Even an Obama Supporter Believes Media Coverage of Hillary is Sexist

Mon, April 28, 2008

Making Our Political Voices Heard

I’ve taken a lot of heat for continuing to talk about my belief that many in the media have treated Hillary Clinton unfairly because of her gender.

Comments like, “If you look hard enough for sexism, you’ll find it” or that any sense that the media critiques of Clinton are infused with sexist undertones are mere propaganda, abound in the comments section here and at MOMocrats.

I didn’t start out being a Hillary supporter, but ended up being one after John Edwards dropped out of the race. I suppose some people think my opinions on the gender discussion are because I support “the woman” candidate and I’m upset about any attacks on her. It’s not the case — I’m a feminist from way back. But trying to convince people otherwise has been a futile act.

So for the naysayers, I wanted to link to this piece by Jessica Wakeman at The Huffington Post, On Sexist Media Coverage of Hillary Clinton. Jessica, a supporter of Barack Obama, attended an event at The Paley Center for Media in New York (I am so bummed I missed it!), where the discussion, “From Bella to Hillary: Women, Media and Politics” was a lively one.

The upshot from an evening with so many notable women who are experts on this subject?

There is no absence of “sexist male punditry” in the media today. But a lot of people don’t want to see it, because if they do, they’d have to take some responsibility.

This isn’t just about Hillary. This is about the rest of us, too. This is about any women who want to have a voice in the political conversation and a place at the table. Because if the media can get us to believe that we don’t have to take Clinton seriously because she’s a shrew and the word that rhymes with “witch” or that she should be taken into a room and beaten up so Obama can get on with the race, they won’t have to pay attention to any of us down the road.

Wakeman writes in her post:

Most of the panelists seemed to be saying that if more women were in positions of power — mayors, senators, representatives, presidents, heads of media companies, TV pundits, op-ed columnists, radio show hosts — then the discourse would de-frat boy, bullying of females and ridicule of serious issues would cease and sexist commentary would be met with shock and embarrassment, rather than naughty smiles. That may or may not be true, but I’m inclined to believe it is mostly true. I can’t be the only one having those frustrating conversations where I feel protective of Hillary Clinton.

Pretending that the ongoing and relentless negative comments made about Hillary are only specific to her and that they don’t negatively impact other women – or our daughters – is naive at best. Those of us who have lived that brand of gender discrimination know it and understand that it will continue if we fail to put a name on it or to talk about it.

Some of it may be more subtle than it was when married women reporters (read: me) got paid less than their male counterparts because there was a husband’s salary in the picture, but it’s still there and the Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermanns of the world don’t seem to
care. Sometimes it may not be as blatant as using the words we hope noone will ever say to our daughters. But it’s there.

Even some non-Hillary supporters see it.

Cross-posted from MOMocrats.

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10 Responses to “Even an Obama Supporter Believes Media Coverage of Hillary is Sexist”

  1. Professor Kim Says:

    I agree with you that Hillary has been the target of sexist and vapid commentary. I also think that one of the biggest problems with the way in which we talk about this is that we don’t articulate the intersections between gender, race and class. What does it mean, for example, when a commentator writes about Hillary’s style of communications being and Obama’s being feminine? So much for “Free to be you and me.” Hillary’s had to run against the angry feminist stereotype all of her life. Obama has to run against the angry black man stereotype. Both of them have to be smarter than smart to even be considered for the jobs they now hold, but both of them get hammered for their intelligence. That’s the intersection of misogyny, racism and classism.

    Meanwhile, John McCain, whose class background is actually privileged compared to Clinton and Obama, can admit that he doesn’t know much about the economy, blow his stack so often that some of his own Senate Republican colleagues say he is too erratic and tempermental to be trusted with the presidency. To flip Gloria Steinem’s question from that controversial New York Times column, would Joan McCain be the presumptive Republican nominee with the same resume?

  2. Professor Kim Says:

    Hi Joanne — somehow part of my text got swallowed in that last link — it should be “Hillary’s style of communications being masculine.”

  3. slouching mom Says:

    i do believe the media coverage of hillary is sexist.

    just as i believe the media coverage of obama is racist. if i have to hear, “he’s so well-spoken!” one more time, i’m going to SCREAM. because the unfinished sentence is, “he’s so well-spoken for a black person.” else why would they say it?

  4. Magpie Says:

    What Sarah said. I think it’s really hard to get away from the sexist and the racist, unfortunately.

  5. Diane Says:

    Good for you for posting this — and continuing to bring this subject up. It’s still shocking to me how many people — including women who call themselves feminists — don’t see how the way Hillary Clinton is talked about affects ALL women.

  6. Grim Reality Girl Says:

    Count me as an Obama supporter who agrees on this topic. Thank you for voicing this concern in a manner that I can support! I think it is a great point that our children are watching… may the candidates keep this in mind as well.

  7. David Says:

    I’m officially neutral in the democratic race but I can definitely say the media’s treatment of both candidates leaves quite a bit to be desired. Sen. Clinton has to show emotion or she’s a cold, unfeeling witch; but if she shows emotion she’s weak or scattered.

    Bottom line – look at what Americans say they care about. The Gallup poll that has tracked this indicator for DECADES says Americans care about are: 1) economy in general, 2) war in Iraq, 3) fuel/oil prices, 4) healthcare, and 5) unemployment. Look deeper at the numbers and the economy & the war really dominate what people care about.

    But what is the media writing about? Hillary’s tears. Barack’s pastor. What story is buried? McCain saying we could be in Iraq for another 100 years or that he’s not strong on the economy.

    Why we tolerate this kind of a disconnect from our beltway media is beyond me.

  8. judy in ky Says:

    I can see your points about the media coverage. I think most of it is superficial and focuses on all the wrong things. I, too, tire of egotistic males who monopolize the cameras and the microphones. I am a loyal democrat as well as a feminist. However, I still do not like Hillary. Her ability to lie, exaggerate, and pander with a straight face just doesn’t sit well with me. It has nothing to do with sexism… I just don’t like her as an individual.

  9. TEOM Says:

    Oh yes. Glad to hear this thinking is finally gaining a toehold in the mudslide that is the coverage of Hillary.

  10. Anonymous Says:

    It does seem to me that the MSM coverage of (for instance) Hillary and/or this election is the kind of “color” that passes for intelligence on covering sports. These folks fill space until the next inning, half or period. They only have the one trick. Fools that we were, We were looking for more, but sports coverage is the template, and it’s generally male, seeking scores, defensive and aggressive”plays”. The sports metaphors and templates are generally male and lack substance.
    I am appalled that the Obama campaign, while chasing “racist” everything, does not publicly deplore and reject the sexist, offensive, and vulgar
    coverage of Clinton. I could never vote for such an opportunistic misogynist.

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