October 12, 2005

"A little possible sexism."

I was just overhearing the TiVo'd "Hardball" from last night, with Laura Bush saying that people are sexist to oppose Harriet Miers. Wait a minute, let me get the exact quote: "Some are suggesting there’s a little possible sexism in the criticism of Judge Miers." Some. (Not me!) Suggesting. (Not accusing!) A little. (Not that much!) Possible. (Only maybe!) And it's not that you're sexist, but merely that there is sexism in the criticism. Not in you. In the criticism.

Ah, that Laura! How did she learn to talk like that? A hardcore feminist would say that our culture of sexism has trained women to speak in that modified, mediated, mollifying way.

And yet she still kicked ass. She called you anti-Miers folks sexist. That's how you heard it. That's how I heard it. She used the word: SEXISM! Ah, but she did swathe it so prettily in feminine wraps.

I go out to the big room to see Laura as she's saying these things. She's standing in a construction site of some sort, next to the President. She's wearing a light blue blouse over slim, beige pants. The first thing out of my mouth is: "Wow, Laura's lost a lot of weight! She's really slim!" And then: "Oh, I guess I shouldn't be the critic of who's sexist, when I look at a woman and the first thing I talk about is her weight." I slink back to my computer in the dining room.

The next thing I click to is this rather magnificent concoction, over at All Things Beautiful: "The First Lady and Professor Althouse." Alexandra von Maltzan has depicted Laura Bush as the Empress Josephine Bonaparte and me as Catherine The Great at the Temple of The Goddess of Justice. Of course, the first thing I think is "Damn. Catherine The Great is making me look fat."

UPDATE: Rechecking the TiVo, I see that it's the interviewer, Matt Lauer who says the line "Some are suggesting there’s a little possible sexism in the criticism of Judge Miers." Laura responds, "I think that's possible," and then moves to restating that Miers is very accomplished. So, Matt: I love your feminine ways!


Meade said...

I must have seen a different clip. Fat or slim, the word "sexism" did not come out of her calm, intelligent, pretty mouth.

Simon said...

The suggestion that the opposition to Miers is sexist is asinine to the point of absurd.

The contention runs something like this.

First, despite the fact that most opponents of Miers have at least one, oten two, and sometimes more women on their list (most people cite Janice Brown and Edith Jones; Judge Clement often gets mentions, as does Judge Callahan...Heck, if judicial experience isn't a prereequisite, I say we appoint Laura Ingraham!) of nominees that they would want.

Second, the sexism theory seems - although no-one seems willing to put their name to it, put like this - to be saying "if Bush appointed a man with these credentials, nobody would be complaining." Reeeally? When you put it like that, it seems a little silly, doesn't it. Hey, if you think that opposition to Miers (which is based on different things in different people, but usually a combination of lack of experience, lack of paper trail and lack of relevant qualifications), d'you think that opposition to Gonzales was racism? Seriously?

It wasn't racism then, and it isn't sexism now. What people are concerned about are things that have NOTHING to do with gender.

Simon said...

Incidentally, there is a third, even more hilariously absurd "sexism" theory which I left out. There is an argument that I've seen made at ConfirmThem.com (which largely opposes confirming Miers!) that runs like this. Miers is a woman, and faced discrimination earlier in her career. Therefore, each of her achievements is actually MORE weighty than if a man achieved them, because she's a woman.

In other words: opponents of Miers are sexist because they decline to engage in sexual discrimination.

My, what an interesting group hallucination - conservatives are suddenly liberals! What happened to conservative belief in meritocracy, our opposition to affirmative action, our belief in the power and dignity as treating everyone as equal individuals? Or is that only rhetoric, to be discarded when politically expedient? Not for me, but disappointingly so in some people, it seems.

Too Many Jims said...

The word "sexism" did not come out of her mouth in the clip I saw either. But it sure has come out of the mouths of other Bush surrogates and the way the question was asked she could have said: "No". If conservatives calling people"sexist" over this nomination, as it stands now, gains any traction it may have long term negative consequences.

Ann Althouse said...

Jim: You're right. I did an update. I grabbed the quote from the All Things Beautiful blog, which does correctly identify Lauer as saying the line.

XWL said...

Sexual politics were bound to creep into this nomination regardless of who was chosen.

That this issue is being floated by the First Lady (or more precisely pushed by Matt Lauer and not strongly refuted by Laura) speaks to her role as a mighty wielder of soft power.

Her use of distancing language for describing the possibility of sexism in opposition to Miers has been part and parcel with how she has handled her duties as First Nudger and Cajoler. She usually shows care in her language and only speaks directly when absolutely necessary (this could be her playing a gender role, it could be her personality, or it could be how she interprets her duties as an unelected but important representative of the United States)

And I think the main strain of opposition to the nomination of Miers isn't sexism but rather TEXism.

The NYC-DC media axis has had a hate-hate relationship with all things Texas (just look at their open contempt for being dragged to Crawford) for quite some time (at least back to LBJ). I think that is the biggest strike against her as far as the media is concerned, all the other dimensions of opposition flow from her Texan roots (whether it be the whiff of elitism or the attacks regarding cronyism) and may help to explain a part in the unusual convergence of opposition from both the left and the right.

Those with the microphones and bylines will be ill served if they behave as if everyone shares their prejudices (even if everyone they know does) and I think the hearings for this nomination will be great theatre if anything else (even though those asking the questions will be the same cast of idiots as who tried to grill Chief Justice Roberts).

Alexandra said...

You know Ann, I spent at least two hours just trying to figure out how to make that dress slightly less bulky! I ABSOLUTELY KNEW that would be the very first thing you would think. That's why I wrote under the caption " Now don't blow a fuse Ann...."
The face is YOURS and it looks stunning, I'll keep trying, I am sort of almost there. That bit is really difficult, especially when you are self- taught like me! LOL!
Damn the period consideration, let's do an 'Althouse Catherine II' slim line, sort of very Vera Wang. I'll e-mail you when I'm done...

aidan maconachy said...

I don't think the objections to Miers are sexist.

If Bush had appointed a very white and very bright, blonde bombshell with curves I could understand it. But Miersy comes off as sort of androgynous. With shorter hair, sans make-up and wearing a pant suit, she might even pass for an effeminate male. The last thing she is about is SEX ... of any sort.

Meade said...


Sure she could have said "no" but then the subtext would be "no, it isn't possible but, hmm, gee, yes, it is an important thing to consider whether or not conservatives who oppose HM are practicing sexism."

Instead, she brushed off Lauer's specious instigative question with aplomb, pointing to what she feels is truly important - Miers's professional accomplishments.

The media have taken it from there - spinning themselves until they are dizzyingly nauseated, not to mention nauseous.

neo-neocon said...

What was Laura actually trying to say? Well, it depends what the meaning of "possible" is.

miklos rosza said...

Laura Bush rules.

And she likes Ian McEwan. I wonder if Hillary can name anyone who's won the Booker Prize? I'm not sure she cannot, but it would be interesting to know. More likely, if she's read any fiction, it's Oprah-approved pap. Not 'cause she likes it, but 'cause it might serve her at some point. Such is my impression from afar.