Sexism and the campaign
Blogging while I watch the election results come in from New Hampshire. Clinton’s still leading Obama with a bit under 1/3 of the results in so far. If she wins, it will be really interesting to see the analyses of why the polling over the last few days was so far off.
The Steinem piece on Hillary has been getting a lot of play today. I think she’s completely right that Hillary has been the object of a great deal of sexism — from the constant refrain that she’s "shrill" and "strident" to the obsession with her appearance and the damned if you do, damned if you don’t coverage of her emotions.
That said, I do think the campaign has highlighted the degree to which
sexism continues to permeate the environment, at a time when overt
racism has become clearly unacceptable, at least in high-level
politics. Obama’s been the subject of some nasty anti-Muslim comments
(even though he’s Christian), but other than the people who keep
calling him "articulate",* there’s been very little racism in the
campaign so far. (But I still think racism probably does more to hold
people back on the US overall than sexism. Some other day, I need to
blog about the Pew findings on race, gender and intergenerational
[CNN just said that their exit polling is showing more support for Clinton from women in NH than they saw in IA. If so, I think that may well be driven by the blatant sexism of the news coverage of the past few days — from the headlines, I thought that she had burst into tears and been unable to continue, rather than having a hitch in her voice.]
But I think Steinem’s overstating the degree to which sexism is driving the results so far, as opposed to people’s real enthusiasm for Obama. Yes, it’s improbable that a woman with Obama’s bio could be a serious candidate for president. But it’s also totally improbably that he’s a serious candidate for president. And it’s not fair, but that’s part of his appeal.
I also think that when Steinem includes "powerful fathers" along with "sex, race, money.. and paper degrees" in the things that shouldn’t be driving our choices, it’s more than a bit disingenuous for her not to include "famous husbands" in the litany.
* "Articulate" is a compliment when you’re talking about a teenager, or someone you’re interviewing for their first job. When applied to an adult who has been elected to political office, it’s either damning with faint praise or code for "he doesn’t sound black."
[AP and CNN are calling New Hampshire for Clinton. Judging by my disappointment, I’m officially off the fence.]