Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Sexual Politics

I was not going to blog about politics this week. Really, I was not. However, everytime I think I am out, they keep sucking me back in. Also, I have been contemplating more and more about sexism in politics.

What is "sexism?" How is it manifesting itself in this election? As this thought floated around my head, I came across this:

The McCain campaign quickly posted a mischievous video charging that the "lipstick on a pig" quote by Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) was a sexist reference to Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. The spot is not a paid ad but a Web video, which campaigns produce cheaply and then encourage their supporters to distribute. The campaigns also hope the videos will get free airing in TV news coverage. Such videos are also a way to float arguments that might not pass the greater scrutiny that comes with a statement out of a candidate's mouth, or an ad airing on broadcast television. "READY TO LEAD? NO," says the lettering at the close of the ad. "READY TO SMEAR? YES." The McCain uses the quote and, in lettering, says "BARACK OBAMA ON: SARAH PALIN."

A top Obama aide e-mailed Politico to say it was "crazy" to insinuate that Obama was talking about Palin. "That expression is older than your grandfather and has nothing to do with her," the aide said. And the Obama campaign pointed out that McCain had used the same expression himself in October, drawing laughter when he cracked about the health care proposal by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-Ill.): "You can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig."

So what did Obama really say:

On Tuesday, Obama mocked his rival John McCain's calls for change after more than 25 years as a US senator and eight years with a fellow Republican in the White House. "We've been talking about change when we were up in the polls and when we were down in the polls. The other side, suddenly, they're saying 'we're for change too.' Now think about it, these are the same folks that have been in charge for the last eight years. You can put lipstick on a pig. It's still a pig. You can wrap up an old fish in a piece of paper and call it change. It's still going to stink after eight years. We've had enough."

So was he talking about Palin or was he talking about their sudden embrace of change? (Please note that I am still not sure what the Repubs are going to change.) If Obama's comment was taken out of context, then are the Repubs playing the gender card themselves? Do they think they can win by making the Dems out to be sexist? If Obama played the race card, wouldn't the Repubs rake him over the coals for it?

Apparently saying anything remotely directed at Gov. Palin which involves make-up, family or anything "feminine" is sexist. We had best all watch our language.

So what is sexism? Wikipedia says:

Sexism is a belief or attitude that one gender or sex is inferior to or less valuable than the other.

For me sexism, is implying that someone cannot be VP because that person is a woman with small children. If it is okay for a man to be VP and have small children, then why can't it be a woman? Implying that someone's child is not their own is not sexist, it's just dumb. But then the McCain campaign put out a new ad. It is hideous. Yes, hideous. It depicts a pack of wolves and then a booming voice says that they are "going to get her." The ad wants you to believe that any lies circulating about the Governor of Alaska come from the Obama campaign. Whoa.

Why is this ad out there? Ad Hawk at Newsweek had something interesting to say:

It's clear what Team McCain is trying to achieve here. They want to portray Palin as the poor little victim of a looming Obama-media industrial complex that's "out to get her" just because she's a woman. They want to insulate their veep pick from any real opposition by equating valid journalistic inquiries and good hard politicking with the sort of anonymous smears that have spread online. They want to gin up sympathy for her among female swing voters who have faced improbable odds in their own lives. And they want Chris Matthews and Co. to deliver their message free of charge tonight on TV. They'll probably succeed on all counts. But that doesn't mean that "truth" has anything to do with it.

Whoa. For me, that is sexism.

BONUS: Can you spot the movie quote?


Anonymous said...

Hmm, who exactly is the Republican's presidential candidate, McCain, or Palin? Seems like they spend an awful lot more time talking about her. As I see it, her debate with Biden will be the pivotal event for this election.
Greetings from Ireland

Rabble Rouser said...

How I wish I had time to appropriately respond to this post! LOL

I will say that I don’t think you can have a real conversation about sexism in this election and not talk about the Obama campaign in the primaries. I don’t happen to be a stickler for language but anytime you focus not on a woman’s accomplishments but on archetypal roles you diminish women. Critiquing Palin on her policies or lack thereof is fair game in my mind. Attacking her mothering choices is not until men are held to the same standard.

I plan to write about this but I had a conversation with Maggie who is going into the second grade. She internalized the message that girls were not as good as boys during the primaries when I made the unfortunate decision to bring her to a rally where Obama supporters yelled lovely terms such as bitch and cunt to us. What she sees now is a woman who could be vice president. She doesn’t yet care about positions. That comes latter. Right now she sees only the possibility that she can be President too and for that alone I’m grateful.

Lord so much more to write so little time but I hear you on the politics. Everyday brings at least 4 new things about which to blog!

Diane Mandy said...

I know your busy with the little on, but I think you should start a blog just on your thoughts of politics. Your thoughts are always so insightful!