Did Hilary get screwed by the media or is the U.S. just that sexist?

There has been a lot of discussion in the media and the general public about how for the first time in decades the democratic electorate is energized. People are coming out to vote for the Democrats in record numbers. This could be because we have two excellent, well-qualified candidates or the thought of another Republican like Bush in the white house is terrifying. I, on the other hand, have been feeling more disenfranchised than ever. It is all about the polls, momentum, and who the media says is winning. What happened to the idea of letting the voters be heard based on each candidate’s platform. Each vote counts and should be seen as separate from the media empire controlled by a handful of individuals. The media seemed excited when Obama won Iowa (he is very charismatic) and even gave New Hampshire to Obama when Hilary won it. Of course, they had to retract that when all the votes were counted and revealed that polls are not all that reliable. Beth Fouhy from the Associated Press this week wrote that Hillary is trying to save her “moribund candidacy” in the Texas and Ohio primary, and it seems for the most part that the media believes she has already lost. She may not win, but the media is making an effort to influence voters as hundreds of delegates are still at stake. The article, “Clinton: Running again the wind”, describes how luck has been on Obama’s side. Howard Fineman says, “He made it to the Senate after not one but TWO sex scandals leveled his potential rivals. He got to run against Alan Keyes, an often bizarre-acting politician who didn’t even live in the state of Illinois. And as for his war vote, well, he didn’t have to make the same choice Clinton did. That’s because Obama wasn’t elected until two years after the first tanks rolled into Iraq.”

In fall of 2006, I read Obama’s Audacity of Hope and dreamed of the first brilliant, articulate, African American becoming president some day. I was an avid Obama supporter until heavy campaigning started after the Iowa Caucuses and I switched my vote to Hillary. Since the beginning of the year, I have become increasingly annoyed by Obama faking a southern accent (typical of most politicians, but he is supposed to be different) when he gives speeches in the south and his non-specific rhetoric of hope and unity. We all want to hear about hope and unity to save our divided nation, but we also want to know what the less experienced senator plans to do when he is in office. I became increasingly frustrated with Obama’s lack of substance at the beginning of his campaign and then I realized that Clinton and Obama simply have different communication styles. Obama is more eloquent and philosophical while Hillary is a “keep it real” type of lady.  She bullshits like all politicians, but to a lesser extent and has the balls to go against the grain if she believes in it. People say that Obama resembles Kennedy and maybe he does. I wasn’t alive to experience Kennedy speeches (Obama wasn’t living in the US at the time either), but it shouldn’t be about someone’s communication style; it should be about what they are saying. One thing that I like about Hilary is that she always says, on my first day in office, I would do… I know exactly what her agenda is because she provides details. She has been a major proponent of decreasing the power of the executive, which I strongly support. I know it is tough for Americans, but we really need to pay more attention to what candidates are saying and shouldn’t be so easily herded like sheep by the media. One of the most bothersome statistics about Obama is that while being a State Senator in Illinois he voted present 130 times, rather than voting yes or no to remain uncontroversial. We need a strong leader. He wasn’t elected to vote “present”. In a New York Times article, Professor Redfield from University of Illinois says, “If you are worried about your next election, the present vote gives you political cover…This is an option that does not exist in every state and reflects Illinois political culture.” During the California debate, Obama said his health plan focuses on lowering cost while Hilary’s preaches universal health care. After watching Sicko, I’m shocked by how desperately we are in need of a universal health care system and it should be the 1st priority for any Democrat running for the white house. In the debate, Obama also said, “And I have disagreed with Senator Clinton on, for example, meeting with Iran. I think, and the national intelligence estimate, the last report suggested that if we are meeting with them, talking to them, and offering them both carrots and sticks, they are more likely to change their behavior. And we can do so in a way that does not ultimately cost billions of dollars, thousands of lives, and hurt our reputation around the world.” I don’t think the Iranians are going to be very open to negotiating with Obama if he refers to them as goats, mules, or any other animal that likes carrots and sticks. I doubt he intended to be insensitive, but the comment reflects his inexperience. He has made many other comments that I disagree with, but they are not worth pointing out here. The purpose of this article is not to bash Obama. I actually still love Obama, although I don’t believe he would be a better president than Hilary. The purpose of this article is to discuss deeply rooted prejudice in our society that everyone should be aware and as a result, the primary is not a level playing field.

For the last few months, I’ve been inundated by the media with anti-Clinton propaganda. The media has not only been brutal to the Clintons, but I would argue that Bill is perceived as Hilary’s better half. The media has had a field day demonizing her in a way that has shocked me. Please comment on this piece and let me know if you are surprised too. The below exerts are only a fraction of the Hilary bashing I have heard in the last few months.
In an interesting article on cnn.com called Some voters say sexism less offensive than racism, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews suggested “the reason she’s a U.S. senator, the reason she’s a candidate for president, the reason she may be a front-runner is her husband messed around.” The article also says, “At a rally, hecklers yelled to her to iron their shirts….” Radio host Rush Limbaugh told listeners, “Will this country want to actually watch a woman get older before their eyes on a daily basis?” Clinton has been targeted online too by toilet brushes that are being marketed as your First Cleaning Lady and a Clinton nutcracker for sale (It cracks nuts between her legs). Another interviewer said, “Sexism of the nature Hillary Clinton is experiencing has been around as kind of an acceptable joke for years. As far as racism, it’s definitely not politically correct or acceptable.” I think that most Americans have this view, which says a lot about how far we have progressed with regards to racial and gender discrimination in this country. “Feminist pioneer Gloria Steinem recently wrote in a New York Times Op-Ed piece, in which she endorsed Clinton, that ‘gender is the most restricting force in America,’ not race.” I have also heard many comments on Hillary Clinton’s hairdos, ankles and even her cleavage and the above article makes a similar statement. A few weeks ago, the Daily Show showed a few ridiculous media clips insulting Hillary and one included a guy saying, “every time she talks, I just hear ‘take out the trash’”.

The way in which Hillary has been scrutinized is different than any other candidate in history. The amazing thing is that it is acceptable in our patriarchal culture. We need to pay close attention to what is going on, not for Hilary, but for all American woman. How are woman treated differently in powerful political positions? I always wonder if woman like Hillary think: will my partner define my identity, am I pretty enough, am I smart enough, am I sensitive or feminine enough (not a cold-hearted bitch), and most importantly, am I tough enough?




One comment

  1. Shiraz Chakera · April 27, 2008

    Great article.

    From this side of the pond, Obama certainly gets a lot better press too. Hillary seems increasingly gaff-prone as she chases Obama’s lead, whereas Obama is heralded as a visionary statesman. And, in fact, when he made his speech on race called a more perfect union, those pronouncements seem apt.

    Despite the disaster of the two leaders ripping each other apart, whilst John McCain can look like a statesman, you have two great candidates that make British left leaning politics look positively stale. We’ve been looking on with envy lately.

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