Thursday, June 10, 2010

Watch out! Two women are running for some kind of elected office!

Hey guys, have you heard about Carly and Meg?  They're like totally the best of friends, and they both used to be tech CEOs, and sometimes they talk about hair.  It's like the girl-power, lady-explosion, sister-tech takeover in Washington!  Errr...California.  Anyway, it's BIG NEWS.  About girly stuff.

Ugh.  It's only June, and we're in for this until November.  As Mongoose just pointed out, there are plenty of reasons to be excited about the huge inroads women are making in politics during this primary season.  There's also one big reason not to be, and that's the gushing, cliched media coverage these women have received, especially in the case of Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman. 

The news media has officially confirmed to me that there is no way for them to cover women doing things that a lot of men do without falling over in a heap of trite phrases and girl-power cliches.  I am starting to resign myself that every article written about these two politicians will put them together, as though they're in some kind of "Women CEOs run for office" buddy comedy.  Wonkette points out that the media cannot resist comparing "Carly and Meg" to "Barbara and Diane," two women who also once ran for office.  I think we're in for a verrrry long electoral season of wardrobe dissection, dissection of the wardrobe dissection, inside scoops on how close the two candidates really are, interviews with family members about who cooks dinner, comparisons to Sarah Palin, and other things that make me wish California's political goings on could be covered as lightly by the US news media as they cover Britain and other foreign countries.

The New York Times actually ran a 1,000-word story about Carly Fiorina making a comment about her opponent's hair in between interview segments.  A comment she was quoting from a message on her blackberry.  Some people think she should apologize, and that the comment might be perceived as "catty."  That's it, that's the story.  Stretched out into 1,000 words in which they call Meg Whitman Fiorina's "BFF on the stump."  Seriously--would anyone ever use that language in a story about a male politician?

Especially because these two women are Republicans, it's up to all of us to resist our own urges to be trite and cute with regard to their candidacies.  We have to refuse to call them "Carly and Meg," like they're two neighborhood teenagers.  We have to refuse to discuss their hair and outfits, and comments about other people's hair and outfits, and complain about any news sites that do.  We don't have to like their politics (especially since neither one of them seemed to have these politics prior to priming the campaign pump).  But we do have to defend their right to run for office with those politics, just like everyone else, in an equal environment, with a news media that can at least make a show of looking past their girly-girl Republican girly-ness and evaluating their candidacies.  We have to fight for Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman's right to come to the table as equals.  Because if they can't, we can't.


  1. i agree that the media coverage is sexist, but the fact that they are nominated should not be overlooked or downplayed as "some kind of office". These two are now the GOP candidates for Governor and Senator of California. This is a big deal for several reasons. There aren't many female governors or senators in this country so seeing people embrace a female in charge is certainly a change. Second, the fact that these are GOP candidates is another interesting narrative. 2008 brought female politicians in the forefront- Clinton and Palin. Who would've thought the GOP would embrace female politicians- aren't they the ones who want women to stay at home. it's certainly very interesting.

  2. Hey Vanny, sorry, it was an attempt at humor. I just felt that the media coverage was like--"we don't even know what they're running for, but they're both women!" This is apparent because it's very odd to pair the governor race and the senate race in the same news story since one is a state office and one is a national office, but it seemed those details were beside the point in the rush to print "girl power!" stories.

  3. technically, comparisons to palin could be brought up when it comes to coverage of these candidates. palin, a female, running as a republican running-mate, was and still is popular. it's not because she's smart. because she's not smart. she's "hot", she's folksy (in her speech patterns at least), she's this new type of feminist that would make actual feminists want to gouge out their eyes. that's the type of woman republicans apparently want running on their platform. it worked for palin, so why blame the media for covering a republican the way republicans want women politicians covered?

  4. Um, that's the problem. I refuse to put Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman into some kind of "category" with Palin just because they are all Republican women. Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman are both established business-people and authors, who actually happen to be first time candidates, whereas Palin was already in elected office when she launched her campaign. Neither Fiorina nor Whitman seems to be running a campaign based around looks or charm, and are instead focusing on leadership credentials. For Whitman's part, she's experienced in the political world, having worked on both Romney and McCain's campaign. And in case anyone is wondering if they really are "BFF"s, Whitman has actually donated to Fiorina's current opponent, Barbara Boxer. These are both interesting women with interesting ideas running interesting campaigns. Let's approach them on their own merits. For my part, I find Whitman to be a strong candidate, whereas Fiorina's credentials are decidedly more mixed.

  5. The media coverage is always sexist but so are these women who belong to a party that wants to hold women back in the dark ages.


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