Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Need I Say EVEN More???

What Is Sexist?
Submitted by christine on Fri, 02/15/2008 - 5:31pm. Be-Elected
by Christine Bowman

The National Organization for Women has endorsed Hillary Clinton. BuzzFlash has not.* Instead, we've been very critical of her record and of certain campaign moves. But we sure don't want her to lose because she's a woman.

NOW's President Kim Gandy has responded to email she has received with a commentary, "Below the Belt." She identifies media behavior that disparages Hillary Clinton and, she argues, women as a group. Listen up:


The press have been brutal to Clinton, no doubt about it. Whether consciously or not, too many reporters, commentators, pundits and the like appear unable to critique Hillary Clinton without dusting off their favorite sexist clich├ęs, stereotypes and insults. Some of these remarks seem mild, while others are offensive and truly outrageous. Taken together, they create an environment of hostility toward all women, not just Senator Clinton. At this moment it feels like she is a stand-in for every woman who has ever tried to get ahead and be taken seriously by the powers that be.

There are four common themes in media coverage of Clinton's candidacy:

First, Clinton is criticized using a gender-based grading system. The media evaluate how she looks, dresses, talks, laughs and even claps. She is held to double standards familiar to working women. A man demonstrates toughness and strength; a woman who behaves similarly is called icy and rigid. His behavior shows compassion and warmth, but her similar behavior shows too much emotion and maybe weakness. He knows how to work the system; she is manipulative. He shows a mastery of the subject; she is nit-picky. He thinks through all the options before charting a course; she is calculating. Familiar?

Second, our society still has not come to terms with ambition in women -- it is suspect. Clinton is frequently charged with doing or saying anything to win. But I think it has an extra sharp anti-woman overtone as it is used against Hillary. In other words, everything Clinton does to win the election -- strategizing, organizing, confronting, comparing and contrasting -- is interpreted as calculating, fake or just plain evil. But when a man campaigns hard, refusing to cede an inch, they call it . . . running for office!

Third, Clinton is presumed to be where she is today because of her husband, Bill. The fact that Clinton has a famous former president for a husband is used to discredit her own achievements and to imply that maybe she couldn't have made it on her own. I’m trying to remember if any of these commentators implied that George W. Bush shouldn't be taken seriously as a candidate because his father had been president. Or that people shouldn't vote for a certain male candidate because he clearly got a leg up from his powerful family's money, legacy? Or say from the advantages bestowed by his wife's fortune? Who's to say that if Hillary had taken the fast-track first, instead of Bill, she wouldn't have risen to the top before him?

Finally, when all else fails, belittle the voters. Women voters are irrational and biased, and voting only on the basis of gender, the press are happy to intimate (at least about the women who are voting for Hillary), and they not so subtly imply that all voters are stupid and shallow. When the pundits try to mind-read the general public to guess why they cast their ballots one way or another, they often conclude that voters make decisions based on the same superficial traits that fascinates the talking-heads themselves -- like who seems "comfortable in their own skin" or who strikes them as annoyingly nerdy.

One more thing: Hillary Clinton, and women in general, aren't the only ones subject to gender-based assessments. Barack Obama and John Edwards have also been degraded when the media detect in them "feminine" characteristics or behaviors (like paying attention to your appearance) that supposedly are unbecoming in men. That's right, both women and men can be poked with the "girls are icky" stick.

Regarding women and men and politics, we really ought to be past the tree house-years. It's not just those in the public eye who are hurt when the media promote sex stereotypes. Daughters everywhere are hearing the message that a woman can't be as competent and effective a leader as a man. Or that all strong women are ball-busters (or nut-crackers) -- right up until they finally reveal that they're just weepy wimps. (Never trust a crying woman. She's after something, you know.)

Just so you don't think I’m making this up, here are a few (of course I had to leave out MSNBC's Chris Matthews because he deserves a whole list all by himself) -- of the latest offenders:

Maureen Dowd, The New York Times, Feb. 13, 2008
Relaying a joke told by Penn Jillette: "Obama is just creaming Hillary. You know, all these primaries, you know. And Hillary says it's not fair, because they're being held in February, and February is Black History Month. And unfortunately for Hillary, there's no White Bitch Month."

Katie Couric, CBS's 60 Minutes, Feb. 10, 2008
Interviewing Clinton: "What were you like in high school? Were you the girl in the front row taking meticulous notes and always raising your hand? . . . Someone told me your nickname in school was 'Miss Frigidaire' -- is that true?"

David Shuster, guest-hosting MSNBC's Tucker, Feb. 7, 2008
Regarding Chelsea Clinton making calls for her mother's campaign: "[T]here's just something a little bit unseemly to me that Chelsea is out there calling up celebrities saying, 'Support my mom.' . . . doesn't it seem like Chelsea's sort of being pimped out in some weird sort of way?"

Lester Holt, MSNBC's primary coverage, Feb. 5, 2008
Incredulously, apparently shocked by exit poll results: "With the field of Democratic candidates reduced to two, we asked primary voters, 'Who would make the best commander in chief of the U.S. armed forces?' And here, it was Hillary Clinton who was the clear favorite. The first woman candidate with a serious shot at winning the presidency beat out her male rival -- look at these numbers -- 50 percent to 35 percent. Keep in mind, this at a time the nation is fighting on two fronts."

Andrew Sullivan, TheAtlantic.com, Feb. 4. 2008
"The second bout of public tears just before a crucial primary vote - after no evidence that Senator Hillary Clinton has a history of tearing up in front of the cameras - provokes the unavoidable question: should feminists actively vote against Clinton to defend the cause of female equality?"

Bill Kristol (New York Times columnist), panelist on Fox News Sunday, Feb. 3, 2008
"Look, the only people for Hillary Clinton are the Democratic establishment and white women . . . . White women are a problem, that's, you know -- we all live with that." After other panelists stated their disagreement, Kristol responded: "I know, I shouldn't have said that."

Maureen Dowd, The New York Times, Jan. 30, 2008
"Like Scarlett O'Hara after a public humiliation, Hillary showed up at the gathering wearing a defiant shade of red."

Mike Barnicle, guest on MSNBC's Morning Joe, Jan. 23, 2008
"[W]hen she reacts the way she reacts to Obama with just the look, the look toward him, looking like everyone's first wife standing outside a probate court, OK?"

Maureen Dowd, The New York Times, Jan. 23, 2008
"It's odd that the first woman with a shot at becoming president is so openly dependent on her husband to drag her over the finish line."

Tucker Carlson, MSNBC's Tucker, Jan. 22, 2008
"It takes a lot of guts for a rich, privileged white lady who is one of the most powerful people in the world to claim that she is a victim of gender discrimination. . . . She hasn't driven her own car in almost 20 years and she's a victim of discrimination? I mean can't we both agree that's just BS?"

Gail Collins, The New York Times, Jan. 10, 2008.
"The women whose heart went out to Hillary knew that it wasn't rational. . . . they gave her a sympathy vote."

Chris Matthews, guesting on MSNBC's Morning Joe, Jan. 9, 2008
"Let's not forget -- and I'll be brutal -- the reason she's a U.S. senator, the reason she's a candidate for president, the reason she may be a front-runner is her husband messed around. That's how she got to be senator from New York."

Sexism, like racism, is not a progressive value.

*(BuzzFlash doesn't endorse any candidate in a primary.)

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