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Joanne Bamberger Headshot

Game Change -- Sexism at its Worst

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So let me get this straight -- with the exception of Michelle Obama, all the women who were center stage in the 2008 presidential election (whether they were candidates or not) are bitchy, stupid, whining shrews?

If this is where we are in 2010 when it comes to permissible portrayals of women, I may have to live to be 237 before we're treated with even a modicum of respect.

I am SO weary of men journalists (and some women) thinking they can get away with sexist slams of women in the name of political commentary. The authors of Game Change, the long on gossip, short on real reporting book, apparently want us to believe that all the things we hated about the 2008 presidential campaign can be blamed on the women who were involved.

Yes, ladies -- apparently everything you didn't like in 2008 was all our fault!

Seriously?

The whole John Edwards fiasco was Elizabeth Edwards' doing? She bears more blame than her husband in his actions and the potential impact that could have had on our country? That's just the stuff of fairy tales. So I have to ask -- where is the political or historical value to calling Elizabeth Edwards names because maybe she wasn't always nice to staffers. Sarah Palin is described as Eliza Doolittle and there's gossip aplenty in describing Cindy McCain and Hillary Clinton and tiffs with their spouses. And they call this insightful political commentary?

The only woman who escapes unscathed is Michelle Obama, but who's going to bad mouth a sitting First Lady? Wouldn't want to have that come out and be in the doghouse with the President.

If this is what passes for political journalism or commentary today, I shudder to think what future generations would think of us if a copy of Game Change lands in some time capsule and ends up being the example of our political world in 2008.

The media has been worshiping at the alter of authors Mark Halperin and John Heilemann since the book came out. But at least there are two voices of reason in the media wilderness that I hope will get through to potential readers -- Salon.com's Joan Walsh and The Plain Dealer's Connie Schultz.

Walsh really let those boys have it, and I was happy to see she didn't pull any punches when Ed Schultz on MSNBC was in full 'Elizabeth-Edwards-is-to-blame-for-the-downfall-of-the-Democratic-party' mode. Connie Schultz also weighed in with some plain talk at her column trying to get our focus back were it belongs -- on real news and not on the gratuitous attacks on a betrayed wife who is battling cancer.

So what's the motivation of these authors -- two men with high profile journalism jobs who have decided that the villains in the 2008 campaign were the women, even if they weren't the candidates? That's easy -- money. It's not a good time to be selling books when the publishing industry is going downhill. So it's not a stretch to think that a book that's a cross between political commentary and Us Weekly is going to do better in the marketplace than one that actually provides perspective into an historical election.

Game Change isn't journalism; it is gossip-mongering at its worst. Why do I say that? Well, essentially the whole book was written on "deep background" -- meaning that none of the sources would agree to be directly quoted and the authors would preserve the anonymity of the sources. No one is accountable for what they said. The sources could say or make up whatever they wanted. Campaign staffers who were miffed or bruised over their treatment could vent about anyone with abandon and not suffer any backlash.

Deep background has its place. After all, it did help Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein bring the Watergate scandal out in the open. Given the nature of Game Change, I don't think anyone will be confusing "Woodstein's" All the President's Men with "Halpermann's" book or contribution to investigative reporting.

Between the attacks against almost all the women in the book and the male journos ooh-ing and ahh-ing over this piece of faux-journalism, it's clear that women in the political world don't stand a chance to escape the rampant sexism that is alive and well in the 21st century.

The real "game change"? That might happen if we could lose the sexist rhetoric and drama. Or maybe I could write a version of this story with another woman and take on the flip side! I have no doubt we could come up with some irrelevant, misogynistic things to say about the guys, too. Maybe a dose of their own sexist medicine would get some of these men to understand what they're doing and why it's time to let it go.

Joanne Bamberger, a Washington, D.C.-based writer and political analyst, is the founder of the political blog, PunditMom. Her book about the increasing involvement and impact of mothers in the world of politics will be published this fall by Bright Sky Press.