Fucked-Update: How Sexism Makes Me Want to Vote with My Vagina Rather than My Brain

Written by  //  January 10, 2008  //  Fucked-Update, Politics  //  6 Comments


Yup…this really happened.

It’s been a big week for Senator Clinton. The media ripped her to shreds after she gave an emotional response to a question at a campaign event on the eve of the New Hampshire primary. The media predicted that her campaign would never make a comeback after her third place finish in the Iowa Caucus. Then, the women of New Hampshire descended on the voting booths and gave Sen. Clinton the win she needed in the primary.

It seems that the media is incapable of discussing Sen. Clinton without delivering a steaming pile of sexist bullshit along with it. So since it’s been a big week for Clinton, it’s also been a big week for misogynist pricks.

Sexism in the Media–A Primer

The thing that’s tricky about sexism in the media is that it’s rarely stated overtly. Most journalists and TV personalities no better than to say “Hillary can’t be President because she’s a woman.” So they find more subtle ways to make sexist remarks. Here are a few examples:

–When Barack Obama speaks, men hear, “Take off for the future.” And when Hillary Clinton speaks, men hear, “Take out the garbage.”–Mark Rudov on Fox News

– Clinton fought back, but she needs a radio-controlled shock collar so that aides can zap her when she starts to get screechy.– Washington Post Blogger Joel Achenbach

–Off to the side, snarling with barely concealed rage, are the Clinton machine-minders, who, having failed to ignite the same kind of identity excitement with an aging and resentful female, are perhaps wishing that they had made more of her errant husband having already been “our first black president.”–Christopher Hitchens on Slate.com

Now, some of you dear readers, might disagree that all of those comments were sexist. In conversations I’ve had about sexism, I often get a response like “But that’s not sexist; it’s just true!”. Well, if someone makes a comment about Sen. Clinton using characterizations that are generally assumed to be feminine and with the implication that those characterizations are less than those assumed to be masculine, then a statement is sexist (like Mark Rudov’s “Clinton sounds like a naggy wife” comment). If Sen. Clinton is characterized negatively for something that wouldn’t be considered a negative trait if she were male, then the statement is sexist (like when Christopher Hitchens refers to her as “aging”…which is only negative if you’re a woman…consider the fact that John McCain is much closer to death’s door than Sen. Clinton).

There’s No Crying in Politics–Oh Wait….

Then, of course, there are all the ways that the media handled Sen. Clinton’s response to a question asked at a campaign function on the eve of the New Hampshire primary. Here’s a handy list of headlines on the subject, compiled by Melissa McEwan at Shakesville:

Reuters: An emotional Clinton vows to fight on
CNN: Clinton gets emotional at New Hampshire stop
The Politico: Clinton fights back tears: ‘It’s not easy’
ABC News: Clinton Gets Emotional on Campaign Trail
ABC News: Rivals Reacts to Teary Clinton
ABC News: Can Clinton’s Emotions Get the Best of Her?
MSNBC/AP: Clinton’s voice catches on eve of N.H. primary
AP: Emotions run high on eve of NH primary
AFP: Emotions run high on eve of New Hampshire primary
Yahoo Play of the Day/AP: Clinton chokes up
Bloomberg: Clinton Says ‘It’s Not Easy’ Dealing With Strain of Campaign

Now, she did get emotional. Well…sort of. She choked up a teeny weeny bit. She didn’t actually cry, despite the fact that various Fox News anchors have said she did. She did a pretty good job regaining her composure, and the whole thing only lasted a couple minutes. If you haven’t seen the video, you can see it here. The thing that really infuriates me about the way this incident was recounted in the news is that Sen. Clinton is not the only candidate to give an emotional response. Romney cried (three times, actually). Did people rush to assume that he shouldn’t be the nominee because he can’t control his emotions? No. They only say that about Clinton, who was first harassed for being not feminine enough and is now being harassed for being too much like a woman (although now that a few days have passed, the media has reverted to the first Clinton stereotype by insisting that it was all staged to manipulate the public–check mediamatters.org for ongoing coverage of the media’s assholery).

So what is the result of all this sexist bullshit? She won New Hampshire. And I don’t think she did it in spite of the way the media characterized her; I think she won because of it. I absolutely disagree with the idea that women should vote for Sen. Clinton because she’s a woman. I also disagree with Gloria Steinem’s assertion that women who don’t vote for Sen. Clinton are denying that sexism exists. But, I do think that when the media insists on making snide remarks about Sen. Clinton’s gender, women will (and did) rise to her defense. It’s like a backlash backlash.

So thanks Fox News…and CNN…and Maureen Dowd…Chris Matthews…and all you other fuckwads. You just reminded me how much I would love to see a woman in the White House.

Dude Looks Like a Lady…Wait….What?
Just in case you were thinking that sexism only effects Sen. Clinton. Think again. This week, the New York Post (I don’t know why I read that shit…it’s much like reading a note passed to you during 8th grade Algebra class) ran an article on Barack Obama asking if he would be “our first woman prez”. Now, you may be wondering how that’s possible since Obama is a man. The NY Post disagrees. I don’t even know how to express how ridiculous this is without just giving you a couple highlights from the article. You’ll probably notice that the article is more of an endorsement of Obama’s appeal than it is a condemnation of his “feminine” traits. But it doesn’t matter. The writer is still using feminine stereotypes–many of the same feminine stereotypes used to undermine Sen. Clinton–in order to describe Obama. That’s still sexism, even if the intended impact is different. So here goes….

“Yet it’s not only Obama’s policies and strategies that appeal to women. He is like a woman: slim, good looking, with long elegant fingers, appealingly dressed – all terms more typically ascribed to female candidates. ”

“Women are gravitating to Obama out of a different urge – the desire to invite him to our book club, join him for coffee or have him coach our child’s soccer team. ”

Now, book clubs, coffee, and coaching children’s soccer are not uniquely feminine. And, if I’m not wrong, most of the candidates could be described as slim, good-looking, and well-dressed. I mean seriously, it’s not like he’s the only metro-sexual in a group of rugged manly-men.

Then of course, there are the numerous references to Obama’s “androgyny”. Barack Obama hardly qualifies as androgynous.

This is androgyny:


This is not androgyny:

Any questions?

And by the way, I feel obligated to mention that sexism is far from the only problem with the media’s election coverage. I’m not trying to win the Oppression Olympics here, or claim that sexism is the worst of all America’s discrimination problems, There’s also the racism. And the classism. And a whole lot of other -isms. So if you find yourself watching the news getting all stressed out over this shit, I highly recommend playing Feministing.com’s Priviledged Political Pundit Drinking Game.

About the Author

Cap'n Colleen

Cap'n Colleen is Donnybrook's political columnist and militant, dangerous, international activist.

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6 Comments on "Fucked-Update: How Sexism Makes Me Want to Vote with My Vagina Rather than My Brain"

  1. robbiebowman January 10, 2008 at 12:30 pm · Reply

    I think this brings up some valid points but most of the criticism I have heard about Clinton are in regard to her coldness as a calculated politician. Which is not unfounded. She is a masterful politician. While she is not the first to be such, she is an exception in how calculated she seems. Bill was a master of such tricks as well but managed to seem more spontaneous and warm. While she may be acting cold in part to stave off notions of “Oh, she’s an emotional woman” it is poisonous. The proof is that after she did show emotion with the tearing up she surged in the polls! It may be that she just needs to start seeming more like herself and not like an act.

  2. Paco Charte January 11, 2008 at 7:03 am · Reply

    Best title for a post , ever.

  3. Ivyy January 11, 2008 at 8:16 am · Reply

    I think her calculatedness (is that a word?) is coming into question simply BECAUSE she’s a woman. A man in her position with so much calculating politics (aka Bill Clinton) would win the presidency in a second. But a woman, well now, a woman shouldn’t be so cunning and calculating. It reminds me of the aritcle from The Onion entitled: “Hillary Clinton is Too Ambitious to be the First Female President”.

  4. Toastface Killa January 11, 2008 at 5:23 pm · Reply

    One of the more obvious points that no one is really discussing is the fact that Mitt Romney has had tearful breakdowns three times in the past two months on the campaign trail–actual crying, mind you, not just getting choked up–but it isn’t newsworthy when he does it because he’s a man.

    That said, you’re totally missing the point with Hitchens’ statement: he’s way too smart to actually think of (let alone describe) Clinton as “aging and resentful.” His commentary is supposed to reflect the widespread perception of Clinton by those not in her camp. That’s why it’s contrasted with the “identity excitement” Obama brings.

    You want real sexism? Just notice how everyone calls Obama “Obama” and Clinton “Hillary.”

  5. Sid Pink January 25, 2008 at 2:47 am · Reply

    I just can’t help noticing the gender-blender of the term “backlash” – which conjures ‘back-hair’; a repulsive ‘male’ affliction, and ‘eyelash’; something women wear to appear more alluring in a fake way.

    I guess I’m saying that voting is for sucker-eggs.
    Fascism Now!

  6. Jay Sprung July 6, 2012 at 12:35 am · Reply

    Glad an individual enjoyed that! You’re completely proper

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