Tuesday, January 08, 2008
Iron Your Own Damn Shirts
I've been thinking today about the news report that yesterday, two hecklers at a Hillary Clinton rally interrupted her speech by yelling "Iron my shirts!" and holding up signs that said the same thing. (You can watch the incident here.) Clinton handled the situation very well, I thought. I'm sure she's had her share of practice at dealing with sexist comments over the past umpteen years in public life, and I'd think her advisors would have been foolish not to rehearse with her how she could handle things if sexist heckling did occur at a public event.
But I'm dismayed by a few different aspects of this event. Mainly, I'm surprised at how little mention it has received in the news, overall. This is probably due to the fact that it was the day before the NH primary, and those events have eclipsed that story. Still, the news have found time to repeatedly air the bit of Hillary getting teary when asked about how strongly she feels about running for president. Why is it that her showing genuine emotion gets a lot of negative press, while her addressing immature sexist heckling is downplayed? If someone heckled Obama by saying "Pick my cotton! Work my fields!" I'm guessing that episode, and Obama's reaction, would be all over the place. It's hard not to conclude that the mostly male press would rather project the image of a woman who -- gasp -- might get emotional and is therefore -- of course -- probably too weak to run a country, than a strong, confident woman who can competently and with humor handle a couple of backwards hecklers.
Here's the other thing: how many people apparently conclude that those hecklers "must have been" plants. Turns out, I understand, that they're talk radio guys known for sexist and jerky behavior. Lord, how people don't want to see a strong woman succeed... it's mind-boggling.
One more thing that has been on my mind. I've been watching the democratic debates all along, and was particularly interested in the debate the other night from New Hampshire. Now, I really like Obama and Edwards as well as Clinton. But I was surprised and dismayed at how even those two included subtle sexist stereotypes in their comments about Hillary Clinton. Both of them, for example, kept referring to Clinton as part of the "status quo" as if she is interchangeable with her husband (and as if Clinton was "status quo" compared to the last 7 years anyway, but that's another quibble). The concept that women are just pale alter egos of their husbands went out a long time ago, but no one has called Edwards or Obama on the way that concept underpins that challenge to Clinton. When Edwards was asked to comment on Hillary Clinton getting teary-eyed (of course, we MUST know what the MEN think of a woman crying), he replied by saying how America wants a president with "strength and resolve," and that being president is "tough business." He was smart enough to leave the point of that response unspoken, but the fact that he said that as response made the message clear: a woman who cries isn't tough enough to be president.
Don't get me wrong -- I think Edwards and Obama and Clinton are excellent candidates and I'd be proud to have any one of them as President. But I'm sure dismayed at how widespread the subtle and not so subtle displays of sexism are. And I'm really irked that it seems to be acceptable to an awful lot of people, liberals included.