By Mary Souza, Nov. 10, 2008
Sexism is Alive and Well in America
Our United States Presidential election is now over. It has been a long, intense campaign and I join my fellow citizens in hoping for a quiet return to normalcy. But whether the outcome makes you happy or sad, there is a loathsome lesson to take from this 2008 election: Sexism is alive and well in America.
Hillary Clinton started the campaign cycle years ago, positioning herself for the top job, and Democrats were enthusiastic about her potential. Her gender was then honored, her experience and capabilities highlighted. After all, she was the heir apparent and a liberal in every way.
Enter Barack Obama and the gender celebration was quickly pushed aside in favor of race relations. Which minority status deserves higher consideration? The answer was clear as the mainstream media crowned Obama and turned their backs on the formerly emulated Hillary. Their moves were subtle, but the sexist attacks were real: Gradually downplaying the value of Sen. Clinton's experience, raising new questions about her husband wandering in the White House and whether she was strong enough to face foreign leaders.
But when the Republicans chose the Governor of Alaska to be their VP pick, the gloves came off. Governor Palin is a conservative woman. She does not share the same values as liberal feminists but holds an impressive list of accomplishments from her 13 years in elected office. No matter, most media outlets went into personal attack mode.
How best to diminish and discount a popular female governor with an approval rating of 80%? (Especially when the approval rating of the US Congress was 9%) Talk about her appearance constantly; focus all attention on her hair, glasses, clothing and shoes. Dig up swimsuit photos from a high school beauty pageant and call into question her motherhood.
Do not talk about her fight to clean up corruption within her own political party or becoming the first female governor in Alaska's history. And absolutely do not discuss her responsibilities as the state's chief executive, accountable for 15,000 employees and a nearly $7 billion dollar budget. No, the media said Gov. Palin should be home with her children, while they alternately and incongruously labeled her as "hot" and "sexy". Interviews with liberal journalists, and I use the term lightly, asked about everything except her background, experience and plans as VP.
Oh, but it got worse, much worse. With the perception of public fascination, comedy shows, fringe media outlets and attention-starved celebrities all rushed to create foul, vulgar images or statements about Governor Palin, some pornographic, in an effort to get themselves in the news. It worked. Mainstream stations reported the repugnant fabrications, simply for the shock factor.
Can you imagine the uproar if the same was done to Barack Obama?
An effigy of Sarah Palin was allowed to hang by a noose as a Halloween decoration while two men were arrested for a Halloween effigy of Sen. Obama. The law considers it a hate crime in the case of race but not in the case of gender.
It's depressing to think that our country's leadership choices cannot be made on the credentials and abilities of candidates rather than their gender. We must stop supporting media outlets that resort to these offensive, biased methods. No matter what your political loyalties, sexism should not be tolerated. Never the less, throughout this campaign, both Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin continued to carry themselves with grace and dignity. For this they have both earned my respect, and I hope yours as well.
Dear Newsletter Readers,
You didn't receive a newsletter last week because of the election. Here's my column from yesterday's paper, and I was surprised at the large number of negative comments it drew on the Press web site.
Some commenters did not understand that my column was not about the value of Sarah Palin as the VP pick, it was about sexism in this election diminishing us as a country. No one, of course, made any reference to Hillary Clinton; all the negatives were about Sarah Palin.
One commenter proved my point exactly by calling Gov. Palin "America's favorite cocktail waitress". Can you imagine someone calling Barack Obama "America's favorite shoe shine boy?" Or some other racially connected slur? The country would come unglued, as it should. But the sexist attacks on female candidates go uncontested.
Several people wrote that it was "whining" to bring this up after the election. I am not speaking to this issue because neither Clinton nor Palin were chosen by the public, I'm bringing it forward because it's a terrible way to treat any candidate and it robs our country of serious leadership options.
Hope you all have a positive, productive week. --Mary
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Mary Souza has been a concerned citizen
of CdA for over 20 years. She's a local small business owner,
former P&Z Commissioner
and wrote an opinion column in the CdA Press on local issues. Her
opinions are her own.
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