Sunday, January 13, 2008

Battle of the Sexists (Updated)


That didn't take long. I put this post together yesterday and this morning the Times hits the same theme. Compare and contrast what follows with Rights vs. Rights: An Improbable Collision Course. My observations are not so marginal after all.

Women rallied to Mrs. Clinton in New Hampshire — 57 percent — after what many perceived as an unfair piling on by Mr. Obama and Mr. Edwards in a debate on Saturday. (Mr. Obama was tagged as being dismissive and patronizing after he told Mrs. Clinton she was “likable enough.”) In post-election surveys, many women said they were both heartened by Mrs. Clinton’s choked-up response to a voter’s question on Monday, and incensed by the ridicule she endured in its aftermath.

Likewise, many blacks took offense to a remark Mrs. Clinton made in an interview with Fox News that struck some as dismissive of the contributions of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. ...

To many, the comments echoed a building tone of disrespect that Mrs. Clinton had been expressing toward Mr. Obama — pooh-poohing his commitment to change as merely “hoping for it,” implying that her fellow United States senator was all talk. Bill Clinton took things even further, ranting against the media for not challenging the “fairy tale” that he said Mr. Obama’s rise was predicated on. (He was referring specifically to the perception that Mr. Obama was totally pure in his opposition to the Iraq war.)


Saturday (yesterday early morning):

It was bound to happen. Hillary Clinton's run to become president is having the same effect for women that sit-ins did for blacks in the Sixties. Last week's tears were the last straw. Everywhere I look now I find writers weighing in on the insulting manner that women are treated and spoken about simply because of gender.

Sara Robinson's case study of Chris Matthews, inspired by a Media Matters collection of his nappy-headed-ho moments, is a devastating examination of his degrading treatment of women as a group during his career. She wants him fired.

MSNBC needs to hear, loud and clear, that this is not charming, nor attractive, nor even acceptable in this day and age. (Even FOX News won't go this low -- Bill O'Reilly's on the record saying that Matthews' recent comment on Hillary's success being a result of Bill's cheating was an unacceptable attack. When BOR takes you to the woodshed on on-air propriety, you know the bottom is well in sight. Looming ahead: diplomacy lessons from Michael Savage.) A new generation of women is rising to power in this country; and if Matthews is too ossified in his sexism to get with the program (and, at 62, if he hasn't gotten over it now, let's not hold our collective breath), then he needs to give up his seat in front of the camera to someone who doesn't think that strong women are "scary" and the men who admire them are "castrated."

She's on to something. Hillary Clinton is a lightening rod. Like a black face in a previously all-white restaurant, she has all kinds of people talking about sexism, whether or not they call it that. Like it or not, when the subject of gender enters a political discussion those who introduce the subject are either feminists or a sexists, depending on their point of view. Feminists argues that being female is positive. Sexists argue that being female is negative.

I heard Neal Boortz try to sanitize his sexist position yesterday by arguing that women by their very "nature" prefer safety and security over freedom, suggesting that women are not fit to be leaders by their very nature. And that women would vote for Hillary Clinton in great numbers, not because she would be a good leader, but because she appeals to their sense of safety and security. Of course he doesn't want to hear any of this "not ALL women" nonsense. That would open a rhetorical door that has to remain closed for his position to pass without criticism. The language of sexism is every bit as nuanced as that of bigotry. (Oh, yes...this particular talk-show host also draws a meticulous line between racism and bigotry. He's neither, don't you know. But he wants you to understand the difference.)

As I read Mrs. Robinson's post I recalled another blogger's comment I came across yesterday in response to Maureen Dowd's sexist column in the NY Times the other day.

Noted hysteric female unwed childless columnist MoDo Maureen "Dowdy" Dowd of the "who,-me-sexist?" New York Times has really got her panties in a twist!

I mean, looky here: is this uppity old broad riding the cotton pony, or whut?


She's being SUCH a bitch! She's so totally playing the bitch card at Hillary!

Big-time bitch-slapping MoDo, you will recall, is an unmarried woman.

She engages in spin. Why, some might call her a -- spinster.

Plus -- shrieky MoDo is unmarried to Bill Clinton. Who probably, also, never made a pass at her. Having made passes at, we are told, every female who ever lived and then some.

Now that must hurt.

It could really make one hold a bigtime Clinton grudge.

Plus -- unmarried Maureen, who's probably always been a little ambitious for a girl, maybe a little shrill, a little pushy, a little masculine, a little oh, steely-eyed, therefore maybe, questionably, you know, dykey, a little loud, a little angry, way bitchy, moody, puffy, unstable, emotional, and certainly getting a little long in the tooth, a little wrinkly -- Maureen Down probably has noticed that it is Hillary Clinton, not she, who is the one who's running for President of the United States.

That must sting, deep down inside.

So, you know, Maureen, keep it real, and do let your petty jealousy and untrammeled sexism fly forth freely.

Cry about it.

(Or have you noticed -- ouch -- that no one is interested in your tears?)

I guess that's what can be called fighting fire with fire. It, and a torrent of other responses to the column, illustrate the level of passion the subject is raising.

This could be the election that surprises everyone when the dust settles. It is definitely the most multi-faceted in the last thirty-two years. Not since Watergate and Richard Nixon's resignation has national politics been as suspenseful. Both parties are picking from the most eclectic slates we have seen in a long time and Michael Bloomberg might open a third-party effort which will take votes from both major parties...depending on who is chosen.

I'm not holding my breath, but I would like to hear Bloomberg say something to indicate on which side of the gender debate he falls. Is he sexist or feminist?

Want to freshen up your feminist consciousness? Go read Echidne.

I'm in a bad mood and the viper-tongue is out. Which means that what you will ultimately read is a many-times-revised euphemism of what I originally wrote.

But I shouldn't be in a bad mood! The New York Times, the place where David Brooks and Maureen Dowd are nestled while scribbling missives about that contemptible sex, women (can smart women get laid?, can female eyeballs actually see?), has a piece on sexism today! Snoopy-dance time. Make it a stripping dance if you are a woman, because otherwise you are a tight-ass and no fun to be around. Then go and read the piece. Oh, and get me a coffee while you're at it.

Gawd I sound old-fashioned. We all know that this is the era of post-feminism. Sexism is dead and buried, all women have completely equal rights in everything and more than equal rights in some fields. It's mostly men who are oppressed, these days, and the oppressors are the feminazis. To say anything else means identity politics, and identity politics are wrong unless your identity is a white, Christian, heterosexual male. But otherwise they are wrong. And we don't do identity politics on the left anymore.

The mission never ends, does it?

This morning's edition of NPR's Wait! Wait! Don't Tell me...opened -- about three minutes into the show -- with a very ugly satire of Hillary Clinton's moment, a male voice quoting her in falsetto. They were having a high old time hooting and joking about "bad hair days" and Mitt Romney's tears in though it had nothing to do with bashing women.

Great sport, huh? When NPR is that insensitive, the battle for feminist awareness will be uphill.

Let's be clear. This is not about defending Hillary Clinton. There is no doubt in my mind that she is clever enough to know everything there is to know about feminism versus sexism and to use that knowledge in whatever manner will advance her political objectives. Her campaign has not been free of race-baiting or exploitation of religious intolerance...both in one fell swoop in one recent instance. Moral "flexibility" (I'm trying to be nice here) has never been a handicap in politics. And she is capable of playing The Female Card with as much manipulative success as blacks survived Jim Crow racism by shuckin' and jivin'. But that doesn't make it either okay or admirable.

I'm beginning to worry that Democrats are weakening their political strength by internal splits brought about by advancing two important causes, racism and sexism, at the same time.


Anonymous said...

It seems the discussion has become is it Obama or Hillary? My wife and I agreed some years ago that when a candidate for the white house wore a bra, that campaign would get our undying support. Here we are, the time has come, and we cannot bring ourselves to keep that promise.

I do not find my views that different from Hillary on most of the issues, however at the end of the day, something is just not right. Perhaps it is the legacy of Bush and Clinton, perhaps it is bad taste in my mouth at the end of the last Clinton era, or perhaps it is the mainstream 1960's liberal rhetoric that I continue to hear repeated campaign after campaign and hear again in Hillary's politics (certainly not as bad as Edwards granted). I simply think that America needs a hope for the better, not a message of negativity. I think America needs change, and that Obama can lead us there with more energy, honesty, and renewed hope than Hillary. I think America needs more of this than it does a woman in the White House.

Not very calculated, but after all the speeches and calculations, one must follow their heart of hearts into the voting booth.

Hoots said...

Excellent comment and I agree. As I said, this post is an observation of widespread sexism, NOT intended to be a defense or endorsement of Hillary Clinton.

Atlanta's Neal Boortz delivered a telling opinion about the contest a couple of days ago. He has been quite open with his disdain for both Clintons, especially Hillary. Agreeing with Dick Morris, he believes that a Hillary Clinton presidency would be so catastrophic that it would absolutely mobilize the Republican Party so well that the next election cycle would yield a Republican takeover of both houses of Congress and the White House as well.

Nevertheless, he made the flat statement that of the two, Clinton and Obama, Barack Obama would be the better president. Oddly enough he still seems to want Hillary Clinton elected, he has said, because she would make a much more interesting and vulnerable target for him as a talk show host.