gloria steinem: sexism in politics is stronger than racism

The New Hampshire primaries were held today, and of course, who would make the best president is a frequent topic of discussion here in Chicago. I like both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Probably just as well I don’t have the vote because I’d find it hard to choose.

We watched the debates on Saturday and I was surprised to find that when Clinton got just a bit annoyed, everyone took that as a Really Bad Mistake. But she remained well-spoken, polite and articulate – I really liked her controlled anger. On the other hand, people loved it when she responded all coyly and fake-charmingly to the obnoxious question about what she thought of the objection voters apparently make that she’s not “as likeable” as Obama. “That hurts my feelings,” she said, sweetly cocking her head just a little, flirtatiously playing to the stereotypes of femininity as little girls are taught to do. What a fine moment, the commentators said.

And so although I’m possibly an Obama supporter I found myself pleased that Clinton won in New Hampshire.

Gloria Steinem writes in the New York Times today that gender is still a more discriminatory force in politics than race is: “So why is the sex barrier not taken as seriously as the racial one? The reasons are as pervasive as the air we breathe: because sexism is still confused with nature as racism once was.” She continues:

[W]hat worries me is that he is seen as unifying by his race while she is seen as divisive by her sex.

What worries me is that she is accused of ìplaying the gender cardî when citing the old boysí club, while he is seen as unifying by citing civil rights confrontations.

What worries me is that male Iowa voters were seen as gender-free when supporting their own, while female voters were seen as biased if they did and disloyal if they didnít.

Yes, the argument that it’s time to get rid of the dynasties of US politics is a good one (Bush senior, Bush junior; Clinton the husband, Clinton the wife: it’s more than ridiculous) but the power of finally having a woman president, a role model as powerful as that for the rest of us – that would be an amazing thing for the United States and for the world.

09. January 2008 by Jill
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