Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Sexism or Hillaryism?

Last night was perhaps the last Democratic debate and of course we watched it. We've seen almost every one; I don't know what we will do when this is all over!

If you have been following the political news, you have probably heard criticism aimed at the media for their coverage of all things Obama. Some people, many of them in the Clinton camp, have chastised the media for the supposedly easy ride they have been giving Obama. In the debate last night, Hillary herself noted that in these debates she has been asked to field the first question more often than Obama. And she is correct; MSNBC reported she has been asked the first question in 6 out of the last 10 debates. Hardly a huge majority, but it is a majority.

This morning while folding laundry, I happened to watch the first 20 minutes or so of The View. The ladies were discussing the debate and the question of media bias. Joy Behar stated that she believes the media bias toward Obama is a reflection of sexism. She quoted some lines from Chris Matthew's that were indeed very negative and could be construed as sexist.

I do think that the media has shown some favoritism to Obama, and perhaps some of it can be attributed to sexism, but I do not believe that is only what is driving the media coverage of Hillary. There are likely many reasons why Obama has enjoyed more favorable coverage. Some of it is probably sexism. Some of it is because Obama is an exciting, charismatic person. Some of reflects the desire of people for change. Some of it simply makes for good TV. But I believe a great deal of it is because of Hillary herself.

if you do some reading on Hillary, you will find that she has never been a friend to the media. She has made it no secret over the years that she holds the press in contempt and views them as her enemy. This is not something that started after all the problems in the Clinton presidency. She was angry at the press from the beginning of Bill Clinton's career, largely over the attempts by some journalists very early on to uncover the persistent rumor of Bill's affairs. She viewed any negative coverage as part of a conspiracy to thwart their joint agenda and goals. She is known to demand loyalty and is intolerant of dissension, so once she began to see the press as working against her, she wrote them off.

One of the very first things she did when she got in the White House was to attempt to greatly limit the press' access to the Oval Office. She literally closed the hallway that had traditionally given them access to the West Wing and planned on moving them out of the White House entirely. This was viewed as antagonistic by the press and set the tone for her relations with the national media. She never attempted to harness the power of the media and work with them. It became a case of her against them, and that match-up persists today.

So, I don't think it is only sexism at play here. I think Obama may receive more favorable coverage because the press dislikes Hillary, not because she is a woman, but because she is Hillary and she has always worked against them and been critical of them. If another woman were running in her place, I doubt that the press would be as hard on her as they supposedly have been on Hillary. I am not saying there is no sexism involved. But I do think that Hillary's personal and historical record with the press has deeply influenced the way they are treating her now.

What do you think?


liv said...

i think your careful thought of the entire matter says that your brain is at least 8.4 times larger than mine. every time i read a political post i just write: well, in my primary i totally baracked the vote.

i are stoopid.

TC said...

I think that in some respect you are correct. However, MSNBC has been a little over the top and I think that there is more leniancy towards making sexist statements then racist. the reason for that being I think many folks believe that sexism is a thing of the past.
As far as the Obama gets, lets just say I watched last nights debate and with all my yelling at the TV its a miricle your sister got to sleep.

I.E.- I haven't held any oversight hearings because I was running for President. Hello? i wonder if my boss would let me say I didn't do my job because I was interviewing for a better job

jennifer h said...

I do hope that whoever wins or loses, either way, it will be easier next election for a woman or a person of any minority to stage a great campaign and have as good a chance at winning as white men have always enjoyed.

Maybe the issues of racism or sexism will be largely quieted. This election might do at least that much for us all.

Sue Katz said...

I agree with the jist of this post. I would add that Clinton is old news - pretty much everything that could be dug up about her has been - and Obama is "new meat." The press is always looking for a new story - and Obama is just that.

There is no question that there has been misogyny - both subtle and gruesome - in the commentary about Clinton. It has made me so furious that I want to run out and vote for her - and then I remember that I don't support her because she's such a hawk.

Thanks for this perspective.
All the best,