Some recent Barack Obama comments reminded me of a personal essay on subtle sexism I wrote way back in 1990. And while that might sound like ancient history, my essay, published under various titles including Gender At Work and My Most Attractive Adversary, is the lead Gender Gap chapter essay in a pair of current (2008) textbooks by Gary Goshgarian: The Contemporary Reader and Readings For Today.
In his introduction to my essay, Northeastern University English Professor Goshgarian observes:
Women may seem to have made tremendous progress professionally and academically, but they are held back by indirect sexist comments and attitudes. They are caught in a catch-22. If they react against these seemingly small slights, they appear to be overreacting or too sensitive. But to let them pass may signal that such comments are somehow acceptable. In the next essay, humorist and self-described “recovering lawyer” Madeleine Begun Kane holds that subtle sexism maintains gender differences.
And that brings me to this subtly sexist Obama comment, made in response to Hillary Clinton attacks:
You challenge the status quo and suddenly the claws come out.
And to this even more offensive line:
I understand that Senator Clinton, periodically when she’s feeling down, launches attacks as a way of trying to boost her appeal.
“Claws come out?” “Periodically?” “Feeling down?” These words are more subtle than the B-word, I suppose. But they are sexist, nonetheless.
So where’s the blogger outrage over Obama’s sexism? Lots of luck finding it among the A-list bloggers — the male ones, at least. They have a much better time of it interpreting everything the Clinton team does as racist.
Sure, there’s some great commentary about Obama’s sexism over at Taylor Marsh’s blog and at Talk Left. But in the main, Obama’s getting a gender bias-pass.
Meanwhile, many educated young women, who apparently take the accomplishments of feminism for granted, are supporting Obama’s candidacy over Hillary Clinton.
You know what those young women could use? A good gender studies course. Because sexism, after all, isn’t ancient history.
(For the lighter side of gender issues, you can find my feminist humor here.)