Archive for the 'sexism' Category
public school & religious cultural center field trip

My partner sent me this article about the furor over a public school field trip to a local Muslim community center.

Folks seem to be upset because a few kids participated in religious observances / prayer. Personally I’m not too bothered by that — it appears to be voluntary participation at the event, and likely the field trip itself was voluntary. Prayers should not be sponsored by the school, but kids are free at school to engage in non-sponsored religious rituals should they choose; so why not on a field trip?

But what I am bothered by is the below paragraph, which doesn’t seem to have excited much controversy:

The 10-minute video, which weaves the words of a narrator and video of activities at the center, says that during the field trip, girls and women were instructed to stay at the back of the room during the prayer service — as per Muslim custom — and the boys were allowed to stand side by side with mosque members during prayers.

Letting kids see folks at religious observances, and learn about said religion, is one thing. Encouraging them, or requiring them, to participate in sex discrimination is quite another. wtf?!? Seriously, there are all sorts of institutions that are sexist and racist in practice. We ought not be taking kids to them. Find a Muslim cultural center that does not practice sex discrimination, or keep the kids out of the religious chambers in this center. Similarly if you have to cover a girl’s hair to take her into a Church of Christ cultural center, or make her wear a dress to visit an Orthodox Jewish facility — this is the definition of gender discrimination. And this religious-based sex discrimination is the imposition of religious practices and beliefs, not the voluntary prayer. I say again, wtf?

Let’s just picture the teasing between the kids about this enforced gender division, and how the individual kids felt to be sent to the front of the room or the back of the room based on gender.

Participating in prayers, voluntarily, is not illegal. Being discriminated against on the basis of your gender is illegal.

I say again, wtf?!?

celebrity sex tapes: tell us something we don’t know

Broadsheet @ salon.com is usually a pretty fair source for recycled news and commentary about women, gender, and sexuality.

But Tracy Clark-Flory’s recent commentary about yet another celebrity sex tape — Kendra Wilkinson, who I had to look up after reading this article — is possibly one of the most pointless articles on the phenomena I’ve ever read.

Clark-Flory gives a brief review of the facts — sex tape made; released for big bucks by ex-boyfriend who made the tape; Wilkinson trying to get a C&D on privacy grounds. She then reviews the Paris Hilton and Pamela Anderson sex tape litigation — primarily copyright litigations that were settled. Then she concludes that Wilkinson is not likely to succeed because the video has hit the Internet and quotes a lawyer who says if you don’t want your sex tape released don’t make it.

Wow, how insightful.

Could we please talk about the merits of the privacy argument, which is the only real piece of this that makes it a gender issue? (or interesting at all)

Or maybe talk about the phenomenon of women’s boyfriends releasing privately made sexual materials? How that implicates privacy law, as well as ethics and sexism? Instead of quoting a lawyer (male) who says if you don’t want your sex tape splattered on the Internet, don’t make one; why not tell women not to leave their sex tapes in their boyfriends’ hands ????

resurrecting my old abortion rights button

“I’m pro-choice and I shoot back.”

It’s not strictly true since I don’t own a gun.

I love how Bill O’Reilly freely tosses around incendiary rhetoric (arguably, “inciting violence”) but is so incapable of taking responsibility or acknowledging his own words. Why is he a frickin’ pundit talking head if he thinks his words are so meaningless? Other than his ginormous ego? War Room has relevant excerpts and links to O’Reilly’s non-apology.

update: More informative is Rachel Maddow’s review of anti-abortion violence.

following in daddy’s footsteps

A health blog (why a health blog?) at the NYT covered research showing that as the 20th century progressed, more and more women followed in their father’s footsteps, career-speaking. Men have for a long time followed in their fathers’ footsteps at a rate of about 30%; women born in the 1910s followed in their father’s footsteps at a 6% rate, while women born in the 1970s followed in their father’s footsteps at an 18% rate.

What I thought was interesting was that they posited a couple of possible explanations but left out what, to me, is the most obvious explanation — that girls are tending towards parity with boys in this area because the obstacles against them following these careers have diminished. In other words, probably 30% of all kids would like to follow their career-parent into their career. But women were prevented from doing so, and as those barriers fell, women began doing what men have done — take as a default the career that they have already seen, become familiar with and perhaps interested in, have a professional networking leg-up in, and so forth.
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egg rights: South Dakota’s latest ventures into unintended consequences

South Dakota is at it again, with a new egg rights bill that defines “any organism with the genome of homo sapiens” as a person under the South Dakota Constitution. Man it’s hard to keep up with all the really poorly thought out legislation from that state!

Broadsheet has the simplest quickest coverage, and links to Feministe “Even More Questions for Pro-Lifers”, always a good read.

Anyway, inspired by the Broadsheet post title “Eggs are people, too”, henceforth I will be referring to this sort of thing as “egg rights”. (A phrase which I now see has already gained some traction.) Egg rights activists, egg rights bills, and so forth.

Equal Pay Legislation – passed and signed

The Lilly Ledbetter Act was passed and signed.

So fuck off, Justices Alito, Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, and Kennedy.

Your utterly superficial and mean (as in, scanty, beggarly, stingy) interpretation of the Equal Pay Act managed to hurt some people but did not carry the day.

Jackasses. Also, a big fuck you to the Republicans (including George W. Bush) who held off this legislation since 2007.

marital happiness, kids, and, umm, housework

The New York Times covers research showing that marital happiness increases when the kids leave home. Contrary to popular opinion, which has suggested that parents — particularly moms — suffer depression from “empty nest syndrome”, research published in November in Psychological Science found that “marital satisfaction actually improves” when the kids leave home.

But if you read closely, you realize that the research shows marital satisfaction increasing not among “parents” generally, but among women specifically — presumably, women in a heterosexual marriage. Apparently, it’s not about increasing the amount of time the couple spends together; the couples spend the same amount of time together during and after the kids. “But they said the quality of that time was better.”

Maybe it’s just me, but I think that “the quality of time” might have something to do with this:

The arrival of children also puts a disproportionate burden of household duties on women, a common source of marital conflict. After children, housework increases three times as much for women as for men, according to studies from the Center on Population, Gender and Social Equality at the University of Maryland.

disappointed in dahlia

Ah, generally I am always happy to read a Dahlia Lithwick piece. She’s insightful, and a clear writer. But she blew it on her recent piece on affirmative action, “The Downsides of Diversity: What Clarence Thomas might have to say about Sarah Palin” (Newsweek; Slate, 2008/8/29).

In the article, she reminds the reader, bemused by McCain’s obviously demographically-influenced selection of Palin as his VP candidate, of Clarence Thomas’ position on affirmative action. Thomas has repeatedly excoriated affirmative action as a humiliation for its intended beneficiaries, placing a permanent mark of stigma on them. He couches his opinions in the strongest language possible, deliberately echoing the stirring phrases that condemned the injustices of segregation and Jim Crow.

Lithwick then looks at Palin’s selection by the McCain campaign, and her treatment both by the campaign and the media at large. No surprise that she observes that this appeal to diversity is better called tokenism, and correctly equates tokenism with (in this instance) sexism. The irony of the Republicans’ copping to the language of diversity is not lost on her, as she observes, “[Diversity is] certainly a noble goal, but it’s one most conservatives have disparaged for decades.”

And then the conclusion:

Liberals inclined to blindly support affirmative action would do well to contemplate the lessons of Sarah Palin and Clarence Thomas. Although the former exudes unflagging self-confidence and the latter may always be crippled by self-doubt, both have become nearly frozen in a defensive crouch, casualties of an effort to create an America in which diversity is measured solely in terms of appearance.

Ah. Oh, no. Christ. This completely confuses the actual goals of affirmative action and diversity with conservative critics’ misapprehension of those goals.

The effort to measure diversity solely in terms of appearance — that’s the conservative myth about diversity. And McCain’s gambit exemplifies the conservative myth about affirmative action: substituting “diversity” concerns for good judgment and a well-rounded selection process that is merit-based. This kind of diversity is better described as an ugly tokenism. It’s certainly not affirmative action, a process of selecting qualified candidates by including considerations of past discrimination that may disguise actual abilities, experience, and potential; as well as considerations of the larger social realities of the harms and goods that flow from perpetuating or failing to remedy past discriminatory behaviors.

As my partner observed, no wonder conservatives hate affirmative action, if they think this is what it is.

But I’m disappointed to see Dahlia Lithwick accepting this strawman’s affirmative action.

bad ideas like bad pennies keep turning up

A Louisiana state Representative is considering a plan to pay poor women to have their tubes tied, to stave off additional reproduction by undesirables.

One wonders just how bad history classes have to be in Louisiana for John LaBruzzo to have actually failed to learn about the many, many times governments have tried programs like this based on bizarre ideas about biology and economics — and let’s please not forget the unbelievably asinine and heinous beliefs about race and class and gender that underlie such proposals. (My partner points out that actually this history wasn’t in any of our primary school history classes — she learned about Puerto Rico, Native Americans, laws of dozens of American states, and on, and on, from independent reading. “And you too, Laura — you didn’t learn that shit in Alabama.”)

Honestly it just makes me tired. What the fuck is wrong with people? Why do people not have any more self-knowledge and/or humility than to at least understand how pig-ignorant they are, before attempting to set social policy?

seen on broadsheet

Tech Coed

My father-in-law (in Massachusetts) was in town for his fiftieth MIT reunion — class of 1958! He took my partner and me to a couple of events, and we noticed among the red-jacketed men a few red-jacketed women. By various accounts, there were nine to fifteen women (out of a thousand students) in the Class of ’58 at MIT, a half dozen of whom were at the 50th reunion.

Tonight, five of them — representing mathematics, chemical engineering, mechanical engineering, and physics — got together and revisited a song they sang back in the 50s, called something like “My mother was a Tech Coed” — apparently a takeoff of another MIT favorite, “My father was a something something engineer.” We chatted with some of them tonight for a while, and got to hear amazing stories about classes, the women’s dorm that held only 17 students — so the rest had to live off-campus — and other experiences of MIT in the 1950s.

But the song was the highlight, and they were kind enough to give us permission to reprint the lyrics that they sang — they said there were probably ten or fifteen verses altogether in the original. The first four are what they recalled of those verses. The last two they wrote at the reunion.

She never held me on her knee
But she was all the world to me
That lady with the pointy head
My mother was a Tech coed.

She couldn’t cook she couldn’t sew
But she could fix a radio
She used T-squares to make a bed
My mother was a Tech coed.

As she approached maternity
She also got her PhD
And started working on Pre Med
My mother was a Tech coed.

Her cocktails were a potent brew
She learned the trick in 5.02*
She always bought her cakes and bread
My mother was a Tech coed.

Now 50 years have come and gone
I still remember dear old mom
Her dying breath she taught me well
Above all else, that Tech is hell.

We are the queens of gray and red
The very coolest Tech coeds.

* Second semester freshman chemistry.

women have human genomes too, it turns out

Wow, after four men, a female human being’s genome finally got sequenced. Go Dutch.

Amsterdam, Netherlands, May 27—Geneticists at Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC) have announced the first complete sequencing of a woman’s genome. The announcement was made at Bessensap, an annual meeting bringing together scientists and the press in the Netherlands.

The DNA of Marjolein Kriek, a clinical geneticist at LUMC, will be made public after a full bioinformatics analysis that will take approximately six months. “We considered that sequencing only males, for ‘completeness’, slows insight into X-chromosome variability. So it was time, after sequencing four males, to balance the genders a bit,” remarked Gert-Jan B. van Ommen, head of the LUMC team.

eurekalert.org via partner’s subscription to BioTechniques Weekly

I guess that answers Dorothy Sayers’ question.

damn good alterations

Canadian Club (“CC”, not Creative Commons) has been running these really offensive & annoying ads aimed, apparently, at a very small demographic: straight white men with masculinity issues and daddy issues.

My partner pointed them out to me — plastered on bus stops in our ethnically diverse and progressive, queer-friendly community — and we enjoyed speculating on how enterprising billboard alteration-ers (certainly not us, I’d like to emphasize) might edit the ads to be more appropriate for our community. (Way to do stupid poorly-targeted advertising, jack-asses.)

For instance, the ad that showed a guy making out with a woman in a lounge, that implied “dad” was cheating on mom — that could easily be edited to make it appear that mom was picking up a stray businessman to fulfill those needs that dad wasn’t capable of satisfying. Again, I repeat, we would never consider doing the alterations ourselves. Pure speculation.

a better Canadian Club ad
An improved Canadian Club ad.

Anyway, Rebecca Tushnet reports about another woman’s response to the ad campaign. CC ran one of those cheesey “get involved and do it yourself” fake participation schemes so that straight white overcompensating men with daddy issues could put their own daddies into the ads. Michelle Koenig-Schwartz began Project: Canadian Club – Your Mom Had Groupies in response.

The pictures are awesome, and I have to note that these would go over a lot better in Jamaica Plain. Tushnet’s post also contains great analysis, so read the whole thing.

back to mormons and forced “marriage”

[Warren] Jeffs was convicted last year in Utah of forcing a 14-year-old girl into marriage with an older cousin.

I’m sick of these quotes that just talk about “marriage” and accept the use of that word.

If you are “forced” into “marriage” you are not married: you have been kidnapped (restrained against your will) and forced to engage in a marriage ceremony, but your marriage is not lawful and valid because there was no consent.

Will the defenders of marriage against homosexuals please stand up and take back your frickin’ word against these people who want to define it to include nonconsensual behaviors like kidnapping and rape?

This sentence or one like it was widely quoted in the media. One source is wtop, which has the new information that a large number of the teenage women/girls in the compound were currently pregnant or had previously given birth. I have no idea any more where I got this link from.

In case all this is not completely, crystal-clear, note the caption on the picture of Warren Jeffs’ father, Rulon Jeffs: “FLDS founding patriarch Rulon Jeffs with his last two wives — sisters Edna and Mary Fischer — on their wedding day. He received the pair as a 90th birthday present.” (emphasis added)

“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime where of the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States

sexism is not, actually, “open source”

There’s been a blog flurry about the use (dare I call it “appropriation”?) of the term “open source” for a project aimed at facilitating gropes of women’s breasts at SF cons. The project was called the “open source boob project” and proposed to pass out buttons so that people (“women”) could affirmatively opt-in to the project and say: “yes you may” or “no you may not” (ask if you can grope my breasts).

The original poster was unfortunately clueless about sexism, and writing from a position of utterly unexamined privilege. Many, many gajillions of postings have pointed out the numerous ways the proposal is bad:
* it makes people (“women”) feel unsafe
* it makes people (“women”) feel pressured to participate
* since cons are also meetings for people in the SF trades and professions, it may pressure people (“women”) to participate to advance their careers, in the fine old school tradition of sexual harassment

… I could go on, but instead I’ll just point to the feminist SF blog and FSFwiki and Feministing for summaries and links. Particularly noteworthy responses include:
* open source swift kick to the balls by misia
* open source african hair project from plastic sturgeon
* The Open Source Women Back Each Other Up Project! by vito_excalibur
* Open Source Male Assholes by springheel jack, excellent for its libertarian fallacies analysis. My only complaint is I wish that the author had used the capital L Libertarian, since there is, in fact, a large thread of libertarian thinking that specifically recognizes social inequalities: anarchism, the original and still the best “libertarian” philosophy/analysis/action plan.

The thing that caused me to post about this over here, as well as interacting with the general blog furor, is the appropriation of the term “open source”. This also did not go over well. But isn’t it interesting the way “openness” and “open source” has become some sort of synonym for permissiveness? Despite the massive way this is a completely wack analogy? (see inhammer, below)

Links discussing the open source aspect include:

  • matthew garrett
  • inhammer: failure of metaphor
  • rivkat: “a category mistake of the ugliest kind”
  • In a comment on the Rivkat thread, Ithiliana picked up Rivkat’s phrase “Bodies are rivalrous” and made an awesome LJ icon: Later…: I keep coming back to this image and staring at it. Honestly, I just love this so much that I want it plastered all over my blog, my shirts, my bumper stickers, and maybe my household windows.
  • designated sidekick at girl-wonder.org extends the metaphor to “closed source misogyny” and suggests “Let’s put our male entitled view of women’s bodies as our property to use, modify, open source and otherwise interact with into a neatly closed source wrapper, bundle it in DRM, load it on an iPod and repeatedly strike our narrow minded selves in the face until the bleeding starts, and continue until the ability to stand upright stops.” Hear, hear.
alabama – imprisoning pregnant women like it’s 2020 in Gilead

How did I miss this Alabama story?
Greg L. Gambril, a DA in south Alabama (Covington County), is prosecuting women for endangering their fetuses under a chemical endangerment law intended to protect children from meth labs — “chemical endangerment of child”.

“When drugs are introduced in the womb, the child-to-be is endangered. It is what I call a continuing crime.” He added that the purpose of the statute was to guarantee that the child has “a safe environment, a drug-free environment. No one is to say whether that environment is inside or outside the womb.”

Tiffany Hitson spent her daughter’s first year in Julia Tutwiler Prison. He has prosecuted at least eight women under this law.

WTF is wrong with this asshole? Does he really not have anything better to do? Can’t someone disbar this motherfucker for blatant prosecutorial misconduct in using a law (a) to target crimes not intended to be reached, and (b) in violation of women’s constitutional rights to privacy?

Oh, no, wait — I forgot. Alabama is fucked up and the rest of the country just lets it stay that way. Women in Alabama, women in religious cults in Texas — fuck ‘em.

I know the ACLU of Alabama is overburdened, but come on.

the bear stearns of organized pedophilia

It’s a bit dicey to find anything funny in the sexual slavery / prostitution ring known as the FLDS (Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints, aka, the Mormon child abuse cult). Bill Maher managed to do it by pointing out the discrepancy between society’s treatment of misbehavior by “cults” and misbehavior by “religions”.

If you can stomach it, watch the video at Crooks and Liars. It’s funny but only if you can laugh at the really fucked up things that infuriate you and make you despair of the world.

Relevant transcript below the fold.

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sexism in hillary-bashing

Great article by Rebecca Traister at Salon.com about sexism lurking behind the shrill Obama support.

Notes and thoughts:
* It’s not Hillary’s “shrillness” that’s discomfiting; it’s the shrillness of boys’ support for Obama & hatred of Hillary. Dana Lossia quoted: “People can always come up with reasons they don’t like the candidate they’re not supporting. … But no one disliked Joe Biden or Chris Dodd as much as they dislike Hillary.”

* It kills me that “Some women apologized for ‘sounding so feminist.’” Fuck that. This is what post-feminism looks like: Women apologize for pointing out sexism. Looks a lot like our colorblind post-racism society. Pointing out a problem causes some white male person discomfort and reminds them of the ugly presence of sexism and racism — in the past, of course, because it doesn’t happen today — and therefore it’s just as bad as sexism and racism themselves. Why it’s almost like we’re asking to be singled out and treated like women and people of color.

* This is a brilliant historical connection that I hadn’t made:

When sexism is acknowledged in this primary campaign, it has been attributed to either Chris Matthews or the conservative, Rush Limbaugh, Iron My Shirt brigade. Little open recognition has been given to the possibility that there might be some gender discomfort behind the army of liberally minded Obama enthusiasts. But progressive politics has not always been female-friendly politics; ’70s feminism was born partly in response to the inequities of the antiwar and civil rights movements. It’s certainly possible that the youthful Obama movement has its own brand of female trouble.

* Becca O’Brien quoted in the article: “O’Brien… noted that it’s ‘very convenient that the same people who have a sense of discomfort with female authority they prefer not to examine’ also object to [Clinton's] personality and record in specific terms, an antipathy they feel comfortable voicing. ‘What you get … is the energy of the first expressed in words of the second.”

* “‘They’re busy patting themselves on the back for supporting a black man: Aren’t we cool?’ Perhaps it is thanks to the admitted cool factor that among educated liberal voters, the assumption is that you’re for Obama, that he is the more ‘progressive’ choice. Obama loyalty, like white masculinity itself, has become normative -– if you’re not for him, you’d best be prepared to explain your deviation.” Oh, so true.

* I’d heard of the “iron my shirts” signs at Hillary appearances. Mia Bruch in the article describes a cosmetics shop in NYC that sold only one political item: “a huge stack of Hillary nutcrackers”.

* “[A] lightly disguised uneasiness with female power, as well as the “we love women, just not that woman” rhetoric will be familiar to anyone who has paid attention to the reception of the feminist movement. … [Hillary Clinton] has been exactly the kind of woman that feminism made room for: ambitious, ball-busting, high-earning, untrained in the finer arts of hair care, and unwilling to play dumber (or nicer) than she is.” But this is the kind of woman who’s taking jobs from the white men who are so shrilly against Hillary and for Obama. Race and gender complexify all our lives, but ambitious successful women are villified for their very successes.

* The article describes women who know many men who are hostile, hateful, and sexist in their anti-Hillary rhetoric. My own circles are probably largely pro-Obama to the extent that they support political processes. The women can be just as enthusiastic as the men about Obama’s vision, progressive rhetoric, & stated intentions, and just as critical of Clinton’s positions on the Iraq War, cynical or conservative (or both) take on civil liberties and freedom of expression, and political pandering. Politics at their best are passionate, but not ugly, but my partner and I both know men — progressive, liberal, radical, “good guys” — who express a personal level of vitriol and antipathy towards Clinton that is ugly and sexist.

Dudely Obama supporters, are you checking your sexism?

the missing voices in the sex scandals

My partner and i were discussing today the massive downloads of her music file that spitzer’s partner-in-sex-scandal had (“Kristen” aka Ashley Dupre). Her MP3s increased in price from 13c to 98c, and had over 200,000 downloads by Thursday March 13. (MSNBC 3/14)

We were happy for her, but wondered if the other women over the years that he’s paid for sex felt a bit of resentment that THEY didn’t get this attention. Or, maybe they felt relieved — safely closeted, perhaps.

Anyway, I’d like to hear from these other women. What do they think about the sex scandal? How do they feel about their work? What I’d really like to see is an anthology of writings from the women in these scandals over the years: the ones who’ve sued later on, or gotten big bucks for a Playboy spread, or used it to launch a career. And let’s hear from the women who’ve been paid for sex by politicians, whether or not they got embroiled in a sex scandal, but got no benefit from it.

adultery and the “alpha male”

Natalie Angier began an article on sexual monogamy in the natural world by reference to the Eliot Spitzer prostitution scandal. The entire article is a rebuke to the evolutionary psych hogwash that has been bandied about the Eliot Spitzer prostitution scandal, although I particularly enjoyed the first sentence of the second paragraph:

You can accuse the disgraced ex-governor Eliot Spitzer of many things in his decision to flout the law by soliciting the services of a pricey prostitute: hypocrisy, egomania, sophomoric impulsiveness and self-indulgence, delusional ineptitude and boneheadedness. But one trait decidedly not on display in Mr. Spitzer’s splashy act of whole-life catabolism was originality.

It’s all been done before, every snickering bit of it, and not just by powerful “risk-taking” alpha men who may or may not be enriched for the hormone testosterone. It’s been done by many other creatures, tens of thousands of other species, by male and female representatives of every taxonomic twig on the great tree of life. Sexual promiscuity is rampant throughout nature, and true faithfulness a fond fantasy. Oh, there are plenty of animals in which males and females team up to raise young, as we do, that form “pair bonds” of impressive endurance and apparent mutual affection, spending hours reaffirming their partnership by snuggling together like prairie voles or singing hooty, doo-wop love songs like gibbons, or dancing goofily like blue-footed boobies.

Yet as biologists have discovered through the application of DNA paternity tests to the offspring of these bonded pairs, social monogamy is very rarely accompanied by sexual, or genetic, monogamy. Assay the kids in a given brood, whether of birds, voles, lesser apes, foxes or any other pair-bonding species, and anywhere from 10 to 70 percent will prove to have been sired by somebody other than the resident male.

She just smoothly demolishes, with evidence, all the claptrap and bloviating about men in power and their testosterone and their alpha-ness and their prostitutes. It’s everywhere, not just in the circles of the powerful, and not just in men.

Read the whole thing, because like all of Natalie Angier’s work, it’s a pleasure simply to peruse the prose, while appreciating the elegance and humor of the natural world.

ferraro and why the media sucks

So Geraldine Ferraro revealed her cluelessness about race issues with her “I’m being attacked for being white” comment. She also revealed, as my partner astutely pointed out, that she must have almost no people of color in her close circle who could help her out by explaining exactly what was wrong about the comment about Barack Obama succeeding because he is black.

But somehow lost in all of this fulmination about race is any fulmination at all about gender, which is pretty much the story of this 2008 campaign. For all the “women voters are doing X” and “Hillary played the sexism card” and so on, we have heard very little media analysis about whether there actually is sexism in the electorate, punditocracy, handling, or media coverage of the race. Ferraro’s comment is a perfect example: Her comment had multiple parts, including the clueless and offensive part about Barack Obama’s race, that was rightly jumped on by people who pointed out that it was clueless and offensive. Her follow-up implying some sort of “reverse racism” demonstrated thoroughly that she doesn’t understand the systematic and systemic effects of racism, and how it is not simply about “noticing skin color”.

But Ferraro also commented about sexism in the campaign when she noted that Barack Obama would not have been so successful had he been a black woman — or for that matter a white woman or a woman of any race — and that observation has gone completely unremarked upon. Which is really unfortunate, because this part of her comment was much more astute. Can we imagine for a minute that a woman who was a junior senator, with good lefty credentials and remarkable oratory, could have done this well? Having seen the outright way people talk about Hillary’s voice and whether a woman could run the country — presumably a question of experience and temperament — would a woman with only four years on the national scene even be treated seriously? even by her own party? I honestly doubt it, and I wish that — instead of simply relishing the catfight aspect of politicians and their staff sniping at each other and then being outraged and then ritually firing their outspoken staffmembers — instead of all that, I wish the media would actually, occasionally, examine the issues that they bring up.

Wouldn’t we all be a lot better if, instead of reporting that Ferraro said this, and Obama’s campaign expressed that, and then the Clinton campaign responded, and blah blah blah ad nauseum — if the media said, “is it true that Obama would not have done so well if he weren’t black?” and then analyzed it and did some talking about race in this country and how it is hardly a benefit no matter how much some white people blather on about so-called reverse racism, and looked at the studies about unconscious beliefs that people form about other people based on knowledge or presumptions about race. And while we’re at it we could look at the classism that infects discussions of Obama’s family, too.

And the media could also then analyze the comment about whether Obama would do as well if he were a woman, and look at sexism and how that affects things, and you know there are actually quite a lot of studies that show that editors are less likely to accept a paper if they think it’s by a woman, and reference writers are more likely to talk about the person’s family credentials if it’s a woman, and professional musician auditions are less likely to hire a woman unless the audition is done “blind”, and oh yeah people routinely allow themselves to be filmed on national television saying things like they just don’t believe a woman can really run the country, and what kind of effect does that have on people when another study has shown that simply hearing some unknown person in another room describe people as “like animals” makes one much more likely to administer higher-level shocks to people.

Couldn’t we have some interesting conversations if we looked at the issues and the substance?

Isn’t this just another lament about the horse-race aspect of the campaign? Yes, it is.
update: See, this is why I love Katha Pollitt. Pollitt wrote:

that the “sulfurous emanations” about Mrs. Clinton made her want to write a check to her campaign, knock on doors, vote for her twice — even though she’d probably choose another candidate on policy grounds. “The hysterical insults flung at Hillary Clinton are just a franker, crazier version of the everyday insults — shrill, strident, angry, ranting, unattractive — that are flung at any vaguely liberal mildly feminist woman who shows a bit of spirit and independence,” she wrote, “who puts herself out in the public realm, who doesn’t fumble and look up coyly from underneath her hair and give her declarative sentences the cadence of a question.”

That’s pretty much exactly how I feel. And although Hillary isn’t interesting enough for me to read a whole book about her, I might try to get this essay by Pollitt.

To make things even better, this quote was actually from an article in the NYT that is actually on this exact topic: Postfeminism and Other Fairy Tales by Kate Zernike. It’s just a start but it’s good to see it, and maybe a little NYT coverage (albeit in Week in Review) will start at least a little self-reflection in other media.