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November 11, 2007

GenderCard: Because Chris Matthews Doesn't Take American Express

By Neil the Ethical Werewolf

As Ann and Jessica say, the amount of male gender-card-playing in our political culture is ridiculous. At its worst, debates over issues like the use of military force become little more than opportunities for subtextual dick-size contests. This would just be really annoying, if it didn't get people killed.

The more general problem is that our elections are largely about projecting an arbitrary set of stereotypes. You want to look like someone with rural or small-town origins, not a big-city upbringing. You don't want to seem wealthy or intellectual. The gender card comes from a large deck. That elections are often decided this way, and not on policy issues, might be the great lament of this blog if it weren't something that we're resigned to dealing with. Bush won elections largely because his handlers knew how to make him project the right stereotypes -- often ones that didn't fit his actual background in the least.

Which is all to say that I agree with Jessica and Ann about how politics ought to be: "Elections should be about the issues, not about who has the biggest... uh, lead in the polls." But I'm a little nervous about their advice: "Politics is a genderless sport, obviously. Which is why you need to run on your qualifications, not your ability to appeal to the 'cock vote.'"

Chris Matthews, Maureen Dowd, and all sorts of other tremendously influential and horrifically shallow press figures will evaluate you in large part by your perceived appeal to the cock vote. Positive coverage from them helps you win elections. (That leaves aside the question of whether you can actually succeed in getting them to cover you favorably.  I don't know enough cases to say for sure, but my sense is that you can do better or worse.) If playing the gender card effectively causes Chris Matthews to declare you the winner of the debate, or to say that your primary campaign is on an upswing, it becomes an important means to achieve whatever noble political ends you might have.

So if you want to find your true enemy, it isn't John Kerry. It isn't even George Bush (not on this issue, anyway). It's Chris Matthews. Ann and Jessica mention him at the end, but the point I want to make is that he, and not the mere politicians, is the true source of the problem. The politicians just respond to his pressures, and to the pressures from people like him. If Chris Matthews felt like it, he could do otherwise at no cost to anything he ought to care about, and bring us a long way towards a more rational political culture where we actually talked about the issues. But he doesn't.

November 11, 2007 | Permalink


Hell, it'd probably be easier to reform the public schooling system than the media.

Posted by: Korha | Nov 11, 2007 3:59:43 PM

On the plus side, the Guardian suggests that the US is working really, really hard at finding reasons to attack Iran. So maybe the liberal hawks and hawks aren't quite done yet. Matthews can then have another wargasm on who's manly.

Iraqi fighters 'grilled for evidence on Iran'
Interrogator says US military seeks evidence incriminating Tehran
David Smith in Baghdad
Sunday November 11, 2007
The Observer

US military officials are putting huge pressure on interrogators who question Iraqi insurgents to find incriminating evidence pointing to Iran, it was claimed last night.

Micah Brose, a privately contracted interrogator working for American forces in Iraq, near the Iranian border, told The Observer that information on Iran is 'gold'. The claim comes after Washington imposed sanctions on Iran last month, citing both its nuclear ambitions and its Revolutionary Guards' alleged support of Shia insurgents in Iraq. Last week the US military freed nine Iranians held in Iraq, including two it had accused of links to the Revolutionary Guards' Qods Force.

Brose, 30, who extracts information from detainees in Iraq, said: 'They push a lot for us to establish a link with Iran. They have pre-categories for us to go through, and by the sheer volume of categories there's clearly a lot more for Iran than there is for other stuff. Of all the recent requests I've had, I'd say 60 to 70 per cent are about Iran.

'It feels a lot like, if you get something and Iran's not involved, it's a let down.' He added: 'I've had people say to me, "They're really pushing the Iran thing. It's like, shit, you know." '

Brose said that reports about Washington's increasingly hawkish stance towards Tehran, including possible military action, chimed with his experience. 'My impression is they're just trying to get every little bit of ammunition possible. If we get something here it fits the overall picture. The engine needs impetus and they're looking for us to find the fuel - a particular type of fuel.

'It now really depends on who gets elected President in the US. If nothing changes in the current course, I'd say military action is inevitable. But we have to hope there will be a change of course.'

He denied ever being asked to fabricate evidence, adding: 'We're not asked to manufacture information, we're asked to find it. But if a detainee wants to tell me what I want to hear so he can get out of jail... you know what I'm saying.'

Other military intelligence officials in Iraq refused to comment, but one said: 'The message is, "Got to find a link with Iran, got to find a link with Iran." It's sickening.'


Posted by: El Cid | Nov 11, 2007 4:13:53 PM

So Neil,

You recommend that we stop funding Emily's List then, right?

And when Ann and Jessica repeatedly points out the color of Giuliani's staff or which staff has more women on it, you think they should stop playing the race and gender cards, right?

Posted by: feh | Nov 11, 2007 4:24:28 PM

No and no, feh.

You should go to some other blog where you can actually understand the posts.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Nov 11, 2007 5:17:45 PM

So.... Why is it okay for Ann and Jessica to note the race and sexes of staffers and not call that a gender card?

I think they and you are wrong (admittedly, you've shown yourself wrong about most things, so it's an easy bet) about these elections being a continual playing of the gender card.

It's not gender that forced Kerry to go hunting. It was a proxy for national security. I can kill animals, therefore I can keep the country safe. We see similar things from all the candidates including Hillary who votes for wars and to continue the war because she is afraid of being seen as weak on national security.

I wouldn't expect you to understand that, because you let your knee do most of your thinking for you....

Posted by: feh | Nov 11, 2007 5:27:29 PM

Feel better for having said this,

I wouldn't expect you to understand that, because you let your knee do most of your thinking for you....

do you?

The beginner's section is over at RedState. Try it you'll be much happier there.

Posted by: A.Citizen | Nov 11, 2007 5:35:02 PM

That's pretty damn funny A.Citizen, but tell ya what, why don't you find a single post of mine anywhere that makes it seem that I am not a progressive liberal.

You remember liberals -- we're the reality based ones. The ones that understand nuance. The ones that avoid black and white judgments.

Perhaps Mr. Citizen, instead of just attacking me personally, like Neil did, and you did, you might want to address my points and tell me why it is that they are wrong, and not just insult me.

Merely insulting me and not addressing my statements? I can hear liberals being insulted from any right wing source, I don't need your right wing mimicry.

Posted by: feh | Nov 11, 2007 5:42:03 PM

That's pretty damn funny A.Citizen, but tell ya what, why don't you find a single post of mine anywhere that makes it seem that I am not a progressive liberal.

You're a liberal, fine. It's just that that's not exclusive with "ignorant twat".

Posted by: Senescent | Nov 11, 2007 6:07:53 PM

Kewl, not only a personal attack, but a personal attack with a misogynistic bent to it. Nicely ironic when defending Neal's "the menz keep on using gender cards not the wimmynz!" post.

Posted by: feh | Nov 11, 2007 6:21:02 PM

I don't see the difference in shallowness here. Basically, since Clinton used the gender card in a shallow way to deflect discussion of her actions this is justified by the fact that the MSM does it in other ways? I think where you veer off the trail is not realizing that there is nothing progressive about using gender or identity for these purposes. There are a lot of women who are hurt in this country due to discrimination against gender. There are a lot of people of color, gays, etc also hurt. These to me are legitimate discussions because they address inequities. This discussion doesn't seem to be about addressing real inequities such much as repeating entrenched dogmas. Please link this discussion to the one from which they grew- namely Clinton. it seems this is all just an excuse to talk about gender although gender wasn't the reason why these things happened. Are you okay with Clinton misusing gender to deflect debate or saying that people should vote for her because she is a woman? How do we not go from this to Sharp James or any of a number of other use of identities in the last few years. I read your post- i just think its kind of myopic to ignore what feh said just because he says it in an idiot way- yes feh, I agreeing with your point, but think you said it poorly. i don't know I'm saying it any better, but I do think we need to address the dogma inherit in all of this discussion.

Posted by: akaison | Nov 11, 2007 6:23:17 PM

whether it's being amazed by a man's ability to actually debate a woman
Interesting quote from Jessica since the femblog's idea of debating a male that disagrees with them is calling him a misogynist and deleting his comment.
It's not gender that forced Kerry to go hunting. It was a proxy for national security. I can kill animals, therefore I can keep the country safe.
I disagree, It was a dodge to pander to hunters since his record on gun rights and the second amendment sucks.

Posted by: Paul L. | Nov 11, 2007 6:33:24 PM

I don't even see the relation, akaison. My post bemoans the fact that we can't have substantive policy discussions because the media is only interested in dick size contests. Emily's List isn't disrupting our ability to have substantive policy discussions in any way at all, nor do they desire to. Now, I do think Hillary is intentionally disrupting our ability to have substantive policy debates, but the suggestion that Ann and Jessica are doing anything similar is so ridiculous as to be worthy of derision.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Nov 11, 2007 7:32:55 PM

Let me add, akaison -- I always think it's cool when my commenters criticize me for not beating up on Edwards' opponents enough. so, thanks :)

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Nov 11, 2007 7:36:24 PM

If Chris Matthews felt like it, he could do otherwise at no cost to anything he ought to care about,

I'm not sure this is exactly right, though - Matthews and the others like him have quite a bit invested in their current approach to politics. Shows like Hardball are sort of fundamentally incompatible with a rational approach to politics, as they are primarily for entertainment purposes only, as they say, and the fact of the matter is policy discussions aren't entertaining to most people. (We who read blogs like this are probably not normal in this regard.)

Plus, it would also mean that Chris Matthews would have to do a lot more work and learn a lot more stuff.

Posted by: Jason C. | Nov 11, 2007 7:54:16 PM

Thanks for the post. Whenever I feel guilty/lament the self-indulgent nature of the blogs, I remember how important it is to build an alternative media that doesn't treat elections like a contest of who can make Chris Matthews the most eager to give a handjob on live TV. You know, it's sad that the bare minimum now to be truly alternative is to think of women as citizens instead of the unpaid staff to citizens.

Posted by: Amanda Marcotte | Nov 11, 2007 7:54:33 PM

I don't want to defend phallic foreign policy, but I think there's a difference in kind between "vote for me because I have the masculine/feminine attributes required to lead America" and "don't criticize me because I'm a woman". When people talk about the race/gender card, that's the kind of stuff they're talking about. It would be perfectly reasonable (annoying to policy wonks, but reasonable as far as campaigns go) for Hillary to play the Mom card and say she's uniquely qualified to understand American family issues like health care or jobs. That would be every bit as reasonable as "son of a mill worker" or "raised in Indonesia" as a biographical qualification.

"Politics of piling on" is completely different from that. It's like a Freudian declaring you to be in "denial"--the more you object, the more true it looks. Moreover, since it seemed to utterly backfire even in her own party's primary, it's not only distracting and unfair, it's evidence of political tone-deafness.

I'm not saying Chris Matthews doesn't suck, but what Hillary did was not the female equivalent of Kerry's hunting trip. It's more like "Bush Derangement Syndrome"--disagreeing with the leader can't be explained by anything but insanity.

Posted by: Consumatopia | Nov 11, 2007 8:46:29 PM

Ann and Jessica aren't media? But Amanda just said they were! Are they playing a gender/race card or not? Because I think most of the blogosphere would disagree with your contention that they are not media.

And you do think Hillary is intentionally disrupting our ability to have substantive policy debates, but your beef is not with Clinton, Kerry, or Bush but with Matthews!

In the meantime, other feminists say in time for Halloween that saying Hillary is the scariest candidate is misogynistic, and has nothing to do with either her policies OR her weaseling OR her "intentionally disrupting our ability to have substantive policy debates". Some very prominent bloggers think that a sizable amount of dislike for Hillary is just out and out misogyny. And even though they have no data for their claim, we can safely be assured they aren't playing a gender card.

It's always fun to see you slice and dice your arguments narrowing them until they make some sense.

Posted by: feh | Nov 11, 2007 8:56:29 PM

I've been an independent 'woman' since I was 5 years old and damanded to know why I had to wear a dress to sunday school and refused to accept because I was a girl.
I find the playing of the gender card in this election to be cheap and undermining way to make people either vote for or feel sorry for you.
I do not find the truly independent and successful women that most women admire needing to pull these stunts. only those who are calculating or insecure do this.
hillary fits both.
Playing the gender card only makes her look weak and raises questions about her being able to be president.
A really strong woman doesn't need to do this.
When we, as women, are willing to stand strong and project our independence and security and stop playing either games or being so overly sensitive will we truly be equal and gain respect.
Hillary and her supporters do not honestly think she is being treated sexist and knows we have moved past that. It is just an cheap game to play.
I believe that Matthews was more disappointed in Hillary pulling this knowing she is stronger and should be better than that.
Hillary is the only one to bring gender into the race. About the only thing being done in this race in regards to Hillary is that she has gotten a free pass and treated with kid gloves for far too long. If she wants equality she needs to accept the bad with the good.
Gender is not why people don't like Hillary. It is because of her personality. And when she and her supporters quit going for the easy excuse and start to look into why Hillary as a person is unacceptable is only when Hillary can improve as a person.

Posted by: vwcat | Nov 11, 2007 9:00:44 PM

Some very prominent bloggers think that a sizable amount of dislike for Hillary is just out and out misogyny.

My feelings on the senator are obvious from my above comment, but some prominent (Obama sympathetic) bloggers are obviously correct in this case. You don't have to hate women to hate Senator Clinton, but hating women almost certainly means hating Hillary.

Posted by: Consumatopia | Nov 11, 2007 10:26:11 PM

"Now, I do think Hillary is intentionally disrupting our ability to have substantive policy debates, but the suggestion that Ann and Jessica are doing anything similar is so ridiculous as to be worthy of derision."

It's at this point you fall into hubris. Do you think you are immune to politics or human behavior? Do you think you are immune from being manipulated? Are Ann and Jessica so above the fray that we should ignore how their values can be used against them just like the rest of us? If so, then I can see how your comment makes sense. However, if like me Ann and Jessica live in the real world then like me we are subceptable to having our natural values used against us.

My only point is that you people are pawns. Clinton is using your natural values as much as Bush used the right's natural values to get what she wants without giving a shit about what you think you are doing. She's forrest while you are stuck in a tree that's the triumph of relativism because it gives the appearance of a value without really caring about that value- her women's equally is supposed to occur by treating Clinton as not like other candidates by having you discuss irrelevancies to why she's being challenged. She's the front runner. But she doesn't want you to do deal with that.

Obama, who is my second choice, at this point, put it best in discussing how he could have used race as a shield but choose not to do so. Not that he could anyway, because the dynamics of gender (specifically of white women) is different than the dynamics of race. If he ever even looked in that direction, the liberals would run for the hills even while publically saying he's got a point. But that's the subjec of a different diary, and don't even let me get started on sexual orientation and the ambush that recently happened in NC.

Clinton's game is the same game in "What's the Matter with Kansas" except played on the left. You go into it thinking you are talking about gender equality, and in actually you are leaving it so that we elect someone who maybe least likely to reflect the forces that will actually help anyone, much less women, in the long term. Or, as someoen else once put it- Margaret Thatcher was a woman too, but that hardly made her progressive. I am sure the African American voters who continuously voted for Sharpe James thought they were voting their interest too when it came to race. It doesn't mean they were. We need to all understand how we can be manipulated this way. I remember a few years ago how I was in a rage over some guy using the word niggardly in DC because I didn't know what the word meant, and it fit into my natural emotions and values over race.

I am sure Amanda and Jessisca think Clinton is talking gender and that they think the reporters/hacks etc matter, but I am also certain that Clinton uses folks like Amanda and Jessica to reach her real goals- winning the primaries and then the general. I am not immune to these influences, and I doubt Amanda, Jessica or yourself are either. It's hubris to think you are.

Posted by: akaison | Nov 11, 2007 10:26:32 PM

all o this would be a whole lot more powerful if it weren't for the fact that Clinton's leader is based almost entirely on her being female and this being a female-majority party. As it stands, you all sound like you're just trying to deny reality. There are a lot of men who in this race who have taken nearly identical stands to Clinton's, and they are pulling all of 3% in the polls. Women aren't overwhelmingly supporting Clinton for her positions, but for her gender.

Posted by: soullite | Nov 12, 2007 8:13:23 AM

Perhaps I am astoundingly stupid but can anyone claiming that Hillary Clinton played the gender card provide me with a quote and an explanation to show how she did? Because I certainly can't find it out there.

Posted by: M.O. | Nov 12, 2007 9:47:47 AM

M.O.- It is one thing to say that something isn't playing the gender card. It is another to pretend not to have seen the a news clip played 500 times in the last 2 weeks. People can pretend that they are beyond gender bias, but there's a reason so many female bloggers are willing to defend Hillary when they would never waste half that much energy defending a male candidate with her same political positions. There is a reason why Obama and Edwards get criticized for using 'republican' talking points, while Hillary uses them with complete and utter impunity. Hillary could submit a proposal to nuke half a continent, and Amanda Marcotte, Jessica Valenti, and Sister Shakes would be defending it by claiming she has to take a tough stand in a male dominated society. That's gender bias, and pretending you're above it is what makes it such a powerful influence. All of those men who harped over Clinton's laugh and swooned over Fred Thompson's after shave told themselves the same thing.

Posted by: soullite | Nov 12, 2007 10:12:47 AM

Like I said- hubris. While the gender issue bothers me (as does all of the bad side of identity politics where it's not to bring about fairness), what bothers me more is the number of posters, indeed the main diarist, who think they are above such manipulations. Do you people really believe this? that no one can push your buttons? why ? because you are smart? this isn't about your intelligence. It's about pushing buttons which are inheritly emotional ones. It's tribal human nature, and why they can play you is because of this tribalism that despite the facts as soullite ably describes you fall for it anyhow.

Posted by: akaison | Nov 12, 2007 11:47:19 AM

Soullite, you should be aware that Amanda isn't any sort of big Hillary fan. She wants Edwards to be the nominee just like you do. I don't know where Melissa and Jessica are on the question.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Nov 12, 2007 9:03:50 PM

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