Tuesday, May 20, 2008

A Deafening Silence

I feel like I've been shouting into a void of sorts as I've repeatedly gotten upset at the sexist, hate-filled language used when well-respected, mainstream media types talk about Hillary Clinton. I've SO appreciated the comments and emails I've gotten in response to my rants here, and I'm glad to know that many of you feel the way I do about how harmful to all women this sort of talk is.
So I was especially gratified to read a well-written piece from May 15, 2008 in the Washington Post by Marie Cocco about this very issue. She said it better than I ever could:

Misogyny I Won't Miss
By Marie Cocco

As the Democratic nomination contest slouches toward a close, it's time to take stock of what I will not miss.

I will not miss seeing advertisements for T-shirts that bear the slogan "Bros before Hos." The shirts depict Barack Obama (the Bro) and Hillary Clinton (the Ho) and are widely sold on the Internet.

I will not miss walking past airport concessions selling the Hillary Nutcracker, a device in which a pantsuit-clad Clinton doll opens her legs to reveal stainless-steel thighs that, well, bust nuts. I won't miss television and newspaper stories that make light of the novelty item.

I won't miss episodes like the one in which liberal radio personality Randi Rhodes called Clinton a "big [expletive] whore" and said the same about former vice presidential nominee Geraldine Ferraro. Rhodes was appearing at an event sponsored by a San Francisco radio station, before an audience of appreciative Obama supporters -- one of whom had promoted the evening on the presumptive Democratic nominee's official campaign Web site.

I won't miss Citizens United Not Timid (no acronym, please), an anti-Clinton group founded by Republican guru Roger Stone.

Political discourse will at last be free of jokes like this one, told last week by magician Penn Jillette on MSNBC: "Obama did great in February, and that's because that was Black History Month. And now Hillary's doing much better 'cause it's White Bitch Month, right?" Co-hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski rebuked Jillette.

I won't miss political commentators (including National Public Radio political editor Ken Rudin and Andrew Sullivan, the columnist and blogger) who compare Clinton to the Glenn Close character in the movie "Fatal Attraction." In the iconic 1987 film, Close played an independent New York woman who has an affair with a married man played by Michael Douglas. When the liaison ends, the jilted woman becomes a deranged, knife-wielding stalker who terrorizes the man's blissful suburban family. Message: Psychopathic home-wrecker, begone.

The airwaves will at last be free of comments that liken Clinton to a "she-devil" (Chris Matthews on MSNBC, who helpfully supplied an on-screen mock-up of Clinton sprouting horns). Or those who offer that she's "looking like everyone's first wife standing outside a probate court" (Mike Barnicle, also on MSNBC).

But perhaps it is not wives who are so very problematic. Maybe it's mothers. Because, after all, Clinton is more like "a scolding mother, talking down to a child" (Jack Cafferty on CNN).

When all other images fail, there is one other I will not miss. That is, the down-to-the-basics, simplest one: "White women are a problem, that's -- you know, we all live with that" (William Kristol of Fox News).

I won't miss reading another treatise by a man or woman, of the left or right, who says that sexism has had not even a teeny-weeny bit of influence on the course of the Democratic campaign. To hint that sexism might possibly have had a minimal role is to play that risible "gender card."

Most of all, I will not miss the silence.

I will not miss the deafening, depressing silence of Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean or other leading Democrats, who to my knowledge (with the exception of Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland) haven't publicly uttered a word of outrage at the unrelenting, sex-based hate that has been hurled at a former first lady and two-term senator from New York. Among those holding their tongues are hundreds of Democrats for whom Clinton has campaigned and raised millions of dollars. Don Imus endured more public ire from the political class when he insulted the Rutgers University women's basketball team.

Would the silence prevail if Obama's likeness were put on a tap-dancing doll that was sold at airports? Would the media figures who dole out precious face time to these politicians be such pals if they'd compared Obama with a character in a blaxploitation film? And how would crude references to Obama's sex organs play?

There are many reasons Clinton is losing the nomination contest, some having to do with her strategic mistakes, others with the groundswell for "change." But for all Clinton's political blemishes, the darker stain that has been exposed is the hatred of women that is accepted as a part of our culture.

Marie Cocco is syndicated by the Washington Post Writers Group. Her e-mail address is mariecocco@washpost.com.


  1. Although I may not agree with Hillary Clinton's politics I agree that she is an extremely capable and competent individual and should be treated as such. Her politics is fair game but not race or gender

  2. I agree. The longer it has gone on, the more I admire her. I won't be voting for a Democrat, but I do respect Sen. Clinton.

  3. Hear, hear.

    As much as I admired her when she started her bid for the Presidency, watching Hillary Clinton face day after day of this unrelenting crap with style and strength has elevated her to untold heights in my opinion. She represents everything that is great about those who dare break the glass ceilings, who dare leave the trodden path to blaze new trails. Future female politicians will have a lot to thank her for.

    And I have gasped with outrage and shame as public figures that I once looked upon as responsible individuals have opened their mouths and uncovered their ignorance, bias, and fear.

  4. Marie nailed it, and I'm printing this out for my husband to read, as he refuses to see the gender biased reporting going on. I'm so tired of this whole election and have a hard time even watching the news anymore.

  5. Thanks for posting that. That was exactly the thoughts I've been having, and she is floating above it unlike others we are watching in the political arena. It seems to be pretty difficult to get passed the "men's club" front door, and I admire her persistance!

  6. A bit of advice - just close your ears to the ignorant people in this world because you'll be the one getting the ulcer. Frankly, I cannot wait until November so we can get onto other news than the campaign trail. I am from the other party, but I must say I was very impressed with Sen. Clinton on the O'Reilly Factor. She wants this job and she knows her stuff upside down and back and forth and very capable of handling the job.

  7. Anonymous10:07 AM

    Yes, Diane, I think you are crying into a huge void. In the 70's I concluded the only hope of changing our sexist society was by raising "good" sons who "get it" about women. We seem to have failed (as usual, it's Mom's fault) because the woods are still full of creeps like Chris Matthews and that Castellanos jerk (my DH said, "Who IS that guy?!") and the media who give them space and time.

    I hope you saw Gerry Ferraro on the "Today" show this week. She is still looking for the moral outrage over the "Iron my shirts" crap at one of Hillary's speeches. She said that if it had been Obama speaking and the cry had been "Shine my shoes," we'd be hearing about it every day since.

    I'm tired of being told I shouldn't base my vote on gender (which, actually, I don't--completely), but blacks are not told a similar viewpoint when they blatantly advocate for Obama because of his race.

    I think we women DO have to take some of the blame, though. My lawyer DD went to a women lawyers' luncheon this week where the speaker said there should be a special place in hell for women who do not help other women. Amen, Sista. I've been demoralized by this country's gender bias for my whole adult life and it seems I'll go to my grave not feeling any better. But I DO have a little grandson whose grandmother is going to SEE he "gets it" before I make my final rest. And I think that's the only way to affect change: one person at a time.

  8. I think this gender bias is way overrated when you balance it against the bias that Obama has had to face. Let's face it, this is an historic election year. I feel that Hillary has paved the way and opened doors for women. At the beginning of the campaign, she suffered very little gender bias as she was the front runner and the presumed candidate. I think when she started falling behind, she began to behave in ways that brought on the gender bias and unflattering comments. I have not been a Hillary fan and if she got the nomination, I would have to hold my nose to vote for her, but not because she is a woman, but because she and Bill are disingenuous and power hungry. Whoops, I better stop and get off my soap box. I can't wait for the first woman president, but please, not her.