That’s the meme started by New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd and continued by MSNBC’s Chris Matthews and others about reports that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice and presidential adviser Samantha Power were a nagging triumvirate of estrogen that forced President Obama into sending U.S. troops to Libya in a humanitarian effort to prevent power-hungry dictator Muammar Qadafi from killing his own people. Inside the beltway publication Politico kept the whole 1950s vibe alive by asking, “Boys against girls over Libya?” Even the Christian Science Monitor got in on the gender wars action as it tried to dissect the Libya decision.
There are many things to lament about the state of journalism — or should I say “journalism” in big air quotes — today, but reporters who perpetuate the idea that women can only convince men of their positions by harassing or cajoling them would probably have even Ward Cleaver shaking his head. At this rate, it’s only a matter of time until we see a story suggesting that maybe Hillary batted her eyelashes at President Obama to get her way in Afghanistan or that Valerie Jarrett’s skirts are getting a little shorter in hopes of speeding things up on the Paycheck Fairness issue (Shhhhh. Don’t tell Michelle).
If three high level men had been the ones who convinced the President that we couldn’t stand by and watch another slaughter of innocent people a la Rwanda, the critique would be about the actual facts behind the decision making process, rather than whether “the ladies” had just pulled something out of the old housewives’ bag of tricks.
Sadly, the fact that journos and commentators are even suggesting that three high-level, educated, accomplished and savvy women in the administration could only have gotten their way by henpecking, nagging, and harassing the President and the other boys in the room, rather than having convinced them that they had a legitimate, cogent, persuasive argument as to why the United States should have a role in a humanitarian effort to prevent a blood-bath, is just another reminder that no matter how far we’ve come, it’s just not far enough.
I know it’s the job of people like Dowd, Matthews, and others to say things that will get people all riled up, but I just have to say (again) that crossing the line into stereotypical woman-bashing doesn’t help anyone, other than advertisers who support those news outlets, because something sensational will always get more eyeballs on those all-important ads.
If we’re really going down this road, I’m going to have to call in Wilma Flintstone and Betty Rubble. As long as we’re in the world of caveman thinking, I know they’ve got a good track record of straightening out the boys.