Them Uppity Women

Building on posts from Pamela (here and here) and others, Gloria Steinem makes a devastating charge in this morning’s NYT, arguing that Women are Never the Front-Runners:

“But what worries me is that [Obama] is seen as unifying by his race while [Clinton] is seen as divisive by her sex.”What worries me is that she is accused of “playing the gender card” when citing the old boys’ club, while he is seen as unifying by citing civil rights confrontations.

“What worries me is that male Iowa voters were seen as gender-free when supporting their own, while female voters were seen as biased if they did and disloyal if they didn’t.

“What worries me is that reporters ignore Mr. Obama’s dependence on the old — for instance, the frequent campaign comparisons to John F. Kennedy, though Senator Edward Kennedy is supporting Senator Clinton — while not challenging the slander that her progressive policies are part of the Washington status quo.

“What worries me is that some women, perhaps especially younger ones, hope to deny or escape the sexual caste system; thus Iowa women over 50 and 60, who disproportionately supported Senator Clinton, proved once again that women are the one group that grows more radical with age.”

I also think her hypothetical is very interesting. If you were to keep everything about Obama the same (race, ethnicity, Harvard pedigree, family background, career path, etc.) and change only his gender (“Achola Obama instead of Barack Obama”), then, as Steinem argues, “her goose would have been cooked long ago.” We might not even be discussing “her” in the same terms.

I write this as one leaning towards Obama, but I too found the coverage of Clinton’s “teary-eyed moment” yesterday to be silly and, to confirm what Steinem said, sexist as well. Funny how everyone is carrying on about her “unchecked emotions” and “cracking moment”, yet no one mentioned it (at all) when Obama got “choked up” and “overcome with emotion” during his victory speech in Iowa, voice-cracking and all. The coverage of this is shameful.

None of this, as Steinem and others argue, take away from Obama or what he’s accomplished (or might still). But as I wrote a year ago, when both Clinton and Obama announced last January, America is more ready to elect a black man than a white woman (or any woman). Call it institutional sexism (as Steinem reminds us, African-American males were given the right to vote, for example, 50 years before women were), call it whatever you want, but I think her point is a valid one: Men aren’t ready to vote for a woman president. And many women (particularly younger women) aren’t either.

Ain’t that America, though (to paraphrase John Mellencamp)? One step up, two steps back. It’s sad that while the Obama candidacy may be a truly “historic” and “page-turning” moment, the piling-on of Senator Clinton will be viewed as a rather sordid, ignominious low point in our country’s history as well.

They said this day would never come. And apparently, it hasn’t.

Cross posted from AoF

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