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“But it wasn’t JUST sexism!”

Posted by pocochina on June 17, 2008

Whenever the topic of sexism in media comes up, there are any number of Obama fen who will trip over themselves to inform everyone that YES THERE WAS SEXISM BUT HILLARY LOST B/C OF XYZ OTHER REASONS. On the lowest level – we’re talking sub-human decency levels, but still – this is a good thing, as it forces the Librul Boyz to use the S-Word, though O! How it burns their souls. However, it’s still a crap dodge. From trogledyte commenters on some blog, maybe. But from anyone who actually follows and knows anything about politics, it’s inexcusable. There is never “just one cause” for political victory or defeat, and the only common variable is luck.

There’s a reason politicians have focus groups, and image specialists, and have people help with their haircuts and ties. It’s because even subtle things about politicians set off cues – conscious and subconscious – in voters, media, colleagues, potential donors alike. These intricate cues are synched up to our expectations of masculine-presenting, able-bodied,* heterosexual, white, wealthy male. Femaleness, even white femaleness, is in a great many ways the opposite of this image. It is not “just sexism” in its gloating, unshackled Daily Kos glory. It is sexism in terms of the different measuring sticks we use for men and women; sexism in the way Barack Obama’s past is respected (as it should be; I am not arguing otherwise) but Hillary Clinton’s decades of hard and distinguished work is subsumed under the banner of “former First Lady” – read “just wife.” It is sexism not just in enormous bricks, but in a hundred thousand tiny shards of glass.

Part of the beaut of politics is that it’s so fucking bizarre there’s no One True Analogy. But in this case, there’s a damned close one. This is an exercise in thought, and I don’t know a whole lot about cars, so just assume no externalities.

Say you’re driving a car. What you do know is that the brakes are a bit stiff; what you don’t know is that they’re actually defective. So you’re driving one day, you go to make a relatively sharp turn – like you, and other people, do all the time – and move your right hand down to switch the radio station – like you, and other people, do all the time. Nothing statistically unsafe, but nothing you’d find recommended in a driver’s manual, either.

You crash.

Is the relevant question:

(a) Was it just the faulty brakes?

(b) Would it have happened but for the faulty brakes?

(a) is, of course, the question that will be used by the manufacturer of the faulty car, while trying to duck responsibility. Not only is their credibility on the line, as well as the money that they owe you, but they’re also trying to duck their moral responsibility for the accident.

But really, do you really believe that you would’ve crashed if you’d had working brakes?

Oh, sure, sexism wasn’t the only drawback of the Clinton campaign.  But the Blogger Boyz/MSM’s desperate cast for reasons other than sexism to explain Clinton’s eventual coming up slightly short for the nomination reads to me, at least a little, like an excuse to duck any responsibility on the part of themselves or Barack Obama.  Because if Obama won, even a little, based on these unfair biases, then he didn’t win the great coup over the Dragon Lady they have been screaming for these many months.  Moreover, they would have to examine their own motivations.  Even if they were Pure as the Morning in their motivations – and the idea that they’re not doesn’t seem to have occurred to anyone – they’d have to question all of the narratives they bought into over the last year and a half.  They have to discount sexism as the reason for Clinton’s loss, or Obama’s win isn’t what they want it to have been.

Sure, it wasn’t just sexism.  It was Patti Solis Doyle not being up to the job.  It was, oddly, underestimating, the sexism that they did know was going to exist, and only seeing the ripple effects halfway through the campaign.  It was underestimating the Obama faction at the DNC.

But even factoring in all of that, do you really, really believe that without the assistance of the Clenis-obsessed media, a cultural zeitgeist willing to believe anything of an intelligent, ambitious woman, without the endless snide comments about nasty old ladies and pantsuits and frigidity and duplicity and ballbreakers and madams and whores and periodically feeling down and WWTSBQ and on and on into sinking oblivion –

do you really think you would have crashed?

*I’m aware that we’ve had a wheelchair-using president, but FDR never presented his disability to the public.

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