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‘Selective Sexism’ Not Rampant, But Still Wrong
Amy Siskind, writing in the Huffington Post, discusses the recent
influx of misogyny directed at conservative women and their offspring:
“(F)or many feminists in our country, only certain types of women have
been worth defending. When a conservative woman is the target of an
attack, many so-called feminists stay silent. This ‘selective sexism,’
or speaking out against sexism on a case by case (sic) basis, does not
advance our national dialogue on women's issues.”
First, I agree that any feminist worth the title should work against
misogyny directed at all women, even those who espouse views with
which he or she disagrees. Insults that use rape imagery – like those
published recently in a Playboy article by Guy Cambalo titled “So
Right It’s Wrong,” which detailed the conservative women he would only
“have sex” with if he could do so violently – are not OK, regardless of
whether they’re directed at Hillary Clinton or Laura Ingraham.
David Letterman’s insinuation that Sarah Palin’s 14-year-old daughter
Willow was impregnated by baseball star Alex Rodriguez (Letterman later
explained that he was referencing Bristol, Palin’s 18-year-old daughter,
although Willow was the one attending the Yankees game that spurred the
joke), are no less shameful than John McCain’s infamous “Chelsea Clinton
is the daughter of Janet Reno” joke.
But I disagree with Siskind that there is rampant “selective sexism” in
feminist circles. The blogs and texts I read and take seriously don’t
leave out sexism or misogyny directed at their political rivals.
Throughout the 2008 presidential campaign, Sarah Palin, as well as the
very same conservatives who generally have no qualms about spewing
misogyny, alleged the same thing Siskind does here: That sexism aimed at
conservative women is largely ignored, while the same aimed at liberal
women invokes outrage across the board. It wasn’t true then, when
conservatives said it, and it isn’t true now, when liberals do.
the end, feminists prioritize ending patriarchal oppression of women and
working against the continued sexualization of girls and women –
especially women in politics whose qualifications are undermined by the
prevailing interest in their sex appeal (or lack thereof).
The real issue, I think, is that of liberals who support (or
make) hateful comments about conservative women and their daughters, not
feminists. The comments following Siskind’s article, which was posted to
one of the most liberal-leaning sites on the Internet, evidence this:
“David Letterman had every right to make a joke at the expense of Sarah
Palin. She is a public figure and jokes about her come with the
territory,” argues one commenter. “Don't cry for Sarah, she loves every
minute of the attention, cry for her children whose lives are being
crushed to death by her greed and ambition,” spews another, trotting out
a common stereotype of women who attempt to grasp political success –
they are bad mothers.
Another insists that the Playboy article was inoffensive, and
that feminists were conflating Cambalto’s descriptions of “hate sex”
with “rape” to benefit their own cause. (I don’t personally see the
difference.) Such comments, unfortunately, made up the majority of those
responding to Siskind.
Obviously, there are plenty of intersections between liberals and
feminists, but there are also many outliers who claim to be progressive,
but are somehow still wary of the fight for women to be treated as
equals in political discourse (and beyond). Many progressives are
reactionary and quick to criticize feminist aims, while still claiming
to be against oppression and discrimination. It doesn’t make sense. And,
as the PUMA election drama reminds us (ahh . . . memories), our party,
although victorious, is perilously disjointed when it comes to our view
of women and equality. We may be all right for now, but the eventual
rift between those in the party who recognize and call out sexism and
those who perpetuate it has the potential to do real damage.
David Letterman issued what seemed to be a sincere apology on his
program, and the Playboy article was eventually pulled after a
heartening public outcry – although I’m curious who made up the majority
of the offended (feminists? conservatives?) and who just laughed it
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