Saturday, June 7, 2008

Sexism vs. racism

As I've told you, we've been obsessed with politics here . . . and I do mean obsessed. Mowgli and I have had many conversations about which is more insidious--racism or sexism. Mowgli's opinion is that sexism is more prevalent but that racism is more virulent. Mowgli also sees sexism as more benign and less dangerous, rarely seeing gender discrimination where I do. It's a generational thing. When Mowgli was about four, I took him to see a male pediatrician for the first time. He rolled his eyes and said, "Mom! Boys can't be doctors!"

I would love, love, love to see a female president and I do think that a lot of the sexism toward the Clinton campaign went unchallenged. When the frat boys showed up at her rallies with the signs that read, "Iron my shirts!" we all laughed. Can you imagine the uproar if those boys had shown up at an Obama rally with signs reading, "Shine my shoes!" And while female commentators denounced it, male pundits and comedians tended to give too much attention to Clinton's appearance, especially early on--what she wore, signs of aging, etc. Pantsuits became a joke, even though there is no good alternative for women. (By the way, what IS the female equivalent of khakis and a golf shirt? This stumps me ALL the time!)

Ultimately, though, I don't think that Clinton lost because she was a woman. After all, she was a woman when she was the front-runner, when she made all the big headlines, when Obama was considered a flashy upstart with no chance. She was a woman when she amassed the largest campaign war chest of all time, and she was a woman when she won millions of votes. No, I don't believe that sexism torpedoed her campaign.

Instead, I think she lost for all the same old reasons: she failed to read the climate of the country, she underestimated her opponent, she allowed infighting and conflict to drain her campaign of energy, she miscalculated the importance of caucus states and younger voters and her early vote for the war, she relied on an outdated top-down approach to campaigning, and she made some serious gaffes. When a woman can lose the White House for all the same old reasons that the male contenders do, we've come a long way, baby.


Electric Monk said...

I was getting a breakfast burrito at a drivethrough and the attendant was making small talk. He said something about how he didn't feel like he could vote for a black guy OR a woman. He wanted to have just a regular white guy to vote for. I am neither black nor a woman, but I found that to be a very offensive statement! I'm going to just assume he was joking. Yeah, that's it...

Electric Monk said...

Oh, and ironically, the guy was Hispanic.

Scooter said...

I am not sure that she is totally out of it yet. The next president has got a lot to deal with and she will be on the train again in time. It will be different the next time.

I just want a strong leader that will do what they feel is best for the country, even if I don't agree with it - at least they have some convictions.

The problem is that people have stopped looking at the issues and are worried about look or gender. What happened to politics? Only time will tell on what this is going to mean for the future.