Tag: Sexism

PC Eats Itself … Again … And Again

Right now, our Congress is debating the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement between 12 countries across the Pacific. Battle lines are forming up much like they did with NAFTA. Pro-business Republicans, some Democrats and the President claim it will open up economic opportunities. Pro-union Democrats and protectionist Republicans claim it gives too much power to foreign countries and corporations. Since many of the details are unknown, I don’t feel qualified to comment at this point.

But one funny thing emerged during the debate. Barack Obama chided Elizabeth Warren, who is one of the most vocal opponents of TPP. And now he’s being branded as sexist:

President Obama is facing criticism from his liberal base over what they say are “disrespectful” and even sexist comments about Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who has led the opposition against a White House-backed trade bill.

“I think the president was disrespectful to her about the way he did that,” Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, told reporters Tuesday, a few days after Obama referred to Warren, who is a Democrat, as “Elizabeth” and “a politician.” Shortly after that, Senate Democrats successfully blocked the trade bill, which would give the president expanded authority to negotiate a trade pact.

Brown made his comments as the liberal-leaning group the National Organization for Women said Obama’s remarks had sexist overtones.

“I think it is sexist,” NOW President Terry O’Neill told The Hill newspaper. “I think the president was trying to build up his own trustworthiness on this issue by convincing us that Senator Warren’s concerns are not to be taken seriously. But he did it in a sexist way.

So what did he say?

Obama told Yahoo in a story published Saturday: “The truth of the matter is that Elizabeth is, you know, a politician like everybody else. And you know, she’s got a voice that she wants to get out there. And I understand that.”

O’Neill also said the “subtext” of Obama’s comments are “ ‘the little lady just doesn’t know what she’s talking about’. … I think it was disrespectful.”

Oh. Come. On. This is standard political debate. This is what Obama says about Republicans all the time. Maybe you could take an issue with him calling her “Elizabeth” rather “Senator Warren”. Some women find it belittling to be addressed by their first name by default instead of by a formal title. But some women don’t. I have no idea what Senator Warren thinks and neither do any of the people getting offended on her behalf.


However, I have to point out that not every use of a first name is sexist. Not every political disagreement secretly is about the gender or race of the participants. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, and sometimes calling a senator by his or her first name is just, well, calling a senator “Sherrod.” Conservatives will attest that Obama does not reserve condescending and dismissive statements about his opponents and their motives for female politicians; this is pretty much par for the course when Obama discusses the Republican Party.

People who carelessly toss around the “s” word are trying to have things both ways: They want sexism to be something very, very bad that forces the refs to stop the action and pull you out of the game, and they also want to be able to level this charge at every minor verbal tic that might be sexist. Even if it might just be, you know, politics. In this and other contexts, this is not a bargain that a modern society will strike. If you make the punishments draconian, people will hesitate to apply them widely. This is true in law enforcement, and it is true of social sins as well. To claim “sexism” too often just robs the word of its power.

As was pointed out on Twitter:

Sexism is stupid. Racism is stupid. But invoking them by reflex is even stupider. Obama and Warren are having a disagreement over policy. And Obama has a tendency to be condescending when he disagree with anyone (as, frankly, does Warren). You don’t have to read any hidden agenda into it.

For goodness sake, does everything in our society have to be dissected like this? If you’ve been following the rise of political correctness, the answer for them is, “Yes. Yes it does.” But for the rest of us, it’s just exhausting.

Monday Roundup

For reasons that I hope I’ll explain one day, this week is going to be a bit crazy. So here are a few stories I’ve been sitting on, awaiting longer commentary:

A few weeks ago, Marvel comics unveiled an alternative Spiderwoman cover which was immediately decried as sexist because of her pose. I suspected that this criticism was largely coming from people who weren’t terribly familiar with the medium. And indeed, Maddox easily found a spiderman cover that was almost identical. As a general rule, if you ask a rhetorical question like, “Would they draw Spiderman like that?” you should probably do a little bit of research to make sure the answer isn’t “yep”. I don’t agree with everything Maddox says, but his point is well taken.

Another video you want to take in is Matt Ridley talking about global greening — the apparent rise in plants that has resulted from global warming. I disagree with parts of what he says, but toward the end he hits a very important point: Europeans are now planning to burn zillions of tons of trees under the belief that this is “green energy”. There’s a reason we stopped burning trees for fuel.

A few months ago, the town of Peoria launched a SWAT raid into the home of Jon Daniel. This incredibly dangerous man had … uh … created a parody Twitter account of Mayor Jim Ardis. During the raid, the cops found some pot on one of Daniel’s roommates. A judge has decided that the raid was lawful and they can proceed with the felony possession charges. I have no idea how the raid could be lawful when the prosecutor is not bringing charges because mocking someone on Twitter is not illegal. We have now gotten to the point where cops can raid your house based on something that isn’t a crime.

Obama has unveiled a plan to deal with drug-resistant bacteria, mainly by curtailing the massive overuse of antibiotics in farming and creating incentives for companies to develop new antibiotics. All things considered, this could be the biggest accomplishment of his administration. I mean, he’s not actively making things worse, so it’s got to be one of the top five things he’s done, at least on par with the Great Deckchair Rearranging of 2011.

Just a reminder if you need one: slavery did not make America rich.

Weekend Roundup

It’s a slow week in politics and the Olympics are on. But that doesn’t mean there’s a shortage of really stupid stories to cover. Here’s a look at what’s going on with the election three months away (and God, it can’t happen a moment too soon, can it?)

Nikki Haley is in big trouble for getting her daughter a state job. Surely, this job must be a six figure cushy … what? … what?! … she’s working part-time in a gift shop? This is what your outrage-o-meter got pinged by? If this is Nikki Haley’s big scandal, she must be the cleanest fucking governor ever.

NBC’s Olympics coverage is coming in for its usual thrashing. Look, I get the tape delay: people want to watch the stuff in prime time. But you’d think NBC would figure out how to make their streaming more accessible: since I don’t have a cable subscription, I’m shut out. More disturbingly, they decided to cut out a tribute to the 7/7 victims from the Opening Ceremonies and their response is that Americans wouldn’t have been interested.

Like hell. When 7/7 hit, every blog in America put up an image of the British flag, expressed its sympathy and solidarity and wondered why the terrorists thought they were going to scared the British of all people. Granted, I move in academic circles and have a Brit in the office next to me. But I have yet to hear anyone tell me, “Boy, I’m glad they cut that 7/7 tribute out.”

With the Olympics, comes the requisite stupidity about athletes being too sexy and Americans focusing on the wrong sports. I respond to this stupidity here. And if the attention to the Michelle Jenneke video seems wrong, read this.

Apparently, Aaron Sorkin’s newest TV show is horrid — even preachier than The West Wing. Cato breaks down the latest stupidity on Glass-Steagel but check out the video clip. This is just horrible television.

The New York Times ran an op-ed this week asking if we should ditch algebra. I’ll let Orac handle this one. Really, the stupidity of the op-ed has to be read to be believed. It’s from a Poli-Sci professor which tells you, really, all you need to know about why our political system sucks.