Fake Progressive Girls

by Alyssa Franke

If you’ve been on Tumblr lately, then you’ve probably seen these memes floating around.

They jokingly attempt to inform voters about where the Democratic presidential candidates stand on the issues that “really matter,” like Star Wars and Harry Potter.

Now, as a political nerd and a fangirl, I’m totally here for pop culture politics. I for one can’t wait to hear Bernie Sanders’ and Hillary Clinton’s positions on the exclusion of Rey from The Force Awakens merchandise and the use of “No-Maj” for American Muggles in Fantastic Beasts.

Except…that’s not the joke here.

What I’m supposed to be laughing at is the implication that Bernie Sanders is “one of us.” He’s a cool nerd, a genuine fan, a guy you could hang out with. The worst that can be said of Bernie in these memes is that he seems like a slightly overenthusiastic fanboy.

As for Hillary Clinton? Basically, she’s just another Fake Geek Girl.


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They’re meant as parody, but these memes expose the rather blatant sexism at the heart of much of the vitriol against Hillary Clinton in this primary. 

There are genuine criticisms that can be made of Hillary Clinton’s career and the policies that she has supported, but public suspicion about her “authenticity” and “relatability” sounds shockingly similar to the same sexist, gatekeeping bullshit that Geek Girls have been fighting against for years.

9e0A “Fake Geek Girl” meme

After gaining prominence and visibility in institutions where women have historically been excluded, ignored, and had their contributions rejected, Geek Girls and Progressive Girls have all faced the same backlash. We’ve had our passion judged, our motivations questioned, and our interests belittled and dismissed. We’ve been presented with impossible litmus tests designed to deny our our self-identification within these movements. And we’ve had our every behavior scrutinized, judged, and denigrated.

“Authenticity” is such a double-edged sword for women. Our excitement is seen as irritating, childish “squee.” Our passionate voices are “shrill.” Our anger is “hysterical” and “bitchy.” You mock us for our authenticity and when we modify our behavior to appease you, you have the gall to call us “inauthentic.”

Hillary can’t be like Bernie because we won’t let her. She can’t yell, she can’t scream, and she can’t show her passion and anger and frustration to the degree that he can. Hillary has been called shrill and hysterical and bitchy and so much worse. And when she adjusts her behavior, we call her “inauthentic.”

She can’t even be one of the cool nerds, like these memes assume she couldn’t be if she tried, because we won’t let her. For God’s sake, the woman closed out a Democratic debate with “May the Force be with you” the day after The Force Awakens premiered, and it’s probably because half her staff was “calling in sick” immediately after the debate ended. Had Bernie made the same joke, everyone would’ve been lovingly sharing those gifs with #dadjokes. But Hillary does it and suddenly people are sharing conspiracy theories that J.J. Abrams must’ve paid her to say it because he donated to her campaign. Y’all are joking when you share those conspiracy theories — or at least you’d better be — but it just shows how much more leeway we give to older white guys who awkwardly make pop culture jokes than we do any woman.

I’m not worried about Hillary, though. She’s dealt with this kind of bullshit for years and has faced much worse insults than “Fake Geek Girl.” What I’m concerned about is the way this gatekeeping is impacting the dialogue in this primary. 

I’m a Hillary supporter. And I’d like to share that support loudly and enthusiastically. You’re welcome to disagree, you’re welcome to discuss where your priorities differ and where you think Bernie is a better candidate. We can have civil, respectful, even productive disagreements in this primary.

But whenever I and other women share their support for Hillary Clinton, we come in for a disproportionate and truly horrifying amount of harassment. Women who support Hillary have been called every degrading slur possible — bitch, cunt, slut, whore. When a friend shared an article about the “Bernie Bro” phenomenon, a Bernie supporter called her a “Hillary Ho” (because obviously calling a woman a sexist and degrading slur is the same as calling a guy a lightly teasing expression?!?). 

We have been repeatedly accused of “voting with our vaginas.” This cissexist and misogynistic insult isn’t meant to imply, very reasonably, that we might possibly be voting for the candidate who we feel will protect our reproductive rights, fight to protect reproductive health care facilities like Planned Parenthood that serve marginalized and poorer communities, and fight to end policies like the Hyde Amendment. It’s meant to imply that our vaginas have magically gained sentience and have overwhelmed the parts of our brain capable of rational and logical thinking and forced us to vote for the candidate who also possesses a vagina.

We’re frequently told that our issues, particularly issues like reproductive rights, don’t matter. Or we’re told that political revolution will somehow simultaneously resolve our issues, without any further details on how this “revolution” will address the myriad of legislation in Congress and across the states limiting access to abortion and other reproductive healthcare. Neither of these responses is acceptable. Perhaps access to birth control and safe and legal abortion isn’t crucial for your health, wellbeing, and economic security, but it is for me and so many others I know, and those legitimate issues shouldn’t be dismissed or belittled.

It’s the same Fake Geek Girl pattern, repeating itself in the progressive community. Our passion is harshly judged and degraded, and any expression of support is met with constant harassment. Our interests and concerns are belittled and dismissed. And our support is assumed to be inauthentic and false. We’re just vaginas voting for another vagina, not legitimate voters expressing genuine and authentic concerns and policy differences.

And yes, #NotAllBernieBros. I know it’s not all Bernie Bros, many of them are my friends and have personally reached out to express their discomfort with the level of vitriol against Hillary Clinton and her supporters. But if your first impulse is to rush to tell me that not every Bernie supporter is like this, may I counter that perhaps you should instead spend your time policing your community and telling those who are harassing women to knock it off.

The progressive community is better than this. We have to be better than this.

So please, stop Fake Geek Girl-ing Hillary Clinton and her supporters. Stop attacking Hillary for being “inauthentic” and instead fight back against a system that attacks and degrades women for showing authentic passion and anger. Stop dismissing and belittling Hillary’s supporters and the issues they care about, and instead consider that both candidates pushing each other on issues that matter to the progressive community makes this party stronger. 

We need genuine discussion and debate in this primary. Leave the sexism and personal insults to the Republicans.

This post originally appeared on whovianfeminism.tumblr.com.

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