Thursday, November 09, 2006

You Want To Drop The Sexist Language Right Now, Bub. You Can Leave It At The Door With Your Unresolved Mommy and Wife Issues.

Yesterday, I had lunch with five really smart men, moderate to serious political junkies and moderate liberals all of them. I was, as is fairly common in my work life, the only woman at the table. After doing a post mortem of the midterm election, the talk turned to the 2008 election. Hillary Clinton's name was mentioned and, with the exception of the one twenty-something guy, there was so much head shaking and groaning you couldn't believe it. "She's so political," was what it came down to. One of the nicest guys there said to me and the twenty-something, "It's not so much the gender issue . . . ." at which point I interrupted and said, "Oh yes it is. You all don't want to admit, even to yourselves, that it is the gender issue, but it is. Listen to you: 'She's so political.' WTF? She's a politician. Name me a male politician who isn't 'so political.'" Crickets. And, it IS (as my lunch partners grudgingly admitted) the gender issue. We're used to men being "political," but it still sort of upsets us when a woman is because we're not yet used enough to seeing it. Even when women are "political" they're supposed to hide it, to pretend that they're really not trying to influence things.

However, this post isn't really about Hillary; I'm using my lunch conversation for illustration. This post is about the fact that men, even many liberal men who would decry sex discrimination sincerely and loudly, really don't like to listen to women be forceful and assertive.

Take, for example, today's David Broder column in the WaPo. Broder, after spending most of his column attempting to convince everyone that he knew this Democratic victory was coming (imagine how it would sound if a woman did that!), really shows his colors when he turns to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi: Pelosi's performance at her debut as leader of a congressional majority was pitch-perfect, calm, confident and blessedly free of the screeching tone of some of her stump speeches. Ever been damned with faint praise? Every single powerful woman has. Geez, Nancy, could you not, you know, "screech" so much? You sound all "shrill" and "strident" when you do that. It's so much nicer if you'll play the woman's role and be "conciliatory."

Lest you think that Broder's is an isolated example or perhaps just made a poor word choice, consider this from Chris Matthews, whose id is always under much less control than almost anyone else's: Discussing the victory speeches of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (CA) during MSNBC's special election coverage on November 7, co-anchor Chris Matthews told Republican pollster Frank Luntz that Clinton gave a "barn-burner speech, which is harder to give for a woman; it can grate on some men when they listen to it -- fingernails on a blackboard." Matthews then noted that Pelosi, who will likely be elected House speaker now that the Democrats have gained control of the U.S. House of Representatives, will "have to do the good fight with the president over issues" such as the minimum wage and prescription drugs. He then asked: "How does she do it without screaming? How does she do it without becoming grating?" Matthews later returned to criticizing Clinton, when, during a conversation with co-anchor Keith Olbermann and with a clip of Clinton's victory event playing in the background, Matthews stated that Clinton's "clapping" was "not appealing" and that "it's Chinese or something," as's weblog The War Room noted. Matthews added that former President Bill Clinton, who was standing behind Sen. Clinton at the podium, was a "gigantic guy behind her and he's just there," adding: "It's a strange sight." Media Matters has the transcript.

Look, men. We get it. You really, on some primal level, don't like to hear women talk. You wish we'd shut up and just look pretty. And you REALLY don't like to hear us talk about important issues because you grew up believing that those were YOUR affairs. And you REALLY, REALLY don't like powerful women and you REALLY, REALLY, REALLY don't like it when powerful women give powerful speeches and deliver them with force. We know.

And you know what? We don't fucking care. You'd better get fucking used to it.


LizDexic said...

I can still not like Hillary without having it to do with sex, can't I?
(Of course I can since I'm a woman and a feminist.)
Tho your points were well taken...
I don't like Hillary for her being pro-war
and for MBNA being her biggest contributor-so-she-voted-for-the-bankruptcy-bill.

Like her husband, she has some Republican ways about her.

Anne said...

I too am a woman and a feminist and do not like Hilary Clinton and it is partly because she is "too political", but not in the "she's too assertive about issues" sense, as I think Nancy Pelosi can be much worse, but I like her, but because she gives me that feeling of "I will change my stance if that is what it takes to get your vote", and that is simply not okay.

Xan said...

Deja vu all over again...I distictly recall reading this exact essay in 1972, except it was by Gloria Steinem instead of Hecate, and in MS Magazine rather than a blog, and was about Bella Abzug (or possibly Shirley Chisholm, I forget) rather than H. R. Clinton.

I am pretty sure the first one didn't have all those "fuckings" in it, but aside from that it's spooky how similar they are. Depressing as shit as well. Makes me want to write to suggest to Hillary that she get a cane and beat a fellow member half to death with it on the floor of the Senate just so we can put this "women can't be forceful" shit to rest for once and for all.

I can think of some potential recipients of this attention too...heh heh heh. Now I feel better.

elizabeth said...

So the fact that Pelosi had lunch with Curious George was all over the news this evening. Look, all I want her to say to him is, "Let it be war between us" with a side of "Treason," "War Crimes," and/or "Impeachment."

Oh dear, did I sound SHRILL or STRIDENT there?

Ask me if I fuckin' care.

FastMovingCloud said...



A Tabla Rasa said...

Hillary is, like Bill, way too flexible, and way too accomodating. So I don't like her all that much.

However, she's not that bad, either. She'd be a better president than almost anyone on the other side.

So, be cool, Hil. Beat 'em with a stick.

leslie said...

A fucking men.

Tengrain said...

Hillary is the iceberg lettuce of politicians. I admired her more previously, but she takes too many DLC ques, and that is what I don't like about her. And I will never, ever forget that she voted for the war resolution.


pieg said...


Anne Johnson said...

Last night I was watching "BBC World News Tonight," which is where I get most of my news (that I believe, anyway). They had an interview with the head of MI5, the British equivalent of the CIA. And she was a woman! I had no idea. Imagine a woman at the helm of the CIA.

The British are way ahead of us on this one.

Anonymous said...

Hillary Clinton was the wife of the most recently impeached president but that's not political?
She will be a continuation of the Bush/Clinton America feud which will have gone on 20 years by '08 but that's not political?

cory said...

Allow me to wave my tiny penis in the air and say "we ain't ALL like that." I really like Hillary and would love to see her being sworn in as president. Smart, assertive and confident women are just fine with me, and more than a few of the men I call friends.

That said, I will also sadly admit, we are not in the majority.

arabella trefoile said...

Once again thank you, Hecate.

I think the younger generation of men comfortable with women in power. But Broder? There isn't enough shut up in the world to deal with this tiresome old fart. I just hope he's one of the last of the dinosaurs.

I hear the Style Section of the WaPO had a prominent article about what Pelosi wore for her meeting with Bush. Ooo kay.

President Pelosi - it could happen.

gwb: drf

the bewilderness said...

Barring having to beat someone with a cane on the floor of the House, it's hard to think what could be done to bring a touch of reality to the silly men.
My son and I decided the other night that we would like to vote for a black woman for president. That would be a step toward bringing the white male into the 21st century and serve them a tasty cup of STFU.