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May 19, 2008

Comments

Alison

This has been the most frustrating thing to me during this campaign - other women who seem not to care or are oblivious to this sexism. I just went to Ann Althouse the other day and was not surprised to read her thoughts on this campaign, disgusted that Clinton has achieved recognition due to her husband (one of the oldest sexist complaints) and that Clinton "whines" about sexism.

Ms. Althouse, who claims herself to be a feminist, writes:

"Interesting, but Obama did not set out to lead that dialogue. He was dragged into it. Face it, Obama has the more agile, able mind. He presented himself as transcending race — something he could see many Americans want to do — and when he had to deal with it — he spoke in broad, inclusive terms. Clinton promoted herself from the start as deserving special support because of her sex, and then when things didn't go her way, she and her surrogates were quick to attribute her problems to sex and to whine and blame about sexism."

Ick.

Uzo Odozor.

I find many of your points valid. I'm a man and a supporter of Obama, and I do consider myself a feminist. I'm also black so I know how certain words can trigger alarms to women and minorities. For instance, the "claws", "periodically" and "down" you mentioned in your last argument. However, there are certainly many points of yours that I totally disagree with. I'll lay them out and you can tell me what you disagree with.

1)
You've connected the commentary of right wing pundits to Obama.

"Debra Saunders, a conservative columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, called Sen. Clinton a "crybaby" for calling attention to the sexism. I saw this dynamic at law school with young men like Barack."

Barack did not write this article. As you pointed out, Debra Saunders did. Debra saunders is a woman. But in this passage it seems that you link her comments to Obama "with young men like Barack. Saunders is not Obama. Saunders is not a man from law school. That said, she certainly does not represent the consensus female voice in America.

2) Concerns over racism in this campaign are legitimate. Yet, you seem to dismiss them quite easily. I understand your concerns about sexism. I take them very seriosuly. Sexism is present in this campaign. And so is racism. You pretend that when West Virginians (90 percent of whom are white, working class people) say they find Obama "untrustworthy", they are speaking from some enlightened perspective and that no racist motives lurk behind those claims. Many people have gone on the record (watch stewart's the daily show the day after the primary there) saying that they voted against Obama because he was black. Yes, they could not trust him. But for many of them, it was because of his race.

3)Your paragraph about entitlement really upset me. You have many solid points in your previous discourse to make a case against sexism in the media. But to say that Obama felt "entitled" to "abandon" his children is ridiculous. How can you compare Black fathers totally abandoning their children to Obama not being able to see his kids on the campaign trail. In an interview it was Michelle Obama who said that they wanted the kids to have their schedules changed because of the process. And so while he had to campaign, the kids kept going to school. To suggest that he left them behind to fend for themselves is just absurd at best. And on the matter of "abandoning his state", senator Clinton did the same thing. I really don't see what your point is.

Your bias has disallowed you from giving objective commentary on these issues. Nobody is asking you to not have a political preference. But you should comment fairly and accurately. But keep writing, I enjoy your work. Reply if you have time please.

M.R. Field

There are many comments I could make on this post. There are many classical sociological components at work in the mania over Obama. These include mob behavior (e.g., saying things because so many other people are behaving similarly) and where women find their individual identification (e.g., through their husband's position or as the caregiver to children or as the keeper of tradition). In response to Alison's comment about equation of abandonment of children, there are two comments. One, there is a whole generation of men who abandoned the care of their children to their wives as they worked in corporate America. The fathers may have been bringing in money but there is much literature written by men who felt abandoned as youth nonetheless. I consider it racist to link comments about Obama's physical separation from his children to black men's physical and financial abandonment since such behavior has consequences regardless of race or ethnicity. Moreover, Obama writes in one of his books that Michelle carried much of the responsibility for raising the children as Obama ran for and served in the Illinois legislature. Thus, the physical separation is not a short-term necessity of a presidential campaign, it is an intentional decision made within the priority of a career versus time spent with family. From every thing I've observed in the past year, I know Michelle Obama could not have made the same career choices as her husband and not have been penalized by many commentators and voters for leaving the children with her husband.

M.R. Field

Correction, the comment I reference was made by Uzo Odozor, not by Alison. I apologize for any confusion.

David Mosby

http://www.observer.com/2008/imaginary-glass-ceiling

David Mosby

Ms. Nuss,

You write, "Anger, psychologists say, is just a symptom of other underlying feelings." Well, you and many of the women who are arguing that Senator Clinton has been a victim of rampant misogyny strike me as pretty angry. Your understandably profound disappointment seems to have clouded your judgment and reason.

How could Planned Parenthood and Naral give Obama a 100 percent rating if he’s sexist?
Are Senators Amy Klobuchar and Clarie McCaskill and Governors Kathleen Sebelius and Janet Napolitano trying to impose a glass ceiling on Hillary Clinton by supporting Obama? Are Caroline Kennedy, Oprah Winfrey, Maria Shriver all self-hating dupes?

How is that such extraordinary, successful woman that have done so much to break barriers for women all failing to see what you (and those who agree with you) regard as Obama’s true sexist colors?

David Mosby

http://www.slate.com/blogs/blogs/xxfactor/archive/2008/05/20/complex-martyrs.aspx

David Mosby

http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-oe-chait21-2008may21,0,2243133.story

David Mosby

The 32-year-old liberal writer Michelle Goldberg expressed her mystification that older feminists "seem to identify with Clinton so profoundly that they interpret rejection of her as a personal rebuke."

M.R. Field

Mr. Mosby, please post the points you gain from the articles for which you provide links. I can read those articles and come up with a different interpretation than you. What Ms. Nuss is attempting with her commentaries is to create a dialogue that explores the problem of gender bias and means to correct it. That dialogue cannot happen if readers are just told to go read something else.

David Mosby

Mr. Field,

When I had something in particular to say, I said it in the comments I posted. But there isn't much point in me simply taking out of context what another writer has to say. I post the links because I think some of the readers of this blog and Ms. Nuss in particular would do well to be exposed to alternative opinions. One of the things that's wonderful about the Internet is the easy ability to refer people to links of articles, websites, video clips, etc. If you're not interested in taking the time to read the articles, just ignore my posts. I don't think I have an obligation to digest an entire article for you.

M.R. Field

Mr. Mosby, one of the most dreadful things about the Internet is that so many people think that the mere act of posting a link is a substitute for rationale interpretation of what other people are saying. While I disagree with many of Ms. Nuss's conclusions, I read her posts because she does not merely link to other people's works. Instead she quotes the sections that prompted her to reaction and presents an argument as to how those various articles and quotes create a pattern of behavior or opinion. Moreover, it is the pattern of his behavior and comments that is very much at the heart of many people's opposition to Barack Obama as the best person to lead the United States. Similarly, it is the pattern of comments and behaviors that, when pulled together, clearly demonstrate gender discrimination.

David Mosby

While I would never be so foolish as to suggest that there has been absolutely no gender discrimination or racism in this campaign, it is pretty clear that for most of the campaign’s duration there was no meaningful or substantive gender discrimination or racism in this campaign, which is to say it did not have any significant impact on the outcome other than the positive effect of many people be excited about the prospect of the first black or woman president. In January, Democrats pat themselves on the back for have a bevy of exemplary candidates from which to choose and were proud of having two “historic” candidates with a real shot at the nomination.

That all started to change when Senator Clinton started to lose. Senator Clinton and her supporters (and to a lesser extent Senator Obama and his) have systematically interpreted any criticism or Clinton as sexism because their support for her is often based on her and their identities.

As Jonathan Chait writes in his Los Angeles Times column:

“[T]ens of millions of feminists see Clinton as a stand-in for their own lives. Any setback to her is a setback for women. Her supporters frequently describe her campaign as a metaphor for women's struggle against the glass ceiling -- Clinton as the older woman written off or disdained for her abilities, Obama as a younger man who takes a job that should be hers.

Moreover:

“The main grievance against Obama is that political pundits are saying the race is over and Clinton should quit… Clinton's supporters are defining this as a form of sexism. Ellen Malcolm, founder of the liberal feminist group Emily's List, recently noted with bitter sarcasm, "The first woman ever to win a presidential primary is supposed to stop competing, to curtsy and exit stage right."

Thus the mere act of suggesting that Clinton has lost the race or is losing the race is for many of the hard-core supporters a form of sexism in and of itself. This is, of course, absurd.

There are a hundred factors that have led to Hillary’s downfall and her gender is the least of them: e.g., a poorly organized Iowa operation; bad campaign money management; a decision to not contest caucus states; infighting amongst the campaign's leadership; the decision of Michigan and Florida to move up their primaries (thus denying her delegates from states she would have likely won); and perhaps most important of all the unfortunate fact (for Hillary) that the Democrats use a proportional system for assigning delegates instead of the winner-take-all system of the Republicans (Hillary would be the nominee under such a system).
If any of these factors had been different, Hillary Clinton would likely have won.

As Dahlia Lithwick of Slate magazine writes:

“Of course Hillary Clinton is a victim of sexism. She’s also a victim of classism, regionalism, her own cross-eyed optimism, of massive political miscalculation, and of her association with epic philanderer Bill Clinton. The fact that she and some of her supporters may be willing to single out just one of those “isms” and blame it for all her woes is testament to how much identity politics can flatten a country of otherwise intelligent thinking people into a bunch of compulsive one-notes. Sure sexism is partly to blame for Clinton’s failure. But for her to claim that it’s solely to blame or even mostly to blame—oh, and that the media’s failure to harp exclusively on that sexism in this campaign constitutes yet more sexism—is evidence of how far the women’s movement still needs to move in this country.

“You wanna play with the big boys? Embrace complex causation! Sexism sucks. But the surest way for feminists to be reduced to mere women is with the claim that absolutely everything bad that happens to them happens because they are mere women.”

The truth is that both candidates have been “victims” of discrimination and bias. However, both have benefited much more from their gender or racial identity, respectively than they have suffered.

On a final note, Mr. Field, one of the most dreadful things in life -- in the real world and the virtual one -- is that it is replete with people who think their way of doing something is not only the best way, but the only appropriate way.

Lisa Nuss

Readers -

Thanks for the lively discussion. Mothering a newborn baby is unbelievably rewarding but also exhausting (in a good way). I hope to respond more thoroughly. But my first thought is this: One thing that frustrated me when I write for internet media - like Huffington Post or the UK Guardian - there is such a barrage of angry comments from men telling me and other women writers how angry and biased we are - and then they quote other writers as "proof" that other people agree that we're angry and biased. I stopped submitting to the HuffPost and the Guardian because I was tired of have to constantly explain that because women have opinions does not make them "angry." Somewhere Gloria Steinem described this phenomenon and expressed a wish for women not to constantly have to defend against how the current culture expects women to express themselves and instead just to frame the dialogue they want to express. She said it better than I did and M.R. Field can probably articulate that better since you seem to have a good grasp on that psychology.
Point is I no longer will spend time defending charges that strong women are "angry" or biased or feminists, etc. Instead I am trying to frame discussions as I see them rather than constantly reacting to the way they're framed in the current culture.

David - I appreciate your comments, I do agree with M.R. that snippets would be useful. I don't spend as much time on the internet as many bloggers might and a quick bite-reference to a point would help.

Lisa

David Mosby

Lisa - You can't have it both ways. You don't want readers (i.e. men) to imagine you're angry and would rather that they focus on the dialogue. However, you yourself feel free to describe some male supporters of Obama or opponents of Hillary as "filled with such pent up rage which can only be seen as fear." What's good for the goose... Some of your comments strike as coming from an "angry" person. Perhaps you're not actually "angry" but you're clearly "outraged" by what you see as Obama sexist behavior. I'm not sure that there is much a difference in tone when one conveys outrage and anger in a post. I also think it's fair to say that even if you aren't "angry" (just a strong woman expressing an opinion) that many women who support Hillary and complain about allegedly omni-present sexism are in fact angry and many of them have said as much.

kyna

Keeping up the conversation please!
Democrats and the left leaning media has celebrated its renewed power this election season by legitimizing sexism. I am weighing all the issues I care for against a party that has written the majority of the population off and still hasn't noticed this. I am ready to make them take notice.

elspetharwyn

Thank you for writing this. It is still now in early August one of the only intelligent pieces for the feminist to approach on the web after this disgusting debacle of failed government. I can't bring myself to use the word election as I am Floridian, and the irony is as yet, a bit fresh. I wonder if Obama is not the sexist slug that he has been proved to be, by the lists of his offensive personal behaviors, why has he not responded to, or even apologized for the sexism that put him in the position where he is? Is it not obvious, that the sexism is the strategy, like Willie Horton, designed intentionally to rile up the misogynist in us all? We really can't blame him. He has stated repeatedly that he looks at politics as a sport, a "full contact" sport. This is a sexist country, with a sexist media. Any Machiavellian like our "Prince Obama" would recognize they need a sexist strategy to win. Why would women's groups support him, you ask? Look at their stated rationale. It is better to try to effect the process from inside than try to speak the truth outside the tent. Personally, I think they (the two-faced "women's groups") are whores, who sell themselves and all other women far to cheaply.

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