For those who may have forgotten, during the 2008 presidential campaign, former Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton was subjected to news reports and other coverage that raised the eyebrows of feminists across the nation including one incident where an on-air personality of NBC News asked if the Clintons’ using their daughter, Chelsea, on the campaign trail was akin to them “pimping her out.”
As the legendary race for the Democratic presidential nomination was wrapping up last June, then-Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean derided the sexist media coverage against Clinton telling ABC News’ George Stephanopolous that, “if the words were reversed and they were about race, the people would have been fired.” [Alarkon, Walter (2008-06-01). “Dean derides ‘sexist’ media coverage“. The Hill.]
I don’t disagree. Quite frankly, the sometimes blatantly sexist media coverage of Hillary Clinton frequently bolstered my belief that sexism is more powerful than racism in the United States.
Flash forward to a year later and the controversy surrounding a joke by David Letterman about the daughter of former GOP vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin. Across the nation, people are debating whether Letterman’s crossed the line. Conservative groups –including the Concerned Women for America— blasted Letterman demanding he apologize [Miller, Joshua (2009-06-11). “Women’s Advocacy Group Leader Blasts Letterman’s Jokes About Palin, Calls for Apology“. Fox News.]. And the National Organization of Women (NOW) inducted the CBS late night t.v. host into their “media hall of shame.”
The sexualization of girls and women in the media is reaching new lows these days — it is exploitative and has a negative effect on how all women and girls are perceived and how they view themselves. Letterman also joked about what he called Palin’s “slutty flight attendant look” — yet another example of how the media love to focus on a woman politician’s appearance, especially as it relates to her sexual appeal to men. Someone of Letterman’s stature, who appears on what used to be known as “the Tiffany Network” (CBS), should be above wallowing in the juvenile, sexist mud that other comedians and broadcasters seem to prefer.
Bennett, Lisa (2009-06-11). “Letterman “Jokes” About Palin’s Daughter“. National Organization for Women. Retrived on 2009-06-12.
Last night, a friend of mine inquired of my thoughts about the Letterman controversy. I said it was “over the line.” Then I offered some extemporaneous commentary. I told my friend, who voted for the McCain/Palin ticket by the way, that the inappropriate and tasteless joke by Letterman was “almost the same crap they pulled with Hillary when she was running.”
“All the sexist comments that she [Hillary Clinton] had to put up with,” I said. “There was a double-standard there. If someone said something about Obama that could be twisted into a seemingly racial comment, it was. Yet the sexism displayed towards Hillary was regularly ignored.”
I added, “If Palin were black, Letterman would have Sharpton, the NAACP and every other civil rights group on his back demanding he be fired.”
It’s sad that sexism and sexist comments are increasingly being downgraded and downplayed. But as I said before, I believe sexism is more powerful than racism in the United States.
Now who wants to discuss it?