The Hillary Clinton campaign got a dose of millennial girl power over the weekend when Lena Dunham and American Ferrera, with a little help from Chelsea Clinton, held a California campaign event to talk about why they support Clinton and to point out where Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders differ on the issues. But between ticking off Clinton's long list of accomplishments, Dunham couldn't resist mentioning how shocked she is by all the hostility she's getting for supporting Clinton over Sanders.
"I have received more hostility for voting for a qualified female candidate than I have ever received anywhere from the American right wing," Dunham told the crowd, according to Variety. "The fact that other members of the Democratic Party have spoken to me like I was an ill informed child for voting for someone who represents everything I think this country should be is outrageous."
Outrageous is a good word for it. But the visceral anger Clinton inspires is hardly anything new. Clinton's been called every name in the book and been accused of just about anything and everything her political enemies can come up with. People hate Clinton and anyone willing to defend and support her immediately opens themselves up to attacks. It's not fair and it's not right, but it's the price of admission for a woman to rise to the most powerful job in the world.
Clinton has been the object of relentless attacks since she was first lady in the 1990s. Americans were appalled that a first lady would have opinions on policy matters like health care reform. And, as she's risen to positions of power in her own right, from Senator to Secretary of State, the attacks on her have only increased accordingly. Whitewater, Benghazi, the email servers, the list goes on. Why? I truly believe it's because people are fundamentally offended by a woman who dares to ask the American people to make her president. Republicans know their base despises her for her politics, for her husband (and personal life), but most importantly, for her ambition. Anyone who watched those 11 hours of Benghazi testimony was treated to a display of how deeply she is despised by Republicans (mostly men), and how easily other politicians are willing to capitalize on that by being the one to take her down. It's not enough to simply disagree with her positions on the issues — attacks against her are personal.
Here's an Instagram post from Dunham of Clinton's graduation picture. It got plenty of #feelthebern tags in reaction, but this comment is really gross, "Wow she's got multiple herpes on her bottom lip...all this time, we thought she was a lezbo."
Can you imagine someone making a comment that disgusting about any of the other presidential candidates? Nope.
Sanders is calling for a "revolution" and many of his supporters are being drawn into the political conversation because they're disillusioned and angry at the status quo. And, in all fairness, it doesn't get more status quo than Hillary Clinton, who's been in that national spotlight for decades. And that's a fair criticism. But the ease with which disagreements over her Wall Street ties and hawkish foreign policy deteriorate into sexism can be breathtaking. And it's important for young women to get a glimpse of the kind of relentless personal attacks Clinton deals with daily as a reminder of how far the fight for women's rights has come and the price women like Clinton have paid for that progress.
But she can take it and so can Dunham. Women who speak out and speak up have always been met with plenty of resistance. This is nothing new. But what's changed are the stakes. Dunham should look no further than Clinton for an example of how to react to the haters. All you need to do is dust off your pantsuit shoulder and get back to work.
Because the best way to silence the haters is to finally shatter that last, symbolic glass ceiling — the one that's kept a woman out of the White House. Then you can call Clinton whatever you want, just make sure you put a Mrs. President on the front of it first.