Issues ››› Gender
  • There's (Still) Something About Sexism

    Blog ››› ››› MORGAN WEILAND

    It is truly amazing that Time allowed Mark Halperin to publish the following caption and image on his blog, The Page -- no matter how briefly (the site has since pulled it down):

    Maybe Halperin thought it was really clever to echo a scene from a late-90s romantic comedy, but it isn't. The image and all that it suggests -- yes, her hair is supposed to be held up by semen -- isn't supported by any facts provided by Halperin in his post. The page to which he links doesn't have anything to do with semen, romantic comedies, or hair gel. In fact, it's a statement from Sen. Mary Landrieu's (D-LA) Communications Director "on motion to proceed timing" on the Senate's health care reform bill.

    In other words, it's part of a broader, sexist right-wing narrative that the U.S. Senator from Louisiana is, as Glenn Beck put it yesterday, "a high-class prostitute" engaged in "hookin'" -- all because she lobbied Senate leadership for expanded Medicaid funding for Louisiana in the Senate health care bill in what was characterized by the media as an exchange for her "yea" vote to proceed with floor debate on the bill.

    Not to be left out, Rush Limbaugh got in on the action yesterday too, declaring that Landrieu "may be the most expensive prostitute in the history of prostitution."

    These types of backwards, sexist remarks are what we have come to expect from Beck or Limbaugh, but this is truly a new low for Halperin, and, by association, for Time. As my colleague Julie Millican pointed out last week, the other weekly news magazine -- Newsweek -- has a sexism problem that it needs to address concerning another female politician.

    So let this serve as a word of warning to those media figures like Halperin who like to think of themselves as separate and apart from -- perhaps I should say above? -- right-wing bloviators and pot-stirrers like Beck and Limbaugh: When you engage in baseless, sexist smears of women politicians, you are no different than the side-show commentators. Maybe you're worse -- at least they don't purport to be journalists.

  • WaPo media critic suggests women don't like "hard news"

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz suggests women are less likely to watch "hard news" than men:

    Hartford, Conn.: Do you think Good Morning America would change its format for George S. I have turned on MSNBC for years just to avoid the "how did you feel when you heard your whole family had been mauled by dogs and coyotes" questions. I would love to have "mainstream" TV on instead of MSNBC or Fox.

    Howard Kurtz: I don't know. Much of the audience for morning shows is comprised of women, especially in the second hour. While I personally wouldn't mind it, moving to a harder-news format would be risky.

    If Kurtz has any evidence that women are less likely than men to watch "a harder-news format," I'd love to see it. Otherwise, I'll just have to assume he's making that up. But why?

    UPDATE: A Kurtz reader calls him on this nonsense:

    Cambridge, Mass.: Wooooooow... because most morning viewers are women, a harder news format would be risky? Really? Really?

    Howard Kurtz: The fashion- and cooking-type segments are there for a reason. Of course women are just as interested in important news as men. But morning shows are a peculiar animal, designed to be watched while many people are having breakfast and getting the kids off to school. I'd love to see GMA try a different approach. I'm just saying there's a reason that all three network morning shows do a lot of the tabloid stories and the fluffy stuff.

    Kurtz seems to try to backtrack -- "Of course women are just as interested in important news as men." But he doesn't explain what the fact that the morning show audiences consist mostly of women have to do with anything. And his line at the end -- "I'm just saying there is a reason that all three network morning shows do a lot of the tabloid stories and the fluffy stuff" -- seems to reiterate his suggestion that women are more averse to hard news than men.

  • Fox's Ingraham: Pelosi not quite a prostitute? I wish we could say we were surprised

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Fox News contributor and talk radio host Laura Ingraham took to Fox & Friends today to declare that "Nancy Pelosi basically did everything except sell her own body" to pass the House health care bill. None of the hosts objected - at least one of them chuckled. So there you have it: to the conservative media, it is appropriate to declare the first female Speaker of the House almost - but not quite! - a prostitute.

    Meanwhile, over on Fox Business, Frank Luntz was calling Pelosi ""living proof you get one shot at a facelift," adding, "If it doesn't work the first time, let it go"

    It's hard to get outraged, mainly because this sort of gender-based attack on Pelosi from conservatives has been par for the course for years. Back in May, we put together a research item and video compiling various attacks on her looks -- conservative media figures, especially radio hosts, seem to love to stick "Pelosi" and "Botox" in the same sentence. Over a six-day period, they characterized Pelosi as being incapable of "human facial expression," referred to her "fashionable" "Botox shots," and called her a "hag."

    Perhaps this is why the Politico is reporting that the Republican Party has a "women problem."

  • Falafelgate 2? Shockingly Racy Lawsuit Rocks Murdoch's New York Post

    Blog ››› ››› KARL FRISCH

    Huffington Post's Sam Stein reports (emphasis added):

    The New York Post editor fired after speaking out against a cartoon depicting the author of the president's stimulus package as a dead chimpanzee has sued the paper. And as part of her complaint, Sandra Guzman levels some remarkable, embarrassing, and potentially damaging allegations.

    Guzman has filed a complaint against News Corporation, the New York Post and the paper's editor in chief Col Allan in the Southern District Court of New York, alleging harassment as well as "unlawful employment practices and retaliation."

    As part of the 38-page complaint, Guzman paints the Post newsroom as a male-dominated frat house and Allan in particular as sexist, offensive and domineering. Guzman alleges that she and others were routinely subjugated to misogynistic behavior. She says that hiring practices at the paper -- as well as her firing -- were driven by racial prejudices rather than merit.

    And she recounts the paper's D.C. bureau chief stating that the publication's goal was to "destroy [President] Barack Obama."

    The most outrageous charges, however, involve Allan. According to the complaint:

    "On one occasion when Ms. Guzman and three female employees of the Post were sharing drinks at an after-work function. Defendant Allan approached the group of women, pulled out his blackberry and asked them 'What do you think of this?' On his blackberry was a picture of a naked man lewdly and openly displaying his penis. When Ms. Guzman and the other female employees expressed their shock and disgust at being made to view the picture, Defendant Allan just smirked... [N]o investigation was ever conducted and the Company failed to take any steps to address her complaints."

    Guzman's complaint goes on:

    "On another occasion, upon information and belief, Defendant Allan approached a female employee during a party at the Post, rubbed his penis up against her and made sexually suggestive comments about her body, including her breasts, causing that female employee to feel extremely uncomfortable and fearing to be alone with him."

    And finally: "... [W]hile serving as the top editor at the Post, Defendant Allan took two Australian political leaders to the strip club Scores in Manhattan..."

    Guzman alleges that while at the paper, misogynistic and racist behavior was directed at her specifically. According to the complaint, she was called "sexy" and "beautiful" and referred to as "Cha Cha #1" by Les Goodstein, the senior vice president of NewsCorp. After doing an interview with Major League Baseball star Pedro Martinez, she says Allan asked her whether the pitcher "had been carrying a gun or a machete during the interview" -- a line Guzman said was racist and offensive.

    When she would walk by certain offices at the paper, Guzman alleges, editors would routinely sing songs from West Side Story -- a nod to her Hispanic heritage -- including the tune: "I want to live in America."

    Guzman also makes the following allegations to supplement her case that the Post harbored an environment that was offensive to women and minority employees.

    "A White male senior editor sexually propositioned a young female Copy Assistant, telling her that 'If you give me a blowjob, I will give you a permanent reporter job.'"

    "The last five employees who were recently terminated by Paul Carlucci, the Publisher of the Post.... Have all been black and/or women of color."

    Read Stein's entire piece and the compliant in full here.

    Politico's Ben Smith picks up an interesting angle to the story:

    The New York Post and New York Daily News, for a time, complemented their fierce competition for circulation with bitter attacks on each other's staff and on their owners, Rupert Murdoch and Mort Zuckerman.

    But Murdoch and Zuckerman, as has been reported, reached a truce of sorts, and they've been reported to be in sporadic talks about some sort of merger of -- at least -- the paper's back ends. And the clearest signal I've seen in a while of that rapprochement came this week, when a fired Post employee, Sandra Guzman, filed suit against the paper and its brawling Australian editor, Col Allan.

    The Daily News offered a sanitized version of the story: "A New York Post editor sacked after complaining that a cartoon likened President Obama to a monkey sued the paper on Monday, claiming rampant racism and sexism in the newsroom," but detailed none of the actual allegations.

  • Meghan McCain takes Maureen Dowd to task, but comes up short

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Meghan McCain writes about the sexist double-standards women in politics face:

    The brutal criticism of Sarah Palin-which will only increase when her memoir comes out-is yet another example of the double standard and cruel treatment of women in politics. Sarah has been attacked for everything from her hair to her clothes to the number of children she gave birth to. Maureen Dowd even nicknamed her "Caribou Barbie." I can't even begin to think of what that kind of judgment-criticizing parts of your life that have nothing to do with what you stand for or want to accomplish politically-feels like.

    Now, I'm not about to deny that women in politics often face double-standards and outright misogyny in the way the media treats them. They do, as I have often written. And that's something that should be addressed more frequently, so I'm glad McCain has done so.

    But Maureen Dowd calling Sarah Palin "Caribou Barbie" isn't an example of a double-standard in which Dowd only makes such comments about women, it's an example of Dowd being a nasty and utterly pointless columnist who relentlessly mocks politicians -- male and female -- she dislikes, often focusing on their personal appearance or what she claims is their deviation from gender norms.

    Dowd has called Barack Obama a "debutante" and a "pretty boy" and "effete" and compared him to Scarlett O'Hara. She repeatedly referred to John Edwards as "The Breck Girl" and a "Material Boy" and "Secretary of Hairdressing," and at least once dedicated an entire column to an Edwards hair cut. Dowd mocked Edwards for visiting "the Pink Sapphire spa in Manchester, which offers services for men that include the 'Touch of Youth' facial, as well as trips 'into the intriguing world of makeup.'" (Dowd remained silent about John McCain's own foray into the "intriguing world of makeup" at the Pink Sapphire.) And Dowd famously wrote that Al Gore was "so feminized ... he's practically lactating." (See, Gore wore a brown suit, and ... uh ... Well, actually, that was about it.)

    Of course, all of these insults from Dowd are fundamentally sexist in nature. She belittles male politicians she doesn't like by, basically, calling them women. The obvious underlying assumption is that being feminine is a bad thing. So even when she obsesses over a male politician's personal characteristics, she often does so in a way that indirectly insults women.

    But Dowd's reference to Sarah Palin as "Caribou Barbie" isn't an example of her singling out women for criticism over "parts of [their] life that have nothing to do with what [they] stand for or want to accomplish politically." It's an example of her behaving like a mean-spirited seventh-grader with little of substance to say.

    And it's a reminder that it actually understates the misogyny in Dowd's columns to suggest that she critiques the physical appearance of only women in politics.