Why We Need To Be Hillary's "Boast Bitches" & Lady Bonobos

Photo: Melina Mara/The Washington Post/Getty Images.
Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton speaks to voters in Orlando, FL, on Wednesday.
It's the vexing conundrum of this historic presidential election: While many women feel that Hillary Clinton is the most competent, most accomplished, and hands down most decent candidate in this race, they won't publicly speak out, and maybe we can't blame them.

Women have been shamed and judged and called out for voting with their vaginas. Others, still peeved about Hillary's email server, confounded by her marriage, or bitter that Bernie Sanders lost the nomination, are voting by default and not pumped to actively help. But here's the thing: It’s time to get over it and get behind a sister in a critical election that’s too important to lose.

That's a huge problem — and not just for Hillary. How women rally around their candidates and their leaders dictates how free they are to actually succeed. I was reminded of this and how it plays out — fittingly, in the jungle, which feels especially relevant in this election — by a recent New York Times article on female bonobos. In bonobo societies, these lady apes (our close kin) rule and develop cross-generational bonds to keep the males in check. They create what researchers call "female coalitions."

But what’s fascinating is that these females aren’t even related. They band together against male aggression, sexual harassment, food fights, and all around bad behavior. A senior female takes charge, intervening when the younger ladies need help. She creates order, ends fights, and puts the guys in their place.
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In bonobo societies, these lady apes (our close kin) rule and develop cross-generational bonds to keep the males in check. They create what researchers call 'female coalitions.'

The Times’s piece describes what happened when four aggressive males taunted a younger female bonobo. The badass lady bonobos united, with a few older, higher-ranking senior females swooping in protectively. Together they chased the aggressive males away. Three managed to flee, but a fourth, the alpha male, was cornered and caught, attacked by the females, and apparently lost a piece of his toe in the battle. He disappeared and didn’t return for three weeks.

Right now in America, Hillary Clinton is our senior female pushing back against the bully. But like the bonobos, she will be stronger with the backing of a fierce female coalition, a united squad ready to rally around her, defending against attacks, unafraid to bite off the toe of the aggressor.

We’ve been playing it too nice, perhaps passively supporting Hillary among friends but not wanting to seem overtly political on social media or anywhere, because as good girls, we don’t want to offend. And this campaign has been nothing if not heinously offensive. Who wants to expose themselves to the vindictive Trump machine and Hillary haters? And for those unapologetic Hillary defenders at the forefront taking heat, it can be exhausting.

All of our well-intentioned, curated, only-among-friends support has consequences. We are Hillary's boast bitches, and we need to dial it up.

But there's strength in our solidarity. Like the bonobos, we can protect each other and our leadership only when we band together.

Here's what else Hillary needs: her "boast bitches." In Jessica Bennett’s brilliant new book, Feminist Fight Club, she writes about how every woman benefits from a "boast bitch"; the woman who is "the female hype man. She boasts for you, you boast for her, and you both look better." Bennett points out there’s research to back up how effective this is — even if the person boasting is biased.

During the primaries, I'll admit that I felt squeamish in promoting my outward support. I feared the haters and the wrath of Bernie Sanders’ supporters, let alone the scorn of some Republican friends. Anytime I posted a pro-Hillary piece on Facebook, it was almost universally ignored. Even my female friends, who backed Hillary, were hesitant to “like” it. So I stopped posting.
Photo: Anup Shah/Getty Images.
Young bonobos embrace. In the social order of bonobos, females rule and develop cross-generational bonds to keep the males in check.
I'm a member of a few invite-only Facebook groups that serve as the seemingly required safe spaces to share our pro-Hillary messages. I was even warned by a friend not to name the groups for fear of a Trump infiltration. But all of our well-intentioned, curated, only-among-friends support has consequences. We are Hillary's boast bitches, and we need to dial it up.

I’m tired of hearing that if Hillary weren’t such a lousy candidate and could smile more, connect better, be less guarded, more authentic, and livestream her doctors’ visits so we all know what’s up in real time, then she would be more likable and consequently electable. This, of course, is total horse shit.

Enough with analyzing Hillary’s smile and charisma. No matter what she looks like, sounds like, or even says, she is facing a tsunami of populist hate unprecedented in U.S. presidential elections. And the vast majority of it is coming from Trump's own tribal group of bonobos, his so-called fratty “Trump Bros,” who either shrug off his hateful speech and lack of experience or embrace it. Trump's bonobos have doubled down, dug in, and passionately evangelized for a man who spews vitriol and lies. They are relentless in their support, even when it's offensive (maybe especially when it's offensive).
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We’ve been playing it too nice, perhaps passively supporting Hillary among friends but not wanting to seem overtly political on social media or anywhere, because as good girls, we don’t want to offend.

"Trump that Bitch" is the catchy misogynistic slogan appearing on T-shirts, bumper stickers, and placards at pro-Trump rallies and on websites. Supporters scream, “Lock her up” and “Take that bitch down" with shocking abandon. Last Friday, at a rally in Miami, Trump made yet another thinly veiled threat about Hillary’s assassination. “I think her bodyguards should drop all weapons,” he said. “Disarm immediately. Take their guns away, let's see what happens to her.”

How do you even start to explain that insane and dangerous statement to your children?

Ladies, we can no longer linger in the shadows, cocooned in our self-contained pro-Hillary villages, crossing our fingers and hoping it all works out. We must get tough, gather our girl gang, amplify our collective voice, and rally around her, our band of boast bitches and bonobos. Time is running out.

Wendy Sachs is a
writer, media strategist, and author of Fearless and Free: How Smart Women Pivot and Relaunch Their Careers. The views expressed here are her own.
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