Right Message, Wrong Wrapping

Bob Herbert’s piece in the New York Times poses something of a difficult challenge for me; how does one criticize something that one largely agrees with?  99% of Herbert’s piece is exactly right, it’s just the opening 1% that has me at odds.

A better person would be able to get past it pretty quickly, forgive him the slight, and move on.  I’m just finding that I’m not able to do that so easily.

So I get it off my chest first and see how things go from there.  The article is mostly about the sad state of misogynist behavior in this country, how degrading, subjugating, and violent behavior towards women have become so ingrained into our culture that we hardly take notice anymore.  But what bothered me was the largely inaccurate opener, “With Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s win in New Hampshire, gender issues are suddenly in the news. Where has everybody been?”

The problem I have here is that gender issues didn’t just suddenly appear in the news following her win in New Hampshire, in fact, anyone who has hopped online to check out political news in the past week will tell you the big taboo subject of the day has been race, not gender.  Nor, if it did pop up as a major theme in politics after New Hampshire, would it have been sudden.

If you’ll recall, following that fateful debate in September when Hillary took a heavy hit, that’s when gender issues were really heating up the political wires.

So I’m curious where Herbert is coming from in this one aspect and this one aspect alone.  As for an objective take on Hillary Clinton, sexism, and politics, it’s a much more complicated scenario than I think most people are willing to admit.  What is most apparent here, though, is that Hillary faces obstacles bestowed upon her by biology that are unique and she has no control over.  It is not fair, but at the same time the situation itself is not unique.

The fact of the matter is that you would have to be terribly naive to believe that everyone who opposes Hillary Clinton does so based upon scrupulous reasons; that everyone opposed to her is such because of her stances on policy, or because they are not fond of her brand of politics.  That’s just not the case, and there are plenty of people who are opposed to her, whether they’ll admit it or not, because she is a woman.  Funnily enough, if polls told the whole truth and nothing but the truth, if you polled a big enough sample, I’m sure you would even find a percentage of women who fall into this category.

She faces double standards on issues of style, and as many have said, her gender forces her into an almost impossible situation where if she shows too much emotion, she risks looking too weak and woman-like in the minds of too many voters, but going the opposite direction paints her as, not to sugar coat it for you, a cutthroat bitch.  Let’s not forget that Mrs. Clinton’s wardrobe and cleavage actually managed to make it into the political wires for a day or so, and that’s not a problem any man has to face (fat jokes aside).

But while these specific problems remain unique to Hillary, you will find that to some degree or another, all of her fellow Democrats in the field face their own specific, biology related problems.  Barack Obama being black doesn’t have much to worry from misogynists, but racists pose a problem as does a continuing sentiment among the black community that is skeptical of the idea that White America would vote for a black president.  And just as Hillary would be woe to capitalize on gender equality in the race for the presidency, so too would Obama suffer if he were to overtly stand up and start accusing people of racism if they didn’t support him.

Even John Edwards, a rich, good-looking, middle aged white guy has his own problems, namely, being a rich middle aged white guy.  It’s not a hardship, believe me, but when you are seeking your party’s nomination, and your party prides itself on diversity, you find yourself facing two historic candidates while you’re biologically more of the same.  Add age to this and you begin to see the problems that Biden and Dodd faced.

A party that wants to see diversity, that wants to see change and fresh blood is hardly going to be over excited by a couple of white guys who are also old.

Now, my point is not to lend credence to any of the prejudices mentioned above, but instead to point them out in the hopes that they are there, they exist, and that the field is not level, nor could it hope to be, but that despite all this, it’s not the biology that should be focused upon.  After all, Mrs. Clinton didn’t choose to be female, Mr. Obama didn’t choose to be black, and Mr. Dodd, Mr. Biden, and Mr. Edwards didn’t choose to be among the same white male constituency that held power in this country throughout its history.  Things just happened that way, and the true mark of the Democratic party shouldn’t be choosing a black candidate to be the first to do so, or a woman candidate to be the first to do so, but voting for the candidate who will be the best President, whether they’re white, black, green, male, female, transexual, whatever.

All of that being said, we must eventually find ourselves at a point where we are allowed to disagree with someone based upon the merits of their argument, and do so vehemently if need be, and not have that disagreement be the subject of accusation for one -ism or another.  I am a severe critic of Mrs. Clinton, is that because I don’t want to see a woman in the White House?  Of course not; it’s because I disagree with her politics and I disagree with her stancs key issues.

Likewise, Taylor Marsh is pretty anti-Obama at times.  Do I think it’s because she’s a racist?  Far from the truth.  I think it’s because she is a passionate supporter of Hillary, and takes issue with Obama on policy and political points.  Same goes Paul Krugman who has done what he could to sour the progressive sphere on Obama’s candidacy.

By and large, I don’t think the brute force of the internal force against Hillary is miogynistic in nature, but is instead seated in policy, and political differences.  This I point out because the opener to Herbert’s article can be construed in such a manner as to imply this, though I will give him credit for being vague enough the conclusion to not be solid.

Beyond that, I largely agree with him.  Our very culture teems with anti-female sentiment, from music that calls women bitches, to the fact that every time Paris Hilton sneezes, CNN goes on 24 hour alert.  This is, of course, a particularly troubling prospect for me given that I’m currently raising two daughters of my own.

As I pointed out in a quick hit I did yesterday, there are hundreds of thousands of rapes that occur in this country every year, and a vast majority of those are committed by people the victim is acquainted or even intimate withAnd let’s not forget the horrific story of Jamie Leigh Jones.  Nor should our concern for the mistreatment of women be restricted necessarily to our borders.  Recently I remember the tale of the woman who was gang raped in Saudi Arabia and was punished for it, and I remember the honor killing of Du’a Khalil Aswad.  In fact, it is difficult to forget how the turmoil in Iraq has turned young Iraqi women into victims of a dangerous and ugly sex trade.

As I’ve said, it’s a subject that hits home for me.  It’s an epidemic that has been perpetuated by centuries of male led culture.  But what I struggle with the most is the simple fact that I have no answers, and in truth, I’m not even sure where to start.  Sexual assault is a plague in this country, and yet it remains one of the more difficult crimes to prove, particularly date rape, and the sex industry provides a more complex problem than most people are even willing to realize.

So I don’t have answers, but here is probably where I agree with Herbert’s post the most, I’m ready for the discussion, I’m begging for it, and if no one else wants to, I’ll start it.  The problems are rampant, what are the solutions?

2 Responses to “Right Message, Wrong Wrapping”

  1. ERS says:

    I agree with you that honest, open dialogue is needed. And that isn’t possible as long as political correctness rules.

    In the last couple weeks, two sets of dishonor killings were committed on American soil. The first were the murders by arson of a suburban Chicago family (husband, wife, three-year-old child, and fetus). The second were the slayings of the beautiful Said sisters in suburban Dallas. And too few people are willing to call them what they are: dishonor killings. This hesitancy is almost certainly going to doom other people in their situations, for dishonor killings have very specific and unique triggers, modus operandi, and aftermaths that need to be better understood by social workers, teachers, employers, law enforcement officials, and other people on the front lines of early identification of risk.

    Ellen R. Sheeley, Author
    “Reclaiming Honor in Jordan”

  2. Do you have some links and more information? I admit to not being up on the instances you speak of.


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