Taking sexism seriously

That title was easy enough to write, but it looks sexist.

Of course, would also have appeared sexist had the title been "Not taking sexism seriously..." Forgive the irony, but I often feel I can't win, whether I try to be serious or try to be humorous.

Anyway, in a column titled "Sexism is candidate Clinton's primary opponent," former Knight-Ridder White House correspondent Jodi Enda argues that much (if not nearly all) criticism of Hillary Clinton is sexist, and that the male candidates are not subjected to the same scrutiny. She begins with a list, and I think the assertions are worth addressing:

No one has called Barack Obama a witch.
Well, it would be a bit silly to call him a "witch," as the term applies to females. However the male equivalent would be a wizard, a Wiccan or a Pagan. And as it turns out (at least according to the anti-Fox News web site) an attempt was made to tar Barack Obama as way-out Pagan-Wiccan type, if not by direct accusation, at least by insinuation.

Then there's a direct assertion here:

Obama is wiccan. He worships trees and he also speaks to them. They speak to him.
OK, that critic does not rank as high on the pecking order as Rush Limbaugh. But Ms. Enda said "no one," didn't she?

No one has suggested John McCain is too ambitious.
Really? Perhaps Ms. Enda missed Matt Welch's "Be Afraid of President McCain -- The frightening mind of an authoritarian maverick", which cited McCain's history as an "ambitious pol-to-be working the rubber chicken circuit as a famous ex-POW."

But this is so silly that I don't think it warrants a comprehensive search. "Ambitious" is a pretty generic word, and I doubt there is any politician anywhere to whom the word hasn't been applied at one time or another.

No one has disparaged Mitt Romney for misting up.
First of all, what happened? Have I missed the misting? I've mentioned the holy underwear meme, but did he cry? Lemme look. Yes, he did cry (at least he said he cried way back when the Mormon Church reversed its former racist position), and he was criticized for being phony. In a piece titled "Cry me a river, Mitt":
On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton is also following a formula designed to warm up her image. She, too, is running ads that play up her softer side. So far, the Clinton strategy involves the candidate's mother, daughter, and girlfriends; public tears are not yet on display. Indeed, it's interesting to contemplate how the voting public would react if a female candidate who is often criticized for masking her emotion misted up on the campaign trail. It could be the ultimate disqualifier.

It's different for Romney. Real men can tear up, although uncontrollable sobbing might be a problem.

[...]

When voters see him cry, they should turn their Mitt detector way up high.

As it turned out, Hillary's tears were not the ultimate disqualifier. They worked. Whether Romney's tears were real or not (or whether Hillary's tears were real), it's no surprise that both came under scrutiny.

Back to Enda.

No one has accused John Edwards of faking emotions.
OK, to that I not only take personal exception, but the charge of insincerity is one of the main criticisms of the man. So much so that Daily Kos defended him against the charge, and in a Salon article his wife claimed that "the accusations of insincerity against her husband were politically motivated."

There's even a poll here titled "Does John Edwards' personal wealth make him seem insincere in his commitment to end poverty?"

No one has depicted Mike Huckabee as calculating.
To that I can only say one word.

Please.

"Huckster," anyone? I haven't called him that, but it's such a common smear tactic that if I were working on his campaign I'd want him to change his name.

Finally, we reach the end of Enda's protected male characteristics list:

No one has critiqued the pitch of Rudy Giuliani's voice.
I don't know whether they've slammed him for improper pitch, but he's certainly been criticized for a lisp. From a Yahoo discussion titled "Does Giuliani's voice bother you?"
I can't even listen to the man. Does his strange lisp drive you crazy. I feel like he'd soak you with spit if you stood in front of him. Why didn't he spend some of his fortune to invest in a good speech therapist?
The point of all this is that all the candidates have had their personal characteristics analyzed and criticized, and the closer they get to the number one job in the free world, the worse it will get.

While it may not be logical to have strong feelings about a candidate's personal characteristics, it's certainly not sexism.

Unless, of course, the candidate is Hillary Clinton.

Worse yet, the emerging rule seems to be that it's sexism to criticize her not merely for her personal characteristics, but for almost anything. Again, Jodi Enda:

When she doesn't show emotion, she's cold. When she does, she's - what? - feminine? Soft? Un-commander-in-chief-like? Unless, of course, she's faking it, in which case she's calculating. When she's serious, she's humorless; if she laughs, she cackles. If she attacks, she's partisan. If she plays nice, she's acting. If she wears pantsuits, she's manly. If she shows a millimeter of cleavage, she's flirty.
Let's dress the passage in drag, and try on a male pronoun:
When he doesn't show emotion, he's cold. When he does, he's - what? - masculine? Hard? Un-commander-in-chief-like? Unless, of course, he's faking it, in which case he's calculating. When he's serious, he's humorless; if he laughs, he cackles. If he attacks, he's partisan. If he plays nice, he's acting. If he wears pants, he's manly. If he shows a millimeter of cleavage, he's flirty.
The reason that looks so ridiculous is that no man (save a ganster rapper or wannabe) can get away with anything resembling "cleavage."

Hell, as I made clear (or hope I made clear) in a previous post, men aspiring to the presidency can't even show their legs. Shorts -- especially shorts worn by grown men in a professional context -- are not serious. (And the fact that Giuliani once worn a dress as a joke is taken very seriously in some quarters -- both right and left. Women can wear men's clothing -- even in a serious manner -- with near-total impunity.)

As to the "cleavage" charge, Ann Althouse saw fit to address it, and said this:

Breasts that are conspicuous in the political sphere warrant commentary. A woman speaking in front of the Senate or at a political lunch with an ex-President, unless she is utterly incompetent, has thought about how she wants her breasts to appear. Visible cleavage doesn't just happen. Nor does a clingy sweater. Every woman who is competent enought to play a significant political role knows how to change to a top with a higher neckline or put a jacket over a sweater. So how she has chosen to appear means something and it is a fair subject for political commentary. I will not be pushed back from this subject.
Althouse (who is a woman) also frowns on shorts worn by grown men (for pretty much the same reasons I do).

In fact, with many of these things, there is a double standard -- and it is a double standard in women's favor. They can dress seriously or not -- which means that Hillary can get away with wearing things -- and colors -- that no man ever could. This picture is typical:

DebateQueenSM.jpg

Men seeking high office are often criticized for being cold and emotionless, just as they are slammed for inappropriate displays of emotion. Anyone remember the "Dean Scream" which did in Howard Dean's candidacy?

Had Hillary done the same thing and let out with a wild "YEEEHAH!" I'm not sure it would have had the same consequences. Sure, she'd have faced ridicule, but it wouldn't have ended her campaign. A lot of people would have thought she was just hamming it up, maybe making fun of male stupidity. As to the famous cackle, I don't think any man aspiring to the presidency could make it with a laugh like that. Far from being a victim of sexism, Hillary in fact has many special privileges which men do not have. To that extent, the men could just as legitimately claim that they are victims of reverse sexism, but I doubt they would not do it.

It is undignified.

Whether her supporters like it or not, Hillary is running for a very serious job which will require her to deal with very serious, very dangerous people -- mostly men. Many of them have attitudes toward women which the word "sexist" does not even begin to describe, and their regimes degrade women and treat them like second class citizens.

But this is America, and it should be expected that many of Hillary's supporters will see all criticism of Hillary as sexism (or at least they'll claim they do).

The downside of all of this for Hillary is that the louder the charges of "sexism" grow, the less seriously people going to take her.

posted by Eric on 01.23.08 at 10:23 AM










Comments

It brings back my favorite feminist joke:

Q: How many feminists does it take to change a light bulb?

A: That's not funny!!!

Phelps   ·  January 23, 2008 12:42 PM

I really don't think she's got a clue about how hard the job is going to be. And there's folks outside the country who will make it MUCH harder for her, since she's a woman and 'weak'.

You want a President that will be seen as a strong leader off the bat, someone who shouldn't be messed with. And Hillary isn't it. She'll look like an easy mark, and there's plenty of folks out there that'll be glad to take her (and by extension, us) for all they can.

JLawson   ·  January 23, 2008 9:48 PM

Post a comment


April 2011
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
          1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30

ANCIENT (AND MODERN)
WORLD-WIDE CALENDAR


Search the Site


E-mail



Classics To Go

Classical Values PDA Link



Archives



Recent Entries



Links



Site Credits