Sunday, February 17, 2008

Gender or Color?

So now it seems that if Hillary Clinton loses, it will be because of sexism, and only sexism.

NOW President Kim Grandy states:

I can't tell you how many people have emailed or called me outraged by the sorry display of sexism in the media these days. Much of this venom is currently directed at one woman -- Sen. Hillary Clinton -- though as we have pointed out before, no woman in the public eye, from Nancy Pelosi to Michelle Obama, is exempt.

For the first time in our nation's history, the idea of a woman president is no longer limited to the fantasy world of TV or movies. Possibility could become reality this November, and some folks are just having a hard time dealing with it. That many of those people have high-profile jobs at major news outlets is a cryin' shame.

And if Obama wins, it will be because he is a man.
"Gender stereotypes trump race stereotypes in every social science test," says Alice Eagly, a psychology professor at Northwestern University. (in Black Man vs. White Woman from today's Boston Globe)
In fact, both candidates have a liability, if you will. Clinton: being female. Obama: being black. So one way of looking at it is: will Clinton's white-ness be more important than her female-ness? Or will Obama's male-ness be more important than his black-ness? These articles seem to point to the latter. The fact that Obama is male is more important in this race than Clinton's whiteness, experience, or anything.


The Globe article continues:
It would be a gross oversimplification to reduce the Democratic race to the white woman versus the black man. Factors like Obama's eloquence and inexperience and Clinton's policy mastery and her association with the ambivalent legacy of her husband have played a larger role in how the race has been talked about. And indeed, this presidential contest can be seen as the country's attempt to lurch beyond a blinkered, monolithic identity politics....

As Clinton has discovered, gender stereotypes are stickier. Women can be seen as ambitious and capable, or they can be seen as likable, a host of studies have shown, but it's very hard for them to be seen as both -- hence the intense scrutiny and much-debated impact of Clinton's moment of emotional vulnerability in a New Hampshire diner last month.
This is very interesting. I really thought that the fact that Obama was black would be more a problem to him than Clinton's being female would be to her. I guess my hypothesis isn't playing out.

As I see it, Clinton has a few liabilities in addition to being female: her husband, for one, who is acting like a jerk. Her "experience," which may be one of her strengths, may actually end up being a liability because it shows that she is "part of the establishment."

Obama has little baggage as he is relatively new on the national scene, although not inexperienced in life skills (he and I are the same age, and given that, he's probably been working for 25 years, as I have, which is no small chunk of change). He is not seen as part of the establishment. He is seen as a voice of change.

As I said before, I was impressed with Clinton in one of the debates. Her grasp of the policy issues is impressive. But Obama has that elusive leadership quality. He doesn't need to know everything to be an effective leader. He needs to find good people to help him. And we really need someone who can change the opinion of the world about the U.S.

So for right now, sexism be damned, I'm rooting for Obama. Sorry, Hillary.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Huzzah. I also think Obama's a better human, woman or man be damned. She's a jerk, whose us against them mentality and unwillingness to admit when she's wrong are the liabilities that lose my vote. I think she's smart. I don't think she's a bad person, or the devil incarnate. But I do think she puts Hillary first, always. And I want a president who doesn't.