Fighting Sexism is Meant to be a Progressive Value

Isn't it? One wouldn't think so, given the way Hillary Clinton's peers are allowing her to be subjected to all manner of indignity on the basis of her sex, with nary a peep in her defense. John Edwards' response to reports of Hillary's emotional moment—which, once the national press was done with it, had turned into a full-blown emotional meltdown—was disgraceful. Obama merely declined to comment in this case, but he hasn't gotten to New Hampshire with clean hands, having recently reduced Hillary Clinton's experience as first lady to attending tea parties; then, responding to being called out by the Clinton campaign on the obvious sexism of that jab, he denied he was referring to her gender (really?—he'd describe a man's experience as having "tea" with people?) and resorted to a thinly-veiled update on the old "hysteria" chestnut: "Those folks must really be on edge."

Yes, that must be it. Or, perhaps, they were rightfully angry about the oblique use of sexism as a political weapon from their own side of the aisle.

(Just as the Obama camp was rightfully angry about the oblique use of race-baiting as a political weapon when it emanated from the Clinton campaign. Ahem.)

Now that Obama is the new frontrunner, and every hour that passes seems to bring him one step closer to his party's nomination, Tom Watson makes a good point about what his silence in the face of sexist attacks on Clinton (or his own use of them) really means:

[U]nless Barack Obama speaks out, his campaign's chilling acceptance of the gender bias stirred by our national media will also remind many of Ronald Reagan's acceptance of the race-baiting southern strategy—because if Obama accepts the presidency, at least in part, because of abject sexism, a brutal gender attack on a female rival—the most famous female Democrat in history—he will set feminism in our country back a generation.

…Obama has benefited mightily from sexism in this campaign, and has remained silent.
Indeed. And that's not just about Hillary. When a female public figure is demonized with sexist swill, and such tactics go unchecked, we collectively give our tacit assent to sexism being wielded against any woman in any situation—which is, by the way, why I end up having to defend Ann Coulter way more often than I'd like.

Mannion disagrees with Tom, on the premise that it's "not Obama's or Edwards' jobs to fight it," but, unless you view public expressions of sexism as damaging only to the specific woman at whom they're directed, that claim is absurd. Obama and Edwards are running to govern this nation, of which half its population is women. Why on earth should any of us trust a man who's willing to ascend to his position on the back of slurs that could be used against any one of us? That's the very nature of sexism—it's not about any specific woman, but about us all. Of course we should expect our president to fight sexism, even and perhaps especially when it is levied against women by whose subjugation they are aided.

Obama and Edwards ostensibly believe that men and women are equal; the people who share that belief should expect them to endeavor to defend that principle at every turn, not just when it is politically expedient. See, the thing is, it's been politically expedient to throw women's rights under the bus before, and some of us would like the assurance that we're casting a vote for someone who regards women's equality as an unyielding and constant principle—not a bargaining chip nor just another plank in a platform that can be discarded as necessary. If these blokes refuse to mount a vociferous opposition against sexism on the campaign trail, just because it helps them, that doesn’t bode well for the women they seek to represent as their president.

Tom notes that the evident willingness to benefit in just this way is in direct opposition to Obama's claim to "a mightier throne, one forged in liberal ideals of justice and equality and hope." I'd also note that Obama's whole candidacy is predicated on transcendence of the Same Old Shit, on his being a unique vessel of CHANGE. Well, I've got news for him: Relying on the tired canards of the patriarchy to pave one's way to the White House isn't transcendent and it isn't indicative of change.

That's business as usual.

Mannion says he "can't see how they could come to her defense without seeming to be endorsing her," so let me offer a suggestion: "The sexism being wielded against Clinton is despicable, and it needs to stop. I want to beat Clinton on the issues, not because I benefited from the favor of bigotry."

That wasn't so hard, now, was it?

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