The tone of this article in the New York Times, "Obama Camp Turns to Clinton to Counter Palin," is appalling, starting with the ridiculous caption on the photo, "Senator Barack Obama, who campaigned on Thursday in Lancaster, Pa., will send female surrogates to swing states," and followed immediately by the similarly absurd opening paragraph:
Senator Barack Obama will increasingly lean on prominent Democratic women to undercut Gov. Sarah Palin and Senator John McCain, dispatching Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton to Florida on Monday and bolstering his plan to deploy female surrogates to battleground states, Obama advisers said Thursday.
Oh, will he, now? Who knew he had a squadron of femdroid slaves waiting in suspended animation to be dispatched at his command?

Now, you know, part of this is a problem with the Obama campaign and the Democratic Party, who are both treating the most prominent women in the party like scullery maids, directed to clean up messes that wouldn't exist if only those same women (and one in particular) had been treated with more respect in the first place. So there's that.

But beyond that, this is a real hack job by the Times, framing this situation in the worst way possible. The Times doesn't have to sugarcoat the Dems' woman problem to nonetheless avoid fortifying the stereotype that women in politics are nothing more than useful tools. By using language that casts them as servants at Obama's disposal and as dependable workhorses on whom Obama can "lean," the Times seemingly goes out of its way to reinforce the divisive narrative.

Look at the difference a little rewriting makes: "Prominent Democratic women will be providing Senator Barack Obama with key support next week, as Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton will travel to Florida and other notable female players will make appearances in battleground states to undercut Gov. Sarah Palin and Senator John McCain, Obama advisors said Thursday."

See that? Same facts—except instead of women being cast as obedient lapdogs, they are described in a way that suggests they are lending essential support on their own terms, as valued colleagues.

(Which, let's be honest, is a lot closer to what we all think of Hillary Clinton. Even people who loathe her know she is no one's obsequious genuflector; that's usually the primary reason they despise her.)

The Times had an opportunity to tell this story fairly, but chose instead to cast distinguished Democratic women as subservient minions. Something tells me we're just not done humiliating Hillary Clinton yet.

I suspect we never will be.

Shakesville is run as a safe space. First-time commenters: Please read Shakesville's Commenting Policy and Feminism 101 Section before commenting. We also do lots of in-thread moderation, so we ask that everyone read the entirety of any thread before commenting, to ensure compliance with any in-thread moderation. Thank you.

blog comments powered by Disqus