If like Historiann you’re concerned about the longer-term effects of bias in the media and the left blogosphere against Senator Clinton, check out Susie Madrak’s posts about Escacon ’08 last weekend at Suburban Guerrila. Madrak reports on revealing conversations about Hillary hatred with Eric Bohlert of Media Matters, and with Paulie the K., Princeton’s coolest Professor/Columnist/Blogger extraordinaire. (Apparently, Paulie dished about former student and top Obama advisor Austan Goolsbee over spring rolls and nam pla. Yum!) See also this analysis of how the orgy of Clinton-bashing works to keep all of us mouthy broads in our places, and this one too.
I think we need to consider that while Obama’s candidacy benefits now from both Dem-on-Dem insults and media bias, these gendered and sexuality-based insults and press coverage will be used to demean Obama too. Let’s take a trip down memory lane to recall what damage this kind of bully-boy towel-snapping did to The Breck Girl, or Al Gore and his allegedly feminized Earth Tones. Now, let’s see what washed up on the beach today: Yes, Joe Scarborough called Obama “prissy” and “dainty” on the basis of watching Obama bowl, and contrasted his performance with other politicians who looked like “real men.” (Bowling? Did I miss Clinton’s “Candlepin Smackdown” in New Hampshire that assured her victory with that state’s voters?) And let’s not forget that one of Scarborough’s sparring partners today was Congressman Harold Ford (D-TN), who in his Senate run in 2006 was the target of smarmy ads calling him “Fancy Ford” and used race, sexuality, and gender to smear him.
Indulge me in a little nostalgia, in the service of making a larger point: Historiann attended a women’s college in the 1980s and 90s, and then I taught at one briefly right after I finished my Ph.D. in the late 1990s One commonality of being affiliated with a women’s college is that as soon as you step off of the campus–and some jerk driving by sees you do it–you’re greeted with hostile screams of “Lezzie!” “Dyke!” Now, it didn’t matter if you were alone or with a crowd. It didn’t matter if you were a femmy girlygirl with long hair and a miniskirt, or if you were a “Dyke to Watch Out For” in a flannel shirt and jeans. And as I learned when I was briefly a faculty member at a women’s college, it didn’t matter if you were obviously a professor leading a group of students on a field trip to look at headstones in a local cemetery. More often than not, we got screamed at, and occasionally, some people had objects thrown at them. To jerks driving by in cars, the fact that we were affiliated with that campus was the only distinguising feature that mattered, and that distinguishing feature meant that we were subject to constant verbal harassment.
So, I’d like to remind all Democrats that to the rest of the country, it looks like we all live and work on a relatively small campus. To the rest of the world, we look pretty much the same–when the jerks drive by, they can’t see if it’s a Clinton or an Obama for President button that we’re wearing. And so, for some of us to tolerate–or even perpetrate–ugly insults based on gender and sexuality–it endangers all of us and our chances for electoral victory. Because if it’s OK for some of us to be targets, it’s OK for all of us to be targets.
UPDATE, 4/2/08: Via Suburban Guerilla, here’s an interesting look at what happened with blog traffic last month at 2 pro-Obama blogs, 2 pro-Clinton blogs, and one neutral blog. Bottom line: the 2 pro-Obama blogs, which have been the leaders in misogynist invective against Clinton, have seen a drop in unique visits, while the neutral and 2 pro-Clinton blogs have had relatively stable traffic without the noticeable declines that the pro-Obama blogs had. (This may be because from my observations, the “pro-Obama” blogs are more anti-Clinton, whereas the 2 pro-Clinton blogs really are pro-Clinton rather than anti-Obama, and most Democrats like both candidates and don’t bear extreme animus against one or the other.)
UPDATE, afternoon 4/2/08: Check out this post by Tom Watson called “MoDo Sets her Gaydar to Stun.” Money quote: “Liberals are just so gay. Wink freaking wink. Hillary’s been a lesbian since she first came to public attention. Gore and Kerry – well, a couple of sissy boys. Now it’s Obama’s turn.”