Posted on Wednesday, March 5, 2008
So it’s two days before the critical Texas and Ohio primaries, and how
does the mighty Washington Post decorate its influential Outlook
section? Well, the online headline kept changing: first, “Women Aren’t
Very Bright,” followed by “Why Do Women Act So Dumb?” and finally, “We
Scream, We Swoon. How Dumb Can We Get?” Author Charlotte Allen’s thesis
was that Sen. Barack Obama appeared to be winning the Democratic contest
because irrational women fell for him like teenaged Beatles fans circa
1964. Also, because Hillary Clinton “has run one of the worst—and, yes,
stupidest—presidential races in recent history, marred by every
stereotypical flaw of the female sex.” Specifically, whining, weeping,
relying too much on her husband, and worst, hiring women staffers
“chosen for loyalty rather than, say, brains or political savvy.”
Allen’s deepest thought, however, is that “Depressing as it is, several
of the supposed misogynist myths about female inferiority have been
proven true.” Fundamentally stupid, women can’t drive, do math, or much
of anything really, apart from care for children and get off on dopey
romance novels and TV shows like “Grey’s Anatomy,” allegedly one of
Clinton’s favorites. Why, “even men’s brains are bigger than women’s.”
Yeah, well, exit polls in 2000 and 2004 showed that women voted against
that paragon of masculinity, George W. Bush, both times. So there’s
that. Meanwhile, I’ve got a couple of big-brained fellows out in the
barn who exchange significant glances whenever I bring them a carrot.
Are horses secretly smarter than humans? Eighteenth century adventurer
Lemuel Gulliver suspected so, but he was prone to exaggeration.
Chastened by reader reaction, Outlook editor John Pomfret alibied that
Allen’s article was “tongue-in-cheek.” To paraphrase Eric Altermann,
what’s next at the Post? Satires about shiftless Negroes, greedy Jews,
Irish drunks, Italian criminals and happy-go-lucky Mexicans?
Editorial advice: If you’ve got to tell people something’s funny, it
Pomfret’s excuse was undercut by a companion piece by one Linda
Hirshman, gravely examining the causes of Obama’s support among female
“[I] t could just be that women with more education (and more money),”
she opined, “relate on a subconscious level to the young and handsome
Barack and Michelle Obama, with their white porticoed mansion in one of
the cooler Chicago neighborhoods and her Jimmy Choo shoes.”
See, there’s no possibility that it’s a rational choice.
A few thoughts: First, misogyny may be the last socially acceptable
bigotry. On her blog, the inimitable Digby points out that supposedly
respectable news networks such as MSNBC “think it’s fine and dandy to
repeatedly invite someone [GOP consultant Roger Stone] who runs an
anti-Clinton organization” whose name is an acronym for the crudest
slang for the female genitals. It’s safe to say that the network
wouldn’t host the founder of “C. O. O. N.” if such an organization
Second, the “Clinton rules” among celebrity journalists definitely
remain in effect. Where they’re concerned, absolutely anything goes.
This has been true in Washington since roughly 1994 and will clearly
remain so as long as the couple remains in public life. To cite just one
example, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, Sen. John McCain,
once told a coarse joke whose punch line was that the lovely and
accomplished Chelsea Clinton’s real father was Janet Reno.
What would happen to a Democrat who talked that way about Bush’s own
attractive daughters? Well, he wouldn’t become a presidential nominee,
that’s for sure.
Digby, who’s refrained from taking sides in the Democratic primary
contest, sees it this way: “The fact that Clinton kept going, becoming a
senator, then the first woman to ever win a presidential primary, and
continues to put herself out there in the face of that kind of
psychopathic bile is a testament to her tenacity and commitment.
Everybody says they want a fighter. Regardless of who you vote for, the
woman deserves respect for refusing to back down from that lizard brain
Third, until early March, Obama, as the non-Clinton in the presidential
contest, has gotten a virtual free ride in the press. A recent study by
the Center for Media Affairs has documented that since the New Hampshire
primary, 83 percent of Obama’s coverage has been positive vs. 47 percent
of Clinton’s. MSNBC has been laughable. Keith Olbermann’s “news” program
the evening before the March 4 contest featured a string of pundits
opining that Clinton should quit the race even if she won. Nobody
dissented. Fourth, Obama supporters are living in a fool’s paradise if
they imagine this will continue. Outlining just a few obvious lines of
attack available to GOP smear artists brought a barrage of outraged
emails likening me to the Drudge Report or the KKK. “Either you want
John McCain to be president,” an overheated Obama supporter wrote, “or
you are in league with the Neo-Nazis or other hate groups.” The
awakening, should it come, could prove costly and painful.
—–––––•–––––—Free-lance columnist Gene Lyons is a Little Rock author and
recipient of the National Magazine Award.