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  1. Gidget Commando
    Gidget Commando February 18, 2008 at 7:31 pm |

    But we’re all a bunch of touchy broads with no sense of humor if we call it out. Gaaaaah, this shit makes me want to retch up the world. I intend to send this to all my friends. Watch a few more pissed-off women turn to Clinton.

  2. Sickle
    Sickle February 18, 2008 at 7:39 pm |

    I really would have to stretch to find the same outrage about this rather tame find that I had at Matthews. I won’t dispute that the language used could be interpreted as sexist, but your suggestions of it being a “dogwhistle” and comparing it to Bush’s SC remarks falls flat for me. I’d think that you’d’ve highlighted the “claws come out” comment far more, and its interesting to me that you didn’t mention it here now, or, apparently, before now.

    I personally doubt that these remarks were deliberate, particularly because both were uttered in informal Q&A sessions and neither originated with surrogates. These aren’t from stump speeches to supporters. If it’s a true dogwhistle, it’s hard for me to understand for whom it’s meant. “Frat-boy” voters? Please. Why does Obama need to make coded sexist messages for that? In addition, you yourself remarked that it undermines Obama’s own desire to woo female voters away from Hillary. Again, Obama’s no idiot; why undermine himself in order to woo a constituency that already supports him?

    That said, I do think the Obama campaign needs to be jabbed a bit over this. The campaign of words needs to understand the perils of the language they employ. What I think we’re seeing is institutionalized sexism. It’s sexism just the same, but I doubt this is a “dogwhistle” moment. It certainly doesn’t rise to the level of the Clintonite comments on race.

  3. Sickle
    Sickle February 18, 2008 at 7:42 pm |

    Oops…gotta correct myself. The “claws come out” was made at a speech, not an informal Q&A. Which makes me wonder even more, why not highlight THAT one? THAT’s obviously sexist. This ain’t.

  4. hilzoy
    hilzoy February 18, 2008 at 8:27 pm |

    About this: “In other words, of being the exact same sort of overemotional and inconsequential person that Obama’s dogwhistle made Clinton out to be. Of being someone whose opinions and perceptions don’t matter, because everyone knows how women are.”

    Speaking as one of the people whose posts this is supposed to be glossing: I really, really disagree with this. For one thing, it would have been hard for me to write the post I did, or for that matter any post, had I really thought that my own opinions and perceptions don’t matter, which, if I believed what you say I believe, I would have to think.

  5. SEK
    SEK February 18, 2008 at 8:33 pm |

    Just because I haven’t remarked on something doesn’t mean I approve of it.

    Bullshit. Silence means approval. It’s in the Blogger Code of Right Proper Behavior. In fact, I’m about to compose a post which consists of all the things zuzu approves of, including but not limited to:

    Peanuts (plain, shoved in ear/up nose, comic)

    Books (spineless, pirated, without naughty bits)

    Torture (tickle)

    Violence (against grass, with a sponge, under an umbrella)

    Misogyny (among dolphins, in outer space)

    Need I continue?

  6. km
    km February 18, 2008 at 8:37 pm |

    The comments may well be objectionable but they don’t seem to fit the definition of a dogwhistle. A dogwhistle reaches a specific, knowing audience while remaining unheard by others (As you state, conservative voters understand exactly what a Dred Scott reference means). But this use of “feeling down” and “periodically” isn’t the same because there’s no a demographic that knowingly hears and understands this message while others don’t get it. Thus, it’s not a dogwhistle. This posts seems to cast Obama’s comments as something that operates more subconsciously.

    It’s a matter of semantics, but I think it’s a distinction that should be made (and that doesn’t affect the discussion of whether the comments are inappropriate).

  7. anna
    anna February 18, 2008 at 8:46 pm |

    Obama and his campaign have allowed his surrogates and supporters to engage in all kinds of sexist, ageist, and anti-feminist rhetoric and they’ve never spoken out against it. While he may position himself above it all, his most vocal supporters have made it clear that women over 40 or feminists are not welcome in the “Hope and Change” clubhouse*. This seems to be a deliberate positioning by the campaign, but its very subtle and no has talked, YET. The media, including progressive blogs, are too invested in “beating the bitch” to call them on it. Instead we get these “innocent” comments and repetition of “old, old, old Mrs. Clinton”.

    At my caucus in a 99.99% Democratic neighborhood, the bullying and snickering about “old hags for Hillary” and “men with no balls for Clinton” made me sick and left others in tears. Most of my older(40+) neighbors didn’t show up because they expected that treatment and plan leave President blank on their ballots if Obama is the nominee. Is the Obama magic going to hold all the way to November with just cool young independents and his alleged Republican supporters?

    The younger women I talk to for Obama, repeat as a mantra “Just because I’m a woman I don’t have to vote for Hillary”. Fair enough, but these particular women don’t seem to know any reason to prefer Obama either. Many go overboard in their anti-Hillary screeds, why not leave it at “I just don’t like her”. Are they afraid of seeming too feminist? old? uncool? Boys won’t like them?

    Obama likes to say his supporters won’t vote for Clinton, but her supporters will vote for him. Don’t count on it Barack.

    *The clubhouse doesn’t seem too hospitable for working-class white men, Latinos, Asians, etc. either. But the Obama campaign is at least half-heartedly trying to invite them.

  8. Nathan
    Nathan February 18, 2008 at 8:47 pm |

    Why is the “claws came out” remark obviously sexist?

    Google has 1,160 hits for “her claws come out” and 976 hits for “his claws come out” (it’s about the same for “his/her claws came out”, though for that “his” is ahead by a narrow margin). So the expression seems to be used about equally to refer to men and women.

    It’s obviously sexist if it’s used (like it was by Fox News in the link) to allude to a “cat fight”, but Obama didn’t do that.

    I can see that it is possible, and if they’re taken in isolation even plausible, to interpret these remarks in a sexist manner. But it’s also plausible to interpret them innocently. Given the incredible volume of the hot air (err, I mean, inspired hope-inducing oratory) coming out of Obama’s mouth over the campaign, it would be a miracle if he didn’t say something that could be construed as sexist.

    I mean, if he made all those remarks in one speech, it would be very hard to believe it was all an innocent coincidence. But if those are the four worst things he’s said, out of god knows how many statements, over the entire campaign, then it’s a lot more plausible they’re innocent, albeit unfortunate, word choices.

    Even if they do reveal Obama’s subconscious, or at least hidden, sexism, I don’t think they’re “dogwhistle” politics. As I understand it, “dogwhistle” refers to codewords with an unambiguous meaning to those in the know, but which float over the heads of the rest of us. For example, Mike Huckabee’s talk of “vertical law” meant absolutely nothing to a heathen like me, but lit up the hearts of bible-thumpers.

    Obama’s statements are ambiguous, and everyone is equally able to interpret their true meaning. The key about a “dogwhistle” is it’s not ambiguous at all; it’s just that most people don’t understand it.

  9. Bitter Scribe
    Bitter Scribe February 18, 2008 at 9:00 pm |

    I’m with Nathan. That seems like pretty thin gruel to sustain a charge of sexism against Obama.

  10. Kate Harding
    Kate Harding February 18, 2008 at 9:16 pm |

    Great post, Zuzu. I wish I weren’t too tired to reiterate why you’ve got it so right for the thousandth time today.

  11. Cara
    Cara February 18, 2008 at 9:25 pm |

    Notice it’s not women who are blind to it.

    Notice it’s also not women saying, “I don’t see it, THEREFORE IT DOESN’T EXIST”.

    Again, we silly girls are just too sensitive and looking for things to be pissed off about, as we periodically do.

    Again, I state: Those who call themselves anti-racist wouldn’t DARE tell a black person they were imagining racism. The black person would be respected as the expert in their own experience.

    But girls are just too emotional for that. They can’t be trusted to be accurate in their perceptions.

    Nope. The dog whistle doesn’t work on these guys AT ALL.

    /sarcasm

  12. SEK
    SEK February 18, 2008 at 9:42 pm |

    On a serious note: when Bush spoke of “Dred Scott” or “wonder-working power,” his message was coded for a specific audience; so when I think of dog-whistles, I think of a rhetorical situation in which a specific appeal is being made to a specific group. (When Clinton compared Obama’s victory to Jesse Jackson’s, his intended audience was the African-Americans who purportedly didn’t think a black candidate could win.)

    But with Obama here, I’m not sure who he’s courting or why. He’s made an effort to appeal to white women recently, so it seems improbable that he wanted to blow a dog-whistle they’d recognize and find offensive. I’m not saying the remark isn’t sexist, only that I fail to see how it’s a dog-whistle.

  13. Jill
    Jill February 18, 2008 at 9:46 pm | *

    Again, I state: Those who call themselves anti-racist wouldn’t DARE tell a black person they were imagining racism. The black person would be respected as the expert in their own experience.

    Actually, I’ve seen lots of supposedly “anti-racist” people tell people of color that they’re imagining racism. I agree with the rest of your comment, and you’re right that women are often told that we’re blowing things out of proportion when we call out sexism, but we don’t need to bring the Battle of Oppressions into it. I can guarantee that people of color get the same shit about “misunderstanding” their own experiences.

  14. Jill
    Jill February 18, 2008 at 9:49 pm | *

    Why is the “claws came out” remark obviously sexist?

    Google has 1,160 hits for “her claws come out” and 976 hits for “his claws come out” (it’s about the same for “his/her claws came out”, though for that “his” is ahead by a narrow margin). So the expression seems to be used about equally to refer to men and women.

    Well, if Google said so…

    Google also comes up with more hits for “honky” than for the n-word. Clearly, this proves that racist expressions seem to be used about equally to refer to black people and white people, or even that white people have it way worse.

  15. hilzoy
    hilzoy February 18, 2008 at 9:52 pm |

    “Notice it’s not women who are blind to it.”

    I feel a Sojourner Truth moment coming on.

  16. Jamelle
    Jamelle February 18, 2008 at 10:04 pm |

    (As a disclaimer, I’m a bit of a lurker, and don’t comment much. I do link approvingly to Feministe on a semi-regular basis, so yeah, not a troll.)

    I can see how Obama’s comment could come across as sexist, but I think it’s a bit of a stretch to call it a dogwhistle. Honestly though, when I read his comment, I thought he was referring to Clinton’s “periodic” decline in the polls. Zuzu’s interpretation certainly isn’t the only one, and considering that Obama has had a pretty good record on reproductive rights and such, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to give him the benefit of the doubt.

  17. Roxanne
    Roxanne February 18, 2008 at 10:24 pm |

    It’s only a dogwhistle if the candidate I haven’t already endorsed uses it.

  18. Mireille
    Mireille February 18, 2008 at 10:34 pm |

    I just find it frustrating that Obama supporters seem so quick to dismiss any negative comments about him. I guess it is his right to remain silent on the incredibly sexist comments that have been made about Clinton by various media people, but one would think a UNITER would say something at some point along the lines of “there are many reasons to prefer me to Hillary, but the fact that I’m a man and she’s a woman isn’t one of them.” I was not a big fan of Hillary Clinton coming into this election, and I will gladly vote for Barack Obama if he gets the nomination, but, and this is just my perception, I have read too many sexist, insulting, childish insults from some Obama supporters to feel completely comfortable with the following he is building. Yes, there are many reasons to prefer Obama, I’m sure, but he is not perfect and faultless and obviously not above accepting the media’s misogynistic assistance to attack his opponent. I just wonder how happy he will be when the veiled racial attacks begin if he wins the nomination, and I have no doubt our media will bring up his “troubling drug use” or the fact that he hasn’t denounced every African American who ever said or did anything that may have been interpreted as insulting to White America (i.e. Al Sharpton or Louis Farrakhan). And after accusing Clinton supporters of crying wolf about sexism during the entire primary campaign, how will Obama supporters feel when they’re accused of crying wolf over veiled racial attacks.

  19. Sarah J
    Sarah J February 18, 2008 at 10:40 pm |

    I disapproved of the “claws come out” comment, and wish he hadn’t used it. However, this one really doesn’t seem like it’s a big deal to me.

    so I guess I’m with Hilzoy. and ain’t I a woman?

  20. shah8
    shah8 February 18, 2008 at 10:54 pm |

    –Don’t hurt me–

    I never got the feel of sexism, especially not intentional sexism. Could you consider that statement in the context of sports? It’s a pretty natural way to describe an opponent in a game, especially games like chess or football where you launch set-piece attacks…

    –Don’t hurt me–

  21. SEK
    SEK February 18, 2008 at 11:02 pm |

    It’s only a dogwhistle if the candidate I haven’t already endorsed uses it.

    Who’s this directed at? Me? Because I think I make a decent argument for there not being an audience for this particular dog-whistle. Again, I’m not saying it’s not sexist. Nor am I saying that Obama’s silence on the blatantly sexist attacks on Clinton by Matthews et al isn’t off-putting. (Although as Bitch says, that’s how the game is played, so maybe we shouldn’t hold Obama up to higher standards.) All I’m saying is that I don’t see how Obama’s comments are a dog-whistle in the way “wonder-working power” is, because I can’t see the demographic he’s appealing to. If I’m wrong here, please, correct me.

    For the record, I am an Obama supporter. Has nothing to do with sexism and everything to do with Clinton being cozy with the DLC (as discussed here).

  22. SEK
    SEK February 18, 2008 at 11:04 pm |

    Yes, of course; if you don’t find it sexist, it must mean that I’m saying you aren’t a woman.

    Are you saying I’m not a woman? That’s completely irrational. Wait, no it isn’t, but you are. Ha!

  23. Roxanne
    Roxanne February 18, 2008 at 11:09 pm |

    I have found only one example –and admittedly I haven’t looked that hard– of someone who both supports Obama and finds this recent example sexist. I’ve been fairly critical of both Obama and Clinton for the last several months, BTW.

  24. SEK
    SEK February 18, 2008 at 11:15 pm |

    SEK, the dogwhistle here is meant to work against your opponent, not to appeal directly to some kind of constituency.

    Honestly — and this says more about how often I read political blogs than anything else — I hadn’t heard about the “dog-whistle” before today, though it seems a perfect description of Bush’s oddly-phrased appeals. I was basing my objection on you saying it’s intended “to send a message to a targeted audience.” I wonder then if Obama isn’t dog-whistling? blowing a dog-whistle? here so much as something else.

  25. Mireille
    Mireille February 18, 2008 at 11:17 pm |

    Although as Bitch says, that’s how the game is played, so maybe we shouldn’t hold Obama up to higher standards.)

    Umm… Isn’t it Obama himself who says he’s going to change the way things are done in Washington? I guess only when it doesn’t benefit him, then, huh?

  26. Cara
    Cara February 18, 2008 at 11:19 pm |

    I don’t have a problem with “I see what you’re saying, but I don’t think that’s what he was doing.” I do have a problem when it’s all “Quit making shit up just because you don’t like Obama, you stupid broads, you thinking with your crotches is going to lose us the election. Just shut up.”

    (I haven’t heard any women saying that. It’s usually more the first one).

    I don’t know if it was an intentional dog whistle. It did sound sexist to me; he should choose his words more carefully at the very least. The fact that it’s mostly men denying it makes it seem all the more effective (“It’s funny because it’s true, heeee”).

    Jill, I guess I was speaking for myself. It wouldn’t enter my head to tell someone of another race that they were too stupid to recognize racism when they saw it.

    My intent wasn’t “battle of oppressions” in bringing that up; I was trying to draw a parallel, so that others can see things more clearly. At least it makes it clearer for me–you can’t decide what’s racist or not for the ones who live it, right?

    But maybe it really doesn’t make it more obvious for anyone else. After all, everybody gets to define women. That’s just nature.

  27. D.N. Nation
    D.N. Nation February 18, 2008 at 11:22 pm |

    Ya’ll mind if I vote for Obama?

  28. Rambles About Sexism « Galling Galla
    Rambles About Sexism « Galling Galla February 18, 2008 at 11:24 pm |

    […] zuzu at Feministe has more about this and other […]

  29. Mireille
    Mireille February 18, 2008 at 11:27 pm |

    Hey, vote for Obama. More power to you. However, if his idea of change is tacit approval of misogynistic language, I’ll settle for the status quo.

  30. SEK
    SEK February 18, 2008 at 11:29 pm |

    Thanks, zuzu, this is what I wasn’t seeing:

    Whether it speaks to its intended audience in an overt wink-wink code (which this will do to some of its intended recipients) or just reinforces unconscious bias (as it will do to others of its intended recipients) does not change its status as a dog whistle.

    That said, I’m not entirely sure that’s what Obama did here. I’m more than willing to admit unconscious sexism, which is deplorable, yes, but not nearly so deplorable as using code to communicate secret messages to other sexists.

    Mireille:

    Isn’t it Obama himself who says he’s going to change the way things are done in Washington? I guess only when it doesn’t benefit him, then, huh?

    Actually, I’m with you. I don’t think Obama’s playing the DLC’s game, and I think that makes him a vastly better candidate than Clinton. As I wrote on Unfogged: “We know [Obama]’s not a member of the DLC; that he’s organized his campaign without its institutional support within the party; and that he’s not making any friends among its elite by challenging their designated candidate. All of those count as positives for me.” I strongly oppose the corporatist wing of the Democratic Party represented by the DLC … of which Bill and Hillary are both charter members. I believe circumventing the entrenched, centrist powers in the Democratic Party of signal importance, and Obama’s done that; Clinton, however, has leaned on them for financial and organizational support.

    (For the record, Bitch was supporting Clinton’s power plays by saying that we shouldn’t hold her playing “politics as usual” against her. I absolutely agree. There’s no reason to gender what are, in fact, purely political motivations. If Clinton engages in Machination X, it’s not because she’s a “lying bitch,” but because she’s a politician.)

  31. Medicine Man
    Medicine Man February 18, 2008 at 11:32 pm |

    The biggest problem with hardcore Obama-nerds is they take any criticism of their candidate so damned personally — it makes it hard to trust their objectivity. Methinks there will be some scales falling from their eyes if he becomes the president. He doesn’t actually walk on water, that man.

    My take on this bit of code: I don’t see it. If I’m wrong though and it is deliberate gender stereotyping, then it is very clumsy and ill advised.

    My feeling about Obama is that he’s a bit casual and careless at times. His comment, “you’re likable enough” makes quite a bit of sense if it had been him and Senator Clinton chatting privately. Between two people speaking on personal terms, that is a fine reply. I’d probably say something similar. On a national stage between two competitors, the issue is totally different. Obama reacted like they were having a conversation while Clinton was remarking about how the media was attacking her personality, rather than her qualifications; as if her likability should be the center of the media focus on her.

    That would be my take on Obama in a nutshell. Politically sound on gender issues but not intuitive about what enduring sexism is like. If I see him overtly start aping his dumber supporters, I’ll definitely re-evaluate my opinion of him.

  32. Cara
    Cara February 18, 2008 at 11:36 pm |

    As an Obama supporter, I agree with zuzu. And I’m disappointed to see so many others denying the sexism.

    That’s not to say that my support for Obama has evaporated. It hasn’t. I still hope he wins the nomination. I’m equally offended by Clinton’s racist comments as I am by Obama’s sexist ones, so it ends up being a mostly neutral point for me. I’m very disappointed in Obama over this, though. It has significantly lowered my enthusiasm for him. And if Clinton wasn’t being similarly disgusting in her rhetoric, I would switch to her. Unfortunately, she is. That’s what’s really sad — I’m unable to pick a candidate who has a clean slate with regards to using discriminatory language. I can pick racist or misogynist. As someone unwilling to choose between the two, I’ve decided to make the decision based on other matters.

    The point is that you can still support a candidate without portraying them as having never done any wrong. And in fact we have to, if we’re going to support candidates with any degree of intellectual honesty.

  33. Medicine Man
    Medicine Man February 18, 2008 at 11:37 pm |

    I’m a little worried about the polarization I’m seeing amongst Democrats right now. I’d still rather see either of them in office than see another 4 years of the GOP.

  34. RKMK
    RKMK February 18, 2008 at 11:43 pm |

    I’m equally offended by Clinton’s racist comments as I am by Obama’s sexist ones, so it ends up being a mostly neutral point for me. I’m very disappointed in Obama over this, though. It has significantly lowered my enthusiasm for him. And if Clinton wasn’t being similarly disgusting in her rhetoric, I would switch to her. Unfortunately, she is. That’s what’s really sad — I’m unable to pick a candidate who has a clean slate with regards to using discriminatory language

    I’m sorry if I’ve missed something in the coverage, but has Clinton or her camp made any racist comments since the “we’re going to play nice” truce? (I’m honestly curious.)

  35. Pseudo-Adrienne
    Pseudo-Adrienne February 18, 2008 at 11:58 pm |

    Sigh. As Obama continues to gain momentum in his campaign and poll numbers (and good for him), I do have this fear of him becoming a “Liburul Dewd” and capitalizing on the HRC-misogynist/sexist bash-fest, aided and abated by the MSM.

    “Quit making shit up just because you don’t like Obama, you stupid broads, you thinking with your crotches is going to lose us the election. Just shut up.”

    Yeah, about that. I can just imagine. A quasi-apocalytpic premonition, if you will. It’s Dem Convention time…it’s still too close to call for naming either HRC or Obama as the nominee. And yet, somehow, it all comes down to the wimminz vote. Oh, look! Here come the supposed A-List liberal/progressive political pundits and bloggers (all fellas, of course) telling us to vote for Obama’s nomination– all for the “greater glory” of defeating McCain and winning the White House. Silly women’s issues; we keep the chopping-block nice and warm just for you! I think that’s what zuzu is trying to say– whenever there’s a call for a supposedly progressive/liberal and pro-women male politician to denounce sexism and misogyny, it seems to be always derided as hysterical or not a serious complaint. “Just a bunch of PMSing, unattractive broads–and their emasculated, pussy-whipped boy-toys, of course– getting the vapors over nothing, yet again. Everybody knows that racist jokes and attacks are a no-no (and that’s a good thing),but sexist/misogynist jokes and attacks, have at it kids! The ladies wouldn’t know a “serious complaint” if it spanked them on their asses with their own pearl necklaces. Har-har!” Anyways…and if I was no where in the ball-park when it came to your analysis, zuzu, do correct me!

    And yes, I do support Obama. As aforementioned I just hope he doesn’t mutate into a “Liburul Dewd.”

  36. Pseudo-Adrienne
    Pseudo-Adrienne February 19, 2008 at 12:04 am |

    […]and it’s not like we’re going to get a perfectly non-sexist Democrat any time soon.

    Well, let’s see here. I’m twenty-two years old, now– twenty-three when the election-day rolls around. Do you think we’ll have a perfectly non-sexist Democrat (or simply a non-sexist politician) by the time I’m a hundred-and-three years old, on that election-day?

  37. Medicine Man
    Medicine Man February 19, 2008 at 12:04 am |

    If that was intentional, then he’s making a deliberate appeal to sexist voters. If it was unintentional, then it’s revealing of the kinds of attitudes that he holds about women.

    I agree with you up to this point, Zuzu. Where I diverge is with the use of the term dogwhistle, which strongly suggests malicious intent. I just haven’t seen evidence myself that he’s that much of a prick. At times, when he’s not being guarded, he shows his internal biases. The quote in your original post is one of those times. Not really arguing at this point. I don’t think he should be given a pass for his blind spots. Judging from his performance amongst women voters, I don’t think he is. I still think he honestly tries though, even if he sometimes doesn’t “get it”.

  38. Medicine Man
    Medicine Man February 19, 2008 at 12:19 am |

    @Pseudo-Adrienne:

    Yes, there is a sick irony to the fact that a brokered convention would amount to a bunch of white guys deciding who is the nominee. Ironic because of who the two contenders are; sick because it simply is.

    But let’s say that Clinton wins. If there isn’t some kind of fight over whether she *really* won because of the superdelegates or whether she *stole the nomination* because of Florida and Michigan, if Obama’s spent months cutting her down and reminding voters that she’s not the one for the job because she’s a woman, are the voters a) who wouldn’t vote for her in the primaries because she’s a woman and they had an honorable alternative who was still a Democrat; or b) who are maybe a little up in the air, but they’re not so sure that a woman can really do the job going to vote for her?

    I don’t think Obama can attack Sen. Clinton half as badly as the GOP machine will. The same goes for the reverse. The GOP will mangle Sen. Obama far worse than his democratic rival is. In fact, I’m more worried about Obama in this case. Whatever Hillary’s weaknesses in a general election may be, being intimidated by the GOP isn’t one of them. Obama I’m not so sure about. If he really is the Philosopher King he pretends to be, I’m afraid he’ll get handed his lunch. How pristine and positive can he be after the GOP have had a full run at him? Maybe an irrational fear on my part…

    With a Clinton nomination, I’m more afraid that a good portion of those new Dem voters will vaporise before the general election. Given what is at stake, it would be shallow of them to do so, but that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t happen.

  39. Medicine Man
    Medicine Man February 19, 2008 at 12:38 am |

    But I think that whether or not you agree with the term “dogwhistle,” the language that this skilled orator chose is revealing of his biases. As is the language that his defenders are using to dismiss those who object to his statement.

    I’ll just have to reserve judgement. While I’ll fully admit that my sexism radar is not as finely calibrated as most of the bloggers on this site, I’m not convinced that he’s “tacitly supporting the language of misogyny” as Mireille states. Maybe his biases are showing, but I’m still willing to give him the benefit of the doubt on what his intentions were (are). Skilled orator or not, I can understand how he might be oblivious to how these statements may sound.

  40. donna darko
    donna darko February 19, 2008 at 1:26 am |

    He’s made a bunch of dogwhistle, subtle to not so subtle sexist remarks in the last several months intended to appeal to sexist independents.

    With a Clinton nomination, I’m more afraid that a good portion of those new Dem voters will vaporise before the general election

    How about bringing out the Democratic women’s and Latino vote?

  41. shah8
    shah8 February 19, 2008 at 3:17 am |

    Hey thanks for the interesting reply zuzu…

    If you are at all interested in the answer to what quarterback…That one is easy…


    That is, I understand Bret Favre periodically when he feels that he’s really behind, launches deep balls as a way to get back into the game.

    Now, in being more firm…? This is patently not a dogwhistle. One can argue subconscous messaging all she wants, but that isn’t dogwhistleling, whatever the case may be. A dog whistle uses exclusive language to speak to a certain party while speaking to the supergroup as a whole. There is no specific party I can think of beyond philologically bent sexist men that Obama could be speaking towards, and even that group is unlikely.

    I just don’t see intentional sexism in that phrase. I really don’t. To be sure, it’s quite infelicitous, but the phrase as a whole is infelicitous. I’ve said plenty of things that could be regarded as sexist without having much of a thought at all about gender. Also, I am judging by the fact that it seems too easy to make an innocent explanation of what Obama was trying to say.

    If you google periodically and sexist, once you get beyond the current furor, the vast majority of the uses refer to a “repeated theme”. In general, it’s really hard for me to think it’s sexist at all, though I grant subconcious sexism on Obama’s part. The statement after all, isn’t actually untrue. The big flow in this primaries race is that Obama is more appealing than Clinton. It’s alot of what he’s running on, and it would be natural for him to think of public appeal as a tactic or strategy in a game. In every competive game, there is an offense and a defense. Obama is protecting his golden boy image, while Clinton is attacking that golden boy image. It would be natural for me to think that Obama percieves that Clinton returns to the offensive (the negative) every time she feels she isn’t making up ground.

    It certainly can be said better. However, this is a campaign, and canidates talk *endlessly* in public. It would be pretty hard not only to control the stupids, but the merely infelicitous as well. Though it can’t hurt to remind people of the power of language and to be more careful about it.

  42. shah8
    shah8 February 19, 2008 at 3:26 am |

    Ah, and finding the latter part of the quote

    He also suggested Clinton’s attacks were made out of desperation because his campaign is ahead. “I understand that Senator Clinton, periodically when she’s feeling down, launches attacks as a way of trying to boost her appeal,” he said. “But I think this kind of gamesmanship is not what the American people are looking for.”

    seems to reaffirm to me that he was in some sort of sports mode.

  43. odanu
    odanu February 19, 2008 at 12:12 pm |

    I think Obama was out of line on this, not so much because the statement was a dogwhistle, but because he presumed to know what another candidate “feels”. Last I checked, he’s not a telepath. It irritates me no end when people presume to know what other peoples’ motives are for their actions without asking.

    So, yeah, I’ll continue to support him, I don’t think “periodically” was a dog whistle, but I think that talking about how another contender “feels” is simply silly. If it was a dog whistle, it reached the wrong dog, because frankly I think his campaign has gotten more negativity from this than anything positive he might have been hoping for.

    As an anti-racist ally and a feminist, I long ago stopped trying to find some that was perfectly both in terms of leaders. I’ll be happy to find someone who “gets it” at some level on both issues, but still has ignorance to overcome. I think that’s where Obama stands.

  44. Doug
    Doug February 19, 2008 at 12:31 pm |

    I’m an Obama supporter, so perhaps I get more agitated about this than the average person, but I’ve heard from a number of Clinton supporters (and I’m not necessarily saying zuzu qualifies as one of these) who seem to be trying to box Obama into a couple of annoying Catch-22s. One of the big knocks on Obama is that he’s “untested” and supposedly doesn’t have the mettle to tangle with the Republicans in the general election, but if he so much as uses the word “periodically” he gets attacked for being too mean. Those who aren’t in the Obama camp say that his bipartisan let’s-not-be-divisive rhetoric is hopelessly naive, but when he dares to draw some sort of contrast with his opponents, many of those same folks hit him with the “but you’re supposed to be the nice-guy candidate!” attack.

    At any rate, even if one concedes that Obama is being deliberately sexist here — which I don’t — it’s kind of a stretch to think that he’s doing it to appeal to “frat boys.” Trust me, frat boys vote Republican. Using sexist code words to appeal to them would be about as productive as giving a speech to the Heritage Foundation.

  45. Susie from Philly
    Susie from Philly February 19, 2008 at 12:32 pm |

    “We know [Obama]’s not a member of the DLC; that he’s organized his campaign without its institutional support within the party; and that he’s not making any friends among its elite by challenging their designated candidate. All of those count as positives for me.”

    Whoa, Nelly. I guess you didn’t know that the pro-corporatist Tom Daschle (no Dem establishment connections there, no sir!) picked Obama’s campaign manager and most of his senior staff?

  46. Kristen
    Kristen February 19, 2008 at 12:35 pm |

    Crap. I don’t think this was intentional, but (to me at least) it indicates a subconscious bias. Please, please, please let him apologize. And not one of those crappy apologies that make blame people for being offended…but a sincere straightforward apology.

    I can’t be the only woman who’s had the experience of being in a meeting, or in a car, or at a client’s, with a couple of male coworkers who start talking sports. And who continue, even when it’s apparent that I’m not participating in the conversation because I’m not at all interested in baseball or golf. It’s one of those things that, again, is used quite effectively by men in business and in other settings to isolate women, or to sort them by “team player” (can talk about sports) and “not a team player” (does not talk about sports).

    See…I don’t get this as sexist. People have all sorts of conversations that I don’t have information about. That’s why you ask questions. Someone talking about Virginia politics? Ask about what the policy issues are. Someone talking about vodka? Ask about how vodka is made. Someone talking about soccer? Ask what teams they like. Hell I have conversations with my guy friends about hair and beauty products all the time, they manage to hold their end of the conversation. Men talk about sports…because they like sports…its a bonding thing…but it doesn’t mean they don’t want you to join in the discussion.

  47. shah8
    shah8 February 19, 2008 at 1:20 pm |

    zuzu, I used Bret Favre because he’s famous for gambling away games he is losing.

    He definitly does get twitchy when he’s down!

  48. Doug
    Doug February 19, 2008 at 1:53 pm |

    But it’s the kind of “exclusionary” that could potentially exclude both men and women. Like, for instance, I’m a huge football fan, both pro and college; I can go on and on about great games I’ve seen and can instantly remember the exact scores of Georgia games from more than a decade ago. But I don’t know jack about basketball, so if that’s what the conversation is about, then I got nothing.

    At any rate, to imply that bonding over sports talk is an inherently sexist act implies that women can’t/don’t know anything about sports, which is itself a sexist stereotype. If two guys are “bonding” over what their team(s) did the previous night, that’s exclusionary in the sense that anyone who doesn’t follow that sport or those teams is going to be lost in that conversation, so it may be rude — but it’s not necessarily directed at one particular gender.

  49. Tricia
    Tricia February 19, 2008 at 2:26 pm |

    Doug: As an Obama delegate, I would think that instead of trying to dismiss the concerns of feminist voters (a common tactic of sexists everywhere), you might want to address those concerns constructively. Just sayin’.

  50. Sickle
    Sickle February 19, 2008 at 2:30 pm |

    Just to clarify, I thought the remark was sexist, but didn’t think it was a dogwhistle, but rather more an institutionalized remark. And I voted for Edwards.

  51. D.N. Nation
    D.N. Nation February 19, 2008 at 2:47 pm |

    I would think that instead of trying to dismiss the concerns of feminist voters (a common tactic of sexists everywhere), you might want to address those concerns constructively.

    One man/woman’s “dismissal” is another’s “address.” Don’t desire “address” if you’re not willing to roll with “dismissal.”

  52. Doug
    Doug February 19, 2008 at 3:07 pm |

    Well, I didn’t get enough votes to be a delegate, so there’s that. But if “address[ing] those concerns constructively” means saying I think Obama was trying to be sexist when I don’t honestly believe he was, then no, I’m not going to do that.

  53. D.N. Nation
    D.N. Nation February 19, 2008 at 3:09 pm |

    Additionally, anyone else notice that the use of “dogwhistle” is, in of itself, a dogwhistle?

  54. Mnemosyne
    Mnemosyne February 19, 2008 at 3:51 pm |

    But just because it’s not intentional (and I’ve already explained that *we don’t know Obama’s intent* in making this statement, but that *it says something about him either way,* so I don’t know why everyone’s hung up on intent)

    Because that’s the definition of a political dogwhistle. When Obama references McCain’s age, he’s not doing it accidentally or subconsciously. He’s deliberately attacking McCain on something that might otherwise be a strength. So deciding whether or not Obama deliberately constructed this as a sexist remark is important to your argument that it was meant to be a dogwhistle. If it was a frat-boy assholish remark that wasn’t thought through, that’s very different than it being a calculated phrase meant to appeal to a specific constituency.

    I don’t know that I can agree about this specific example, but both Obama and Hillary are playing cards that they may end up regretting in the general election. I like both candidates despite their missteps, but I’m getting really sick of the on-line frat boys deciding that Hillary’s all, like, icky and has cooties ’cause she’s GURL!!! and so that means that Obama rawks and if he doesn’t get the nomination, they’re going to vote for McCain rather than emasculate themselves by voting for a woman.

    Not that they’d be voting with their genitals, of course. Only chicks do that.

  55. D.N. Nation
    D.N. Nation February 19, 2008 at 4:11 pm |

    but I’m getting really sick of the on-line frat boys deciding that Hillary’s all, like, icky and has cooties ’cause she’s GURL!!! and so that means that Obama rawks and if he doesn’t get the nomination, they’re going to vote for McCain rather than emasculate themselves by voting for a woman.

    Can you cite tangible proof of THIS being the reason for turning on HRC instead of, say, anger over disenfranchisement in light of superdelegate shenanigans, or Clinton’s Cheney-esque authoritarian streak, or the underhanded way she’s dealing with Michigan/Florida, etc.? Can we please, ever-so-possibly, accept that there are valid reasons to be concerned with a HRC candidacy? Not the least of them being that, let’s face it- all signs point to Obama as being more likely than Hillary to win in the general election?

    In short: I wouldn’t be emasculated by voting for HRC. I would, however, feel awfully icky and get the cooties over my thumbs up given to someone who has a great deal less respect for the democratic process than she ought to.

    Not that they’d be voting with their genitals, of course.

    I’m not. But what could I possibly give as proof?

  56. Tricia
    Tricia February 19, 2008 at 4:17 pm |

    D.N. Nation: The key word was “constructively.”

    Doug: No, that’s not what I meant… again “constructively.” You and almost every other male Obama supporter who’s commented on this have actually used sexist language to attempt to prove that this comment wasn’t sexist, and in your case to try to deny that sexism exists in business interactions at all (and WTF?! is that about anyway). I think you should look up the term “unexamined privilege” and possibly have it tattooed on your inner eyelids.

    Reading the response you and other male commenters (on this blog and others) to feminist concerns about campaign language has been much worse than the worst interpretation I can give the original comment.

    Let’s face it, at this point odds are that I’ll be filling in my ballot bubble next to Obama’s name this fall. It’s not like I’ve got any real choice about it. But it would really be nice not to fight rampaging nausea while I’m doing it.

  57. upyernoz
    upyernoz February 19, 2008 at 4:47 pm |

    If it was a mere slip of the tongue, then the fact that he just so happened to pick out a sexist construction of a comment that could have been said very neutrally says that he’s so immersed in the language of sexism that he doesn’t notice it any more than a fish notices water.

    aren’t we all swimming in those waters? haven’t we all uttered words quite innocently and then later realized that what we said could be interpreted as sexist and/or racist?

    i think this is what others above are talking about when they say you’re trying to catch obama in a gotcha moment here. he said something that could be interpreted as sexist. there is also an interpretation that is not sexist.

    and the idea that obama is such a masterful speaker he must have meant it as a dogwhistle doesn’t hold water either. obama is also famous for being a lot better speaker when he gives a prepared speech than when he’s speaking off the cuff. have you seen the video? he’s clearly speaking off the cuff, about 1/4 of his words are “um” or “uh”.

    finally, it seems to me that if there were a dogwhistle, it is a fantastically ineffective one. unlike bush’s dred scott reference (which was clearly picked up by his intended audience), this remark seems to have gone over the heads of everyone in what would be obama’s intended audience. the only people who see it seem to be people who are already favoring clinton over obama and are using it to attack obama. it doesn’t seem to be convincing anyone of anything except that their pre-established ideas about the candidate.

  58. D.N. Nation
    D.N. Nation February 19, 2008 at 4:48 pm |

    Reading the response you and other male commenters (on this blog and others) to feminist concerns about campaign language has been much worse than the worst interpretation I can give the original comment.

    Ever so noted.

  59. Doug
    Doug February 19, 2008 at 4:56 pm |

    You and almost every other male Obama supporter who’s commented on this have actually used sexist language to attempt to prove that this comment wasn’t sexist,

    What sexist language did I use? I’m not being snarky here, I honestly want to know.

    and in your case to try to deny that sexism exists in business interactions at all

    WHOA. Absolutely, categorically, 100-percent not true.

    I merely pointed out that talking about sports is not automatically an attempt for two people to exclude a third based on gender. How you extrapolated from that a “denial that sexism exists in business interactions at all” is beyond me. Nothing I’ve said on here even comes close to suggesting such a sweeping judgment.

  60. Rika
    Rika February 19, 2008 at 5:10 pm |

    “finally, it seems to me that if there were a dogwhistle, it is a fantastically ineffective one. unlike bush’s dred scott reference (which was clearly picked up by his intended audience), this remark seems to have gone over the heads of everyone in what would be obama’s intended audience. the only people who see it seem to be people who are already favoring clinton over obama and are using it to attack obama. it doesn’t seem to be convincing anyone of anything except that their pre-established ideas about the candidate.”

    How many times does zuzu have to say it? It may not register on a conscious level, but it will certainly register on a subconscious level.

  61. Rika
    Rika February 19, 2008 at 5:17 pm |

    About the whole sports thing, I can’t say I know what men are thinking when they’re talking about sports. But, I’ve seen men talking about sports, and, as an outsider, it seemed to me that they were just REVELING in the masculinity of it all.

    And, my best friend is into football, and she was even trying to talk sports with three men, and it seemed to me that they were STILL excluding her for the most part. Except for when they were berating her picking the Patriots as her favorite team.

  62. donna darko
    donna darko February 19, 2008 at 5:26 pm |

    At any rate, even if one concedes that Obama is being deliberately sexist here — which I don’t — it’s kind of a stretch to think that he’s doing it to appeal to “frat boys.” Trust me, frat boys vote Republican. Using sexist code words to appeal to them would be about as productive as giving a speech to the Heritage Foundation.

    His campaign manager injected subtle sexist remarks into his campaign a couple months before the Clinton racism campaign. So he “started it” so tp speak. I am sensitive to sexism and noticed this was during the first No More Nice Guy campaign as opposed to the second No More Nice Guy campaign which also entailed a sexist remark. 80% of black voters abandoned the Clintons in the last few months. If his campaign manager, campaign, candidate and supporters (including progressive males- read any comment section of male progressive blogs when the subject is Hillary Clinton) engage in a sexism campaign, why should women remain loyal to him? It’s just like Chris Rock said. American women got the vote in 1920 but no woman has ever been President because American women hate themselves.

  63. D.N. Nation
    D.N. Nation February 19, 2008 at 5:29 pm |

    About the whole sports thing, I can’t say I know what men are thinking when they’re talking about sports. But, I’ve seen men talking about sports, and, as an outsider, it seemed to me that they were just REVELING in the masculinity of it all.

    And, my best friend is into football, and she was even trying to talk sports with three men, and it seemed to me that they were STILL excluding her for the most part. Except for when they were berating her picking the Patriots as her favorite team.

    You should hang around cooler people.

  64. Tricia
    Tricia February 19, 2008 at 5:41 pm |

    Doug: Please go back and read your #55 and #59 – #61, that entire exchange reads as male privilege (though perhaps not conscious on your part). I’m lumping your response to zuzu’s sports example in there as well.

    The point isn’t that Obama’s use of the words “periodically” and “feeling down” were “mean” — it’s that the cultural context of women’s feelings and hormones making them unstable is sexist. The fact that you made it about feelings as well is using a sexist frame. It couldn’t possibly be that I and others have serious real-life reasons to be concerned about sexist language (even if unintentional) from a presidential candidate, it must be that we’re reacting “emotionally.”

    And yes, the sports thing is used against men, too. Because men who aren’t “manly” enough are often penalized in business interactions as well. That proves it is sexist, not that it isn’t.

    If you really are sincere, then I suggest you go here Feminism 101, do some reading and then come back.

  65. SEK
    SEK February 19, 2008 at 5:43 pm |

    I guess you didn’t know that the pro-corporatist Tom Daschle (no Dem establishment connections there, no sir!) picked Obama’s campaign manager and most of his senior staff?

    1. Daschle broke ranks with the DLC in 2003.

    2. Clinton continues to attend DLC functions to this day.

    3. Daschle did not select Obama’s campaign officer. He did offer him an early endorsement and his mailing list, and has tried to make inroads with other DNC establishment figures.

  66. Mnemosyne
    Mnemosyne February 19, 2008 at 5:46 pm |

    You don’t have to mean to blow the whistle for the dog to hear it. And the dog doesn’t have to be aware of exactly why you blew it to hear it.

    That’s not what “dogwhistle” means in American politics. In American politics, a “dogwhistle” is a coded message that you send to your supporters that will go over the heads of the rest of the audience. If that’s what you think Obama is doing, then just say it without all of the namby-pamby “well, maybe he didn’t mean” it stuff, because backing off makes the term useless. Either he’s deliberately doing it — and I think you have a decent case for that since this isn’t the first time by far — or it was a slip of the tongue. Even allowing the possibility that a dogwhistle and a slip of the tongue can be the same thing waters down the entire concept of sending a coded message to a particular group of supporters. It gives people an out when “dogwhistle” and “mistake” mean the same thing.

    Can we PLEASE try to be precise with language so terms don’t get so watered down that they become meaningless?

  67. donna darko
    donna darko February 19, 2008 at 5:53 pm |

    They meant it and their male supporters love it. Even progressive males LOVE. IT.

  68. donna darko
    donna darko February 19, 2008 at 5:55 pm |

    It’s like Norman Mailer again living vicariously through the “animalistic” black male in 1950s and 60s. And 70s and 80s and 90s and 00s.

  69. Sickle
    Sickle February 19, 2008 at 5:59 pm |

    I went into the voting booth undecided and I’m declining to state who I voted for.

    A quick look at your recent posting history suggests you voted for Clinton. You had several posts about sexist comments from Obama, Edwards, and Oliphant. A HUGE post mostly about an online shouting match with Lemieux in which you passionately defended Clinton concerning the MI and FL delegates.

    And a single post on race re Obama: when Andrew Cuomo said “shuck and jive” you linked to Pam at Pandagon, who actually blogged about it (without using the term “dogwhistle,” I might add). In fact, I’d look to that post as a model on how you might have composed this one (including your responses).

    Regardless, Zuzu, I love your work and count this post as your only “miss” (and a near one at that) among countless fantastic “hits.”

  70. Juan Stoppable
    Juan Stoppable February 19, 2008 at 6:20 pm |

    So Barack unwittingly said something sexist, which may or may not get heard and subconsciously processed by people with sexist tendencies?

    I mean obviously he’s a sinister villain and this makes him unfit to be President. It’s not like Clinton ever called him ‘frustrated’ like he was some petulant child or Negro With A Temper.

  71. S.H.
    S.H. February 19, 2008 at 6:29 pm |

    A quick look at your recent posting history suggests you voted for Clinton.

    It’s nobody’s damn business who she voted for or who anyone votes for, for that matter, that’s just a bullying tactic that fails to address the issue being raised. If any feminist should be ashamed or being accused of “mssing” it is those keeping silent or rationalizing this kind of nonsense. All too many have become so caught up in this stupid contest to realize that lowering the bar on this shit now will have some serious consequences down the line. Honestly do you really think this is a tactic to get one woman elected or do you think it’s consistent behavior by women who have used forums such as this to call out any and all sexist bullshit when they see it?

  72. Jill
    Jill February 19, 2008 at 6:35 pm | *

    “the only people who see it seem to be people who are already favoring clinton over obama and are using it to attack obama.”

    Really? Have you polled everyone on this thread?

    In fact, several people have noted that they support Obama, or voted/plan to vote for Obama, and they think it’s sexist and wish he’d stop doing this.

    Add me to the list of Obama supporters who takes issue with this statement of his. This isn’t about Clinton supporters vs. Obama supporters; it’s about feminists and women calling out sexism when we see it, even when it comes from the good guys.

  73. Jill
    Jill February 19, 2008 at 6:36 pm | *

    So Barack unwittingly said something sexist, which may or may not get heard and subconsciously processed by people with sexist tendencies?

    I mean obviously he’s a sinister villain and this makes him unfit to be President. It’s not like Clinton ever called him ‘frustrated’ like he was some petulant child or Negro With A Temper.

    Um, right, that’s exactly what we’re saying — that he’s a sinister villain who is unfit to be President. Come off it and at least pretend to engage our actual arguments.

  74. Juan Stoppable
    Juan Stoppable February 19, 2008 at 6:36 pm |

    Straw?

    I could pick out at least five comments above claiming this has completely turned them off, and if they’d vote begrudgingly vote for him in the general, but only to stop McCain.

  75. Juan Stoppable
    Juan Stoppable February 19, 2008 at 6:38 pm |

    I’m not even saying it wasn’t sexist. But to draw the comparison between Obama and Bush seems as wrong as when LGM was comparing zuzu to a torture apologist.

  76. Jill
    Jill February 19, 2008 at 6:39 pm | *

    I could pick out at least five comments above claiming this has completely turned them off, and if they’d vote begrudgingly vote for him in the general, but only to stop McCain.

    So? That’s not the same as saying he’s a villain who is unfit to be president. I’ve written a bunch of times about the things Clinton has done and said that turned me off, and I’ve written that I’m supporting Obama — that hardly means that I think she’s a villain or an unfit candidate.

  77. Juan Stoppable
    Juan Stoppable February 19, 2008 at 6:41 pm |

    Sorry for being snarky, I’ve just been discussing this all day elsewhere, and I’m ornery at this point.

  78. Jill
    Jill February 19, 2008 at 7:03 pm | *

    Sorry for being snarky, I’ve just been discussing this all day elsewhere, and I’m ornery at this point.

    Ha. At least we all have that in common :-)

  79. Sickle
    Sickle February 19, 2008 at 7:11 pm |

    Zuzu & SH:

    Once again, my complaint with the post isn’t that I don’t think the language is sexist, and I said at the top that the Obama campaign needed jabbing on this. My complaint, and it still is out there, is that this is a “dogwhistle.” Hell, the title of the post is “dogwhistles”! That’s a serious charge to level, and it is striking to me that you wouldn’t note the use of the same tactic by the other side over race. Which makes you writing this particularly interesting:

    …I wasn’t addressing what Clinton said or did, but that I wasn’t going to buy into the idea that she’s the only candidate who plays politics…

    And further upthread:

    But I expect the candidates to attack each other on the issues and their positions, not essentialism.

    But you did a post on “dogwhistles” and mentioned only Obama’s sexist remarks. That makes it difficult to believe that you don’t have a dog in this fight.

    Pam Spaulding waded into this already with an excellent post at Pandagon–which I referenced above–which also talked about the misogynistic attacks on Clinton. You didn’t like my suggestion that it could’ve been a model for yours, fine. But I still think you should compare her post to yours, and the subsequent discussion.

    I’m still quite surprised at how, well, sarcastic and nasty your replies to me were. And SH as well, who accused me of using a “bullying tactic” to distract attention “from the issue being raised.” I couldn’t disagree more. The issue being raised is “dogwhistling.” I think it’s entirely fair, therefore, that I know what candidate the original poster is supporting. That’s important context. I’m not telling her to “be silent.” Hell, I agree 100% that the language Obama used is sexist. But this post looks like an advocacy post, not an academic one.

  80. Medicine Man
    Medicine Man February 19, 2008 at 7:12 pm |

    Forgive me for being a goddamned lawyer who knows that if you’re going to make an argument from the rules, you need to know what the rules say.

    I think Lemieux was being a tool. If he felt that the seating of FL and MI delegates would be unethical or unwise, he should have just argued along those lines, and left the personal attacks out of it.

  81. Sickle
    Sickle February 19, 2008 at 7:16 pm |

    Oh, and Zuzu, you drew a comparison with Obama and Bush in your original post when you referenced the latter’s Dred Scott remark.

  82. Juan Stoppable
    Juan Stoppable February 19, 2008 at 7:17 pm |

    You introduced your subject by invoking Bush as an example of dogwhistle politics. Granted, you said another way, but the association is still there. It just seemed like you were implying this is in the same league as some conscious Rovian tactic. Like when Rove called Obama a “part-time” senator or when the GOP talks about state’s rights.

    I just don’t see it as being as underhanded as all that. To me this is kind of a “shake your head and sigh” moment like when Biden called Obama ‘articulate’.

    An actual dogwhistle in my mind is when Jesse Jackson Jr. said the “tears” were about “appearance”.

  83. Felicia
    Felicia February 19, 2008 at 7:29 pm |

    I would have to agree that Obama’s language is sexist when he says things like the above example or the “claws” reference.

    But I’d also like to point to the conflicting and contridictory labels that people are giving Obama, and ask if we’re holding him to a higher standard. Here are the comments about Obama: He’ a great orator. He lacks substance. He can’t even make up his own words; he has to borrow them. Because he’s a great communicator, he knows exactly what he’s doing when he uses sexist language.

    Is he a great communicator and should know better, or does he lacks substance and is unoriginal? Which is it? He can’t be both.

  84. donna darko
    donna darko February 19, 2008 at 7:40 pm |

    Is he a great communicator and should know better, or does he lacks substance and is unoriginal?

    He can be all these things at once.

  85. Medicine Man
    Medicine Man February 19, 2008 at 7:48 pm |

    Sickle, again, why do I have to have covered every single instance of a dogwhistle being used by every candidate in order to have leave to write about the issue?

    It seems reasonable to me that a feminist blog would focus mostly on gender issues and the incidents related to those issues. If someone had claimed that Obama was the only one using such tactics, then an exhaustive comparison would be in order.

    I can understand where Sickle is coming from with the advocacy argument though. The technical debate about the FL / MI delegates was reminiscent of the many “its fine, everyone does it”-justifications for HRC’s stated intentions that were floating around at the time. If I felt you were doing something similar, trying to drive home through implication that Obama is an unfit candidate without first disclosing your own biases, I would probably demand that you fess up too.

  86. Sickle
    Sickle February 19, 2008 at 7:50 pm |

    What, I can’t write a post on one particular subject if I haven’t addressed all permutations of all potential dogwhistles?

    Oh come on. I am certainly not saying what you can and cannot write. I didn’t say you can’t post if you don’t note all the permutations of dogwhistling or whatever. I am merely noting where your post is deficient on that particular subject—deficient in such a way as to leave the impression that you are a Clinton partisan intending to hit on Obama. How is that suddenly me telling you not to write? I’m not saying anything that isn’t true.

    And your post starts out with two ways to employ dogwhistles: the first way by Bush, the second by Obama. I don’t see how anyone could possibly read that and not think you were comparing the two. You said you were “not arguing that Obama is Bush reborn.” Okay, but (again) I didn’t say you were.

    And the next time I criticize one of your posts, I’ll take care not to suggest how it could have been made better, per your request. I personally don’t think that makes a lot of sense, but it’s your blog.

  87. Medicine Man
    Medicine Man February 19, 2008 at 8:01 pm |

    He can be all these things at once.

    “Barrack Obama lacks substance” is a popular meme that is particularly annoying, as it is so easily disproved. He actually held his own in a one-on-one debate with a policy wonk like Hillary Clinton for crying out loud. There’s something anti-intellectual about this assumption that there is an inverse correlation between oratory skill and competency, like a person is either a doer or a talker and nary the twain shall meet.

    Not sure if you were implying that he shallow though, Donna…

  88. human
    human February 19, 2008 at 8:07 pm |

    *hands zuzu the clue bat*

    Lovely work so far with both post and comments thread, zuzu, you’ve made me want to stand up and cheer more than once. Carry on!

  89. Lloyd Webber
    Lloyd Webber February 19, 2008 at 8:17 pm |

    I suppose I should never read periodicals anymore as that’s a hateful towards women. Thanks for the heads up, you feminist reactionaries you

  90. links for 2008-02-20 | Flamingo House Happenings

    […] Feministe » Dogwhistles Clinton was called out for racial dogwhistles, and rightly so. But a lot of the same people who were on her for that are pooh-poohing the sexist dogwhistles that Obama’s been employing, or ignoring from his own people. He’s also benefited from the kin (tags: obama sexism misogyny) […]

  91. Sickle
    Sickle February 19, 2008 at 8:43 pm |

    Fair enough, Zuzu. You are right that I ignored the lengthy part of your post about the reactions of people to Obama’s sexist comments. My doing so, I admit, rather undercuts my criticism of you, since the double-standard you uncover is an important one. I suppose, in light of this, I’ll also have to allow that SH’s critique of me was right on: I was (unintentionally) distracting from the rest of your argument.

    Sorry to have made you more cranky. I really am a fan.

  92. Lauren
    Lauren February 19, 2008 at 8:49 pm |

    After awhile the fight goes meta. Had I heard the statement and never heard anything about it again, I would have shook my head and moved along. It’s the clamoring, frantic Obamatrons trying to dismiss a common female experience because they don’t want to see their guy get down in the polls, and the semantic arguments ensue.

    I don’t know if Obama was employing a deliberate dogwhistle, nor do I care. But I do care when a concerned people are shot down for asserting a contrary opinion, and further skeptical of the goodwill of Obama supporters when the people shot down are women who assert an opinion contrary to the popular candidate’s good image.

    Try this experiment: ask a liberal white blogger to stop calling Ann Coulter a cunt and see what happens.

    Zing!

    By the way, am I seeing any of you ladies at the golf tournament this weekend?

  93. Mnemosyne
    Mnemosyne February 19, 2008 at 9:09 pm |

    Okay.

    The ENTIRE POINT of calling something a dogwhistle is to show that it’s a coded message to a specific group of supporters. There is no such thing as an “accidental” dogwhistle — either it’s deliberate, or there’s another reason (Freudian slip, unconscious sexism, etc.).

    Again, my concern here is that once you start trying to say that there is a “deliberate” dogwhistle and an “accidental” dogwhistle, you’ve pretty much eliminated “dogwhistle” as a term that means anything at all. It’s just another word for “assholish thing to say.”

    This is why people think you’re comparing Bush and Obama: because you pointed out two “dogwhistles,” one of which you know for a fact was deliberate, and one you’re not sure about but are worried enough about to compare directly to something that Bush said.

  94. S.H.
    S.H. February 19, 2008 at 10:17 pm |

    That’s a serious charge to level, and it is striking to me that you wouldn’t note the use of the same tactic by the other side over race.

    Well, when all else fails there’s always “she started it!”.

  95. SEK
    SEK February 19, 2008 at 11:03 pm |

    Don’t you think it’s a bit of a problem that the leading Democratic candidate, who’s running on a platform of change, gives us the same-old-same-old sexism when running against a female opponent?

    zuzu, I don’t want to jump back in on the wrong side of this argument, but I think a lot of people in this thread have acknowledged that the statement might be both 1) sexist and 2) revealing of a deeper sexism, but don’t believe it constitutes a dog-whistle moment.

    I think the distinction’s important, because a candidate who panders to the worst in the sexist electorate is different from one who reveals himself complicit in the sexism of his time. I’m not trying to excuse him here: I fully acknowledge that he has made some sexist statements … but I don’t think he’s made those beliefs a cornerstone of his future policy the way Bush has.

    So yes, I am disturbed by Obama’s poor choice of words; however, I don’t think he’s running on the same-old-same-old sexist platform. If anything, I think he’s revealing what he’ll probably never admit to himself; namely, that he’s complicit in a system that runs contrary to what he thinks he believes in … not in a Nice Guy way, either, but in the way that all men who marry strong women eventually have to wrestle with the privilege bred in their bones.

  96. donna darko
    donna darko February 19, 2008 at 11:33 pm |

    “Barrack Obama lacks substance” is a popular meme that is particularly annoying, as it is so easily disproved. He actually held his own in a one-on-one debate with a policy wonk like Hillary Clinton for crying out loud.

    He didn’t hold his own over policy. I like that he’s inspirational. It’s insulting he still refuses to give us concrete details.

  97. donna darko
    donna darko February 19, 2008 at 11:38 pm |

    Even if it’s not an intentional dogwhistle, it means he’s insensitive. That’s just as bad.

  98. Lauredhel
    Lauredhel February 20, 2008 at 8:46 am |

    But, I’ve seen men talking about sports, and, as an outsider, it seemed to me that they were just REVELING in the masculinity of it all.

    Absolutely. And the people who claim “Male boardroom talk isn’t sexist!” seem to have overlooked the fact that this situation is always men talking about men’s sport. If women are to join in, they’re expected to join in talking about men’s performance. When women’s sport is mentioned, it is very rarely to comment on anything other than who has the best tits.

  99. On Dogwhistles « Feminist Philosophers
    On Dogwhistles « Feminist Philosophers February 20, 2008 at 9:54 am |

    […] under: bias, gender, language, politics, sex — Jender @ 1:54 pm Zuzu at Feministe has a fascinating discussion of Dogwhistles, a very important concept to those interested in the role and effects of biases. […]

  100. D.N. Nation
    D.N. Nation February 20, 2008 at 10:33 am |

    Clinton is toast, BTW.

  101. D.N. Nation
    D.N. Nation February 20, 2008 at 10:35 am |

    Additionally,

    When women’s sport is mentioned, it is very rarely to comment on anything other than who has the best tits.

    You need to hang out with cooler people as well.

  102. syfr
    syfr February 20, 2008 at 12:56 pm |

    Yeah, D.N., it’s a shame that socializing with your coworkers is generally part of working at a job, and that women are put at a disadvantage. Those women should quit their jobs, and all go work for a company where this is not an issue. I mean, there are hundreds of thousands of them, all needing workers badly right now, and it isn’t like the economy is in the tank and people are worried about keeping the jobs they have, not about finding new ones.

    /snark

  103. Rika
    Rika February 20, 2008 at 1:15 pm |

    syfr, I usually just ignore people who can’t contribute anything useful to the conversation.

    I think the important thing about Obama’s comment, whether or not you think it should be classified as a dogwhistle, is that not only does it show that Obama has his share of sexism, but the sexist sentiment will resonate with others. So the end result will pretty much be the same as if it were a dogwhistle; it will hurt Hillary’s campaign just like all the other sexism and misogyny.

  104. donna darko
    donna darko February 20, 2008 at 6:36 pm |

    Clinton is toast, BTW.

    No thanks to sexism from everywhere.

  105. Medicine Man
    Medicine Man February 21, 2008 at 5:59 pm |

    Even if it’s not an intentional dogwhistle, it means he’s insensitive. That’s just as bad.

    I’m going to have to disagree with that. An intentional dogwhistle gives a good indication of how he’d govern. Insensitivity shows that he has a blind spot. This distinction is more than semantic.

  106. Tricia
    Tricia February 21, 2008 at 6:13 pm |

    I agree that it isn’t a semantic difference, but I don’t agree that one is better than the other.

    Unexamined sexist tendencies are still sexist tendencies, and both scenarios suck.

  107. Tricia(freya)
    Tricia(freya) February 21, 2008 at 8:25 pm |

    Gah, sorry. “…isn’t just a semantic difference…”

  108. donna darko
    donna darko February 23, 2008 at 3:42 pm |

    Unintentional racism is as bad as intentional. Especially when whites spend the rest of the day trying to prove they’re good people.

  109. Sexism roundup « Donna Darko
    Sexism roundup « Donna Darko February 23, 2008 at 4:19 pm |

    […] supportive comments and […]

  110. 54th Carnival of Feminists « In a strange land

    […] Mad Kane’s Political Madness thinks it’s a textbook case of subtle sexism. Feministe whistles up a storm on the same topic. But Karnythia at The Angry Black Woman contemplates breaking up with […]

  111. You ain’t never feel your feet moving before? « Problem Chylde: Nerdy but Mighty (and Still Learning)

    […] I see this “periodically” thing, and it’s really unclear to me.   I’d like to think of myself as a feminist, but right now I feel completely out of the […]

  112. Racism Doesn’t Trump Gender But Self-Righteousness Trumps Reason at Racialicious - the intersection of race and pop culture

    […] Feministe – Dog Whistles The second option is the one that Barack Obama went with when he said the following while campaigning in Wisconsin: This is, I understand Senator Clinton periodically when she is feeling down launches attacks as a way of trying to boost her appeal. […]

  113. This Ain’t Poker, but Sadly, There Is a Trump Card « Off Our Pedestals

    […] “Don’t you think some of the sexism directed at Senator Clinton originates from the Obama campaign?”–YES. I do. […]

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