For the past 30 years, people have been talking about Hillary Clinton’s “likability” factor. Some think she’s too calculating, willing to change her hair, dress, and speech just to garner more support. Others think she’s stilted and unapproachable, unable to loosen up and be vulnerable. Some think she’s a shameless panderer, willing to say or do anything to get minority votes – only to abandon them at the crucial moment. Still others think she’s “shrill,” screeching when she should be talking. It’s part of why the press didn’t like her in the ‘90s, why she lost to Barack Obama in 2008, and why some people won’t vote for her today.
We can talk about why this is – how she and Bill have been victims of a right-wing smear campaign for decades, the sexism inherent in our society, and her own awkward personality – but the fact of the matter is that many people just don’t like her. It happens, and despite her best efforts, there’s really nothing she can do about it.
It is, however, disheartening to see that she can’t like anything without being considered fake or a panderer. Take her interview with 105.1’s “The Breakfast Club,” a radio program that has a large black demographic. The interviewers asked what’s one thing she always keeps in her purse, and she responded, “Hot sauce.” Immediately, the radio hosts thought she was pandering to the black community and social media lost its mind over it. It doesn’t matter that this is something she’s been saying since 2008 or that she was known for keeping dozens of bottles of it in the White House in the ‘90s or that she started consuming hot peppers and hot sauce like candy almost 25 years ago – all that matters is that she “must” be fake.
Likewise, when she tried boba tea (bubble milk tea) in New York this week, people thought she was pandering to the Asian community, especially since she called it “chewy tea.” Once again, it doesn’t matter that she liked it or that she wanted to try a local business. It doesn’t matter that she is a 60-odd-year-old white woman so of course she’s going to think boba tea is weird the first time. All that matters is that she “must” be fake.
Look, even Hillary won’t deny that part of campaigning is finding ways to connect with the people you want to vote for you and that she has engaged in questionable campaign movements (Remember when she tried to tell people how she was like their abuela?), but not every part of her life is about impressing people. That is an exhausting and frankly impossible way to live. Sometimes, she just likes things or dislikes things or makes mistakes. That does not make her a “fake hag,” as I’ve seen bandied about on threads. You know what does make her fake? When, no matter how innocuous the statement, people jump down her throat. Then she has to try to please everyone. Then she has to grow ever more stilted and calculated. Then she has to hesitate and watch what she says.
Just let the woman be a person. Give her the same consideration we’re giving Bernie and the other male candidates. Stop castigating her for going on the subway while applauding Bernie for walking to work. Stop bitching when she dances with kids while high-fiving Bernie for playing basketball with them. Stop thinking she’s a disgusting creature when she takes risks, has fun, or exposes a frivolous part of her personality. Seriously, just let her be a person.