Wednesday, April 23, 2008

An Equal Opportunity to Be Mocked

Jill finds New Republic's cover depiction of Hillary Clinton "misogynistic."

Misogynistic, mind you. "Hated of women," the dictionary tells us. Not mere sexism or clinging to outmoded stereotypes, but actual hatred of women as women. That's Jill's accusation.

Eric points out both that the cover is not inherently misogynistic (in that it doesn't play on gender stereotypes) and the dangers of crying misogyny indiscriminately. One would hope that Jill's argument avoids the rhetorical trap of equating any attack on Hillary with an attack on women generally, though she veers dangerously close with this in Plundercomment number 9:

    Yes, man or woman, someone who has done and behaves the way Clinton has would be a good target for a lot of what has been thrown at her. However, the misogyny is on top of all that - the sexist remarks - everything that is connected to obvious and far less obvious sexism that exists at so many levels in our society.
Tim chimes in with a post uses the cover as a hook for a genuinely misogynistic rant. Which proves a point to be sure, but still not Jill's point.

Jill's argument starts with the proposition that the cover "has nothing to do with the story" and lacks "journalistic integrity." From that we leap to "it's misogynistic."

To start with, I disagree with Jill's assertion that the cover is unrelated to the story. Both the cover and the story's title, "Voices in Her Head," use voices as a metaphor for the clashing personalities on her dysfunctional campaign staff. It's not the tightest fit, but I hope that we aren't going to say that satire becomes hateful merely by missing the mark. Identity politics are sufficiently fraught without ratcheting to that level.

More fundamentally, Jill is missing a step in her argument. To gloss the cover as misogyny, she needs to make the case that Hillary is being depicted negatively in a way that men are not. A quick review of some past TNR covers should answer that with a definitive no.

TNR cover art has savaged Rudy Giuliani:

Dubya, of course:

Disastrous Democratic political consultant Bob Schrum:
Bad boy media crit Michael Wolff:

A Hillary analogue to any one of these covers could similarly be called misogynistic if viewed in isolation. Now it's possible that TNR management published these covers because they hate Italians, Jews, Texans and fat guys. But probably not. The New Republic publishes blistering profiles of public figures and illustrates them with unflattering caricatures. As women gain political prominence, they will receive the same treatment from TNR and similar magazines.

No one said equality would be easy.


Jill said...

Scott - What is your explanatino for why every one of your examples is an actual, bona fide caricature done in pen and ink and all men, but Clinton's cover is a photograph?

Were you able to find any photos of men that parallels the one of and the use by the one of Clinton?

Scott Piepho said...


You are messing with me, right? No seriously, your argument is that the Hillary image is a photograph?

This isn't just a distinction without a difference. This is a distinction whose difference, if anything, cuts the other way. If the situation were reversed, if the men's covers were all photos, you could argue that at least that's how those men actually look as opposed to Hillary for whom they took artistic license in the caricature.

But I'm game. Check out this Alito and this Dubya. Both unflattering, though I'm sure you can find differences in, I dunno, lighting or camera angle maybe.

Also, this photoshopped Romney. So by your logic that gets us, what, halfway to anti-Mormon hatred?

Jill said...

Scott, deconstruct all you want. Each person who has decided to defend TNR, whether explicitly or implicitly, has spent thousands more bytes than I have. Clearly it's set off a nerve.

Like or don't like how I'm saying what I think. Take down the "argument" as you want to call it anyway you like.

The cover is wrong, it is misogynistic, it has no journalistic value and it is more of the same from the MSM.

You disagree for all the reasons you cite.

I don't have a copy of the original to know whether it's photo-shopped or not, but don't chide me with "I'm game." That's condescending.

If TNR wanted to send a message that an image is a caricature of someone, TNR could have made that choice. They didn't. They used an image sure to feed into the feeding frenzy of, yes, people who hate Hillary, many of whom hate her because she is a woman.

There's not defensible about that choice.

Anonymous said...

so what, exactly, is genuinely "hatred of women" in my post, pho?

Anonymous said...

While I'm not sure the image is 100% misogynistic...

Jill does have a point about your examples. Caricatures are drawings deliberately exaggerated to produce a comic or grotesque effect. They are not photographs. Photographs are our 3D world captured and displayed in the 2D. They are perceived as reality, a caricature is well known to be an artist interpretation of an exaggerated state.

With that being said, I imagine if you looked harder you could find some photographic examples to illustrate your point.

Also, The assumption that the image does not play into gender stereotypes is weak. My interpretation of the photo is that Hillary appears hysterical, overcome with emotion. As you most likely know, Hysteria is rooted in a (no longer medically recognized) greek diagnoses of a madness which is particular to women. So generally, anytime you show a women and tag it with any "insane" kind of intrepretation you are treading in dangerous waters. It's like showing a photo of Obama eating watermelon, everyone eats watermelon right? You could show photos of McCain and Hillary eating watermelons and state "everyone eats fruit" but we would all suspect that there was an underlying racism to the Obama photo.

Now, I am still not sure this photo is inherently misogynistic but Jills diary (and subsequent conversations after it) have illustrated to me that misogyny is more commonplace than most believe. We, as a society, don't have a lot of experience with the nuiances of sexism. Unlike racism, where we have a longer history of it being pointed out to us in its various ugly forms.

Anonymous said...

Well said anonymous, I think the most important aspect that makes this appear to be based on a misogynistic agenda is the sterotyping that it portrays.

It's the same with the "shillary", the immature "iron my shirts", "I don't trust anything that bleeds for seven days and doesn't die", "you can't trust a woman with her finger on the button if she's pmsing", etc., etc.,

It's also amusing that so far most of those who think the picture is no big deal are men. Which given the sterotypes of males being insenstive brutes swaggering through life...

Seriously though, the fact that given the blantant woman bashing that has happened through the course of this presidential campaign the fact that anyone is surprised that a cover like this would generate some concern surprises me most of all. I'd suggest that is exactly what the magazine had in mind when it selected the cover and it appears to be working, they've generated much more attention than they would have gotten otherwise.

However, it also appears to be helping Hillary at least when it comes to generating support from women who are getting sick of it. If the stereotypes are going to reign, we might as well take full advantage of it.



Scott Piepho said...

Oh, good fucking Christ. I'll start with the easy one.

Tim your entire post is not about a woman whose personality or politics you disagree with, but broadens that discussion into women in general. Then we move from sexism to actual misogyny with this:

All the thought bubbles in the TNR cover could just as easily have been uttered by, oh, Jill on numerous blogs yesterday, or a wife whose husband asks her to pass the Doritoes, but instead delivers a blow to his head with her IKEA lamp.

And you have moved beyond the pale. We know the overwhelming bulk of domestic violence is perpetrated on women by men. But you site an apocryphal Ikea-wielding crazy woman to put all the onus on all women.

Scott Piepho said...


That is without a doubt the most condescending accusation of condescension I've been subject to.

For the record I wasn't condescending. Your argument is sufficiently weak that I would proudly cop to condescension if it had been my intent, but it was not. By "I'm game" I meant "Let's go" or "Bring it on" or "I accept your challenge and shall meet you on the dueling pitch at sunrise." I was accepting what I thought was a challenge to a real debate on the subject. Obviously I misread your intent.

You and Lisa Renee apparently do not intend to defend your positions with actual argument. You will not admit that when you view Hillary's treatment in context with other TNR covers, it's harder to make the assertion that TNR hates women. You instead simply assert over and over your exclusive rhetorical standing to determine what constitutes misogyny. I respected you enough to bring actual evidence and argument into the debate. You are not according me the same respect. You are simply dismissing my argument because I'm a man. There's a word for that . . .

Why do I care so much? Two reasons. The first is that I care about a charge like misogyny being overused because it becomes that much harder combat real misogyny when people get inured to the accusation.

The second is that you are damn close to making the argument that a woman candidate must be handled with softer gloves simply because she's a woman. That can't be good for either women or politics.

I get that there are differences. For example, if you were a dude, we'd be talking about your mouth writing checks and what part of you can't cash them. Inappropriate in mixed company. I get that.

But at some point, a woman candidate's character is important, just as a man's. If a male candidate was failing to manage a deeply dysfunctional campaign apparatus, he'd be mocked for it as well. And probably with an unflattering picture.

Tell me how we move forward. Tell me how we have women candidates who go through the political process with all it's snares and thorns and don't constantly have this drumbeat of "It's sexist it's sexist it's sexist." Or worse, it's misogynistic.

If that's the price of women participating in the political process, I'm grudgingly willing to pay, but you are going to get a lot of people passing it up.

Mencken said...

The businesses I deal with are staffed by a large percentage of women. That's not a problem, and in fact I prefer dealing with women because I think they're generally more honest. That said, I've had to one more than occasion say, " Look, I'm not arguing with you because you're a woman, I'm arguing with you because I think you're wrong". It's just that simple sometimes. If anyone is dissing women here it's Jill. Most of the women I know would be telling her to lighten the fuck up, including mother the Hillary supporter.

Jill said...

My refusal to engage under your conditions, where you are not interested in being persuaded but only interested in judging the strength of my argument only conveys meaning about my ability or desire to engage. It has nothing to do with the strength of the arguments available and you know that.

I've begun to educate myself about WOC and POC and in so doing, have come up against a lot of, "go figure it out for yourself." I really haven't understood that completely until now, Scott.

It is exhausting for POC to constantly explain to white people how they feel that things are different for them simply because of their color and no matter how much people - non-POC in particular - think that they're doing the best they can? It's still exhausting.

You are a smart, educated and pretty progressive guy.

If you want to ignore how it is that that TNR cover lacks value on every level except for garnering attention - which it clearly has done but only so people like Mencken can use curse words and suggest what women might do (bring those women in Mencken - love to meet 'em - are there names Ann Coulter and Randi Rhodes?), that's your choice.

I read somewhere yesterday someone suggesting that if the cover were a photo of Obama eating watermelon, maybe people would get why that cover is misogynistic. So don't tell me about saying softer gloves are necessary.

How about the same size hand for starters?

Scott Piepho said...

Jill, I would never in a million years dismiss your argument on the basis of your gender. That you and Lisa Renee have done tbat to me is all anyone needs to know about the value of continuing this discussion.

I'm very interested in being persuaded, but you saying the same thing over and over again isn't going to do it. I've explained both why I think the cover has "value" and that even if it was valueless, it wouldn't prove that TNR hates women. Your only response has been your photo/cartoon argument which I also responded to.

You could try to persuade me that you have some way of differentiating between critcisms of Hillary as a person and attacks on women. That's a damned important discussion to have. But ideological hectoring is just so much fun.

One example of your refusal to actually acknowledge the arguments on the other side -- the Obama watermelon analogy. Eric took pains to argue that the cover illustration doesn't reinforce any gendger stereotypes. How then is your watermelon hypotheticla analogous? It's not.

But that's the way you've run this whole discussion. A little distraction, a little straw man and a whole lot of "It's a woman thing; you wouldn't understand."

Anonymous said...

But Pho - your new photo covers do not present the subjects in negative circumstances. A Supreme Court Justice is supposed to be stern, Bush is just speaking seriously. Presidents are supposed to be serious (even though it is hard to take this one that way) These are not the same as presenting a woman as insane. Now, if the cover showed Alito in an image that evoked the Godfather or other thug italian gangster stereotypes , well, then we would be on equal par with the Hillary cover.

I do not see why everyone is telling Jill to calm down. This is the blogosphere not the work environment, this is where arguments are supposed to be taken out to there conclusions and no one is dismissing your argument simply because you are a man, Pho.Conversing about our different perspectives is how we move forward. Jill is not speaking for the Hillary camp. She is just speaking as a women. As a women, she finds the cover offensive.

Now, what if the shoe was on your foot? What if the cover was of a stay at home dad, what if the cover was a photo of YOU as a stay at home dad and instead of capturing you in the 99.9% of the time where you are your wonderful self, what if the photo they chose for the article was you in an unflattering circumstance (most likely taken out of context) that illustrated the stereotype that only women can raise children and men were unfit care providers. Maybe you would be a little more critical of the magazines intentions and would not so eagerly dismiss the charge that the cover was picked soley to garner attention and lacked any journalistic value.

BTW: This is a very good discussion and I hope that no one is getting overly heated.

Jill said...

Did it ever occur to you that maybe it IS a woman thing and men - at least some men - won't ever understand it?

I'm a Jew and just had to talk down a bunch of folks because someone else said, "ooo - it's so awful there and I don't know anything but I read one book and it says the world will have peace if we force relocation on all of the Jews in the Middle East to some place away from the Middle East! Cool!"

Guess what? The person who wrote that? Never going to understand why people are demanding that she apologize (I'm not one of them but this is another story).

Sometimes people who aren't similarly situation don't ever get it beyond a certain point, Scott.

Eric is Eric, Scott - he isn't me. So when you write, "Eric took pains to argue that the cover illustration doesn't reinforce any gendger stereotypes. How then is your watermelon hypotheticla analogous? It's not."

Hello? That's Eric describing it for himself - how he sees things.

Why are you so adamant that the way you see it and Eric and others MUST be the way EVERYONE should see it?

I accept that we are not seeing this same way. I see how it is that you see it your way - you don't see how I see it my way.

As I wrote before, this may be due more to my failures at making the argument - because for whatever reasons, I'm unable to explain it.

But I know it and I'm satisfied that I know it. It is a shame that I can't better explain it - but many, many others - men included - have.

Please read Lisa Renee's post here if you haven't already.

Again, as a lawyer, you know very well that many cases are lost not because the side that lost should lose but because it's attorneys stunk.

I've never called myself a feminist - I don't live in that lingo - I just live. But I know what is abusive and wrong and indicates and incites stereotype and hatred of women - and that cover exemplifies all that.

Anonymous said...

I did not see where Eric addressed the charges of hysteria and the history of women being stereotyped as insane. I only see him addressing the stereotype that "women belong in the house". Everyone of the headlines on the TNR Cover (that I can see) backs up the notion that Hillary is insane. She is not insane, she might be self centered or overly driven but she is not mentally ill. Besides, I am reading your blog not Erics. I come her for your arguments so please clarify what I was supposed to see on the other blog.

Anonymous said...

Please Please Please stop engaging Russo. It brings the level of the entire blogosphere down. Ignore his rants. Besides, if you prove him wrong 100 times over he'll never get it. The only people who read his blog are going there for a chuckle to see what the resident felon has to say. Who would take him seriously on anything? By his own accounts, He has no respect for the law, no respect for woman, no respect for children, no respect for his previous employers and no respect for the truth. Go there for the laugh but don't bother to hope for decent dialogue.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Russo is Hickman-like in his tenacious pursuit of this topic. As far as I can tell he has several posts over the last few days that all link back to the original posts by Jill & Pho - that were days ago. It appears that those bloggers have moved on. Russo is either a slow reader or...oh, nevermind.

Oh, and I didn't find the cover at all misogynistic.

Mencken said...

Jill, my women friends are strident banshees because they have confidence, intelligence, and oh my god... a sense of humor ?

That's as tacky and unfounded an assertion as someone blaming your rant on PMS.

Jill said...

"my women friends are strident banshees because they have confidence, intelligence, and oh my god... a sense of humor ? "

Are any of your women friends confident, intelligent, with a sense of humor and NOT strident banshees?

Do you really not see the stereotype you're advancing with that description?

Scott Piepho said...

Jill, it's no worse than your implication that the only way a woman could disagree with you is if she is herself a self-hating anti-feminist winger (Coulter) or wrongheaded vulgarian (Rhodes).

Jill said...

Pho wrote: "Jill, it's no worse than your implication that the only way a woman could disagree with you is if she is herself a self-hating anti-feminist winger (Coulter) or wrongheaded vulgarian (Rhodes)."

Scott - what I intended to imply was that I don't know anyone who would say what Mencken says his female friends would say, which was, "Most of the women I know would be telling her to lighten the fuck up, including mother the Hillary supporter."

I honestly don't have a single female friend who would say that. And the only women I could think of who would say that are women like Rhodes and Coulter.

I also didn't realize that we're comparing "worse" implications and don't really get why you put it like that. But I'm also beyond exhausted so I apologize for not getting it.

Mencken said...

Jill, you seemed to have missed or dismissed the question mark at the end of my statement. The Rhodes/Coulter stereotype was your invention, not mine.

John Ettorre said...

Scott, your posting of equally devastating covers on men is the most effective possible retort to this silliness. So good for you. My friend Jill, alas, has officially jumped the shark on this issue. I think we should all go back and read Deborah Tannen's classic book on how men and women use and interpret language in markedly different ways. I'm beginning to think we're descended from different species.

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