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Mama Deb
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Mama Deb [userpic]
All this talk about misogyny on television

Is fine - I'm not taking any sides in this, and both sides have decent arguments.

I'm more concerned, right now, about Misogyny in media political coverage.

(This is not a discussion of the candidates, btw. None of them have control over the media.)

(no subject) - (Anonymous)

Here's a Youtube link.

He also apologized, although the apology still has her staying in the room...

A perhaps instructive anecdote

Sometime back, on a mailing list devoted to intellectual property law, someone posted a link to an article celebrating a victory by a female law professor over the NFL. As the woman in question is about 5 ft tall, the article (as did many others) began with "At 5', X hardly seems the type to take out the hulking linebackers of the NFL..."

There was some discussion on the sexist nature of the headline, with the most often expressed sentiment that no one would dream of saying such things about Jack Vallenti, the former lobbyist for the MPAA.

A brief search however, revealed that Valentti's short stature (he clocked in at a bit under 5') was almost _always_ the lead in stories about him. "Dimunitive," "pint-sized," and other such adjectives (usually contrasted with his effectiveness or energy) were commonplace.

The point? No surprise, past history and perception matter. People's past life experiences and expectancies shape how they perceive things. There is nothing wrong-headed or nefarious about this. But it also means that sometimes a bit of distance is required for evaluation.

Re: A perhaps instructive anecdote

It's hard to feel distant from "Hillary Clinton Nutcrackers" or posters calling her "the wicked witch of the west" (this was from a NYT magazine article by an Obama supporter who didn't know how to explain the sign to her daughter.)

Edited at 2008-05-20 04:21 pm (UTC)

Re: A perhaps instructive anecdote

Of course. Nor from the racists who have subjected Obama campaigners to rather vile insults, vandalized campaign offices, and so forth.

But which are we talking about? The most extreme folks at the edge, who one kind find attacking either candidate with vigor? Or a question of how the mainstream media has generally been covering this?

Re: A perhaps instructive anecdote

I expect to see more of the racist behavior if/when Obama gets the nomination.

Mostly, it's the mainstream media right now. It's the use of language that that brings up all the negative stereotypes of powerful women (shrill, cold (unless she cries and then she's weak or conniving), bearing "claws")- and note that at least one of the articles I cited above is written by a woman. I'm not seeing this as a vast male conspiracy - just as the media playing up the cultural message.

And when she's gone, Obama *will* be the next target, just as McCain is already getting ageist coverage.

Re: A perhaps instructive anecdote

Yes, but all candidates get subjected to this sort of thing. But when we say that John McCain is cold, it has a different resonance. When we say that Bush is cruel, or evil, or a war monger, it has a different resonance.

For example, I have often referred to the Democratic Leadership Conference (DLC) as industry whores. But the resonance is different if I say "DLC industry whores such as Chuck Schumer, who block Barney Frank's progressive mortgage legislation" then if I say "DLC industry whores such as Hilary Clinton . . . " Both statements derive from the same source -- frustration that they (and other DLC members) side time and again with the special interests. But it makes a huge difference in perception if I am referring to Chuck Schumer or Hilary Clinton.

Re: A perhaps instructive anecdote

Yes - precisely.

And who know the nuances of words better than the media?

Several Days Later

I've been thinking about this discussion since I read it, and then I read this tonight and was reminded, so I thought I would tell you both about it.


The pertinent quotation:

The sexist comments and the racist slurs are bad, because they are being washed, re-clad in Armani, presented back in high society, made to look innocent, and after all this they will be cropping up much more frequently everywhere, aimed at everyone who qualifies to be their victim. THAT's what is bad about them.

How can I make that any stronger and clearer? It can be any of us women or any person of color or both that will suffer from the new domestication of sexist and racists taunts. Any Of Us.

It's not that I approve of these attacks against Clinton, or against Obama, but like Echidne whom I have quoted above, what I find most disturbing about them is that it is being again made normal to deride *anyone* for their demographics rather than their positions.

As I was saying to a friend, part of what riled me about the misogyny in TV discussion was seeing it *atop* real-life misogyny such as so many of the vicious attacks being directed at Hillary Clinton for being female rather than at her policies.

(FWIW, I haven't seen much less racism directed against Barack Obama, unfortunately. Did you hear about the Curious George T-shirts currently popular in Georgia, likening him to a monkey? I think these reprehensible treatments of both candidates are because of the latent bigotry in US culture.)

I did *not* hear, I am unfortunately not surprised but I am saddened that it happened.

And the bigotry isn't all that latent.

As I've been saying - wait until September, when I hope those now pointing out the misogyny also then see the racism.

This is an historic race, and it's terrible to see things come to this level, but not really astonishing.

I'm with you there.

I'd be a lot less upset about all the Dean hate if someone hadn't been cracking up laughing in my living room during his death scene and all. I and an RL friend are just about at each other's throats over this and she can't accept that I need her to be okay with the fact that we don't agree on everything. (It's sad, it's complicated, it's all mixed up with a running conflict about the fact that she talks over shows and calls her girlfriend at my house and talks for a half an hour at a time.)

I'm now wondering if there's a connection between what we're seeing on SPN (and probably other programs) and what the news media has been doing for the past few months.

Fiction, no matter what the medium, reflects far more than it directs. "Bitchwatch" noted that the misogynist slurs increased dramatically this year over the past ones. And this year is different from previous ones in the news. Note also that there were three powerful ambiguous-to-evil female characters, and that next year's big bad is one of those female characters. I don't think that, in itself, is a sign of misogyny, but this year it's acceptable to say negative things about a powerful female *because* she's female, and SPN is reflecting that.

I might be able to take Bitchwatch seriously at all if they weren't counting the use of the word "bitch" in the construct "evil sons-of-bitches". Because that has so much to do with how Dean views women. Clearly.

I think SPN is reflecting the fact that Dean's staring Hell in the face and that Lilith (their depiction of whom I have issues with, but really, TV messes up everyone's mythology, even if they did do Azrael right) has owned his soul for a year.

He never actually uses these words to refer to real people unless they're actively trying to destroy him, like Bela. Demons in female bodies are not real people to Dean. Nor should they be given his background.

(Sorry, you probably thought I was on the "Dean is a misogynist" side of this debate I'm guessing, and I'm so not. In general I'm on the "we need to look at things in context, and if the body of the actor matters most, then Nathan Petrelli's Iranian" side of the debate.)

Edited at 2008-05-20 06:20 pm (UTC)

I know you're not on that side. I was taking an opportunity to voice something I've been thinking about for the past half hour or so.

I do think Dean would not, in similar circumstances, be allowed to make racially biased insults, which does reflect our society as it is. But that's not the character's fault, and I don't see him as racist any more than I see him as misogynist - he totally respects Jo Harvelle and he clearly doesn't think that Bella is weak or stupid.

Dean only cares about gender in terms of who he's attracted to, and he's quite willing to fight females, and I think "race" in his head is "demon or human?" But he's not perfect.

Doesn't mean I enjoyed hearing those epithets, and clearly some of them are inaccurate, but then, Dean doesn't care about accuracy much anyway.

But if saying such things were unacceptable, Dean would use a different vocabulary.

(no subject) - (Anonymous)

It really is hard to say - they are using the language of misogyny to attack a candidate, but it's hard to know if it's because they truly fear a woman candidate or because the language is available and she's a woman and the pundits, etc are not thinking of the connotations.

I don't think there is actually equivalent language - I think "bastard" is about the closest, or "jerk", but there are nuances there, too.

I personally think it's a combination of all of the above, and the fact that there has long been a genuine dislike of Hillary Clinton, largely fomented by her husband's political opponents.

I've even seen speculation that it is those political opponents who are behind the scenes for some of this - certainly, one of the more egregious things (Citizens United, Not Timid t-shirts) was done by Republicans quite openly.