Who’s playing the gender card now?

Everyone is piling on Hillary Clinton for allegedly using her gender to garner sympathy in the presidential election. Even Maureen Dowd — author of Are Men Necessary? — is accusing Sen. Clinton of using her status as a Vaginal American to get ahead and get out of answering tough questions. The story has only gotten bigger and bigger since the last debate. And it’s illustrating one major problem with American media and public perception: If you repeat something enough times, it becomes true. Even if it’s not.

See, Clinton never actually threw down the gender card, during the debate or in conversations about it thereafter. She even explicitly said, “I don’t think they’re piling on because I’m a woman, I think they’re piling on because I’m winning.”

I think that’s an accurate characterization.

The big post-debate gender-mention was in her speech at her alma mater, when she said, “In so many ways, this all-women’s college prepared me to compete in the all-boys club of presidential politics.” Yes, she mentioned gender. But that isn’t quite the same thing as using it to garner sympathy. And are we all supposed to pretend like gender doesn’t matter and doesn’t exist at all? That the presidential race is split evenly between men and women, and that presidential politics aren’t actually an all-boys club? She was also speaking at her all-women’s college about her candidacy in a race that is historic because she is both a woman and her party’s front-runner — and the only woman of 17 presidential candidates. Of course that’s relevant — and it’s what everyone has been talking about. Yet when Clinton so much as mentions it — and certainly not in a self-pitying way — she’s taking unfair advantage of being a woman.

Most of the Clinton critics are focusing on her team’s reaction to the debate. According to the Chicago Tribune, “In Tuesday night’s Democratic debate, Clinton bobbled a question about illegal immigrants getting driver’s licenses in New York, appearing to both support the idea and later distance herself from it. Her campaign responded with a video showing each of her male candidates zeroing in on her.”

What should they have released? A video of the female candidates zeroing in on her?

No one from the Clinton campaign argued that the other Dems are targeting Sen. Clinton because she’s a woman; they simply pointed out that the debate did devolve into an all-versus-one pile-on. It’s media commentators and Clinton’s detractors — you know, the ones who are saying Clinton shouldn’t be bringing gender into it — who are bringing gender into it. In claiming to want a gender-neutral race, they demonstrate just how much our deeply-held ideas about gender and power matter in politics.


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14 comments for “Who’s playing the gender card now?

  1. November 4, 2007 at 9:04 pm

    I found her debate performance weak. I don’t see it as a gender issue. It’s other candidates attacking the frontrunner. My problem with Hillary is I have no idea where she stands. She attacked Barack Obama for wanting to negotiate with Iran. She then said she would have talks with Iran. Which is it? People have a right to know where the frontrunner stands.

    The worst part of the Maureen Dowd op-ed was the cleavage remark. My God, is Dowd attempting to channel Ann Althouse?

  2. November 4, 2007 at 9:11 pm

    Well this is 100% different from what I heard. So thanks for the info. Fucking media. Note to self: when reporting on Clinton, remember to quadruple check your facts, and then check again. Oh, and read very, very carefully.

  3. JoeCHI
    November 4, 2007 at 9:39 pm

    The Politics of Identity Politics:

    http://www.mydd.com/story/2007/11/4/115111/084

  4. elisa
    November 4, 2007 at 10:43 pm

    I think Clinton is playing the female role well. But the media is all too ready to pick the fact that she’s a chick apart. Luckily, as you point out, she doesn’t give them much to work with.

    I love this article. But I’m bound to- I agree with pretty much everything you say. I’m worried that the internet only pushes the media schism forward (where each of us read mostly shit we agree with anyway, except for those occasional moments when we turn on Fox news just to get angry).

    Norman J. Ornstein, Resident Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute shows that candidates empoying new web networks are only further stratifying the American political process.

    So, politicians are doing it too! Any ideas how we can use the internet to actually engage people from varying perspectives?

    PS. Love that this post lists “assholes” as a searchable phrase.

  5. kate
    November 4, 2007 at 11:38 pm

    And are we all supposed to pretend like gender doesn’t matter and doesn’t exist at all?

    Yes of course, because when women start stepping into Man’s Land, they’d better shut up and not let anyone notice they’re not in the kitchen or prostrate and waiting in the bedroom.

    Because to acknowledge that women exist in these Men Only spaces is to acknowledge that women, as women can actually achieve the same ends and therefore, no specialness exists among the male of the species, aside for testicles and a penis and since no one is demanding testifying in the literal sense, what’s a man to do?

    The debaters were indeed doing their job attacking the front runner. That H. Clinton is continuously splattered with male sputter has less to do with her or the candidates than with the reporter(s) projecting their own confused shock and awe at an actual boob wearer demanding command and control of their universe.

    And they put in print that the see the candidates ‘gang up’ on her. Good god almighty, why don’t they just say, “I see gang rape fantasies.” out loud and get it over with.

  6. Apple
    November 4, 2007 at 11:48 pm

    Go Girl Hillary!!

    That is all I have to say about it.

    Timm Russert is an asshole, and has never made a secret of his dislike for all things Clinton.. MSNBC revs these debates up like a superbowl match, when they begin the moderaters incite this sh*t and they have a “story” that never really happened the way they say it did and hence begins the framing and the non stop repeating bullshit… Iraq ring a bell?

    GO HILLARY GIRL!!!! Smash that marble ceiling and when your done, kick ass and take names!!

    Timmie Boy, You suck!

  7. November 5, 2007 at 2:56 am

    Even her “bobbled” question wasn’t really bobbled because the plan she was commenting on has changed drastically since the last time she commented on it. So omg she can change her mind as facts change? What a waffler…

  8. November 5, 2007 at 3:37 am

    As an Indian reader who just went through a slightly different version of this in the Presidential elections here (very different from the US elections – you had a guest blogger blogging about it at the time), I wonder why Hilary should not use the gender card – or why, if she does, that’s seen as a bad thing. We all know how true it is that women have to work twice as hard to get as much reward as men – doesn’t that say something about her merit as a candidate?

  9. shinybear
    November 5, 2007 at 10:11 am

    What exactly IS “the gender card”? I find the expression repressive, sexist and manipulative. The Dems are just giving the Republicans fodder with this one. Sure they have the right to question the front runner but is it strategic to knee-cap each other? If this campaign gets any uglier, the Dems are going to have a serious problem with party unity come next fall.

    Clinton isn’t the one playing the gender card- her opponants are.They want to put it into people’s minds that voting for her because she’s a woman is wrong. They know that it’s important to many of us to get a woman in the White House and they are trying to destroy that passion.

    I have no problem with people voting for a candidate specifically because they are a woman. I thought this was a free country. For Chist’s sake people voted for Reagan just because they thought he was nice!

    Maybe they should pass a law- women can’t mention they are women or bring up women’s issues and you can’t vote for a woman if she mentions she’s a woman. Then the men might win!

    No more feminist whining women! THAT’S called “playing the gender card” now!

    Wow- all this talk about gender cards has really convinced me to switch to Obama and or Edwards- wait a minute, I guess it didn’t.

    In the unlikely event either Edwards or Obama gets the nomination, I will have a hard time voting for them. Obama threw LGBTs under the bus with the ex-gay business and a dance party on Ellen was not enough to endear him back to me. Edwards doesn’t “feel comfortable” around LGBTs- too bad his wife isn’t running instead. Oh dear- am I playing “the LGBT card”?

    They and their supporters hostility are making the Clinton supporters dislike them. They are alienating us when they should be attracting us to their candidate. WE are the people they need to convince to switch to their side if they want to win and their supporters express nothing but contempt to us for supporting Clinton.

    They are really short sighted because if they keep this up, none of them will get the Vice Presidency which is frankly the most they are qualified for right now and it would put them on track for the presidency later.

    They are trying to do what they did to Howard Dean last go round. They all attacked Dean and a few months later John Kerry got the nom. They are pointing to this as an example as to why we shouldn’t assume Clinton will get the nom despite her huge lead- but Clinton is not Dean! While I loved Howard Dean very much (campaigned for him), he simply was not ready for the media assault against him. This is a man who lost the nomination because he screamed “Yeeeeehaw!” into a microphone. Clinton is the most savvy pol running- love her or loathe her. Dean was not yet ready for prime time.

    Can’t wait to see them all endorse Clinton with fake smiles next summer at the convention.

  10. November 5, 2007 at 4:31 pm

    Her campaign responded with a video showing each of her male candidates zeroing in on her.”

    What should they have released? A video of the female candidates zeroing in on her?

    Why isn’t this obvious to the media? SERIOUSLY.

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