Disliking a woman is no excuse for misogyny
Hillary Clinton and Skyler White are prime examples of this
Despite attempts to prove the contrary, women are, in fact, people. And, like with all people, you sometimes encounter an asshole. Or someone you disagree with. Or someone that just rubs you the wrong way. And you react accordingly by talking shit about that person (even if you don’t – you do). So is it okay to say sexist things about a woman you don’t like?
Nope. The answer is no. I’ll just tell you that right now. As fun as it may seem at the time, you don’t want to go there. But why is that?
Well, let’s just start with the irrefutable fact that one of the most maligned people in society is an “unlikable” woman. Women who are often viewed favorably are women that appeal to us in some way: they’re pretty, they’re charming, and we want to be their best friend. If they have unappealing characteristics that stick out much more than their appealing ones, we forget that they are complex beings just like everyone else on this earth and just label them as bitch, slut, prude, etc.
The most striking example of this that comes to mind is the bafflingly large hate brigade against Skyler White on the TV series Breaking Bad.
For those who haven’t seen the show, Skyler is the wife of Walter White (former teacher and meth kingpin). Walter is considered one of the most complex and interesting characters in the history of television for his dark transformation throughout the series, while Skyler, and arguably complex character as well (albeit with less screen time) is just considered “unlikable.” Walter sells meth to leave money to his family after he dies, kills people in the process, puts his family in danger multiple times, and he’s considered a badass. Skyler cheats on her husband with whom she has a fraught relationship, launders money in order to help Walter in his efforts to make money for the family, tries to protect her family in the process, and she’s just considered an overall unlikable character.
This is just one small example, but it shows how women aren’t allowed any leeway in terms of personal complexity and flaws. If a man has flaws, he’s interesting. If a woman has flaws, she’s annoying.
The hatred of the “unlikable” woman doesn’t just exist in TV fandoms, but also in the field of politics. Consider a prominent female politician: Hillary Clinton. Clinton is the first presumptive female nominee of the Democratic party, a former Secretary of State, a former Senator, and a former First Lady.
Now put politics completely aside for a second, because that’s usually what we do anyway when we talk about women in politics. Yes, I see the big orange elephant in the room, but do it anyway. When you hear criticism about Hillary Clinton, what do you hear more often: criticism about her policies, her qualifications, and her voting record, or criticisms about her appearance, the sound of her voice, and her relationship with her husband?
Yes, to a certain extent, even male politicians are subject to petty remarks too. I just called Donald Trump orange in the last paragraph. But when you talk about Donald Trump, you’re also more likely to hear about his political positions and statement (his expensive wall, his disturbing fixation on banning Muslims, his use of the chilling term “my African-American“).
So why is it a problem to say sexist things about women you don’t find likable? Because it ends up being a problem for women overall. When you just call Skyler White “annoying” instead of listing concrete reasons why she might be poorly written, have no redeeming qualities, etc., you’re just saying “this woman has flaws and I don’t like my women with flaws.” When you call Hillary Clinton a “bitch” instead of actually providing policy-related or ideological reasons why you don’t like her, you’re just saying “this woman can’t do the job because I just don’t like her.”
If you make sexist remarks about one woman, you’re making sexist remarks about women everywhere. You’re saying that women have to fit your preferences for what is physically and personally appealing before you can even consider them fully as a human being. But that’s the thing–women are human beings. We have voices you may not like. We may not be attractive to you. But that’s not our problem because we aren’t alive to please you.