Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Media Misogyny, One More Time

As Hillary Clinton's campaign winds down (or so I hope), there's a video circulating on YouTube that serves as an ugly reminder of how the media trafficked in sexism over the past few months. It's worth watching unless you have poorly controlled blood pressure:

(Via Alternet.)

My favorite moments in this video feature Chris Matthews embarrassing himself yet again. He knows full well that he's being a sexist asshole. He just can't stop himself. At one point he even tells a guest on his show, "I get in trouble for this but you’re great looking obviously ..." which would be fine if he were asking her out. But again, she's a guest on his show, presumably invited to talk about politics, not to flirt. (Though to be honest, even in a social setting, I can't imagine Matthews would have the shadow of a chance with her.)

And then there's poor little Tucker Carlson, whose manhood is so fragile that he confesses to having to cross his legs whenever he sees Hillary Clinton.

This ugly media sexism wasn't enough to make me rally behind Clinton; it didn't cancel out her bellicosity. It does enrage me. And it again points out that while racism and sexism are both virulent, they often operate in different registers. While people won't 'fess up to their racism quite so publicly, they sure carry it with them into the polling booth.

But we didn't see open racism from the pundits in the same way that we saw blatant sexism. Imagine the casually stupid comment on women's hormonal moodiness (toward the end of the clip) transposed into racial pseudo-science. You'd have to go back to nineteenth-century phrenology and the toxic notion that people of African descent are closer to apes than to humans. Pinheaded comments about women PMSing have about as much place in the media as does discredited racial anthropology.


Laura said...

I don't know which media bias was stronger - the sexism bias, or the pro-Obama/elitism bias. Either way, I'm left with a sense of injustice.

Sungold said...

Hi Laura,

I saw pro-Obama flashes - certainly if you watched MSNBC for primary coverage, on balance they tilted pro-Obama, if only because Matthews was such an ass about Clinton.

But I also thought that the kind of questions Obama got in the debate that Tim Russert moderated ("Will you disavow Farrakhan's endorsement?") were much tougher on Obama in a way that unfortunately didn't get at the issues. For instance, I'd have been fine with a question that pressed him to defend his health plan's lack of a mandate. (For the record, I don't think either his nor Clinton's health reform proposal is sufficient to stanch the gaps and control costs; only a single-payer system can do that.)

But I'm curious where you saw an "elitism" bias. Surely Obama and Clinton enjoyed equally elite education; he's from a *much* poorer background than hers; and she has made adult choices that put her into an economic elite as well as a political elite, whereas Obama just finished paying off students loans a year ago (with the surprisingly high royalties from his book). So just logically, I can't tag him as being more "elite" than her, and I can't see where elitism in the media would benefit him disproportionately.

Laura said...

I agree that the elitism bias is divorced from actual status. Obama gets the "elitism" mantle because he won over the media elites, latte liberals and party elites (arguably, a disproportionate % of the caucus goers). It's easy to buy into an ideal abstract vision when you breathe rarified air.

I know, I'm bitter.


btw I'm all about health care policy. I'm a benefits lawyer in MA (where individual mandates are already law). single payer = bad. We don't need another bureaucracy. Suggested incremental reform: emergency cost controls on drugs, and prohibited commercial advertising for drugs. If you examine the year to year increase in health care premiums, the lion's share over the last decade has been drugs. Big pharma engages in price gouging. They say it's R&D, which is BS - all you have to do is look at the stock price to tell that the drug costs are lining shareholders' wallets. Also: if you need an ad to tell you need a pill, then you don't really need a pill.

Sungold said...

I think we're on the same page with the elitism charge. I suppose I'm a latte liberal myself, though one who makes her own at home rather than keeping Starbucks in business.

Hey, you're allowed to sulk. I'd do the same in your spot. And then we need to pick ourselves up and rally to beat McCain.

I think we'll have to agree to disagree - partially, anyway - on healthcare. Much of what I think about it is based on living in Germany for a decade. They are currently in the midst of wrecking their system, but that's another story. I just know from the way the German system worked in the early 1990s that it's possible to slenderize bureaucracies and not spend so much on keeping the insurers flush. We also need to get poor people off the "ER health plan," which we *all* pay for. That has to mean de-linking insurance from employment.

Finally, I totally agree about pharma. If you see how inflated drug prices are in the U.S. compared to Germany (by factors of 2:1, 5:1, 10:1 or more when it comes to pricey anti-cancer drugs) it's truly shocking. If there's any truth to the R&D argument, then why are U.S. consumers the only ones paying such exorbitant prices?