Msnowe's Blog

Metaphors for Stagnation (not change)

Posted in Palin, sexist metaphors, women by m.snowe on September 9, 2008
This morning M.Snowe decided to flip through some network news programs (against her better morning judgment that usually dictates sticking to the ipod). The stories on all three major networks (as if you would even consider FOX part of the repertoire!) were extremely Palin-centric. This was to be expected with the current hype, and was part of the reason it was turned to in the first place. Despite all the reading, M.Snowe was looking for some television news stories–to see how they were covering it all.

There’s nothing like that unedited commentary you sometimes get in the morning from precaffeinated television pundits. The stories are always hokey, and this morning was no disappointment–the reporting centered on the projected bump in women supporters for the McCain/Palin ticket–a jump of 20% among white women voters. This seems astronomically high, but let’s just pretend it’s true. Also, it was surmised that this bump was solely due to the addition of Palin to the ticket (although historically, after a convention, the polls get a natural bump, and we’re not talking about Palin’s daughter’s new baby bump here, either).

Then, the accompanying story focused on Clinton’s response to the Palin pick (because you always have to check what each of those bitches is saying behind the back of the other)–and more than one pundit or newscaster had this comment to make: That Clinton was viewed as not being tough enough on Palin. In other words, they blamed Clinton for not attacking Palin more fiercely and personally, and said that her inability to attack Palin was lingering luke warm sentiments for Obama, a.k.a. bitterness of her own failed campaign–a wily attempt to intentionally disrupt his campaign.

Somehow, the campaign has shifted from focus on McCain and Obama to Palin and whomever looks like the best democratic stand-in, be it Clinton (either one of them) or Biden, or someone else to hit the scene. And this can’t be blamed completely on the media–people have had months, even years of analyzing McCain and Obama. They’re looking for new material–and boy have they found some. This might be perfectly benign, but the force with which the media coverage has become misogynistic, or at the very least rice-paper-thinly-veiled sexist is downright distressing, and anger-inducing.

Example: When multiple newscasters/pundits described the relative quiet of Clinton on the topic of Palin’s controversy, one phrase was commonly shared amongst the new stations. Each interviewee said that if the two criticized each other, it would be a “cat fight.” When men like Obama and McCain bicker over policy, it is a “political debate,” or at worst maybe a “mudslinging.” A normal cat fight, in the literal sense, is two cats shrieking at the top of their lungs and alternately backing away and scratching at each other. No real damage is usually done, and no real winner takes the spoils–all is for naught, and the cats stalk away to fight another day, with all the people in earshot mildly annoyed by the raucous. They barely raise a paw, compared to being mauled by a bear, or bitten by a shark (or a “barracuda”). Although the accusations of Clinton’s indifference or purposeful avoidance of attack are ridiculous, this characterization also implies that a fight between the two, if initiated, would be irrelevant. Also, M.Snowe hates to have to point out the obvious, but the pundits, in their use of “cat fight” are, at the very surface, making sure that the audience remembers these two political figures do indeed have pussies. When was the last time you heard an Obama/McCain argument escalate into what the pundits labeled a “cock fight?Hmm. Thought so. No one ever accused McCain of wanting to scratch someones eyes out, but that’s where we are now.

Also, from the most recent New Yorker, we get statements like this from people at the Republican National Convention:

A republican delegate “had been wearing a pin that said “Catholics for McCain,” but swapped it for one that said “Hottest VP from the Coolest State.”

“She’s tremendous. I’m gonna scream, ‘Marry me,’ if I can just get up the nerve.”

Juxtapose these statements with the ones Clinton received during her campaign, like the signs that said “Iron my Shirt.”
Both types of messages are the same: We are not comfortable with where you are politically, so let’s bring the debate down to the level we can handle: either critique your body, your supposed lack of femininity, or abundance of it. One scholar of gender and racial studies said that your subjection can be measured by a simple mirror test. When you look in the mirror in the morning, how do you identify yourself? If you just see you, or see yourself as a human being–then you are relatively unaware of social class and racial bias. But if you identify a race, or class or sex with your image, it is that constant acknowledgement of difference that follows you throughout the day, and is reinforced by the people and social practices/behavior taking place all around you. It’s a sad but true statement that women (similar to other races and sexual orientations), when they look in the mirror, are constantly reminded they are women first and people, second.