My affection for Hillary Clinton is hard to explain. It wins no fights and earns you no friends to admit it: Actual warmth, even protectiveness, toward this impossible, frustrating, contradictory, polarizing, disappointing woman. My finding Hillary intensely “likable” is weird, and I admit it. It doesn’t signify universal approval of her decisions. I can and do disagree with Hillary Clinton, regularly and strongly. But some part of me also hopes that Hillary Clinton is having a nice day. 

I’ve come to believe that, in some ways, saying nice things about Hillary Clinton is a subversive act. I spent much of this year working on a long project on how women are demonized in the media. Hillary Clinton was a fairly large part of that story – she had to be; if you want to talk “women that people hate,” she’s kind of unavoidable – and I spent a while sorting through Clintoniana, dating back to the early ‘90s, to find nasty things people had said about her, or common narratives about her personality. It wasn’t pretty – the worst stuff for Hillary was way worse than I’d expected, and there was way more of it than I expected to find – but it was also illuminating, in some key ways. I got a better sense of the pressures that she has to live with, and how they’ve informed her decisions.

I also realized that, unless you really take a look at those pressures, the narrative around Hillary Clinton’s “likability” is doomed to be inaccurate, in some way. She might even be very easy to dislike, if you weren’t looking at those narratives, or if you underestimated their severity. But, in my experience, trying to parse Hillary Clinton without also parsing Hillary-Hate is like trying to drink water without touching the glass. As long as you refuse to deal with the container, the actual substance tends to stay permanently out of reach. 

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