Blog for Fair Pay Day

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Today is Equal Pay Day. Each year, Equal Pay Day falls in April because it symbolizes how far into the next year women must work to earn what men do in the previous year. Similarly, Tuesday is the day on which women’s wages catch up to men’s for the previous week.

Despite increases with the Equal Pay Act, women continue to be paid significantly less than men. The average for women is $0.78 for every dollar men make. To be sure, that’s a major improvement from the $0.59 women received when the Equal Pay Act was passed in 1963, but it’s still entirely unacceptable. There is no reason women should not be paid as much as men.

Along with it, progressive bloggers across the United States are holding a “Blog For Fair Pay Day” to encourage action in support of women’s fair pay.

Women’s Wages in Michigan

Here in Michigan, women are paid only $0.72 cents for every dollar paid to men. That’s six cents less than the national average of $0.78. Women in Michigan are paid less than every neighboring state with the exception of Indiana.

Some more interesting statistics:

  • White, non-Hispanic women working full-time, year-round in Michigan earned only 70% of the wages of White, non-Hispanic men. However, Black women working full-time, year-round in Michigan earned only 64%, and Hispanic women only 56% of the wages of White, non-Hispanic men.
  • The wage gap persists at all levels of education. Women in Michigan with a high school diploma earned only 62% of what men with a high school diploma earned. Women in Michigan with a bachelor’s degree earned only 60% of the amount that men with a bachelor’s degree were paid. In fact, the average Michigan woman must receive a bachelor’s degree before she earns as much as the average Michigan male high school graduate.
  • The wage gap exists across occupations. For example, Michigan women working fulltime, year-round in sales and related occupations earned only 73% of what men in the same occupations earned, and Michigan women working full-time, year-round in management, business, and financial occupations earned only 69% of what men in the same occupations earned.

Moreover, the National Women’s Law Center says that women in Michigan hold a more precarious position in the economy than men. They report that aside from lower earnings, women have higher rates of poverty. Women are also more likely to face problems if they lose their jobs, with fewer women having savings to fall back on. Women also rely more on government programs such as Medicaid, food stamps, and housing assistance than men–programs which are threatened in the current economy.

Take Action for Fair Pay

Back in January, President Barack Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. However, the Paycheck Fairness Act has stalled in the Senate (it has already passed in the House, but Grand Rapids Representative Vern Ehlers did vote against it). The bill would deter wage discrimination by closing loopholes in the Equal Pay Act and barring retaliation against workers who disclose their wages.

Send a letter to your Senator urging them to vote for the Paycheck Fairness Act.

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WXMI’s Website: Lowering Expectations for TV News Even Further

WXMI Fox 17

In recent years, the television news stations in West Michigan have aggressively marketed their websites to viewers and in some cases have said that they can provide supplemental coverage that they can’t afford to provide on air. They even go so far as to suggest that they are doing their viewers a favor.

The practical effect of local news stations investing resources in their websites has often meant overly bloated pages cover in ads (or even pop-under ads in the case of WOOD TV 8) that are packed with all manner of features designed to attract visitors and advertising revenue. In some cases, the features might be useful–for example in the case of voter guides–but often they are just things like coupons or less than interesting blog postings.

However, some new features on WXMI Fox 17’s site caught my eye yesterday. In their quest for viewers, they’ve made some awful choices that appeal to some of the worst inclinations in the U.S.

They’ve added a “Babes of Fox” photo gallery–perhaps taking some inspiration from local radio stations–to appeal to the more misogynist elements in West Michigan. As if the entertainment media isn’t filled with enough hyper-sexualized content, now WXMI seems to think we need to see it on a news website. The worst part is probably the fact that this content–and what it teaches us about how heterosexual men are supposed to view women–is promoted on every page. So for example, on a story about a man accused of raping an Iraqi girl, WXMI plugs their “Babes of Fox” feature.

They’ve also added a gallery of “Mug Shots.” While they accompany them with the text “Arrest and booking photos are provided by law enforcement officials. Arrest does not imply guilt, and criminal charges are merely accusations,” there is really no reason for them to be on the site. In their gallery, the overwhelming majority are people of color–which just reinforces the racist notion that most crime is committed by people of color.

I know we can’t expect much from television news, but come on–this is pathetic!

MADRE: War not Helping the Women of Afghanistan

U.S. Afghanistan War and Women

In the debate over the ongoing occupation of Afghanistan and Obama’s escaltion of the war, one of the more cynical arguments is that the United States must continue its war because it cares for the women of Afghanistan.

The argument is frequently made, and perhaps most surprisingly, comes from supporters of the war on both the left and the right.

However, it’s an argument that is easily debunked when one looks at the reality for women in Afghanistan. As we wrote last week, the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) has opposed this rationale saying that conditions for women have not improved in Afghanistan.

The international women’s group MADRE is the latest to weigh in on this issue. It writes that the U.S. war has had devastating consequences for women:

The Consequences of US Invasion of Afghanistan for Women

  • The Bush Administration justified the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 by pointing to the Taliban’s systematic abuse of women. But subsequent US policies in Afghanistan did not uphold women’s human rights. As a result:
    1. 1 in every 3 Afghan women experience physical, psychological or sexual violence
    2. 70 to 80 percent of women face forced marriages in Afghanistan
    3. Every 30 minutes, an Afghan woman dies during childbirth
    4. 87 percent of Afghan women are illiterate
    5. 30 percent of girls have access to education in Afghanistan
    6. 44 years is the average life expectancy rate for women in Afghanistan
  • While school enrollment is high in cities, in the southern provinces the number drops to 20% of children overall–and almost zero for girls.
  • In these provinces, where extremist forces crack down on women’s freedoms, the US has failed to fund humanitarian and reconstruction efforts for years.

Moreover, the organization argues that “Taliban-style extremism” is a product of U.S. intervention in the country. It writes that the United States frequently supported Islamists and extremists in order to counter socialists and nationalists who the U.S. feared might ally with the Soviet Union.

MADRE Opposes U.S. Escalation

MADRE has also released a statement opposing the U.S. escalation arguing in part that military force will not eliminate rampant abuses of women’s rights in the country. To support its assertion, it points to the failure of the war to secure women’s rights.

Beyond its failure to secure women’s rights, MADRE outlines other objections to the escalation. It argues that civilian casualties will likely increase and points to the failure of a 2007 “surge” in which the number of U.S./NATO troops were increased by 45% and violence increased dramatically.

MADRE further cites Afghanistan opposition to the U.S. presence and the unpopularity of the corrupt Karzai government as reason to oppose the war.

Afghan Law Allows Rape of Women in Marriage–This is Liberation?

Afghanistan Women's 'Liberation': Rape Allowed in Marriage

In the aftermath of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, elite and mainstream opinion in the United States often sought to justify the war as being not only aimed at lessening the threat of terrorist attacks against the United States, but also as a way of overthrowing the brutal regime hostile to women’s rights. Proponents of the invasion said that an underlying goal was to “liberate” the women of Afghanistan.

Former First Lady Laura Bush described the policy, stating:

“Because of our recent military gains in much of Afghanistan, women are no longer imprisoned in their homes. They can listen to music and teach their daughters without fear of punishment. Yet the terrorists who helped rule that country now plot and plan in many countries. And they must be stopped. The fight against terrorism is also a fight for the rights and dignity of women.”

Numerous writers have critiqued this rationale, pointing out that the United States was silent to years of abuses before the 9/11 terrorist attacks and showing that progress has been slow.

The Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) has been highly critical of this rationale, stating:

“After the US and allies invaded Afghanistan around seven years ago, they misleadingly claimed of bringing peace and democracy and liberating Afghan women from the bleeding fetters of the Taliban. But in reality Afghan women are still burning voraciously in the inferno of fundamentalism. Women are exchanged with dogs, girls are gang-raped, men in the Jehadi-dominated society kill their wives viciously and violently, burn them by throwing hot water, cut off their nose and toes, innocent women are stoned to death and other heinous crimes are being committed.”

There have been relatively few gains for women and many of the abuses that took place under the Taliban are continuing to this day.

New Law Legalizes Rape in Marriage

Now, Afghanistan’s president Hamid Karzai–who’s administration depends on U.S. support for its survival–has signed a law that legalizes rape within marriage and bans wives from leaving their homes without their husbands permission.

The law has not yet been published, but according to media reports the law:

“…the law is believed to contain articles that rule women cannot leave the house without their husbands’ permission, that they can only seek work, education or visit the doctor with their husbands’ permission, and that they cannot refuse their husband sex.

A briefing document prepared by the United Nations Development Fund for Women also warns that the law grants custody of children to fathers and grandfathers only.”

So, this is women’s liberation?

Blogger and Author Speaks on the Importance of Feminism

Jessica Valenti on the Importance of Feminism

In the world we live in, we are reminded daily of why feminism is important.

For blogger and author Jessica Valenti who spoke Monday at Grand Valley State University, she cited a few recent examples: the story of an Arizona State University student raped by a man who was kicked out for rape accusations but was allowed back into school to play football, an ad using women’s bodies to sell shampoo, and the media’s publishing photos of pop star Rihanna after being the victim of domestic assault.

For Valenti, these are just a small sampling of the many reasons why she calls herself a feminist. She said that the common stereotypes of feminism–from man-haters to bra burning–are cultivated by groups who want to benefit from keeping women in subservient positions.

However, Valenti said that the fact that so many seek to discredit feminism is proof its power.

Feministing.com and Young Feminism

Back in 2004, Valenti started the blog Feministing.com while working at a national feminist organization. At the time, she saw few outlets for young feminists online and had experience the marginalization of their ideas within the major feminist organizations.

She took a new approach with Feministing.com and worked to make feminism “fun, cool, and edgy” to extend its appeal to a new group of women. The site thrives based on its community (readers interact extensively through comments and blog posting) while at the same time it works to move blogging away from simply being commentary and towards activism. She cited examples of getting lawmakers to pull patriarchal legislation and pressuring companies to stop selling offensive clothing. The website also engages in media watchdogging and highlights examples of sexism in the media.

Valenti emphasized that the site has been able to attract thousands of readers by being informal and funny. She said that if you talk “to” and not “at” young women, they are quite receptive and that they understand the importance of feminism. Moreover, she also said that it is critical to make feminism accessible to anyone and not just college-educated people reading feminist theory.

The Purity Myth

Valenti’s work on Feministing.com has led to three books–Full Frontal Feminism: A Young Woman’s Guide to Why Feminism Matters, He’s a Stud, She’s a Slut, and 49 Other Double Standards Every Woman Should Know, and the forthcoming The Purity Myth: How America’s Obsession with Virginity Is Hurting Young Women.

Over the past few years, she has begun to take an interest in how women’s sexuality is being portrayed in the media and how that relates to notions of purity. This led to The Purity Myth. She cited examples of media coverage that express fear of women’s sexuality, books that argue sex leads to depression, and rightwing groups that charge that female students will become dropouts with STDs if they have sex. At the same time, she noticed a parallel trend of legislative policies that have emphasized abstinence only education, banned access to Plan B, and other such policies. This has created a situation in which a moral panic, conservative organizations, and traditional gender roles are pushing women to choose between an unattainable purity myth and a hyper-sexualized version of femininity.

Optimistic about Feminism’s Future

Despite the daily outrages of a patriarchal society, Valenti said that she is optimistic about the future of feminism. She said that she sees more people getting involved and is inspiring by the steady stream of victories and activism ranging from girls pressuring Abercrombie to pull sexist t-shirts to rock camps for girls.

Aquinas Nixes Vagina Monologues, Allows Jane Doe Project

Aquinas The Jane Doe Project

On Thursday night, an original play titled The Jane Doe Project was performed at Aquinas College. The play was written by Aquinas student Cheyna Roczkowski in December after the Aquinas administration would not allow The Vagina Monologues to be performed on campus due its controversial sexual content.

In response, Roczkowski chose to write a play based on the experiences of Aquinas women (students, faculty and alumni, shared with the student writer and included anonymously in the play), meant to raise awareness about the issue of violence against women.

The play was part of a week of events, including a movie night and letter writing campaign on Aquinas’ campus. Before the performance was a cupcake sale, in which $381 were raised. The proceeds will be divided between several women’s organizations in the area. There was a high turnout, including members of the Aquinas Administration.

The Performance

The play was a series of monologues performed by eight female students dressed in black, all of whom entered the stage saying “I am Jane Doe,” who was established to be a “New Feminist,” a faceless person to represent all women. Silence as the enemy was the theme of the play–its goal to open up conversation about violence against women, and “fight the system” through education.

The stories varied in style and topic: a woman raped by her brother at a young age, a diary entry of a lesbian degraded and raped by a male, a series of letters burned on stage detailing an abusive relationship, a mother and daughter grappling with the daughter having been conceived by rape, and a woman whose sister had to have reconstructive surgery during an abusive relationship. In between were comedic sketches about happy relationships, bad pick up lines, and working out at the gym. There were also various derogatory phrases from around the world highlighted throughout the performance (“Words are for women, actions are for men.”)

The stories were powerful, for their content and the knowledge that they had actually happened to women in the Aquinas community. Although none of the students in the play were experienced actors, all of the parts were read passionately and effectively.

Pro-Choice Advocacy

The Jane Doe Project occurred during the second Pro-Life Awareness Week of the academic year at Aquinas. The abortion issue came up, as one student defiantly stated that being pro-choice does not mean pro-abortion.

Critiques

A running theme throughout the play was the idea of a “New Feminist,” similar to third-wave feminism – the idea that wearing revealing clothes and make up (“high heels, red lipstick, curve accentuating jeans and showing a little cleavage”) should be empowering. Many who identify as feminists, however, would argue that societal pressure to cover their faces with products and wear clothes that reveal their body is extremely disempowering, and prefer not to consume these products.

The play was also hetero-normative, as every romantic couple portrayed (notably the positive, healthy examples as well as the abusive) was heterosexual.

Overall, The Jane Doe Project brought up an important issue, but its message was convoluted by some mainstream societal ideas.

Empowered Women’s Health Workshop Explores Alternatives to Traditional Healthcare

An Empowered Women's Health Workshop Hosted by The Bloom Collective Provided Alternatives to Corporate Dominated Healthcare

On Saturday, about 25 people of various ages gathered at the Tanglefoot building for the Empowered Women’s Health Workshop, hosted by The Bloom Collective.

The workshops were varied in topic and in style:

Birthing and Pregnancy

The first workshop, about a woman-sense approaching to birthing and pregnancy, was facilitated by Yolanda Visser, a local lay midwife who has been practicing for 20 years. Visser talked about how giving birth has become “medicalized,” but that there are other aspects to the process. For example, Visser focuses on a spiritual component as well, noting that birth is inherently spiritual as the miracle of life. She also makes sure to care for the mother as well as the child during the birthing process.

Some of the challenges of home birthing were also discussed. For example, in Michigan home births are legal, but in nearby states they are not.

Media and Marketing – “Pink” Products

Following this was a workshop about media and marketing targeting women for profit, facilitated by Julia Mason, asst. professor of Women and Gender Studies at GVSU and Mindy Holohan, a member of Kent County Friends of Coalition for a Commercial Free Childhood.

Mason began the discussion by talking about recent campaigns for breast cancer awareness. She stated her opinion that the issue of breast cancer needs to be focused on as a societal issue, rather than individual. On the subject of “pink” consumer products, she noted that it is important to be educated on whether or not the company you buy from will actually do anything concrete with the profits – Mason recommended www.thinkbeforeyoupink.com as a resource to educate yourself on which products are legitimate. She pointed out the contradiction of many of these “pink ribbon” products, noting that many women’s pharmaceuticals contain cancer causing chemicals, but then convince consumers to buy their products in order to fight cancer. The discussion was then led to the problems of a consumerism viewed as a fix for societal problems – most people present were critical of the current cultures which dictates that we all need more stuff to be happy.

Marketing Toward Young Children

Mindy Holohan focused on marketing toward young children – she read off some disturbing statistics (the average male sees his first pornographic image at age 11.5, a life size Barbie would have a 16 inch waist), saying “we are a culture in crisis.” To further illustrate her point, she passed around disturbing advertising images of dolls distributed in Happy Meals dressed provocatively and caked with make up, of 4 year old human models dressed in the same manner, and advertising for young males which shows unrealistically muscular men and promotes stereotypes. Holohan called on society’s fathers to step up and learn to be supportive for their young daughters as they navigate through this sea of advertising – “There is no time a girl needs her Dad more than early adolescence, but that’s when they’re pulling away.”

Menstrual Health

The next workshop, “De-Sanitizing Our Menstrual Health,” facilitated by GVSU student Rachel Hamilton and Lori Day, utilized a more hands-on approach. Materials and instructions for everyone present (whether or not they themselves menstruate) were shared to sew their own reusable menstrual pad. While everyone sewed, the facilitators talked about how our culture has made menstruation a taboo topic, and they encouraged everyone to get rid of that stigma and share their own experiences.

During discussion, it came up that many young women are confused when their first cycle occurs, because so little information about menstruation was given to them prior. Discussion continued to the problems of the most commonly used products – disposable pads and tampons. As with any disposable product, these are harmful to the environment, both in their manufacturing process and after being thrown out. They also contain toxins which are harmful to the body, most of which are added during the bleaching process (contradictorily, the only reason these products are bleached is give the illusion of cleanliness.)

Many alternatives were shared: reusable pads, menstrual cups (the Diva Cup and the Keeper were two brands mentioned), sponges and disposable cups, all of which are better for women’s bodies and the environment.

Meditation

The final workshop of the day, facilitated by Kathy Reider of Intuitive Services, began with an explanation of the benefits of meditation: meditation gives one’s body the chance to everything down, and helps the body heal more quickly. Meditation connects you to the fullness of who you are, allowing you to have better relationships. Reider said, “being grounded is your natural state. Thinking is not.” The group was then led through a meditation technique, which some found beneficial, and others struggled to relax.

For the final twenty minutes, everyone participated in a go-around in which we shared what we do for our own health. Exercise, a healthy diet, using a menstrual cup, and many other ideas were mentioned.

Overall, the workshops represented a variety of opinions and encouraged productive discussion among everyone present.

Empowered Women’s Health Workshop Saturday

An Empowered Women's Health Workshop will Provide Alternatives to the Corporate Health Care System

On Saturday March 7, the Bloom Collective will be hosting an Empowered Women’s Health Workshop, to be held at the Tanglefoot Building, located at 314 Straight SW, Door M. The workshop will provide information for women interested in avoiding the mainstream system of health care which has been corrupted by corporate capitalism. The focus will be on empowering women in the challenge to live outside of the mainstream, as well as providing education for self-care practices.

Schedule of events:

  • 9:30 A Woman-sense approach to Pregnancy & Birth a presentation by Yolanda Visser, local lay midwife with more than 20 years in practice.
  • 11:45 How Media and Marketing Package Women for Profit, a panel discussion with Julia Mason, asst. professor of Women and Gender Studies, GVSU and Mindy Holohan, Kent County Friends of Coalition for a Commercial Free Childhood
  • 1:45 – 2:45 De-sanitizing Our Menstrual Health with Rachael Hamilton, GVSU a presentation/discussion which will include a DIY pad making activity.
  • 3 – 4:30 Sharing Empowered Alternatives, a group sharing experience which includes instruction on meditation for stress relief by Kathy Reider of Intuitive Services.

The workshop is free. As one facilitator said, “The workshop is intentionally free because access to health information, or healthcare for that matter, should not be based on one’s ability to pay.”

A vegan potluck lunch will be included. The Bloom Collective will provide main dishes, attendees are asked to bring a side dish to pass.

The Porning of America: The Rise of Porn Culture, What It Means, and Where We Go from Here

Click on the image to purchase this book through Amazon.com. Purchases help support MediaMouse.org.

The Porning of America: The Rise of Porn Culture, What It Means, and Where We Go from Here takes us on a dark journey through the intriguing history of pornography in the United States. Chronologically, the text details the birth of pornography beginning with the good ole “innocent” days of the 1950s to the current state of what is termed “violent porn”.

Looking back at soldiers returning home after World War II, Sarracino and Scott explain the era’s mantra of purity as being anything but. A culture saturated in post-war patriotism and the strongly divided gender roles of heroic men and June Cleaver women, paints a stereotypical backdrop of how most people picture this era. Though many of these stereotypes prove to be overwhelmingly true, this book debunks every myth of this time period as being just good old fashioned innocence.

Starting with the explosive trend of comic books amongst all ages and groups of people, their pictures and stories transition from super hero themed to young blonde women bound to a stake with breasts large and protruding, being saved from torturous Nazi villains (to reinforce patriotism and emphasize who were our enemies at the time) sets the stage for the desensitization of violence toward more (again at that time) scantily-clad women. Comic books paved the way for the mass production of MAMs (Mens Adventure Magazines) which included far more graphic and violent themes of torture. They also were a portal of sorts for the advertisement of sex manuals, lingerie, and hardcore porn.

MAMs can be thanked for their ability to enter the homes of Americans and begin raising what Sarracino and Scott call the “shock bar” by creating each issue more and more extreme. This extremeness is what the authors consider to be more closely related to porn in the present, rather than such tame porn (by comparison) as Playboy and pinup girl photos like those of Betty Page.

The importance of examining the history of pornography might help answer the big question the book asks: when did our society begin to accept violent porn, entailing largely violence toward women, and all of its many haunting facets (which are generously spared in this review, however not in the book itself)? While many clues lie in the history of pornography, pinpointing when we accepted pornography is far less chilling than pondering whether or not we will stop accepting it.

The authors do an amazing job of analyzing violence and sexualizing ingrained in our culture through media. Hot and current Internet sites such as MySpace and Facebook may well contribute to part of our desensitization and underline the peculiarity of how we view people and ourselves. In vain and comodifying ways, we have become addicted to looking at other people on the Internet. We are, in fact, obsessed with looking at screens that display other peoples’ lives, or updates of our own. In the same manner, many Americans are addicted to viewing pornography for its quickly paced “outdoing” of itself – in other words, raising the shock bar.

Sarracino and Scott, grippingly explain this obsession of seeing other people as being obsessed with taking pleasure in other peoples’ misfortunes. The text references Paris Hilton and Brittany Spears. We sexualize these two women whether they want to be or not, because of their identity as women. We extract any humanness from them and view them only for their sex. We take this further and we ridicule them for their body size, delight in their breakdowns, and get off on their mistakes. Though this is a mainstream example, it precisely parallels the flavor of pornography.

While the text intertwines stories, commercials, and highlights the lives of very influential people such as Madonna and Snoop Dogg, the authors also include astonishing statistics of how this process of sexualization influences young girls and women and the horrific ramifications of growing up in a “porned” culture will have on them for the rest of their lives. While the book argues that women will mainly suffer from these ramifications, it also emphasizes how other groups of people are affected. Devoting a large portion of the book to the Abu Grahib prisoner torture, the authors conclude that many of the acts and torture methods implemented were extracted directly from violent pornography.

The treatment of women and other people, for example Abu Grahib prisoners, mainstreams what porn has been doing all along. The beginning of the book discusses the notion of not noticing something when it becomes part of our everyday lives. This disturbing revelation is what is argued needs to be eradicated completely before it is embedded so far in us, that we do not even see it anymore.

A criticism one could make of the book is that when Sarracino and Scott discuss the mildness of amateur porn and porn made for women, they term this as being more erotica than actual porn. While this may be the case, the notion that people demonstrating sexual acts on camera or in photos still sexualizes them. And while the storyline of this form of erotica may be more enticing with emphasis placed on the realness of the partners (i.e. natural body shape, couples that are actually in a relationship with each other in real life), the fact remains true: these people are sexualized and are only viewed for their sexuality, no other reason. However, in looking at the broad scope of pornography, this small discrepancy is in fact not a target to attack. The authors themselves emphasize to the readers the gargantuan realm of pornography and make clear what we should prioritize for the removal of in our society: violent porn.

Carmine Sarracino and Kevin M. Scott, The Porning of America: The Rise of Porn Culture, What It Means, and Where We Go from Here, (Beacon Press, 2008).

Author: Clinton, Palin Coverage Tainted by Gender Stereotyping

Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin were the Target of Gender Stereotyping during the 2008 campaign

On Tuesday, Kathleen Hall Jamieson–a professor at the Annenberg School for Communication and author of several books on politics and the media (including Echo Chamber: Rush Limbaugh and the Conservative Media Establishment and unSpun: Finding Facts in a World of Disinformation)–spoke at Fountain Street Church in downtown Grand Rapids on the topic of women and politics in the 2008 election. Jamieson spent the majority of her talk looking at the how the two most prominent female candidates–Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin–were portrayed in the media.

Two Candidates, Two Different Ways of Portraying a Laugh

In the beginning of her talk, Jamieson asked the audience to think of a front-running candidate in fall of 2007. A candidate who had raised substantial amounts of money. A candidate who was from New York. That candidate also had an eccentric laugh. The candidate had a tendency to laugh when asked a tough question.

Jamieson–who showed video clips to backup her claim–said that this description could have fit either Democrat Hillary Clinton or Republican Rudy Giuliani.

However, the media only made a story out of Hillary Clinton’s laugh, dubbing it a sign of “in authenticity” and a “cackle.”

Jamieson argued that this was a result of a gender stereotype and bias in the media. The reporting drew on a lexicon of dismissive language–i.e. a “cackle” that originates with female witches–that is used in a gendered way. She cites other examples such as “shrill,” “strident,” “harpee,” and “bitch”–all of which can be used to dismiss women.

Clinton Faced Pervasive Gender Stereotyping in 2008 Campaign

Kathleen Hall Jamieson argued that Hillary Clinton faced almost constant gender stereotyping in the 2008 campaign.

She shared several video examples with the audience, among them a clip in which a John McCain supporter asks McCain “How do we beat the bitch.” Jamieson explained that the referent is assumed and that there is an underlying assumption that this is appropriate. She asked the audience to consider why it was that nobody asked if it was appropriate to refer to a Senator this way and contrasted it the national discussion that followed other instances of inappropriate language use.

This was just one example of numerous sexist lenses used to cover the campaign. Jamieson said that Clinton was subject to a double-standard of evaluation. For example, MSNBC host Chris Matthews described a speech as “charming” and said that she was only a Senator because people felt bad for her. At other times, she was portrayed as a “nagging wife” and a “scolding mother.” Jamieson said that these portrayals all went back to a “residue of past discrimination” against women.

Jamieson said that gender stereotyping had a backlash before New Hampshire when after a week that including Clinton having an emotional moment on television, being confronted by protestors yelling “Iron my Shirt”, Obama saying that Clinton was “likeable enough”, and John Edwards saying Clinton wasn’t qualified–women changed their minds and voted for her.

Sarah Palin Faced Similar Treatment

When sexism and media coverage are discussed in terms of the 2008 election, much of the discussion tends to be dominated by progressives looking at the treatment of Hillary Clinton. However, Jamieson reminded the audience that Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin was subjected to similar treatment.

Like Clinton, Palin was sexualized by the media (particularly on the Internet) and made into an object of desire rather than a serious political candidate (examples would be Photoshopped images and popular references to her as a “VPILF”). Jamieson argued that this had the practical effect of removing them from the debate as candidates.

Palin was also subjected to a host of questions about whether or not she could be both a candidate and a mother, or a vice president and a mother. Obama was never asked such questions, despite the fact that he had two kids who he would be raising in the White House.