Game Change — Sexism at its Worst

Mon, January 25, 2010


game changeSo let me get this straight — with the exception of Michelle Obama, all the women who were center stage in the 2008 presidential election (whether they were candidates or not) are bitchy, stupid, whining shrews?

If this is where we are in 2010 when it comes to permissible portrayals of women, I may have to live to be 237 before we’re treated with even a modicum of respect.

I am SO weary of men journalists (and some women) thinking they can get away with sexist slams of women in the name of political commentary.  The authors of Game Change, the long on gossip, short on real reporting book, apparently want us to believe that all the things we hated about the 2008 presidential campaign can be blamed on the women who were involved.

Yes, ladies — apparently everything you didn’t like in 2008 was all our fault!


The whole John Edwards fiasco was Elizabeth Edwards’ doing?  She bears more blame than her husband in his actions and the potential impact that could have had on our country? That’s just the stuff of fairy tales.  So I have to ask — where is the political or historical value to calling Elizabeth Edwards  names because maybe she wasn’t always nice to staffers.  Sarah Palin is described as Eliza Doolittle and there’s gossip aplenty in describing Cindy McCain and Hillary Clinton and tiffs with their spouses. And they call this insightful political commentary?

The only woman who escapes unscathed is Michelle Obama, but who’s going to bad mouth a sitting First Lady?  Wouldn’t want to have that come out and be in the doghouse with the President.

If this is what passes for political journalism or commentary today, I shudder to think what future generations would think of us if a copy of Game Change lands in some time capsule and ends up being the example of our political world in 2008.

The media has been worshiping at the alter of authors Mark Halperin and John Heilemann since the book came out.  But at least there are two voices of reason in the media wilderness that I hope will get through to potential readers —’s Joan Walsh and The Plain Dealer’s Connie Schultz.

Walsh really let those boys have it, and I was happy to see she didn’t pull any punches when Ed Schultz on MSNBC was in full  ‘Elizabeth-Edwards-is-to-blame-for-the-downfall-of-the-Democratic-party’ mode. Connie Schultz also weighed in with some plain talk at her column trying to get our focus back were it belongs — on real news and not on the gratuitous attacks on a betrayed wife who is battling cancer.

So what’s the motivation of these authors — two men with high profile journalism jobs who have decided that the villains in the 2008 campaign were the women, even if they weren’t the candidates?  That’s easy — money.  It’s not a good time to be selling books when the publishing industry is going downhill. So it’s not a stretch to think that a book that’s a cross between political commentary and Us Weekly is going to do better in the marketplace than one that actually provides perspective into an historical election.

Game Change isn’t journalism; it is gossip-mongering at its worst. Why do I say that?  Well, essentially the whole book was written on “deep background” — meaning that none of the sources would agree to be directly quoted and the authors would preserve the anonymity of the sources.  No one is accountable for what they said.  The sources could say or make up whatever they wanted.  Campaign staffers who were miffed or bruised over their treatment could vent about anyone with abandon and not suffer any backlash.

Deep background has its place.  After all, it did help Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein bring the Watergate scandal out in the open.  Given the nature of Game Change, I don’t think anyone will be confusing “Woodstein’s” All the President’s Men with “Halpermann’s” book or contribution to investigative reporting.

Between the attacks against almost all the women in the book and the male journos ooh-ing and ahh-ing over this piece of faux-journalism, it’s clear that women in the political world don’t stand a chance to escape the rampant sexism that is alive and well in the 21st century.

The real “game change?”  That might happen if we could lose the sexist rhetoric and drama.  Or maybe I could write a version of this story with another woman and take on the flip side!  I have no doubt we could come up with some irrelevant, misogynistic things to say about the guys, too.  Maybe a dose of their own sexist medicine would get some of these men to understand what they’re doing and why it’s time to let it go.

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8 Responses to “Game Change — Sexism at its Worst”

  1. annie Says:

    Elizabeth Edwards, as I understand, did go along with her husband’s bid even thought the affair could have gone public at any time, potentially sucking the air out of out the Dem primaries. It’s fortunate that he didn’t run well in Iowa, but had he? So, she doesn’t get a pass on that from me. But the other stuff was just to sell books.

    Trouble with being terminally ill (or the caretaker) is that you are saint or shrew. There really is no middle ground.

    Michelle Obama was probably giving a pass because she morphed. She went the good wife route. She gets points. But that’s just how it looks to me.

    Hillary will never truly get her due. And Palin, who personally have no stomach for, is going to laugh her way to wealth and (shudder) the White House.

    The US is general is quite sexist and equally as blind to it.

  2. April Says:

    Great post! Thanks for writing it.
    What’s really sad is it will be a bestseller and make the ‘authors’ millions of dollars. All I can hope is that yours does the same!

  3. Meredith O'Brien Says:

    I completely agree. If you examine the language used to describe the women (with the exception of Michelle Obama), it was of the garden variety sexist ilk (hysterical, beauty queen, conniption, hissy fit. etc.). Male pols and the male spouses of the candidates, did not receive such harsh, negative treatment. It was the women who were depicted an unhinged and too emotional, despite the fact that the men would scream, swear and get red in the face with rage.

  4. Michael Brad Says:

    “Walsh really let those boys have it”

    you call the authors “boys.” as a man, I am offended. don’t hate the players, hate the game.

  5. Just Margaret Says:

    I’m curious to read the book–all I’ve seen are excerpts (which, incidentally, tick me off on various counts–the Us-Weekly allusion is spot-on). The only thing that holds me back is the notion of these hacks seeing a penny of my money for so much gossip mongering and deeply entrenched sexism.

    Your point about deep background is really important. You need that when dealing with an issue such as governmental corruption. But when gathering nasty little tidbits from behind-the-scenes of what must be an enormously stressful time of all these peoples lives as fodder for the gossip mill? Deep background is not really essential. Real journalists *get that*.

  6. PunditMom Says:

    Michael, if they’re going to act like boys, I think we can call them boys.

  7. Sam Says:

    There is no such thing as bad publicity. After sitting in a campaign office yesterday doing a mailing for Dan Seals for Congress, other volunteers were gossiping about how interesting the book was. I have no doubt that the journalism isn’t strong but am still curious! Our culture encourages us to build up our icons (like John Edwards, Elizabeth Edwards or Tiger Woods) and then when they screw up, act terrible or just generally behave like fallible humans, we tear them apart and rip them to shreds, calling them names and swearing we never really liked them at all. Should we be surprised someone writes a book about it — and badly? Let’s call it for what it is, People magazine in book form. I would like to hear your opinion about David Plouffe’s book on the race though, did you read? I have not.


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