We Have a Long Way to Go: Anti-Hillary Clinton Buttons Stir Controversy

I have so much to learn. Here I am, thinking that the best way to criticize a politician with whom you either disagree, or who you simply do not like, is to explain why her policies or even personality bother you and why. How wrong can one person be?

The California Republican party recently held its annual convention. On display at the convention were anti-Hillary buttons. Fair enough, right? Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is a Democrat. So it is entirely predictable, even rational, that the members of the Grand Old Party would take aim at the presumptive front-runner for the Democratic nomination in the 2016 presidential election.

One can argue that it is not only rational, but in fact it is the job of one major political party to point out the differences that they have with the other major political party. These criticisms and discussions help to elucidate important distinctions between the parties and allow voters to make informed decisions at the ballot box. Voters need to know what the major political parties, and the politicians affiliated with those parties, stand for and believe in.

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While there are plenty of complaints about negative political advertisements, one person's attack advertisement is another person's fountain of educational information. There is nothing, in my opinion, inherently wrong with critical advertisements as long as they are substantive and include a reason for the criticism. (Too often, of course, they are not.) An advertisement that, for instance, criticizes a politician for her support of more stringent immigration rules, defining marriage as between a man and a woman, or the use of military force in Syria gives voters important information about that politician and the people behind the advertisement (assuming we are capable of identifying the source of the advertisement, which is a topic for another day).

And this brings me back to the buttons passed around at the California GOP annual convention, which state: "KFC Hillary Special: 2 Fat Thighs, 2 Small Breasts ... Left Wing." After reporter Carla Marinucci broke the news of the buttons with the above tweet, prompting outrage on social media, the buttons were disappeared, she said in a follow-up tweet. Nonetheless, let us pause for a moment while the sheer hideousness of that message sinks in. Please spare me the comments about this being all in good fun. It is not. These buttons not only a "joke" about Hillary's physique, but they also promote a certain view of the female body -- two small thighs, two big breasts.

Let me be clear. If the California Democratic party had handed out buttons "joking" about the bodies and appearances of say, Meg Whitman, Carly Fiorina, Michele Bachmann, or any other republican woman, I would feel the same level of disgust. This is not about differences in political ideology or policy. And isn't that the whole point? These buttons do not give me any useful information about Clinton or why the California GOP disagrees with her.

Instead the only information these buttons give me is that their creators and distributors have terrible judgment.

And there's more.

These buttons also show that it is still, in 2013, permissible to take aim at a female politician's body. It shouldn't be. Let us try something radical and judge those who may seek to represent us based on the wisdom of their ideas, rather than making "jokes" about their bodies.

About the Author

Jessica Levinson is an Associate Clinical Professor at Loyola Law School. She focuses on the intersection of law and government.
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