Hillary specifically involve her husband, former President of the United States, Bill Clinton. According to a Gallup poll that asked “And what would be the worst or most negative thing about a Hillary Clinton presidency?” four percent of respondents answered that the worst thing would be having Bill back in the White House. The general public seems to suspect that if Bill Clinton were to be in the White House he would either be making all of the decisions or Hillary would vote exactly the same as he did.
Incidentally, the latter position would harken back to an argument made during suffrage times. One of the reasons that people did not want women to have the right to vote was because they believed that women would vote the same as their husbands, so it would be pointless to give them the vote. The fact that the same argument is being made against a potential female president would indicate that society’s notion of women and politics may not have changed all that much in the past one hundred years.
To attack someone based solely on who they are as a person, rather than on their beliefs or opinions is a logical fallacy known as ad hominem. It’s illogical to say that a candidate would be a bad president based on what they wear. It is illogical to say that a candidate would be a bad president based on who they are married to. We need to be more proactive in catching ourselves when we use ad hominem in our political discussions. The media needs to call people out when they make ad hominem arguments. If we ever want to get things done politically we need to stop concerning ourselves with the unimportant elements of a candidate and focus more on their values, ideas and motivations; their clothes do not matter.