Rush Hour


Media Gender Bias: Not a Myth

June 6, 2008
N.J. Lukanovich

The lone female candidate in the primary had to endure cracks from broadcasters, pundits, and other polticians, about "thick ankles," and "too much cleavage," one senator said he felt "castrated every time I'm around her," she was accused of "pimping out her daughter," Chelsea would "wind up with a posterior like her mother," and "it's time for Hillary to hang up her pantsuit."

Pundits said she reminded voters of their mothers or nagging wives, "when she speaks, men hear 'take out the garbage.'" She was attacked as being "too tough," but when her voice wavered while talking to New Hampshire voters, she was attacked for having "crying fits." At one rally, someone held up a sign that said "Iron My Shirts," and a jack in the box called "The Nutcracker" was sold.

The maintstream media, owned and run by men, with about triple the number of male pundits, political journalists, and broadcasters, can be an enormous ally or foe. Barak Obama became the great savior: there was a viable male contender and the relief amongst pundits was palpable. I suspect that if they had a better white-man option than John Edwards, there would have been endless chatter about Obama's inexperience and whatever else they could find to dismiss him. But left with the choice between a black man and a woman? It's one thing for a woman to be a senator, but president? The patriarchy shudders at the mere thought.

The spin that sexism had nothing to do with Hillary's loss flew thick and fast in a blizzard of bullshit. Almost worse than the constant barrage of sexist commentary has been the claim sexism doesn't exist anymore and even if it does, it didn't effect the contest between the two candidates, because "she comes with a lot of baggage so it isn't really sexism," and she lost "because of a bad campaign." The possibility that perception is skewed by unconscious sexism, that the negative attacks stick more to a woman than a man, is never discussed.

And it doesn't really matter if Hillary Clinton was a three headed monster with enough baggage to fill ten freight containers and ran the worst campaign in the history of democracy, sexist comments are sexist comments. They are no less damaging or denigrating than racist comments.

When I foolishly dared to google "sexism in democratic nomination," the number of articles attacking anyone who dared to mention the sexism far outweighed the number of articles that actually discussed it. And some of these articles were written by women. It's bad enough that we have to contend with misogyny from men in the media, it's unbearable that we should have to endure it from women.

But it's common for women to defend and even promote sexist views, and unsurprising - after all, we are fed patriarchal beliefs from birth. Men are the natural leaders, and women who seek leadership are disturbing the natural order of things. Not just here, but everywhere. Not just now, but for millennia. We are so conditionned that most of us do not even notice sexism, let alone call it out. It's not fun to call it out. It invites attack.

Every time a woman points to evidence of sexism, she's called a whiny bitchy shrew, playing the victim card or a ball busting bitch, instead of a heroic figure fighting for equality. Not only are men who battle oppression considered heroes, they can indulge in all sorts of violence, including taking innocent lives, and be called "freedom fighters."

For those who would deny that gender had anything to do with the nomination I would ask these questions: if Hillary was a man would she have lost? If Obama was a woman, could he have made such a rapid rise in politics or be compared to John F. Kennedy? Can you name one female icon in America who was considered to be a great leader? How many Americans can name even one of the suffragettes?

Does a woman have to be a movie star or pop star to be an American icon? Why is it easier for a woman to attain wild popularity as a politician's call girl, than as a politician?

I can't help but wonder how long we will have to wait to see a woman in the oval office, Commander in Chief of the most powerful nation in the world. The impact on young girls and women everywhere in the world would be immeasurable.

It's unfortunate that these two historic candidates ran against each other in the same primary, and a disappointment for women who thought their time had finally come. On the upside, Barak Obama is an exceptional person, and this election will be inspirational for not only African-Americans, but anyone who hopes for progress.