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.


  1. My problem is this: How do you want to fill in the end of this chain —


    I do not want it to be Clinton. I am not sexist. I would be very open to a woman for President. I fit the demographic of her best supporters. But, I do not want a Clinto in office. It IS so yesterday.

    I think she has been more than fairly treated by the press. It bothers me to here the gender bias thrown in to this. I just don't think it is there.

    I think we need to worry much more about the race card being played against Obama.

    Just my opinion. Did you ask for it? If not, I am sorry.

  2. I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree, because I think there is a fairly significant amount of gender bias in the coverage of Clinton... Which isn't to say that racial issues aren't of concern with Obama, just that mainstream press are much more careful and politically correct about not conveying it. I guess my point is that I think the gender bias issues with Clinton aren't perceived as readily by a lot of people because those attitudes about women are still deemed socially acceptable.

  3. A few years ago my hubby asked if I'd vote for a woman even if she was a member of the other party. I told him I'd be tempted. However, the person I REALLY want to vote for is the right person for the job: one who puts the needs of the country above his or her own personal glorification, one who has the guts to pick a platform and work their ass off in office to make their promises a reality, one who will listen to the people instead of the lobbyists, one who will admit when they are wrong and work to make it right. Of course this person doesn't exist because politicians are, well, politicians. Sexism exists big-time in the US and is a sad reflection on the priorities of our country. But gender is NOT what is keeping me (or even my hubby) from voting for Clinton. The issue at hand for me is TRUST.

  4. Sexism is alive and well in America. Of course. Though, I do have to take exception to one of your points above. I think both Edwards and Obama, in saying that Clinton is part of the "status quo" are not making her interchangable with her husband. They don't have to. They can point to her voting record. They can point to her actions as a Senator. For all that I do admire much about her, there are things in her record that make me wary. Not because of her sex. Not because of her husband. But because of her own actions as an elected official. It is possible that both Obama and Edwards are referring to that, not simply seeing her as an extension of her husband.

  5. I totally understand that people looking at Obama, Edwards, and Clinton could decide to choose Edwards or Obama over Clinton for a variety of non-gender reasons. All are strong candidates, and they have differences, and that's what elections are about. But the thing chafing me is watching two "non-traditional" candidates running side by side, and seeing how racial matters are steered around SO carefully, I suspect because everyone accepts the political incorrectness (if not flat out wrong-headedness) of even indirectly using racial stereotypes to frame the debate about Obama. And yet there is no such caution about indirectly using gender stereotypes as the media portrays Clinton's candidacy. You know, she's weak because she got teary... she's cold and calculating and hard because she doesn't show emotion. That sort of thing.

    So, I'm not saying that anyone who doesn't vote for Clinton is doing so for sexist reasons -- not at all. I totally understand why someone wouldn't vote for her. But I'm troubled that more women don't seem bothered by how gender stereotyping is being used in the way the press and the other candidates try to portray her. I guess I simply don't like the stark reality that women competing in an arena which is traditionally male are stilll judged under a huge double standard, and I fear that even women are to used to that to see it or be bothered by it.

    I know, it's time to be done with this rant. Sigh.

  6. Anonymous10:17 AM

    I wouldn't EVER vote for Clinton. Who needs 4 more years of soap opera and that pervert husband of hers anywhere near the White House? If there is sexism connected to her candidacy, it has to do with women feeling sorry for her and her "standing by her man" stance. How many women did the man rape? How many young interns took their turn on their knees? Enough with the Clintons! I detest them both.

  7. Anonymous2:55 PM

    I agree with you, but I have been surprised that the sexism hasn't been a whole lot worse and more blatant. The irony of Edwards' remarks is that his wife is such a MUCH better speaker and rallying point! He'd clearly be lost without her.

    I recall how weeping ruined Muskie's career in New Hampshire. But now it's become acceptable and endearing when Bush drops big crocodile tears over the men and women whose lives he's responsible for ruining. A real man can now weep and be admired for it. But a woman still doesn't have that freedom.

    I actually missed both the tears and the ironing comments, but my DH saw both and said Hillary was exceptionally moving. (This coming from a cynic.) All that criticism that she acts "too much like a man" ... until she acts "too much like a woman."

  8. Do I have a aright to comment being from the UK? The thing about Clinton crying that bothered me was a clip I saw on the Tv while getting changed at the Gym. A pollster was explaining why he called the New Hampshire primary wrong and they showed the responses to the polled people watching the clip of Hilary getting tearful. Viewers rated her very highly. But at the end she turned what she had been saying as an attack on Obama and the ratings dropped. The Polster said that's why they didn't think she'd win.However turns out the networks only carried the first bit of the clip and therefore voters were influenced accordingly. I don't know - did you all get to see the whole thing? I have heard of this before - we got different, more detailed pictures here of 9/11 and we get more pictures of caskets returning from Iraq too.. I find it wrorrying how the media is so influential.

    Previously I have never followed a US election but the primaries on this may well be more interesting than the election!

    As an aside - tough women don't cry? Margaret Thatcher was the Iron lady and even she shed a tear when her backstabbing (male) colleagues forced her out of office!

  9. I try to limit my in-take of corporate news but what I've witnessed on CNN in the last 2-3 weeks reeks of "news to sell" instead of "news to tell". I think there has always been sexism and racism in mainstream coverage on a continuous basis...sometimes blatant, sometimes subtle...it just didn't start with the campaign coverage. It just saddens me that people are so dependent and being fed ONLY what they see or read via big box news sources.

  10. Hi Diane, I liked your comments although I may not be in total agreement but I will say there's a huge amount of gender bias. But Clinton lacks integrity and when it comes to the rubber meeting the pavement I think her limited strengths will be her folly. There are some very strong woman in Washington and some that have passed on (former TX gov Ann Richards)that fill the bill without bringing gender into it. Naturally the media will run with what stirs emotion...Hillary knows that too. I just hate to see someone vote for the cause of a female in the White House over the issues at hand. Without targeting any particular class of Americans...it's a fairly safe bet (IMHO) that people will vote with that in mind. Ugh!