By JORDAN ECARMA
A quirky, beloved Internet niche recently quietly closed its doors. If you frequent feminist Twitter or know your Internet snark really well, The Toast is probably familiar to you. (Everyone else can check out the site here.)
The announcement that The Toast was shutting down as an active site was lamented by an online community that loved its feminism, its humor and its unique view on the world—a community that apparently included one Hillary Rodham Clinton, the former secretary of state and senator who is now poised to be the first female presidential nominee of a major party.
In a special letter just for The Toast, “Aunt Hillary” shows an intriguingly savvy yet poignant side. Clinton has some special words just for women in the brief note, which her campaign says she took a moment to write herself. She has a bipartisan empathy toward her fellow women in the Senate as well as a sense of humor on display in the brief letter.
Clinton has been in politics and in the eye of the public for a very long time. Her favorability ratings are weak thanks to years of Clinton scandals (some are now Snopes pages, while some are quite real) that have given voters plenty of reason to distrust her. We’ve seen her arrogance, selfishness and carelessness during the investigation of her private email server, a reckless setup that violated federal law and endangered our national security.
And yet I can’t not appreciate her note to The Toast as a fascinating, humanizing look at an iconic figure. Here, perhaps, is the Hillary who could still sound triumphant in a concession speech … the Hillary who is reportedly “warm and funny” while engaging with small crowds ... maybe even the Hillary who inspired thousands in Indonesia to line up for hours just to catch a glimpse of her. I don’t have to agree with Clinton’s politics to enjoy the fact that she took a few minutes to say goodbye to a site that meant so much to its community and to say a few words just for us women.
I don’t object to a moment that humanizes Clinton. Seeing people we disagree with as human is not a weakness.
But what makes these moments bittersweet is knowing that conservatives will not often be treated with the same kindness.
As one of my Paradox co-founders pointed out last year, it's people like Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama who get to be human. There's nothing wrong with seeing President Obama and his family humanized in the media, made real and personal through interviews, stories, photos, tweets. The unfairness is when people like Mitt and Ann Romney and their kids are portrayed as robotic, fake and out of touch simply because they are Republicans.
The disparity is apparent both in media coverage and in pop culture; note that NBC's "30 Rock" dedicated a whole season to *relentlessly mocking Mitt Romney, while "Parks and Recreation" featured adoring cameo appearances by Vice President Biden and Michelle Obama over the course of the show. It's not until long after the 2012 election, basically not until the GOP is being destroyed from the inside out by Donald Trump, that a conservative like Ann Romney is allowed to be similarly human.
Can you imagine how different the 2016 election cycle might have been if Sen. Marco Rubio's nuanced, empathetic conservatism had made headlines instead of every Trump tweet? If his warm, thoughtful words reaching out specifically to minority and low-income communities had dominated cable instead of live Trump rallies, even for a day or two? Liberal media couldn't handle anyone so dangerously smart and likable, so they buried Rubio in the news cycle, instead pushing voters toward the most volatile, vile and unelectable candidate in the presidential race (and arguably in American history).
This election has been beyond discouraging. But I won't let the heartbreak of 2016 turn me into someone who takes cheap shots for her "team" and ignores anything of good report from the other "side." If I can find encouragement in Clinton's words specifically to women, I hope someone who usually disagrees with right-leaning politics can be similarly touched and inspired by a nuanced perspective from a conservative.
I realize that in such a politically divided country, asking people to find good in their "enemies" and maybe even learn from them is a lot to hope for.
But if that's you ... hi.
You are the reason for Paradox, and we're glad you're here.
*In an attempt to be fair, "30 Rock" had some jabs for President Obama, too, but nothing so cruel as the flood of robot jokes directed toward Romney.
Jordan Ecarma is a former journalist now living the millennial dream: getting paid for writing Facebook statuses (that is, digital PR). She watches her use of the f-word ("feminism") around conservatives and the c-word ("conservatism") around feminists. Find her under @JordanEcarma.