Election and Feminism IV (rant)

It’s not yet clear which prejudice will infect the presidential contest more — misogyny or racism.

Well. I have written on this topic thrice before. This is a difficult issue. Both the racial as well as the gender divide appear to be at work here and both blacks as well as women have repeatedly complained of expectations of loyalty to Obama/Clinton based on their gender/race. For those weirdos who think like that the situation of black women appeared to be particularly fascinating. CNN reports

Within minutes of posting a story on CNN’s homepage called “Gender or race: Black women voters face tough choices in South Carolina,” readers reacted quickly and angrily.
Readers want media to focus more on the candidates and how they feel about the issues not their gender or race.
Many took umbrage at the story’s suggestion that black women voters face “a unique, and most unexpected dilemma” about voting their race or their gender.
CNN received dozens of e-mails shortly after posting the story, which focuses largely on conversations about Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama that a CNN reporter observed at a hair salon in South Carolina whose customers are predominantly African-American.
[…]
An e-mailer named Tiffany responded sarcastically: “Duh, I’m a black woman and here I am at the voting booth. Duh, since I’m illiterate I’ll pull down the lever for someone. Hm… Well, he black so I may vote for him… oh wait she a woman I may vote for her… What Ise gon’ do? Oh lordy!”

For a while it appeared as if voters were divided along two tough lines of bigotry, so that, for instance, analysis seemed to show that whole ethnic or racial groups could be expected to vote for/against Obama because of his race and because of his race only. see for example this early February analysis:

Yesterday’s primary voting laid bare a profound racial and ethnic divide among Democratic voters, with African Americans overwhelmingly preferring Sen. Barack Obama and Latinos largely favoring Sen. Hillary Clinton.

In this discussion Bill Clinton’s infamous remarks fit squarely:

Clinton reminded reporters out of the blue that “Jesse Jackson won South Carolina twice, in ’84 and ’88. And he ran a good campaign. And Senator Obama’s run a good campaign here. He’s run a good campaign everywhere.”

This is of course as close to a slur as Clinton could allow himself to get. And everyone noticed the inappropriateness of this remark and of similar remarks, even Internet comedians mostly stayed away from that, unless the souce was downright hostile to Obama’s campaign. Putting down Obama because of his race wasn’t permissible.

However, it seemed easily permissible to riff on Hillary’s gender. Comparing her to Tracy Flick, for example, as in this collage, or discussing endlessly the degree to which Hillary Clinton is feminine enough and whether her tears have won her New Hampshire, and no, it’s not suddenly a better idea just because the Clintons embraced it themselves after winning. In case you’re interested, here‘s a piece that explains the difference between the polls and the surprising outcome.

If this post sounds confused, well, that’s because the whole issue has become really strange. On the one hand the racist hatred that tricks even pollsters and then, on the other hand, stuff like this:

In a webcast, prestidigitator Penn Jillette talks about a joke he has begun telling in his show. He thinks the thunderous reaction it gets from audiences shows that Hillary no longer has a shot.

The joke goes: “Obama is just creaming Hillary. You know, all these primaries, you know. And Hillary says it’s not fair, because they’re being held in February, and February is Black History Month. And unfortunately for Hillary, there’s no White Bitch Month.”

This last quote, as well as the quote at the beginning of this muddled post is taken from an insightful article by Maureen Dowd, which doesn’t answer that question though.

So. Where are we? To clear this up: no, I am not telling people to vote for the person who is most discriminated against. That’s absurd.

No, this is about the astonishing extent to which misogyny has become a part of our culture. Or (to turn again) is it about misogyny? To a certain extent, sure. Many of the journalistic instincts, how to ‘explain’ results best, are more or less sexist and insulting. Yet, as Stanley Fish has pointed out here and here, Hillary Clinton-hating contains elements of sexism but is an all-out attack on her person and that of her husband. So, isn’t it about sexism after all?

I am, again, not so sure. The fact that she has become such a widely hated person has to do with anti-Clintonianism that simmered still in the public. However, that does not explain the vehemence, the furor, which accompagnies these Anti-Clinton attacks these days. It just doesn’t. I say her gender is not the only but it is the central part of Hillary-bashing. And the worst thing about this is the fact that it is not recognized as offensive, especially compared with racism. Dowd relates an interesting anecdote:

Elaine Sirkis, 77, an Obama supporter, confided that she just isn’t sure she’s ready for a woman president. Betty Conway, 83, a Hillary supporter, confided that she just isn’t sure she’s ready for a black president.

As Conway walked away, Sirkis smiled sheepishly. “I’m sorry,” she told Berman sweetly about her friend. “She’s a bigot.”

I am pretty sure that this situation is not reversible. Isn’t that sad? Misogyny is still normal, a smaller offence, good clean fun, as they say. Boys will be boys. Ah doesn’t it make you want to puke?

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