Sunday, June 22, 2008
The NYT public editor Clark Hoyt takes Maureen Dowd to task in today's paper:
SOME supporters of Hillary Clinton believe that sexism colored news coverage of her presidential campaign. The Times reported in a front-page article on June 13 that many are proposing boycotts of cable news networks and that a “Media Hall of Shame” has been created by the National Organization for Women. First of all, it isn't just some Clinton supporters who think there was sexism involved in the primary season. There are plenty of Obama primary supporters who saw it too, and others, like me, who weren't backing either candidate. This isn't some sour grapes campaign and it irks me that people who talk about it continue to frame the issue this way.
The Times itself, however, was barely mentioned, even though two of its Op-Ed columnists, Maureen Dowd and William Kristol, were named in the Hall of Shame.
Peggy Aulisio of South Dartmouth, Mass., said, “A real review of your own stories and columns is warranted.” I think so too. And I think a fair reading suggests that The Times did a reasonably good job in its news articles. But Dowd’s columns about Clinton’s campaign were so loaded with language painting her as a 50-foot woman with a suffocating embrace, a conniving film noir dame and a victim dependent on her husband that they could easily have been listed in that Times article on sexism, right along with the comments of Chris Matthews, Mike Barnicle, Tucker Carlson or, for that matter, Kristol, who made the Hall of Shame for a comment on Fox News, not for his Times work.
Having said that, Hoyt's criticism of Maureen Down is a welcome development. She has been polluting national political coverage with her gender caricatures for a couple of decades now and it's time somebody from the paper said something. The amazing thing is that she's so incredibly arrogant and insular that she doesn't even realize what she's done:
“I’ve been twisting gender stereotypes around for 24 years,” Dowd responded. She said nobody had objected to her use of similar images about men over seven presidential campaigns. She often refers to Barack Obama as “Obambi” and has said he has a “feminine” management style. But the relentless nature of her gender-laden assault on Clinton — in 28 of 44 columns since Jan. 1 — left many readers with the strong feeling that an impermissible line had been crossed, even though, as Dowd noted, she is a columnist who is paid not to be objective.
Maureen needs to read something written by other than her own personal friends once in a while. Plenty of people have objected to her "genderfication" of American politics for years, and I'm one of them. Her "twisting of gender stereotypes" has turned every Democrat into a mincing ponce or a blubbering mama's boy and every Republican into a macho, scotch drinking throwback or an arrogant jock. You tell me which of those are classic leadership archetypes?
It took putting an actual female in the race to make anyone notice just how offensive her sexist caricatures really were. But they've always been offensive --- and they've always been right in lock step with that stupid "mommy party/daddy party" crapola the wingnuts put to good use whenever they want to make Democrats look weak.
Seriously, tell me why this (via Batocchio), from right winger Michael Ramirez, is any different than what she writes every week-end?
Andrew Rosenthal, the editor of the editorial page, said it was unfair to hold a columnist accountable for perceptions of bias in news coverage. A columnist is supposed to present strong opinions, he said, and “a thorough reading of Maureen’s work shows that she does that without regard to gender, partisanship or ideology.”
Utter nonsense. These negative "feminine" stereotypes not only perpetuate noxious myths about female and gay leadership abilities in the culture at large, they consistently favor the right wing authoritarian philosophy. Dowd always says she's speaking truth to power, but her obsession with "playing with gender" actually serves power very, very well. She and her editors may be so dazzled by puerile cutsiness like "Obama is like an anorexic starlet," to even know that she's being partisan, but that doesn't mean she isn't. It plays perfectly into the way Republicans have run elections since Reagan. If she and her editors don't know she's doing this then they are too stupid to be working for the paper of record.
“From the time I began writing about politics,” Dowd said, “I have always played with gender stereotypes and mined them and twisted them to force the reader to be conscious of how differently we view the sexes.” Now, she said, “you are asking me to treat Hillary differently than I’ve treated the male candidates all these years, with kid gloves.”
Aulisio, the reader who wanted a review of Times coverage, asked if a man could have gotten away with writing what Dowd wrote. Rosenthal said that if the man had written everything Dowd had written over the years and established himself as a sardonic commentator on the sexes, “I’d say the answer is yes.”
Of course, there is no such man, and I do not think another one could have used Dowd’s language. Even she, I think, by assailing Clinton in gender-heavy terms in column after column, went over the top this election season.
Again, the question isn't whether she should have treated Clinton any differently. It's that her entire worldview is toxic, both culturally and politically. She uses explicitly sexist and homophobic imagery that favors traditional authoritarian leadership to explain politics. She gets away with it because she has a rapier wit and is a physically beautiful person, thus insulating herself from the kind of criticism others would receive for writing this crud. But in truth she's a walking anachronism, more like a character in Mad Men than a modern sophisticate.
She is considered by many to be the top political columnist in the country (and her columns are often the most emailed articles in the Times.) Certainly she is Village Royalty. And that is undoubtedly one reason why people like Chris Matthews and Tucker Carlson felt that it was perfectly acceptable to say the things they said during this campaign. She's their misogymuse.
It's long past time Dowd was called on this by someone other than filthy bloggers like me. This is a decent start, but until people realize that her "twisting of gender" is anything but benign good fun, we're going to be stuck battling this nonsense back no matter what kind of appendages our candidates might (or might not) be sporting.
digby 6/22/2008 01:00:00 PM