Friday, June 13, 2008


I guess we're going to spend much of the day yelling at one another about this again:

Angered by what they consider sexist news coverage of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton's bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, many women and erstwhile Clinton supporters are proposing boycotts of the cable networks, putting up videos on a "Media Hall of Shame," starting a national conversation about sexism and pushing Mrs. Clinton's rival, Senator Barack Obama, to address the matter.

But many in the news media ... see little need for reconsidering their coverage or changing their approach going forward. Rather, they say, as the Clinton campaign fell behind, it exploited a few glaring examples of sexist coverage to whip up a backlash and to try to create momentum for Mrs. Clinton....

Oy. This is all we need -- a bunch of men in the news media unwilling to acknowledge that there was any problem whatsoever, which fuels the anger of those who believe that anyone who hasn't now put the Cause of Hillary Clinton above all other priorities in life is a woman-crushing, slavering sexist pig.

Here's my view: There was a lot of sexism, some of it strikingly vile. On the other hand, it's not all one undifferentiated mass, and everyone isn't equally guilty. Although she's a bit too forgiving, Candy Crowley makes some sense here:

Candy Crowley, covering the campaign for CNN, said that for the most part, she did not see a drumbeat of sexism in the daily reporting, "but I certainly did see it in the commentary." Still, Ms. Crowley said, "it was hard to know if these attacks were being made because she was a woman or because she was this woman or because, for a long time, she was the front-runner."

The main point she's making is correct: Chris Matthews and Tucker Carlson and Mike Barnicle were more sexist than, say, reporters doing straight news for major papers. There were a lot of different groups -- reporters, pundits/blowhards, GOP-leaners outside the traditional media, Obama-leaners outside the traditional media, barely political freelance jerks selling Hillary nutcrackers or waving "Iron My Shirt" signs -- and lumping them all together as if they're one undifferentiated mass isn't helpful, because their degrees of sexism were very different. And some of the "sexism" came from women -- for instance, the notorious Washington Post cleavage story, written by Robin Givhan. (It was a ridiculous story -- the alleged cleavage was almost imperceptible -- but Givhan's beat is, after all, fashion, and she's D.C.-based.)

I'm want to move forward with the Democratic nominee, but I agree that the pundit/blowhard class, in particular, really needs to do quite a bit of soul-searching.


But if we're going to talk about this, can we also talk about the mirror-image set of unpleasant sexual stereotypes Steve Ducat wants us to notice?

...Floyd Brown, ... who succeeded in turning Black rapist murderer Willie Horton into Michael Dukakis's running mate, is now going after the testicular credibility of Barack Obama. [His recent] ad cited a vote Obama cast as an Illinois state senator against a bill mandating the death penalty for gang-related murders -- a bill the state's Republican governor later vetoed for being overly broad, vague, discriminatory, and for lacking any deterrent effect. The spot's narrator concludes, "When the time came to get tough, Obama chose to be weak. So, the question is: can a man so weak in the war on gangs be trusted in the war on terror?" The closing shot is that of the rubble at New York's post-9/11 ground zero.

... As he had successfully done with Dukakis, the aim is to emasculate Obama and thus to induce in the electorate a fear that the Democratic nominee will be unable to function as a manly protector.

This is coming, and as any reader of Maureen Dowd knows, it's going to be rather relentless. He can't bowl. His eating habits are too fancy. His wife is the tough one. And on and on.

Ducat makes a good point about the Obama ad:

Some might think that this strategy is targeted at the so-called "Security Mom" demographic...

The primary audience, I would argue, is the other side of the gender gap, the "Insecurity Men," male voters unconsciously anxious about their masculinity, and who are generally well disposed toward Republican candidates. (Wednesday's poll showed McCain with a 20% lead among white men.) Men as a group tend to be much more troubled than are women over the possibility that they might have traits of the other gender. The more central that male domination is to a social order, the more anxious they are about this. In fact, in such a world, the most important thing about being a man is not being a woman. As I described in my last post, the findings of my own research and that of others have shown that conservative men are much more likely to suffer from the fear that they might be "feminine," than are liberal males. One way this femiphobia gets managed is through projection -- by hating, denigrating, and attacking other men whose masculinity is imagined as somehow deficient....

These same pathetic, insecure men, obviously, also fear Hillary as a "nutcracker."

I don't want to pit these two forms of sexual warfare against one another. I just want to point out that anger at both is justified, because they're very much related. They appeal to the same instinct in the same jerks.

No comments: