Sexism is a problem. So, too, is sexism. And the fact that we can openly discuss the one and not the other is doubling down on sexism.
THE DOUBLE STANDARD OF DOUBLE STANDARD SERIES:
II: LOOK ONE WAY BEFORE CROSSING (you are here)
III: HEADS, YOU’RE SEXIST; TAILS, I’M NOT
I hereby nominate chauvinism watchdog website, Madam Premier—due to its excellence in treating anti-female chauvinism differently than anti-male chauvinism—for a “Misandrist of the Year” award. Madam Premier (who has been interviewed for its expertise by both CKNW and CBC Radio) looks for examples where Canadian premiers are treated differently than male politicians, which once again, I think is a laudable goal: let’s highlight any instances of sexism so that we can figure out why they’re still happening, and whether they’re having a significant effect on our political process. Unfortunately, the organization seems to seek the answer it already has in mind, as opposed to simply documenting what it discovers.
First, Madam Premier only identifies examples where it perceives female Premiers to be treated differently in a negative or sexist way, but it does not cite cases where the opposite occurs, that is, where her sex protects her from scrutiny (as in the case noted in THE BATTLE OF SEXISM in which Christy Clark made a phallic dysfunction joke). Nor does it note examples in which male Premiers are targeted with sexist remarks.
Second, Madam Premier commonly notes cases where Premier Clark’s appearance is questioned; I think this is a reasonable criticism since “looks” should have nothing to do with political office, and the Canadian media does not usually examine politicians’ appearance. Madam Premier, however, seems unwilling to acknowledge that there have also been instances where male politicians are singled out for their looks (talk to Dalton McGuinty, Gregor Robertson, and Justin Trudeau for verification). It may be the case that Ms. Clark is hit more often (or in a different way) by such devolved and irrelevant talk, but until Madam Premier is willing to compare her to analogous male politicians, the alleged double standard is impossible to assess fairly.
Third, a major portion of Madam Premier’s collection is filled by instances of citizens making vile and/or sexist comments online. My objection here is that, along with identifying this disgusting material, Madam Premier implies that our society in general embodies a matching level of chauvinism. The website seems oblivious to the nature of anonymous internet fiends (commonly referred to as “trolls”) who slither around the web making the most insidious comments they can fuse together with their limited brain cells. It is because sexism against women is taboo that they make use of it. They want to be shocking. In my experience, they spew equally awful statements against men, but because anti-male sexism is not currently taboo, they attack from other angles that they think will be more damaging.
Assessing society’s mores by collecting the thoughts of the internet’s most vicious is suspect. I’m not saying that we can’t learn something from the trend within such a compilation, but Madam Premier ought to temper their accusations against the rest of us by recognizing the particular antisocial source of these cruel tirades.
On the other hand, Madam Premier and other supposedly anti-discrimination groups do not collect any of the anti-male sexist language that is used every day by much more influential pundits on radio and television. For one of many never-discussed instances, after the US presidential debate between Barrack Obama and Mitt Romney, commentators on CNN accused the two would-be leaders of the world—who both had the audacity to assertively argue for their candidacy—of being “little boys,” “puffing out their chests,” and displaying “too much testosterone.” Not only were these misandrist statements sanctioned by other media, they were supported as the phrases de jour, and echoed on many talk shows (including BC talk shows). In contrast, similar commentary against two female politicians would have been instantly (and correctly) condemned, and led to the firing of the perpetrators.
Fourth, Madam Premier helps itself to some impressive assumptions of intention about the writers they deride. Consider their current lead “misogyny” story from a 2011 editorial by Times columnist Iain Hunter. Along with identifying what sounds like some sexist or at least offensive comments from Hunter, it also makes some wild extrapolations about his intentions in cases where he appears to be empathizing with perceived extra challenges for women in politics; its criticisms of Hunter, in those cases, rely on unsubstantiated interpretations of him, which could easily be applied to Madame Premier with the same result.
The double standard is growing.
For your consideration, I’ve included the entire anti-Hunter transcript here with three perspectives:
(A) Hunter’s offending comments identified by Madam Premier, (B) Madam Premier’s response to Hunter, and (C) SethBlogs’ response to Madam Premier’s response.
MADAM PREMIER: From today’s Times Colonist newspaper comes a truly enraging column. Iain Hunter makes jokes about eating disorders, dismissive comments about the gender of a female premier, and more. (The full column is available here.) Some quotes:
HUNTER: If the legislative precinct makes her sick, as she has said it does, why is Christy Clark so keen, apparently, to stay there as premier? Is there such a thing as political bulimia?
MADAM PREMIER: Hunter makes casual jokes about bulimia.
SETHBLOGS: Hunter’s use of bulimia may be tasteless, but from a pundit who likes to write on the edge, the metaphor is not necessarily sexist. I’m not sure I see the difference between referencing this disease and others so commonly called upon in the rhetoric, such as cancer, schizophrenia (although it is usually confused with disassociative personality disorder), and, of course, impotence. I realize that bulimia is more common to women than men, so Hunter may have intended it as a sexist remark, but I don’t think we can assume so.
HUNTER: A lot of it has to do with [Clark’s] sex.
MADAM PREMIER: Hunter suggests that her unpopularity is because she’s a woman.
SETHBLOGS: Taken in context, I’m not sure that’s what Hunter meant: it sounded, to me, more like he was arguing that Clark is at a disadvantage because she’s a women. Either way, if Hunter is accusing the political process and/or the electorate of being sexist, how does that prove that he is sexist against women? He may be wrong, but isn’t he arguing the same thing as Madam Premier, that politics are harder on women than men? In fact:
HUNTER: Political leadership makes hard demands of women.
MADAM PREMIER: Hunter condescendingly suggests that all women aren’t up for leadership.
SETHBLOGS: Again, even if Hunter is wrong that politics are especially demanding on women, why does Madam Premier think his argument contains an implication that women can’t handle politics? Could Hunter not be arguing that politics are more work for women because he believes we still live in a chauvinistic society, in the same way that Madam Premier argues in its mission statement, “It’s not easy being a woman in politics—even when you’re the Premier of a Canadian province”?
HUNTER: Trying to be more like men throws away the only advantage they have. Floppy grey pant suits don’t suit.
MADAM PREMIER: Hunter implies that “the only advantage” women in politics have is their sexuality and appearance.
SETHBLOGS: And, finally, I think Madam Premier has a legitimate complaint. Although I think they targeted the wrong part of Hunter’s argument (that is, onace again, I’m not sure why suggesting that women don’t have advantages is sexist towards them: once more, isn’t that Madam Premier‘s point? That female politicians are at a significant disadvantage to male politicians because of how they’re treated?). But Hunter’s suggestion that female politicians are “trying to be more like men” is a grand assumption of his own that women are pretending to be “masculine” at the expense of their natural femininity. I’m not sure in what way he thinks Clark is acting like a male, but it may be that she’s acting like herself, even if that person does not match Hunter’s expectation of how women normally behave. (Certainly, from my perspective, Clark sounds the same as when I listened to her on the radio as a talk show host.) Moreover, Hunter’s floppy pant suit metaphor strikes me as cheap and potentially sexist since it reduces the conversation about a politician to a genre of clothing that is primarily (if not exclusively) worn by female politicians, and how it fits them.
HUNTER: …delegates chose a leader, not for leadership abilities, but because they thought a woman had the best chance of keeping their party in power.
MADAM PREMIER: Hunter says that BC Liberal Party members—who democratically elected Premier Clark as leader—only picked her because they decided to take a ‘chance’ on a woman.
SETHBLOGS: Certainly, Hunter is insulting the BC Liberal Party for playing politics with their choice of leader, but it’s not necessarily sexist for someone to suggest that a political party had faulty motives. In my reading of Hunter’s entire article, he doesn’t seem to be arguing that by definition every vote for a female is a vote for her sex. However, Hunter is suggesting that, in this particular case, if Clark were a male radio star who had been out of politics for several years, he would not have been elected by his party. This may be wrong, but it’s not necessarily sexist to suggest that particular voters are gender biased; isn’t that what Madam Premier argues every day?
To that end, I’d like to submit the following for consideration as a future entry in Madam Premier’s archive of chauvinism:
Check out this condescending mission statement from Madam Premier about women in politics:
MADAM PREMIER: It’s not easy being a woman in politics…
MADAM PREMIER (suggested by SETHBLOGS): Madam Premier assumes that women want an easy ride in politics.
MADAM PREMIER: …even when you’re the Premier of a Canadian province.
MADAM PREMIER (suggested by SETHBLOGS): Madam Premier assumes that women working in a powerful male-dominated profession ought to have an easier life than women working in female-dominated professions.
MADAM PREMIER: Follow along as we share some upsetting examples of continued sexism in Canadian politics.
MADAM PREMIER (suggested by SETHBLOGS): Madam Premier capitalizes on the stereotype that women are overly emotional and easily upset.
For the sense of humourless among us, let me state for the Sethblogs’ record that I am joking. I am attempting to satirize Madam Premier’s style of assumption by using it against them. Of course, there is nothing misogynistic about Madam Premier’s mission statement, but if they applied the same style of jumping to conclusions to themselves that they do when analyzing literature they describe as sexist, they unfortunately would have no choice but to indite themselves as well.
THE DOUBLE STANDARD OF DOUBLE STANDARD SERIES:
II: LOOK ONE WAY BEFORE CROSSING (you were just here)
III: HEADS, YOU’RE SEXIST; TAILS, I’M NOT