Dumbest. Comment. Ever.

I’m sure most of you humorless feminazis have been following with unsurprised disgust all of the chatter about Ron Suskind’s Confidence Men and his “revelation” that Barack Obama White House is run more like a pickup hoops game, with women advisors sidelined and shoved into the bleachers.  (The WH’s efforts to distance themselves from Suskind’s book are at least good for a laugh!)  After all, President Obama made his basketball buddy the Secretary of Education, and those Obama golf outings sure look like photos of every other Presidential golf entourage of the past century, from William Howard Taft on.  Anyone who paid the slightest iota of attention to the gender politics of Obama’s 2008 campaign won’t be surprised, anyway–all of us “sweeties” over the age of 30 or so sure as hell paid attention.

In any case, this has got to be the absolute dumbest thing said about the gender politics of the current WH:

It’s passing strange that a man who was raised by a strong single mother, who talks affectionately about the influence of the banker grandmother who helped raise him, who married a strong woman, who lives with his mother-in-law and who has two daughters he adores, could ever create an Oval man-cave where some women felt uncomfortable.

This is always the first defense of rank misogynists:  But, I love my “strong” mother/wife/and daughters!  Some of my best friends are women!  I love my cats too, and even “talk affectionately” about them and to them, but I sure as hell don’t take their advice, let them have my checkbook, or think they’re good for more than a little mutual affection and household decoration.

When will we ever get over the idea that affection or even love are incompatable with hierarchical power relations?  Were these people never children, or were they raised under a rock somewhere?  How is it that they’re so clueless about power and inequality within families?

Incidentally, although we’ve mixed it up here before, Brad DeLong has been offering some useful commentary on excerpts from Confidence Men, and he and his fellow economists have a lot of terrifying things to say about their estimation of the WH’s handle on the principles of Econ 101.  (He also takes Suskind to task for taking some of Anita Dunn’s comments out of context, too.)  Scary stuff, kids, and we’re still more than a month away from Halloween!

18 thoughts on “Dumbest. Comment. Ever.

  1. yeah, a cruise around the intertubes shows a whole host of so-called liberal or progressive men rushing into the breach to assure everyone that there’s nothing to see here, no possibility of sexism, see the quote was truncated, truncated I tell you.

    But the words hostile environment have legal meaning. They don’t just mean that some man in a room spoke over a woman. And they don’t mean Obama was or was not a sexist. They mean a workplace that operates in a systemic way with a pattern of exclusion.

    I’d like to ask each of these men like Delong who are rushing in to defend the WH: why so quick? Why not pause and ask, hmmm.. how could we investigate this?

    After all, Delong is an academic economist, surely he’s adept at quantifying. Surely he doesn’t just rely on his own subjective sense of the world in other issues.

    How about examining meeting minutes, email lists, invitation lists, etc?

    It’s also strange how Suskind was lauded for his excellent work on the book about the Bush WH but now somehow, in writing about Obama, he’s become a hack.

    I tell you, as much as I hate the right, I think these liberal men are worse enemies to women. They make it ever so clear that the role of women in the “movement” is, if not prone, still silent. (Except for abortion rights, because lord knows these guys don’t want to be on the hook for paternity.)


  2. In addition to the sexism issue, though, there’s the damning indictment of Obama’s understanding of Econ 101. That he thinks unemployment is a result of productivity gains.

    Then, something Delong doesn’t examine: Obama’s refusal to consider expanding healthcare spending as a way of dealing with unemployment; because those jobs — nursing and nursing assistance — will be seen as “women’s work.”

    I’m sorry — any 40-something year old man who calls a woman “sweetie” and still uses the term “women’s work” has a problem with women. End of story.


  3. I too loathe Dowd, but she didn’t exactly say that Barack Obama couldn’t possibly be misogynous because of all them thar Strong Women inside his home. Here’s Dowd’s graf immediately following the one you quoted. Not better, but it’s not “some of my best friends” either:

    Or maybe after all that petting and pecking by women, he just wanted to macho it up at the office, bonding by talking sports, playing sports and watching SportsCenter. This president in particular, though, has to be careful to make sure he includes the feminine perspective, even if it’s from men who have a full complement of it, like Joe Biden and David Axelrod.

    Maybe this, maybe that, blah blah, another dig at male Democrats for being girly men, I don’t really care, sez Maureen.


  4. Good point, LadyProf–I didn’t mean to mischaracterize Dowd. I guess I was just blown away by the notion ONCE AGAIN that because a man is a successful heterosexualist breeder that he and/or his policies can’t possibly be bad for women. And that’s a line that the WH & some Dems are pushing these days to defend themselves from the Susskind book.

    IOW, my interest wasn’t in beating up on Dowd in particular. It was only to quarrel with this false line of reasoning that marriage & children necessarily make a man a feminist ally.


  5. Oy. The president of my university said at convocation this year that the big thing he learned in diversity training is that as a “tall, white male, I intimidate some people. It’s not because I’m a bad guy or say racist things, it’s just that I’m a tall guy who sounds European.” Way to miss the point, dude.


  6. @Truffula: Structural racism and sociological ignorance – 1. Diversity training apparently cooked up by someone who needs to go back to the drawing board – 0.

    I feel you on this, especially with the month I’m having.


  7. I agree with you about the comment. I must say, though, that the original story irked me as well. The suggestion that women are so fragile that they cannot speak without special accommodations turns into the inane “I intimidate people as a tall white male” trope.


  8. I have been wondering about this.

    The “in context” version of the quote was: “if it weren’t for the president, this place would be in court for a hostile workplace.”

    After thinking it over, I think even the “in context” version of the quote is ambiguous at best.

    The President’s apologists assume this means the President took some unidentified action to mitigate the hostile environment, because, you know, he’s a conciliator, at least that’s how he is with Republicans and enacting the Republican agenda.

    I saw that quote and I assumed it meant that if anyone ever filed a workplace descrimination suit the President would assassinate the plaintiff with a Predator Drone so there would never be an adjudicated hostile workplace. Because, you know, it isn’t illegal if the President does it.


  9. Agreed. If that guy is your backstop, then it’s pretty hopeless.

    Jaime, I didn’t take the Susskind reporting as implying that the women weren’t assertive enough. (Indeed, Christina Romer is no shrinking violet. Go read how she talked to the President, saying “that is oh so wrong.”) Rather, the problem is that the women were outnumbered, shouted down, and/or just not listened to the way the men were.

    The same link features Larry Summers–Larry Summers, he of the “women aren’t biologically suited for high-powered science careers” comments–admitting to Romer that after Obama shot her down and then Summers approached Obama with the same ideas a few days later, “You know, he sure was a lot more generous with me than he was with you.”

    The problem is rarely if ever that women don’t stand up for themselves. The problem is that men don’t listen to them the way they listen to each other. So whatever we do, we’re “sweeties” whose ideas get stolen, or we’re bitches.


  10. I had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of Brooksley Born’s sister the other day. She told me how shaken Ms. Born was after getting chewed out by Larry Summers and Alan Greenspan for trying to do her job, which was regulation of the derivatives market. And we all know how that turned out, don’t we?

    I don’t think Summers and Greenspan would have let Born implement those regulations if she had been a man, but I’m sure they wouldn’t have treated her with such disrespect.


  11. I have to say,that link is the most devastating thing I have read about gender and the current White House. Thank you for posting that. I think I was reacting less to Susskind’s book than to the link you gave of the original “frat boy White House” article, in which I found it hard to distinguish what was actually going on from the paternalistic tone of the writer.


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