March
31st 2008
Obama: bowls like a girl. Clinton: girl.

Posted under: American history, Gender, GLBTQ, Intersectionality, race, women's history

If like Historiann you’re concerned about the longer-term effects of bias in the media and the left blogosphere against Senator Clinton, check out Susie Madrak’s posts about Escacon ’08 last weekend at Suburban Guerrila.  Madrak reports on revealing conversations about Hillary hatred with Eric Bohlert of Media Matters, and with Paulie the K., Princeton’s coolest Professor/Columnist/Blogger extraordinaire.  (Apparently, Paulie dished about former student and top Obama advisor Austan Goolsbee over spring rolls and nam pla.  Yum!)  See also this analysis of how the orgy of Clinton-bashing works to keep all of us mouthy broads in our places, and this one too.

I think we need to consider that while Obama’s candidacy benefits now from both Dem-on-Dem insults and media bias, these gendered and sexuality-based insults and press coverage will be used to demean Obama too.  Let’s take a trip down memory lane to recall what damage this kind of bully-boy towel-snapping did to The Breck Girl, or Al Gore and his allegedly feminized Earth Tones.  Now, let’s see what washed up on the beach today:  Yes, Joe Scarborough called Obama “prissy” and “dainty” on the basis of watching Obama bowl, and contrasted his performance with other politicians who looked like “real men.”  (Bowling?  Did I miss Clinton’s “Candlepin Smackdown” in New Hampshire that assured her victory with that state’s voters?)  And let’s not forget that one of Scarborough’s sparring partners today was Congressman Harold Ford (D-TN), who in his Senate run in 2006 was the target of smarmy ads calling him “Fancy Ford” and used race, sexuality, and gender to smear him.

Indulge me in a little nostalgia, in the service of making a larger point:  Historiann attended a women’s college in the 1980s and 90s, and then I taught at one briefly right after I finished my Ph.D. in the late 1990s  One commonality of being affiliated with a women’s college is that as soon as you step off of the campus–and some jerk driving by sees you do it–you’re greeted with hostile screams of “Lezzie!”  “Dyke!”  Now, it didn’t matter if you were alone or with a crowd.  It didn’t matter if you were a femmy girlygirl with long hair and a miniskirt, or if you were a “Dyke to Watch Out For” in a flannel shirt and jeans.  And as I learned when I was briefly a faculty member at a women’s college, it didn’t matter if you were obviously a professor leading a group of students on a field trip to look at headstones in a local cemetery.  More often than not, we got screamed at, and occasionally, some people had objects thrown at them.  To jerks driving by in cars, the fact that we were affiliated with that campus was the only distinguising feature that mattered, and that distinguishing feature meant that we were subject to constant verbal harassment.

So, I’d like to remind all Democrats that to the rest of the country, it looks like we all live and work on a relatively small campus.  To the rest of the world, we look pretty much the same–when the jerks drive by, they can’t see if it’s a Clinton or an Obama for President button that we’re wearing.  And so, for some of us to tolerate–or even perpetrate–ugly insults based on gender and sexuality–it endangers all of us and our chances for electoral victory.  Because if it’s OK for some of us to be targets, it’s OK for all of us to be targets.

UPDATE, 4/2/08:  Via Suburban Guerilla, here’s an interesting look at what happened with blog traffic last month at 2 pro-Obama blogs, 2 pro-Clinton blogs, and one neutral blog.  Bottom line:   the 2 pro-Obama blogs, which have been the leaders in misogynist invective against Clinton, have seen a drop in unique visits, while the neutral and 2 pro-Clinton blogs have had relatively stable traffic without the noticeable declines that the pro-Obama blogs had.  (This may be because from my observations, the “pro-Obama” blogs are more anti-Clinton, whereas the 2 pro-Clinton blogs really are pro-Clinton rather than anti-Obama, and most Democrats like both candidates and don’t bear extreme animus against one or the other.)

UPDATE, afternoon 4/2/08:  Check out this post by Tom Watson called “MoDo Sets her Gaydar to Stun.”  Money quote:  “Liberals are just so gay. Wink freaking wink. Hillary’s been a lesbian since she first came to public attention. Gore and Kerry – well, a couple of sissy boys. Now it’s Obama’s turn.”

9 Comments »

9 Responses to “Obama: bowls like a girl. Clinton: girl.”

  1. Knitting Clio on 01 Apr 2008 at 5:44 am #

    Thanks for pointing this out — and showing how the mass corporate media can show gender bias even when the candidate is male. Obviously, they can’t attack Obama’s race without looking like bigots, so they question his manliness instead. Or they attack his wife (as you pointed out in your analysis of the New Yorker article).

  2. Historiann on 01 Apr 2008 at 6:02 am #

    Well, I think the racial innuendo is coming, whether in the media, or the opposition party, or the media adopting the language and frames of the opposition party. In fact, there was an article I saw discussed somewhere yesterday that said that the Obamas “ooze entitlement,” which is something I don’t know they’d say about a white man seeking the presidency at age 46. It won’t be just racial innuendo, but as in Ford’s case, an intersectional attack that also questions his manliness, and his heterosexuality (either that it’s weak, or that it’s too aggressive and scary).

    Here’s the article: Obama Walks Arrogance Line, in Time.

  3. Rad readr on 01 Apr 2008 at 8:07 am #

    But did Obama really bowl a 37? My 8 year old can do better than that.

    In any case, it is hilarious that these folks pick up on bowling as a “manly” activity. I hope Obama’s teflon holds up over the summer. My bigger concern is that while the issues remain silly or inconsequential (bowling, Rev. Wright), the Dems will look bad.

  4. Coyness is nice, and coyness can stop you, from saying all the things in life you’d like to… « Blurred Productions on 01 Apr 2008 at 10:21 am #

    [...] I think I’ve made it clear that in this crazy Presidential contest that I support Obama. Now here Historiann highlights some of the sexist treatment Clinton has received from the press and Obama [...]

  5. David on 01 Apr 2008 at 6:23 pm #

    What is masculinity?

  6. Historiann on 02 Apr 2008 at 8:49 am #

    Uhhh…something that only Republicans have?

    A many-splendored thing?

    It’s what your friends have and your enemies don’t?

  7. Stuart on 03 Apr 2008 at 3:50 am #

    I had wanted to reply to this post earlier but have been a bit busy. Well, I came across this one today while doing some research on Gore;

    “Al Gore is so feminized and diversified and ecologically correct, he’s practically lactating.”

    Maureen Dowd, June 16, 1999

    So I went and did a little manly digging and came up with a few more recent examples. These are just a handful of the actual titles. I wish I were making this up.

    * Obama, legally blonde?

    “But his friends say it played into this Harvard grad’s fear of being seen as “a dumb blond.”

    * Will Hillzilla Crush Obambi?

    * Drapes of Wrath

    “This will be known as the year macho politics failed — mainly because it was macho politics by marshmallow men.”

    * Obama’s Project Runway

    * Enter Ozone Woman

    “After giving a courteous nod to her old rival Al as “a committed visionary on global warming,” she purloined his issue and his revolution, going his Earth Tones in the Balance one better by wearing a blinding yellow pantsuit that looked as if it could provide solar power to all of Tennessee.”

  8. Historiann on 03 Apr 2008 at 6:13 am #

    Stuart–yes, you don’t have to dig too deeply to find that trash. It’s standard M.O. for political reportage on Democrats. What I don’t get is why the national press corps falls for the patently inauthentic masculinities displayed by Republicans. For example, Ronald Reagan looked the part, but that’s only because he was an actor–he never served in WWII and only played cowboys in the movies, but the press fell for the California Ranch act every time. And the Current Occupant is about as false and fake as you can get–a spoiled partyboy heir to a famous name and fortune who pisses away his life and opportunities until age 40, when his handlers convince him that he can be useful to them. He’s got it all: the fake military service, the drinking problem, the lack of meaningful accomplishments, and unfortunately, the all-too-real war started for fake reasons. Oh, and the Ranch again–the Washington Press corps luvs the Ranch.

    Now the Republicans have nominated another determined underachiever in John McCain, who graduated at the bottom of his class at Annapolis (but having an Admiral for a father probably helped get him in and get him through.) His big claim to fame is his experience as a war captive–and I admit that he did show tremendous courage in that situation, refusing opportunities to go home before his comrades because he was an Admiral’s son. But because of this, the press ignores the substance of his legistlative record in Congress. McCain fakes authenticity better than Reagan or Bush–and the press loves him even more than the two of them, combined.

  9. Howard on 01 Jun 2008 at 11:19 am #

    It’s amazing how the Obama supporters continue to use nasty insults towards Clinton supporters, who are dissatisfied with the DNC’s decision to blow off Hillary. This ongoing disrespect and arrogance is part of the reason why many, many Clinton supporters will either move towards McCain, or stay home in November.