I don't know why I'm still surprised by the sexism that continues to exist at media outlets today, especially when it comes to anything Hillary Clinton does or says. Even with analysts and talking heads proclaiming that she is the frontrunner for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination and that she is more beloved by Americans than at any point in her life, some "news" people still can't quite help themselves if there's an opportunity to get in a little dig at the current Secretary of State.
As Clinton was testifying at the hearings about the attack on the American compound in Benghazi, Libya last year, she understandably became a bit emotional when talking about the deaths of four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens. After more than two hours of testifying before some not-so-friendly senators, those guys at CNN couldn't help but focus on how "emotional" she was and that her less-than-stoic performance was clearly because she was still suffering from "exhaustion."
She got emotional about having to call the families of those who died. She choked up as she recalled when the bodies of those murdered in Libya were returned to American soil. But the few emotions she displayed weren't because she's human, but because she's tired and worn out? Funny, I don't remember any cable TV talking heads saying anything similar about President Obama when he displayed his emotions as he talked about the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. Wait, what did the media say about him? Oh, now I remember -- he was taking the events seriously and "mourning" those deaths. He spoke "movingly" through his "overwhelming grief."
Clearly, Hillary was perceiving things correctly during her 2008 presidential campaign when she wondered whether she had to keep up a tough "yes I am strong enough to be Commander in Chief" exterior, because some of us haven't gotten past what's been ingrained in us societally -- that if a man cries, it's an honest show of emotion. If a woman even chokes up, she is a weak little girl who can't be trusted in a position of power.
There really isn't a whole lot more to say on this before I move to the banging my head on my desk stage. It's the same song, 837th verse when it comes to this type of sexism in the media. It's not blatant and it's easy enough for the perpetrators to explain it away when confronted. But we know it's there, in that certain tone of voice, the small gestures, and the looks that pass between male commentators on TV that tell the tale.
Clearly, Hillary Clinton can take care of herself, as evidenced in the Senate Benghazi hearings, though I have to take exception with the -- yes, sexist -- headline for this video, "Hillary Clinton Erupts at Ron Johnson Over Benghazi Attack":
I would hardly call that "erupting." I'd say it was more like speaking forcefully and with conviction while not backing down to a bully. Oh, wait -- that's how it would be described if it had been a man. And not to be outdone, one Atlanta Journal Constitution headline refers to Clinton in her testimony as "feisty."
As long as the male cable TV power brokers continue to speak about powerful women in this way, the rest of us are held down and kept in "our place." Of course, it's been clear for many years that Hillary has a special place when it comes to media disdain. If she hadn't teared up or become emotional during her Benghazi testimony to the Senate, she would have been called a stone cold, disrespectful be-yotch, or worse. But finding something sexist to say about Hillary Clinton is always easier than actual, thoughtful analysis of the real news.
Joanne Bamberger is the author of the Amazon.com bestseller (and her own "binder full of women"), Mothers of Intention: How Women and Social Media are Revolutionizing Politics in America, the first book to examine the rise of the political motherhood movement. Joanne, a Washington, D.C.-based writer and political/media analyst, is the founder of the political blog, PunditMom, and the women's online commentary magazine, The Broad Side. You can also find her political commentary at Politico's Arena.
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