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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Calling Out Some BLATANT Sexism

Cynthia Ruccia

On this blog, I am always encouraging everyone to speak up whenever something sexist is said. The idea is that if we call out sexism aggressively wherever and whenever we find it, we can help restore the sense of shame people should feel for promoting sexism in the first place. It would be an interesting piece to write to put forth the reasons why we don't spend more time speaking up, but today I am just going to put my money where my mouth is and call out a nasty piece of sexism.

On the op-ed page of my hometown paper, The Columbus (OH) Dispatch, there was this column by a New York Times writer Frank Bruni entitled "Culture of Political Gossip Limits Candidate Pool."  Mr. Bruni has had a distinguished career as a writer, and you can read his bio here. He spent a long stretch from 2004 until recently as a food critic, and I'm thinking that he either grew out of touch with the mainstream while chowing down, or he's just been blinded by the old boys club way of looking at women. I'm guessing more of the latter than the former. Whatever.......

The premise of his piece is that good people are deciding not to run for office because of the salacious, invasive gossip that they will be subjected to. This subject is hardly a new idea, and Bruni adds little to the conversation. HOWEVER, he sure stepped in the middle of a giant cowpatty!!!! He was prompted to write as a result of the recent publication of Joe McGuiness's screed "The Rogue" about Sarah Palin, Ron Suskind's "Confidence Men," and Mitch Daniel's "Keeping the Republic." I guess that Bruni at least gets an A+ in reading.

Bruni decided that a book with a dense, serious, and wonderful policy prescriptive by former governor Indiana Mitch Daniels would never see the light of day. Bruni was bemoaning the fact that Daniels would never run for president and use his ideas for the good of our country because he would refuse to put his family through the intense screening that presidential candidates and their families receive. And he used the other two books as prime examples of the hazing that would result as a consequence of a presidential run.

Where the sexism comes in is in two places in this short little piece. Now I don't mean to keep you waiting, but Bruni DID do something right. He actually defended Christine O'Donnell against a piece of sexist hypocrisy against her concerning her stance on abstinence and what Gawker did to try to expose O'Donnell. But I guess Bruni figured that he had done his good deed for women and then proceeded to step in it in two other places.

Exhibit A:  Concerning Sarah Palin, Bruni, just like Palin haters everywhere, seems to have lost his mind and continues to beat a very dangerous sexist meme. Bruni writes concerning McGuiness's book:

"I’m cheating somewhat by lumping “The Rogue” and “Confidence Men” together.  The former is an infinitely more salacious project, with a subject who has arguably surrendered any right to gripe about overly prying eyes by inviting those gazes she and her family can monetize themselves."
"The subject" is Sarah Palin, and this whole argument that since she puts her family on display and (gasp!!) even makes money with her family on display that she basically deserves any derision that people want to hand out. The reason that this storyline, repeated over and over again as part of the holy grail used against Palin, is so very sexist IMHO, is that it sounds way too much like the line used against a woman who is raped, that somehow she brought it all on herself because of the way she dressed, walked, expressed herself, etc. I don't see male candidates who do the same things with THEIR families suffer the same fate as Palin and her family. And Mr. Bruni and others who don't agree with my analysis or choose not to believe me, I have only this to say to rebut your ignorance: take my word for it!! This line of thought is sexist in the extreme, and it is dangerous in the extreme. NO ONE deserves the kind of character assassination that Palin has been subjected to, and certainly her family deserves it even less. It just smells like fear of a powerful woman and a need to squash her in any possible way. The way to tell if what you are doing is sexist is to substitute a male name and ask yourself if you would do the same thing. If it walks, talks, and smells like a duck, well, you see my point.

Exhibit B: The second example in this very short piece is even more egregious because it was dropped so casually into the conversation as if the writer truly didn't have a clue of the insult he was putting out there. Later on in the article Bruni was discussing why the gossip is so disheartening to even a sitting president who has to take out so much important time out of his busy schedule to defend himself against such stupid things such as WHETHER HIS ACTIONS WERE SEXIST OR NOT!!!!!!!!!!! WTF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Come on Bruni------sexism really does matter.
Speaking of distractions, how much of an administration’s energy is diverted by the need to respond to serial tempests like the one Suskind whipped up with his book’s charges — possibly accurate, but possibly overwrought — of sexism in the White House?
The US ranks #70 in the world in female representation in government, we hold 24% of state legislative seats, 18% of federal legislative seats, etc. Just read the stats and their sources listed in the column on the right under the videos. One reason we are so behind is because we have so much sexism floating around that is never mentioned that people don't even realize that what they are doing is sexist. And that subliminal sexism sends out a powerful message to women and girls that they don't matter, that they will NEVER achieve economic and representational parity, and that they just ought to shut up.

And as he says with such cynicism----"overwrought charges of sexism in the White House?" If you google "Obama boys club" you get over 22 million references. If you write in "Obama and sexism" you get 4.25 million references and if you type in "President Obama and sexism" you get 8.41 million references. If there has been that much discussion of Obama and sexism in the White House, I hardly think that it is a gratuitous discussion that needs to be swept under the run with such disdain.

Just for the record I might add that if you google "President Clinton and sexism" you get 681,000 mentions, and for "President George W. Bush and sexism" you get 1.9 million results. Just saying.....

It is the above examples of sexism, the subliminal kind, the very revealing kinds such as mentioned above, that are the most damaging examples of all. Why? Because they simply assume that women are less and of less importance. To those who wonder if they should speak up even if you're a little unsure if the example is sexist? I say this-----if it feels sexist, it is. And if people want to argue about it fine. They are just revealing their ignorance. And honestly, I'm betting that 80--90% of the time, people don't want to be sexist, they are just ignorant. We need to educate people and that's why we need to always speak up and never let these examples pass by uncommented on.

And finally to Frank Bruni-------

If you are so intent on treating women like creme puffs, maybe you should go back to the food beat and write about creme puffs.

You're really good at it!!!!


  1. gosh, I run into this kind of stuff all the time. you're on to something Cynthia with the idea about Palin and comparing that particular criticism with rape victims. I've often thought that way.

  2. Exactly. Nothing gives anyone the right to act so demeaningly to any female.
    It IS sexism, and it has to be called out. Every time. And if people are tired
    of hearing about it, then they can all just stop it with the sexism. Including
    the present occupant of the White House.

  3. I just find it so tiring to bring up the sexism. I guess I've gotten into the habit of just shutting down whenever I hear something.But I guess I'm not helping anyone by being silent.

  4. Cynthia, could you send something by email to Bruni? Or a LTE? I'm too chicken to do so, but think that Bruni should be confronted. I doubt if he reads this blog.

    Pls respond, thank you.

  5. It is stunning that this sort of crap is still written and gets past news editors to be published. I think it is far worse in content that comes out of the New York, DC area which is the world nexus of misogyny. You are right they just don't "get it" and our country is in such a mess because it is run by a cabal of really stupid misogynist men.

  6. anonymous----I sent the whole piece to Bruni last night with some additional comments. As of noon today (Wednesday) I haven't heard back. What a surprise!!