April 25, 2008

Mocking Hillary is not sexist — and it's not good feminism to think it is.

So there's this novelty pen with a laughing Hillary head stuck on top. Really, if you like Hillary, it should even be a good thing. It's just an item of commercial political Americana:

"

Yet Media Matters is upset. And Melissa McEwan cries sexism:
[I]f you are savvy enough to understand that the sexes don't play on equal playing fields in the first place, then you ought to be savvy enough to understand that singling out Clinton's voice as horrible necessarily invokes the woman-specific sexist context, even if that is not your intent.

As I've said before, you can't divorce criticisms of women from the context of womanhood....

[W]e can't use misogyny-charged criticisms in reference to Clinton as if her sex doesn't matter. And "her voice is unbearable" and/or "her laugh is terrible" are unavoidably tinged with a misogynist history older than this country, even if the person making the complaint isn't consciously or even subconsciously motivated by sexism.

The point is, you've got to be aware of your history. And there's a long-ass history of marginalizing women in this way. So if you're inexorably compelled to criticize Hillary's voice, just know that you've got to own the sexist context, too.
Look, we make fun of male candidates. We joke around about how they look and sound and it's often unfair and unrelated to their qualifications for office. It's part of the vivid debate we have in America. We don't have to pull back and tone it down because a woman (or a black person) is running. The candidates are seeking vast power. We should be irreverent and unafraid.

McEwan apparently means to be a good feminist by saying things they teach you to say in Women's Studies class, hushing and chiding us, and grasping after moral high ground with vague references to "history," but this notion that a powerful woman needs special protection from the full force of political debate — with all its vicious mockery — is not good for women. It may be stupid or unfair to judge a candidate by her laugh, but to cry sexism is lame.

54 comments:

Simon said...

Only barely on-topic, but the invocation of history from someone aligned with a political movement that can barely wait for history to be over is a little hard to take. At any rate, i agree; politicians should be treated with a healthy amount of derision, if not outright contempt, and that should vary based on P.C. worries. The way to stop discrimination on the basis of sex...

The Drill SGT said...

what is sexist or racist for that matter in a different context is for there to be a different sheltered standard for a candidate that would not apply to your generic white male.

Hillary herself said it the other day:

"if you can't stand the heat, get out of the Kitchen"

Speakin of which, Hillary use a bit more Truman in her speaches. He plays well in middle America. My fav:

"I didn't fire him [General MacArthur] because he was a dumb son of a bitch, although he was, but that's not against the law for generals. If it was, half to three quarters of them would be in jail."

rhhardin said...

White guys overlook such criticism because they play by guy rules.

A side-effect of always going for a decision is that what's over is over, and you start fresh at every instant.

A Hillary grudge pen would be better.

Zeb Quinn said...

Whoever it was who first said all's fair in love and war would've surely included modern day politics if they had known of it. It's entirely fair to guilt-trip others and silence critics with accusations of racism and sexism, if you can pull it off with at least a patina of believeability. You always run the risk of net-net losing more than you gain out of it though.

Pastor_Jeff said...

you can't divorce criticisms of women from the context of womanhood

So any criticism of women is de facto misogyny?

This grim, humorless political correctness can't die off fast enough.

El Presidente said...

It's time for the feminists to man up.

John Althouse Cohen said...

I would just like to say for the record that I think Hillary has a bad speaking voice. If that's sexist, then I am a sexist.

But I also think that Dodd and Richardson looked and sounded like buffoons, and that that had a lot to do with why they were less popular than Hillary despite having more impressive resumes.

MadisonMan said...

yes yes yes. Her voice is nails on a chalkboard to me. Make it stop!

Joe Lieberman has the same affect on me.

MadisonMan said...

Make that effect.

I agree 100% with the title of this comment thread. If you can't take gentle mocking -- and let's be honest, this laughing pen is gentle -- then why be in politics?

Please do not show this pen to my son. He loves noisemakers like this.

SGT Ted said...

[I]f you are savvy enough to understand that the sexes don't play on equal playing fields in the first place, then you ought to be savvy enough to understand that singling out Clinton's voice as horrible necessarily invokes the woman-specific sexist context, even if that is not your intent.

Oh shut up.

Ron said...

Maybe the laughing Hillary head should also dispense Pez! Or, in this case, they should be called "Prez" and look like little Bill heads!

If they come out with a sexual aid that looks like Obama and says, "Yes, we can!," ok, that's going a bit too far...

McCain? No, McCane! Something for the older crowd, comes with a signed picture of a CBS Evening News anchor...

Michael_H said...

Melissa wrote: "And there's a long-ass history of marginalizing women in this way."

Even the esteemed Ms. McEwen is unable to discuss women without referring to ass.

What a dick.

Jeff with one 'f' said...

Of course criticizing Hilary- or any woman- is sexist. That's the natural result of a world where thisis news, not parody.

Synova said...

McCain's voice is terrible, too.

What about the Hillary nut-cracker? My husband wanted one of those.

AllenS said...

How about a version of a Bill Clinton bobblehead doll. Except instead of the head moving, one finger would wag.

Henry said...

Sgt. Ted -- Did you notice that McEwan's up to part 83 of a continuing series? Oy vey. That's more than a deck of playing cards.

Modern Otter said...

I would just like to say for the record that I think Hillary has a bad speaking voice. If that's sexist, then I am a sexist.

On the stump, when she's doing the strident thing, she reminds me so much of Hubert Humphrey. It's almost as if she studied him closely. If so, bad choice. I've never seen her as engaging as when Olbermann got her laughing spontaneously about the relative merits of GWB and James Buchanan's presidencies.

McCain's voice reminds me of Milhouse Van Houten on The Simpsons. So does Dominick Dunne's. Yet I wouldn't say Dunne & McCain sound all that much alike.

garage mahal said...

I agree 100% with the title of this comment thread. If you can't take gentle mocking -- and let's be honest, this laughing pen is gentle -- then why be in politics?

I don't recall Hillary saying a word about it. Or for that matter, has she once complained of sexism at all in this election?

Face it Ann, sexism is okay, racism is not. I just wish you'd give your opinion why.

vet66 said...

Hillary champions sexism while Obama trots out racism. Welcome to the one-trick pony aka democratic party.

Note to 'bama; you are measured by those you hang with. DUH!

former law student said...

Somewhere around this place I still have the GHW Bush chimp somebody gave me. Squeeze his sides and he claps his hand. I had him hanging from a spider plant for a while. I guess white males are ok to mock, but not white women, most likely because women are delicate and vulnerable. Luckily Hillary has Bill to protect her should the shit hit the fan. He will be lying in bed next to her when those 3am phone calls come, ready to tell her what to do, unless he's out prospecting among the interns.

Personally I would buy a jug-eared double-handled Obama coffee mug, if one existed.

rhhardin said...

There's some truth to stereotypes, is the reason it's okay, either sexism or racism, both of which are pretty far from what they originally covered.

I recommend making both terms default positives, to complete the changeover.

Both would then encourage you to do what interests you.

rossi said...

My biggest problem of this post, Ann, is the insertion of the delay/hear me out word so overused by the bobbleheads on Fox these days: "LOOK" at the beginning of your paragraph.

It's one thing to use it on television (and that thing is "prove your unoriginality"), but quite another to be so Oreillyan/Juanish/Kondrackian/Fred-Barnsey and deploy it in writing.

It smacks of poor writing and it pains me to hear one of my favorite bloggers use it.

wgh said...

Look, a blog is more conversation than novel.

lurker80 said...

Well said!

Melinda said...

Hillary sounds like Hot Lips Houlihan from M*A*S*H. My hand to God; once I fell asleep in front of the TV and when I woke up I'd thought there was a M*A*S*H rerun on, and it was the news.

AlphaLiberal said...

We got the Hillary Nutcracker for Christmas and both my feminist wife and I think it's real funny.

Hey, she's a political figure. People are going to make fun of her. Though some of the jokes seem misogynistic, if they go beyond the individual to deprecate her because of her gender.

colleenjk said...

I couldn't agree more with the Althouse on this one. If we made fun of Obama's voice, would it be racist. I dont think so. For feminst to get their panties in a bunch over something so small ends up hurting what they stand for. I say give it rest. Hilary can take the heat and she may even know her laugh is annoying.

Nichevo said...

For the record, NYC's Mayor Bloomberg is a whiny little bitch and AFAIK, IIRC, he's a man. He's even a Republican, or was once for five minutes. He also governs like a whiny little bitch. So where's the sexism?

Is the voice irrelevant to the inner qualities? I suppose so. Maybe. But HRC would do well to keep on with the elocution lessons.

BTW, when she attacks OB with the heat-kitchen thing and then says "I am very comfortable in the kitchen," can't we agree that sexism is off the table?

Fen said...

this notion that a powerful woman needs special protection from the full force of political debate — with all its vicious mockery — is not good for women.

*thump*

Melissa McEwan just fainted from her outrage. Nice going Ann.

Someone call 911. Loosen her bra, belt and shoelaces and prop her up in a chair. If anyone asks, we'll say Melissa was knocked out by a wild foul ball.

Chip Ahoy said...

There was until recently a very fine restaurant in Denver called Sacre Bleu with modern interior and lovely but unfortunate hard surfaces throughout. (They also had heavy sectional curtains but for some reason refused to use them) As the dinner crowd picked up so did the total volume to unbearable decibel. When women get a few drinks in 'em and begin to raise their voices, in that place at least, it became intolerable. That's not to say the men weren't also loud, but women, when drunk, tend to shriek excitedly. Just say'n. Now I'm just an observer of human nature so don't go calling me misogynist, rather chalk it up to a more general misanthropy. I never went back because of that.

Martin said...

I'd like to see a Hillary-Limbaugh morphed doll. It seems fitting, given Limbaugh's own calculations that 1 in 10 PA primary voters were his operation chaos voters.

Obama would have won PA by 0.8 percent if not for this. Talk about discrimination.

James said...

Hillary's voice is actually pretty close to standard issue for women from middle-class suburbs of Chicago, which is the class that includes her. I grew up hearing a lot of voices like that, which doesn't mean that I don't find her voice annoying, to put it mildly.

Acksiom said...

I like to provide negative feedback to this kind of behavior by telling the folks who advertise at such venues that because of their poor choices in business associates, I'm switching to a competitor's brand.

You can too. In this case, it would be Ben & Jerry's.

JBlog said...

you can't divorce criticisms of women from the context of womanhood...

We've heard this before -- it's from the same school that says you can't be a racist if you're a victim of racism.

Uh, one word? Eight letters? Starts with a "b"?

How ironic that the same people who complain about double standards are so quick to grant themselves immunity to use them freely.

Oh that's right, I forgot -- it's okay/special/different when they do it.

bearbee said...

...women from middle-class suburbs of Chicago..

You sexsocioecoburbist!

DADvocate said...

this notion that a powerful woman needs special protection from the full force of political debate

It's impossible to be a powerful woman (or man) and need "special protection from the full force of political debate." McEwan defeats her own supposed purpose. Silly girl.

Fen said...

Damnit, dadvocate. You made Melissa faint again.

vbspurs said...

Ron wrote:

Maybe the laughing Hillary head should also dispense Pez! Or, in this case, they should be called "Prez" and look like little Bill heads!

LOL! A Prez dispenser. I love it, Ron. You should blog about the history of these things, like for example, the Bush Sr. Prez dispenser -- with broccoli.

This brings us neatly to the point Ann is trying to make.

Presidents, who so far have only been male, have been made fun of even when they were in distress.

It's cruel, but the best humour is cruel and unflinching. Just ask Margaret Cho about President GW Bush.

To have this Shakespeare Sister apply a different standard to a female politician, I have to say with my hand on my heart, is disgusting.

It makes women look like they can't take a joke because they are weak and sensitive, completely undermining the idea these feminists wish to give, that women are strong and can play with the big boys at their "own games".

Does she even realise what she just said?

I expect this from Bill Clinton, who is savvy at playing dirty politics.

But not from a feminist blogger who basically argued that women cannot be made fun of because they are women. Full stop.

I'm glad Ann isn't falling for that, nor are others here.

Cheers,
Victoria

vbspurs said...

Oh, BTW, did you guys read all the way to the end of her blogpost?

She's got a "Hillary Sexism Watch", which so far has 82 citations of people being meany weenie to Senator Clinton.

82?! That's a good day on Kos.

Cheers,
Victoria

Middle Class Guy said...

Media Matters? Hardly a credible group, seiing as they were formed by Clintonites for the sole purpose of blasting anyone who dared to be critical of the sainted anointed one.

Hey, she is running for office. If she cannot take the heat she should modulate her voice and cackle or get out of the kitchen; of course she would be lost trying, as I doubt she knows what a kitchen looks like.

Obama too. All these rants about racism and misgogyny are over the top. You throw yourself into the ring, you better roll with the punches or ger KO'd.


John Althouse Cohen, does your thinking the others were like bufoons make you a bufoonist? LOL

Triangle Man said...

Speaking of speaking voices, Al Gore still reminds me of Rev. Lovejoy from the Simpsons. I like Obama's speaking voice, so I imagine I will be happy and relaxed while he explains how, as President, he will be robbing me blind.

vbspurs said...

Middle Class guy wrote:

Hey, she is running for office. If she cannot take the heat she should modulate her voice and cackle or get out of the kitchen; of course she would be lost trying, as I doubt she knows what a kitchen looks like.

Using my handy Feminist Interpretation Manual, Middle Class Guy, it says on Page 2 that what you said is sexist, based on a deep rooted misogyny of patriarchally assigned gender roles.

It tells me to rebut your statemet about how unfair it is not to remember the history of women in kitchens.

There is also a footnote about taking a knife to bed when we go to sleep.

So watch out! Women always have the last laugh, Mr. Olbermann! I mean, Middle Class Guy!

Cheers,
Victoria

Fen said...

Thats it. I'm carrying Mellisa out of the room so she'll stop banging her head on the coffee table every time she faints. You guys are meanies!

wgh said...

Hillary's cackle has no echo.
And no one knows why.

blake said...

"I didn't fire him [General MacArthur] because he was a dumb son of a bitch, although he was, but that's not against the law for generals. If it was, half to three quarters of them would be in jail."

Yeah, Truman did just a bang-up job in Korea after firing Mac.

Mortimer Brezny said...

Let alone sexist mockery, I don't see how this was even mockery. It sounded as if the laugh was Hillary's actual recorded laugh, and the head is a reasonable enough likeness. Not everyone who buys that pen buys it to mock Hillary or to view her with disdain, I imagine, so it's unclear it's even mockery. It's just her laugh.

vbspurs said...

It's just her laugh.

See, Mort, how mockery works is like this.

You take an annoying characteristic of the person you are trying to mock, and keep working it until it becomes more annoying than usual.

It helps that when you're mocking a person, that you have a dweeb in a bow-tie use words like "cackle" and "can't wait until she's gone" during it.

Our next comedy lesson will be satire. Please have your lime-green one piece bathing suit handy.

Cheers,
Victoria

Trooper York said...

A man and his wife go to recreate their honeymoon in Hawaii for their 25th anniversary. As the couple reflected on that magical evening 25 years ago, the wife asked the husband: "When you first saw my naked body in front of you, what was going through your mind?"

The husband replied: "All I wanted to do was to fuck your brains out, and suck your tits dry."

Then, as the wife finished undressing, she coyly asked: "What are you thinking now?"

He replied: "It looks like I did a pretty good job."

Revenant said...

Yeah, Truman did just a bang-up job in Korea after firing Mac.

The end result was probably the best we could have hoped for, short of fighting World War Three.

Mortimer Brezny said...

You take an annoying characteristic of the person you are trying to mock, and keep working it until it becomes more annoying than usual.

But it is a recording of her actual laugh. It cannot be more annoying than usual.

blake said...

But it is a recording of her actual laugh. It cannot be more annoying than usual.

Cheap electronic sound recording removes the harmonics and bass that make sounds pleasant, resulting in a tinny sound.

So it certainly could be.

vbspurs said...

But it is a recording of her actual laugh. It cannot be more annoying than usual.

Repetition is what transforms it into mockery, Mort...her laugh is bad enough without you being able to press a button to keep it going endlessly.

Cheers,
Victoria

Mortimer Brezny said...

Cheap electronic sound recording removes the harmonics and bass that make sounds pleasant, resulting in a tinny sound.

Her laugh is already tinny, and it sounded like a perfect recording to me. But point taken.

Repetition is what transforms it into mockery, Mort...her laugh is bad enough without you being able to press a button to keep it going endlessly.

We don't know that every buyer of this pen, or even most, hates her laugh. But point taken.

bev said...

Well I guess then you folks think Olbermann could say, if he did not like Obama, that he should go into a place and not come out (presumably be lynched). What's the difference? Hillary goes into a room and doesn't come out because she's killed (raped, murdered). By your logic, all's fair in love and war. Fine, then take the restrictions off comments about racism or blacks. But you see, all hell would break loose if that happened and folks are just now getting the prejudice, the silent and damaging prejudice towards women. To be silent means it's okay to take your woman in the back room and beat the hell out of her if she doesn't do what you want. Or would you just do it metaphorically (as MSNBC's Olberman says)?