“What about saying that she’s a whore?”
No, I wasn’t eavesdropping on a Duke fraternity meeting. This was the suggestion of an aide to Democrat Jerry Brown on how to deal with his GOP rival for the California governorship, Meg Whitman.
Brown’s response? “Well I’m going to use that.”
Once a tape of the conversation was leaked, the Brown campaign apologized.
While we, sadly, are all too familiar with the casual misogynistic comment, what perhaps is more surprising is where these slurs lately have been coming from—progressive bastions like the Brown camp, and liberal women.
Last month, liberal talk show host Stephanie Miller laughed uproariously when a female guest on her show said that if she ever met Michelle Malkin, “I would kick [her] right in the nuts,” and warned, “ Wear a cup, lady.”
Or how about this: “You have to lift their skirts to find out if they are women. You sure can’t find out by how they vote.” This is what Democratic Rep. Janis Baird Sontany of Nashville said earlier this year of her female GOP colleagues.
Or this: “Sarah Palin may be a lady, but she ain't no woman,” as Cinta Wilson wrote during the tsunami of anti-Palin hysteria in 2008. In her Salon piece, Wilson went on to refer to the Alaska governor as a “Christian Stepford wife in a ‘sexy librarian’ costume” and the GOP’s “hardcore pornographic centerfold spread.”
Who needs misogynist men when liberal women will do the job for you, often sounding that shopworn theme that women GOP candidates are somehow inauthentic women?
• Benjamin Sarlin: Scandal Hobbles Whitman • Ann Louise Bardach: Jerry Brown's Castro Trouble • Shushannah Walshe: Meg Whitman's Latino TroublePalin, of course, has been the target of many such smears. She was derided as, “Bush in a skirt” on Huffington Post, and at The Washington Post, Wendy Doniger blogged of then-VP candidate Palin: “Her greatest hypocrisy is in her pretense that she is a woman.”
Not that liberal men are much better.
Ann Coulter is often referred to as “Mann-coulter” on political blogs in an effort to de-feminize her. And MSNBC’s Keith Olberman once referred to Malkin as a “mashed-up bag of meat with lipstick.”
In a Salon column last month headlined “Forget about the tea party—what about the crumpets?” Gene Lyons wrote that, “The most entertaining aspect of the 2010 election season has been the rise of the right-wing cuties—political celebrities whose main qualification is looking terrific on television. From where I sit, in a comfortable chair in front of the tube, the GOP Cupcake Factor has enlivened an otherwise dreary campaign season.”
You, Sir, are a pig.
The “cuties” in question are a former Governor (Palin), a current Congresswoman (Michelle Bachmann) and a current Senatorial candidate (Christine O’Donnell.) Lyons take on O’Donnell was this: “Everybody knows some poor fool who married a woman like that.”
To anyone who believes that a man with the same religious views as O’Donnell would have received the same nonstop vicious mockery, I have one name for you: Mike Huckabee.
Sadly, it seems, that sexist attacks do stick. According to a study, sponsored by Women’s Media Center, the WCF Foundation and Political Parity, and conducted by Democratic pollster Celinda Lake, if men use sexist language to attack their female opponent, her support is likely to drop significantly. “Sexism matters,” Siobhan Bennett, the president of the Women's Campaign Forum and a former Democratic congressional candidate told Politico. “It is a prism that massively influences how we see these candidates.”
Yes, sexism matters—as does gender. But whereas you never hear anyone claim that men should vote a particular way because of their gender, feminists have no trouble treating women like pre-schoolers who have to be herded into the right camp, a camp that is apparently preordained at birth. In an interview with Katie Couric last year, Gloria Steinem said that where conservative women stand “is squarely against what most women need and want. If [women] still vote for them, they are voting against themselves, which is quite tragic to me.”
This kind of attitude should be antithetical to feminist thought because it is infantilizing to women.
Politically, I agree very little with any of the conservative women mentioned in this column. But they have the same right as any woman to be treated with respect and dignity. Every time anyone—liberal, conservative, man or a woman—engage in sexist smears, all women lose.
Kirsten Powers is a columnist for The Daily Beast. She is also a political analyst on Fox News and a writer for the New York Post. She served in the Clinton administration from 1993-1998 and has worked in New York state and city politics. Her writing has been published in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, the New York Observer, Salon.com, Elle magazine and American Prospect online.