Analysis Politics

What the Women For (and Against) Herman Cain Revealed

Amy McCarthy

Herman Cain's campaign went beyond traditional sexism in politics and political reporting, and  beyond traditional victim-blaming and skepticism, in part because the campaign enrolled women to attack other women. Cain might be out of the race, but the Women For Herman Cain are not. Their votes are as much in play as ever, and I don't know that there's much that progressives can do to change their minds.

Prior to hearing that GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain was ‘suspending’ his campaign, a friend pointed me in the direction of the newest section of Cain’s website, Women For Herman Cain. On this site, you could drop off your words of support for the flailing candidate.

If you’re looking for a reason to be really aggravated or confused, I suggest you check it out. On this page, Cain’s campaign staff created a place for women to express their support (and justifications of that support) for Cain as he bumbled his way toward the White House.

Just for context, a few examples of these testimonials: 

“Mrs Cain, I just want to say that you are an amazing woman to have to survive this liberal lynching of your husband. I and many other woman are standing by your man because he shows integrity, faithfulness, and inspiration. But we are also standing by you. I am praying for you to get through this one day at a time. The enemy may set doubts, but the Lord will clear your path. God bless you Mrs. Cain, soon to be First Lady( and you certainly own that title). Lisa Watkins”
“Dear Mrs. Cain Don’t pay attention to these pathetic husbandless women who are jealous of women like you in happy long-term marriages. These vindictive women can’t find a husband or keep one. They are like stalkers who try to latch on to any man who shows a bit of kindness or attention to them. When these unstable women come out of the woodwork to make accusations about Herman just say, “Honey, get a life, I believe my husband.” We want you to be our First Lady Mrs. Cain!”
“Mr. Cain (aka The Hermanator)–It’s very upsetting to witness your campaign and personal life subjected to this American ‘impact of reality television’. It’s pathetic and shameful women are so desperate for their five minutes of fame that they would position themselves against the greatest potential president Americans could be blessed enough to have. I am a proud supporter of you and you should never let these despondent attempts of sabotaging your campaign affect you. The caucus and primary system is entirely extra-constitutional thus has become an exhausting and vexing process, however you must stay strong!! You have so much to offer and America needs you! Please continue as hopeful and know that college age women will never stop supporting the Cain Train! 9-9-9 is perfection, let’s make it a reality.– Your steadfast supporter, Margaux “

Never mind the spelling, grammar, and the grandiose assumptions about Herman Cain’s leadership and political aptitude – these women have very clearly aligned themselves with an agenda (and a man) that obviously doesn’t respect their sexual boundaries, their contributions, and the issues that matter to them.

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What’s worse, I think, are the slurs lobbed at Ginger White (the woman who alleges a 13-year sexual affair with Herman Cain) and the women who have accused him of sexual harrassment. Facing criticism from the GOP presidential field (see Jon Hunstman’s “bimbo eruption’’ remark), being called ‘pathetic’ and ‘stalkers’ by the Women For Herman Cain, and accused of being a gold digger by the candidate himself – who is listening to what they have to say?

This is beyond the traditional sexism in politics and political reporting. This is beyond traditional victim-blaming and skepticism. The Women For Herman Cain have drawn a line in the sand – Herman Cain’s presidential aspirations mean more than the mental health, dignity, and rights of the women who are ‘against’ him.

According to the campaign, if you’re against Herman Cain, you’re against his wife. The Cain campaign is casting Cain’s wife Gloria as a supportive stand-by-your-man type.  A tweet sent by the staff last week says ‘Now women can stand with Mr. Cain’s wife, Gloria, to support Herman Cain!” 

Gloria Cain looks like a sweet lady, but that doesn’t mean that she hasn’t been completely duped by this man, or that she’s not putting on a smiling face for the cameras and the candidacy–she’s standing with Herman and she wants you to stand against Ginger White, Sharon Bialek, and Cain’s other 3 sexual harassment victims. Apparently, her call worked.  Some women felt compelled to drop off their sometimes mean-spirited and mostly uninformed opinions about the women who are ‘against’ Herman Cain.

And so we’re back to the same battle lines as ever–women who are willing to stand up for things that they feel are wrong, and women who are willing to stand by the men who can do nothing wrong. As someone firmly on the other side of the aisle, I have no idea how the Women for Herman Cain can defend a man who is described at best as a ‘skirt-chaser’ and at worse a sexual harasser. I think a lot of feminists feel like they are trying to empty out the ocean with a bucket. In this case, though, there are other women who are actively tossing the water back in. The facts don’t matter, and the personal appeals from Cain’s accusers are irrelevant. What does matter, apparently, is providing a space for some good old fashioned women-bashing. 

The Women For Herman Cain page isn’t a discussion of the finer points of policy, it’s a place where Herman Cain can look to and say “See! Women don’t think I am a sexual harasser and adulterer!”

…except for those of us that do.

Luckily for women, common sense, and the truth, Cain has ‘suspended’ his campaign. We all know what that means –  it’s over, and these allegations took him out. While that is a victory for Cain’s accusers and victims everywhere, it still leaves us with way too many women who will be jumping on the next frontrunner’s bandwagon, and all signs point to Newt Gingrich.

Gingrich’s track record with women in his personal life and as a policymaker is well known. He’s no more pro-woman than Cain, and the Women for Herman Cain will line up to give them their money and support. Unfortunately for them, there is no “Women For Newt” page on Gingrich’s website for them to pour on the praise. I don’t think we’ll be seeing one until it becomes politically advantageous for him to, you know, consider the opinions of the majority of the voting age population.

The GOP is using women as pawns in their sick little anti-woman game, and I think they’re winning. They are clearly doing a better job of convincing thousands or millions of women that they have better plans for their health and well being than the Democrats who are consistently passing pro-choice and pro-woman legislation.

Herman Cain might be out of the race, but the Women For Herman Cain are not. Their votes are as much in play as ever, and I don’t know that there’s much that progressives can do to change their minds.

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