Hmm, this seems to me to be wrong,

I get what she’s trying to say, but here’s Hillary Clinton: “I think you have to ask yourself and it’s a little exercise I’d like everybody in the press, and really all of us, to go through: Would the same thing be said about a man in a similar position and the answer 99 times out of 100 is no. I think it’s been a long time since anybody covered what Barack Obama, Joe Biden, or John McCain wear or their hairstyle or any other personal characteristic like that.”

Yes, you have to go all the way back to 2007, when the press spent a month talking about John Edwards’ $400 haircut.

… Wait, no, you don’t have to go that far back. On September 1st, a network news reporter told Barack Obama that he doesn’t like beer.

… Whoops not even that far. This Monday, Jon Decker said Joe Biden does not “help[] his case when he’s making the argument on economic issues wearing French cuffs and dressed to the nines.”

… Okay then.

I will explain how Beaudrot is wrong… hey wait a second, who’s that in comments?

I’m not sure why nobody’s writing about how the Clintons have been, at best, neutral parties in this campaign. Their proxies and surrogates keep saying crappy things about Obama, and Senator and President Clinton haven’t been that much better. Yes, they were both great at the convention, where, had they been less than great, it would have hurt them personally. But since then, my sense is that they’ve done next to nothing useful for the Obama campaign and lots that has been, as I said above, somewhere on the spectrum between neutral and counterproductive.

Hi ari! [waves]You’re wrong! (I say this with a lot of respect.)

Why? In short, because I see this line as somewhere between neutral and productive. Here’s the rest of the quote from Madame Clinton:

I think that a lot of people were excited to see the Republicans have a woman on their ticket. We had a woman vice presidential candidate in 1984; the Republicans have one this year. I think that is something to be excited about because it is a change. But that’s not reason enough to vote for the McCain-Palin ticket.

It’s hard to describe the reaction of most of my friends to some of the sexist charges slung at Palin. We’re a fairly liberal bunch, and most of us are leaning Obama, but there’s something unsettling about the relentless attacks on Palin’s appearance and children. And I think part of it is that we’ve heard much of the same said about ourselves. Among my friends, among different careers and walks of life, all of the following is true:

  • Was told by a classmate, when dressed in a conservative suit, that she looked like a porn star librarian.
  • Was told by an advisor, in a department where it is common for the men to wear ballcaps and t-shirt when teaching (often without having showered), that she wasn’t dressing professionally enough during class when she was wearing a shirt and slacks and sandals.
  • Has watched all of the male advisees of her advisor go out to lunch to discuss their work. This has never happened to her.
  • Have been groped by handsy academics at conferences.
  • Have had passes made at them by superiors.
  • Has been told that she’s a bad mother for returning to work after the birth of her first child.
  • Has been told that she’s a bad mother for quitting her job after her first child.

I’m not doing justice to it (especially to the mothers, because, like, pick something a mom does, and there will be created ex nihilo people criticizing her as a bad mom), but you get the idea. Now, most of these women would not describe their lives as beat down by sexism. Their careers are fine, their families are fine, the incidents did not overwhelm what by and large have been positive experiences. But it’s recognizable, even if it’s mostly a minor annoyance. And it’s continual. And there seems to be little that the woman could do to avoid being the target of this nonsense.

And after a while, it sits in the back of her head. Imagine going on the job market, nervous, hoping you make a good impression, having had someone tell you, as a compliment, that in that outfit you remind him of a porn star.

So now here’s Palin, and here’s a lot of sexist attacks**. And I am not kidding, literally as I write this, Michelle Obama* is on my TV with Paula Deen on the Food Network***. She is making fried shrimp, and the conversation keeps drifting towards her family where Michelle is very subtly, but very firmly pointing out:

  • That even as busy as she is on the campaign trail, she loves cooking;
  • That even as busy as she is, she makes sure she’s only out of town a couple days a week so Sasha and Malia have their mom home so their routine isn’t interrupted;
  • How wonderful it is that her mom lives near by (the implication being, Michelle’s not leaving her children to be raised by a stranger);
  • How much she loves cooking with her girls. Sasha deveins the shrimp! Malia isn’t too interested, apparently, but home cooking is so important; and,
  • How much she loves to eat good food, and how she works out to maintain that slender figure.

It’s a little fluff piece, necessary for the spouse of the candidate, but the subtext is a very loud I’magoodmomI’magoodmomnotscaryatallI’magoodmom.

So, being mostly liberal women, we all recognize that just because Governor Palin has been the victim of sexist attacks doesn’t actually make up for her complete lack of good-for-the-countryness. But the sexist attacks resonate a little bit, even if we don’t all agree what attacks are sexist, and even if we think the Republicans are about the world’s biggest hypocrites for whining about this.

So what does Clinton do here? She acknowledges that a) Palin’s nomination is sorta historic b) there’s been a lot of sexist attacks, and c) says that’s not a reason to vote for her.

Acknowledging that women’s appearance gets judged more doesn’t reinforce anything or create sympathy for Palin where none existed. We women kinda noticed the attacks all on our own. It gives her a way to respond by saying, hey, we over here hear the noise, too, and we think it’s crap, and you think it’s crap, and we’re all going to move past that anyway.

I don’t see this as undermining Obama at all. I see Clinton saying something that’s good to acknowledge****, about as innocuous as saying “Senator McCain’s military service to his country has been honorable, and we thank him for that, but [hammer hammer hammer 600 years old likely to bomb Tehran if bowels act up.]”


*And man, do we love Michelle Obama. Barack, man, you are overchicked.

**Note, this doesn’t apply to all attacks on Palin. She’s underqualified, made of pure extract of wingnut, confuses foreign policy experience with geographic proximity to Alaska — fine!

***What’s funny is that I don’t even normally watch Paula Deen because her mannerisms make me want to hurt people. I had just turned on the TV to watch a movie, thinking about this post, and there was Michelle Obama! Proof from God that you are wrong, ari.

****Obama uses this sort of move all over the place: acknowledge what you think people are feeling, make them feel worthy of attention, then argue that no matter what they’re feeling, they’ll do the right thing.