Sexism in the Media: I am Woman, Hear Me Roar
At around this time two years ago, the presidential elections were underway. I was rooting for my candidate Hillary Clinton, as I thought she would be the easy shoo-in for the job. Well, we all know what happened — “yes, we can.” It was quite the interesting experience to follow the campaign through its longevity, even though it was only on TV.
One of the more disparaging aspects of the campaign was the sexism that threaded throughout the media’s coverage. Clinton had to be “man” enough to become president. However, after she seemed tough enough, there were qualms that she wasn’t “woman” enough. Then there was the crying incident where she choked up and showed some emotion. The barrage of comments ensued throughout the media that we couldn’t have a candidate who could cry. What would the terrorists think?
I wondered whether this was actual sexism or if I was just becoming defensive about my team. When our team is losing in a game, we know it’s because we never get a foul called or because the referees are against us. So I tried to compartmentalize what I saw. I didn’t want to play the victim card in defense of my team. Plus, as a guy, I was supposed to want someone to be more like me. Thus, when it became apparent that Clinton was not going to win, the notion of sexism in the media vanished. It was now time to root for Barack Obama.
Then there was Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. Now I’m not 100 percent sure how much sexism was involved in this case. Definite cries of the sexism charge did come from her camp, likening them to Sen. Clinton. I thought about it as if it were happening and wondered if the similarities were there at all. While there were attacks on Palin, and some of them gross indeed, a lot of the non-family attacks against her were brought on because of her own mishandling. I suppose if one wanted to critique the media, it would have been more accurate to say that they chose elitism over colloquialism. And that, quite frankly, didn’t bother me, as my candidate was the elitist and hey, you need to be somewhat brilliant to be president. We’ve seen what happens when deliberation isn’t the first thing on a president’s mind.
Case closed, there was no sexism leveled against Palin, and the Clinton incidents were a one-time thing. This was the first time a woman had a serious chance of becoming president and the media simply didn’t know how to cover it. The campaign ended, and “Change we can believe in” was ushered in. Watching TV psychoanalytically was over and done with. I didn’t need to read into every word. Life was back to normal. We won. It was now time to take off my political cap and put on my Lakers hat.
However, there was something different. I wasn’t able to become fully immerged in cognitive dissonance. There was an underlying tic that had been planted. As I continued to watch political shows, I saw it. On an episode of “Hardball with Chris Matthews,” Republican Dick Armey made a sexist comment to Salon.com columnist Joan Walsh.
After she continued to make the point of how Republicans messed up the economy, Armey said, “I’m so damn glad that you can never be my wife because I surely wouldn’t have to listen to that prattle from you every day.”
What was more surprising was that Matthews didn’t automatically make it known what a sexist comment that was. After that segment was over, Bob Hebert of The New York Times stood up for Walsh, but that was well after Armey was gone.
More incidents continued to ensue; Bill O’Reilly regularly made sexist comments, such as Ann Coulter sharing recipes with Joy Behar, and made issues of certain subjects just to show women half-naked as if in a beauty pageant.
And then there was the one incident that stood out for me. After watching a playoff basketball game, the NBA on TNT post-game show came on. It was entertaining as usual with Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith. Barkley was teasing a camerawoman that he could do more push-ups then her. On an earlier episode, they had an actual contest. After teasing her, Barkley turned to his co-host Smith and said the joke, “How do you fix a woman’s watch? You don’t. There is a clock on the stove.” I laughed, thinking that it was a joke said when I’m hanging out with the guys, but it was really interesting that they said it on TV.
It finally dawned on me that sexism in the media was not about isolated incidents and that it was in fact acceptable. A group of males making fun of females was OK without any major repercussions. I can only imagine what the repercussions would be if it had been a bunch of white guys making jokes about black individuals. People would be outraged by it, as they should be. But jokes about women? Not so much.
It’s hard to imagine that this type of behavior hasn’t been dealt with and done away with sooner, considering women make up a little more than half the population in the United States. I think it’s time to wake this sleeping majority up.
Jaye Estrada is a third-year biological sciences and political science double-major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.