If you’re not sure what to make of Hillary Clinton’s email scandal, Robin Lakoff, a linguistics professor at the University of California, Berkeley, is ready to clear it all up for you. In a column for Time Magazine, Lakoff insists that not only is the FBI’s investigation into Clinton politically motivated and devoid of substance – it’s actually rooted in sexism.
“The only reason the whole email flap has legs is because the candidate is female,” Lakoff writes. “Can you imagine this happening to a man? Clinton is guilty of SWF (Speaking While Female), and emailgate is just a reminder to us all that she has no business doing what she’s doing and must be punished, for the sake of all decent women everywhere.”
If you think Lakoff will get around to providing evidence for this extraordinary claim, we’ll save you the suspense: she doesn’t. She simply keeps hammering this point throughout the column, apparently hoping that if she says it in enough different ways that it will magically become the truth.
“If the candidate were male, there would be no scolding and no ‘scandal,'” she writes. “Those very ideas would be absurd. Men have a nearly absolute right to freedom of speech. In theory, so do women, but that, as the creationists like to say, is only a theory.”
That will surely come as a surprise to millions of American women, to say nothing of anyone reading Lakoff’s column – which, by virtue of its existence, disproves her point.
We’ve actually gotten off surprisingly easy in this election cycle when it comes to claims of sexism. The feminists and Hillary supporters have been shockingly restrained. Maybe they understood instinctively that absurd accusations of “it’s just because she’s a woman” would only make Hillary look weak. Apparently Lakoff didn’t get the memo, because this is as ridiculous as sexism cries get.
If Hillary Clinton is going to be president of the United States, she’s going to have to endure the scrutiny and criticism that every single one of her predecessors has handled. If she can’t – if her supporters are going to make everything into a gender issue – then it’s going to be a long four years and it’s going to be a long time before this country ever elects a female president again.