16th 2010
Campaigning while female, 2010

Posted under: American history, Gender, unhappy endings, wankers, women's history

OK, OK, I know I said I’d stay out of it because I’m so disgusted by this campaign season, but I just can’t let some of the misogyny deployed against women candidates this year go without comment.  Now, let’s be clear:  I would never vote for Christine O’Donnell, the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in Delaware.  I think she’s desperately unqualified, and not very bright.  However, when have you ever seen coverage of a male politician like this, courtesy of Rebecca Dana at The Daily Beast?

“She baked me cookies once,” said Paul Angelini, her old neighbor in the city’s Little Italy district. He remembered O’Donnell as sweet, but the cookies as inedible. “Chocolate chip. They were burnt. They were terrible, really.”

Angelini lived with a few pals in a three-bedroom rowhouse nicknamed “the frat house,” and O’Donnell would swing by from time to time to chat. “We probably flirted a little bit with her, and she flirted a little bit back, that sort of thing.”

She would lounge on her front porch in her pajamas some weekends, smoking cigars and drinking wine with a girlfriend. She doted on her cats, but was not always fastidious about her housekeeping, according to neighborhood gossip passed along by her former housekeeper, Pam.She feuded bitterly with the woman next door. And, neighbors couldn’t help but note, for a candidate who’s been so vocally opposed to any pre-marital sexual activity, O’Donnell had frequent overnight visits from her boyfriend Brent, a Philadelphia lawyer who bought her house just before it went into foreclosure and still owns it to this day.

.       .       .       .       .       .       

The magnitude of O’Donnell’s ambition irked some of her old neighbors. Kathleen Benedetto, who still lives next door to O’Donnell’s former home, said she never saw the candidate, an avowed Catholic, at St. Anthony’s—until she launched her first campaign, a failed challenge against Biden in 2008, for which neighbors believe she mortgaged her car and home. That year, O’Donnell and her family walked in the church’s Procession of Saints, wearing campaign T-shirts and handing them out along the way, “like it was a parade for them,” Benedetto said. “She always had this grand idea of moving to Washington. She never bothered to get to know anyone around here.”

Get it?  Her performance of femininity was bad!  She burned cookies (a gift to a neighbor who sounds like a jackass) and was a bad housekeeper!  She drank wine with her friends, and had a boyfriend stay over!  ZOMG!!!  No one in their twenties living in urban areas ever does that!!!  And worst of all, she was ambitiousSo far, I don’t see anything on this list that would disqualify her as a U.S. Senator–at least, not if she were a man.  But nobody’s bothering to ask neighbors from twenty or thirty years ago what male Senate candidates were like, let alone implictly criticize them because they drank alcohol and burned a batch of cookies.  Carl Palladino?  Dan Maes?  Both of them running to be the chief executive of their states, and complete and total jackasses, with their porn e-mails, homophobic comments, and FBI-undercover and UN-takeover fantasies–both are at leastas unserious as O’Donnell, both of them aiming to represent states much larger than bloody Delaware, but they’re not subject to the same level of panty-sniffing national ridicule.  Gee, I wonder why not?

On the other side of the nation, in a recorded conversation, someone on Democrat Jerry Brown’s campaign for governor of California suggested calling his Republican opponent Meg Whitman a “whore,” and he assented to the strategy.  A male linguist assures us that this isn’t nearly as bad as calling her a c^untand isn’t that a relief!  Now, that would really be bad.  Meanwhile, the media is distracted by talking about whether calling Meg Whitman a whore is right, wrong, accurate, or inaccurate, and whether calling her a c^nt is worse–instead of talking about boring $hit like public policy, and Whitman’s and Brown’s plans for keeping the lights on in California. 

Finally, here’s a bit of unintended hilarity from a pundit who’s at least fifteen years past his sell-by date, Time’s Joe Klein:

There is something profoundly diseased about a society that idolizes its ignoramuses and disdains its experts. It is a society that no longer takes itself seriously.
Pretty funny, coming from a guy who’s been overpaid and underworked for the past twenty years at least!  In any case, his reason for waiting and gnashing his teeth and rending his clothing is, of course, the Senate candidacy of Christine O’Donnell, as if she’s the first and only incompetent, unserious candidate ever to run for major office in American history.  Hey Joe–ever hear of Gen. George McClellan?  Barry Goldwater?  Dan Quayle?  George W. Bush?  No?  I guess you don’t follow American history.  What was that you said about ignoramuses and experts again?


12 Responses to “Campaigning while female, 2010”

  1. Helm Hammerhand on 16 Oct 2010 at 9:08 am #

    “There is something profoundly diseased about a society that idolizes its ignoramuses and disdains its experts. It is a society that no longer takes itself seriously.”

    You know, it’s not that Klein’s wrong here; it’s just that he’s arrived at this conclusion about 30 years too late for it to do much good. And maybe that’s the worst kind of wrong.

  2. Flavia on 16 Oct 2010 at 11:18 am #

    I am so sick of this. And/but as some people have pointed out, the very popularity of candidates like O’Donnell and Palin — and the fact that they’re most popular among male voters — serves to show how very little some people want or expect from women in public life.

  3. LadyProf on 16 Oct 2010 at 11:33 am #

    Klein is plenty wrong, Helm, if the #1 dangerous ignoramus he spots in American politics is a woman. In his little essay he devotes 90% of his diatribe to O’Donnell. The next most dangerous ignoramus? Sharron Angle. Only later does Klein list Ron Johnson and Carl Paladino as part of the problem (but he doesn’t actually say anything bad about them), and in classic bipartisan mode–because if he were a member of the knee-jerk liberal media that would be wrong–he blows kisses at a bunch of d00dz with whom he does not agree, including Rob Portman, Rand Paul, and the Wall Street crook Steven Rattner.

    Joe Klein is not “about 30 years too late”; he’s just plain sexist and misogynous. And not alone among the pundits.

  4. GayProf on 16 Oct 2010 at 11:51 am #

    What’s the deal with cookies as a measure of womanhood in politics? This goes back to at least the Clinton/Bush era when Hilary dared to suggest that she might have more on her mind than crushed walnut pieces.

  5. Historiann on 16 Oct 2010 at 1:19 pm #

    Flavia–Republicans (like O’Donnell, Angle, and Palin) always poll better with men than women, the Democrats always poll better with women than with men. So, they’re largely the beneficiaries of the same male support that male Republicans get. But who’s to “blame” for tea-partiers? Not the Nevada or Delaware Republicans, who backed more establishment (and more qualified) candidates.

    I agree with the author of the article you linked to, who writes that the success of dingbats demeans us all–but there have always been plenty of dingbat d00ds in American politics. It’s only the women who get called out for being dingbats.

    and GayProf: I think cookie symbology is so powerful precisely because they (cookies) are so useless. They symbolize the application of feminine leisure time to preparing a nutritionally inessential food with mostly decorative value. What better use of women’s time, since they sure as heck shouldn’t be in the workforce or paid for their labor? That’s how women should be judged.

    When d00dz prepare and offer food to the press corps–as John McCain does, regularly inviting reporters to his house for a BBQ, and as Bush II did while President–it’s always something substantial: ribs, chicken, etc. Protein-rich food that is worthy of a man’s time and energy!

  6. KC on 17 Oct 2010 at 7:23 am #

    I dunno, up here in New York there’s been plenty of attention paid to Paladino’s insanity.

    What’s weird about O’Donnell is that, like Paladino, she has no chance of winning, yet people keep focusing on her anyway all around the country.

    Anyway, good post.

  7. Clio Bluestocking on 17 Oct 2010 at 8:58 am #

    The worst thing about that coverage (aside from the blatant imposition of gender-normativity, misogyny, slut-shaming, and so forth)? It makes me like O’Donnell just a little bit. Front porch, p.j.s, cigars and wine? That’s character!

  8. Historiann on 17 Oct 2010 at 9:14 am #

    I agree, Clio B.–we would have been out there with her in our 20s, too. (And quite frankly, maybe even in my 40s!)

    KC–it seems to me like the Palladino story is covered as a political news story. I’ve seen and heard reporting on his crazzy out here in Colorado. The difference between the coverage of the male v. female tea party candidates is that it’s only the women whose bios and words are held up for constant ridicule in opinion columns, on blogs, and on late night comedy shows. The men are just as ridiculous–but I guess the men who write and perform in late night comedy shows are more titillated by imaginine O’Donnell in her jammies than Palladino, Maes, or any of the middle-aged male tea partiers.

  9. Joe Klein on elites and “ignoramuses’ | Katy Pundit on 17 Oct 2010 at 10:37 am #

    [...] Campaigning while female, 2010 : Historiann : History and sex… [...]

  10. Historiann on 17 Oct 2010 at 10:50 am #

    Check this out, for example:

    These women — Jan, Meg, Carly, Sharron, Linda, Michele, Queen Bee Sarah and sweet wannabe Christine — have co-opted and ratcheted up the disgust with the status quo that originally buoyed Barack Obama. Whether they’re mistreating the help or belittling the president’s manhood, making snide comments about a rival’s hair or ripping an opponent for spending money on a men’s fashion show, the Mean Girls have replaced Hope with Spite and Cool with Cold. They are the ideal nihilistic cheerleaders for an angry electorate.

    She’s on a first-name basis, as a fellow Mean Girl, I guess.

  11. KC on 17 Oct 2010 at 2:29 pm #

    Yeah, there’s definitely major misogyny going on there, no doubt about it. From my perspective, nothing I’ve seen from any candidate this election season has creeped me out as much as “Carl’s” forwarded emails.

    Funny, my mother (children’s book author) is writing a book about all the women who have run for president for a middle school audience. I was talking about it with her today and she told me about an interview she did with Shirley Chisholm years ago where Chisholm talked about how being a woman was much more electorally disadvantageous than being black. Almost forty years later, and it’s not much, if at all, easier now than it was then.

  12. Alexavier on 23 Jun 2011 at 6:18 pm #

    And I was just wndeoirng about that too!

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