“The ‘Bitch’ and the ‘Ditz'”

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That’s the title of this article in New York Magazine. The subtitle is:

How the Year of the Woman reinforced the two most pernicious sexist stereotypes and actually set women back.

Below is an excerpt:

…This was an election cycle in which candidates pandered to female voters, newsweeklies tried to figure out”what women want,”and Hillary Clinton garnered 18 million votes toward winning the Democratic nomination. The assumption was that these”18 million cracks in the highest glass ceiling,”as Clinton put it, would advance the prospects of female achievement and gender equality. It hasn’t exactly worked out that way.

In the grand Passion play that was this election, both Clinton and Palin came to represent:and, at times, reinforce:two of the most pernicious stereotypes that are applied to women: the bitch and the ditz. Clinton took the first label, even though she tried valiantly, some would say misguidedly, to run a campaign that ignored gender until the very end.”Now, I’m not running because I’m a woman,”she would say.”I’m running because I think I’m the best-qualified and experienced person to hit the ground running.”She was highly competent, serious, diligent, prepared (sometimes overly so):a woman who cloaked her femininity in hawkishness and pantsuits. But she had, to use an unfortunate term, likability issues, and she inspired in her detractors an upwelling of sexist animus: She was likened to Tracy Flick for her irritating entitlement, to Lady Macbeth for her boundless ambition. She was a grind, scold, harpy, shrew, priss, teacher’s pet, killjoy:you get the idea. She was repeatedly called a bitch (as in:”How do we beat the … ”) and a buster of balls. Tucker Carlson deemed her”castrating, overbearing, and scary”and said, memorably,”Every time I hear Hillary Clinton speak, I involuntarily cross my legs.”

Career women, especially those of a certain age, recognized themselves in Clinton and the reactions she provoked.”Maybe what bothers me most is that people say Hillary is a bitch,”said Tina Fey in her now-famous”Bitch Is the New Black”skit.”Let me say something about that: Yeah, she is. So am I … You know what? Bitches get stuff done.”At least being called a bitch implies power. As bad as Clinton’s treatment was, the McCain campaign’s cynical decision to put a woman:any woman:on the ticket was worse for the havoc it would wreak on gender politics. It was far more destructive, we would learn, for a woman to be labeled a fool. …

–Shawn Marie Boyne

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