A Measure of Progress: Media Held Accountable for Sexist Remarks About Hillary Clinton

Feministe, the blog of law student (and sometime Ms. JD blogger) Jill Filipovic, has a spot-on summary of recent Hillary-related events. Declaring that "A Bad Day for Sexism is a Good Day for Women," Feministe recaps:

David Shuster at MSNBC asked if Chelsea Clinton was being "pimped out" because she’s making calls on behalf of her mother’s campaign, something that adult children of politicians do to support their fathers’ campaigns with regularity. The Clinton campaign told him how inappropriate his remark was in a private email, but Shuster stood his ground. So Clinton’s communication director, Howard Wolfson, called Shuster out for it publicly and said that Senator Clinton would pull out of the MSNBC debate scheduled for February 26.

Ann at Feministing argues that Shuster's underlying judgment was "bad working mother." Whether vague or specific, sexist remarks are neither novel nor isolated. But something else is novel about this situation--something good. Feministe explains...

[More after the jump]

Schuster’s remark is sadly not an isolated incident. ... But what is new is that Senator Clinton is in the position so many women wish they were in, to call out sexist remarks and to get results. [Readers] probably know that Chris Matthews has a history of making nasty remarks about women ... his coverage of Clinton was so eye-popping and so roundly criticized that he finally had to apologize (sort of) on national TV. That’s two apologies from two political reporters ... in under a month. At this rate, political reporters might get the impression that there’s something wrong with saying sexist things ....

Feministe goes on to explain why media treatment of Clinton--and her responses to it--matter for women of all political stripes, whether they support or oppose her candidacy. Drawing historical comparisons between Shirley Chisolm and Geraldine Ferraro's candidacies, Feministe sums up everything I'd want to say, and more. Read it, and forward it to your not-so-Internet-savvy mom. She will remember back to when men in the media didn't have to apologize for outrageous remarks about outstanding women. And you will make her day.

Read more:



I have mixed reactions to the "pimping" comment.  True, it is not in the best taste, but I don't think it's the worst of the sexist remarks that have been directed toward Clinton.  And, I tend to agree with Guy Branum's take in Slate that Chelsea Clinton has chosen to enter the political arena on her mother's behalf and can't expect that the press won't comment on her involvement.


I too have mixed feelings.  I think the choice of words is unfortunate and it is easy to get worked up about it the more you think about it (which is, what it seems happened to Senator Clinton).  However, I think the word "pimp" has lost much of its sexist connotations (but see, ABC news story).  I also think that cable news folks have lost much of their news anchor credibility as they try to find enough stuff to talk about all day every day.  Sometimes you have to make the news yourself, and throwing in a little jargon or slang is one way to do it.  I really don't think the comment was meant to be sexist or that it says anything more about our society than that the word pimp doesn't mean what it used to mean.  I could very well see him saying the same thing about a male candidate's daughter or son.  I.e. You could say that Senator Obama is pimping the Kennedy family.


I agree that the term "pimping" is used more and more loosely. You certainly could use it to describe Barack pimping out his wife Michelle on the campaign trail, or John McCain pimping out his mother, Robert, the same way. Point is… the media aren't using it that way for every candidate. MSNBC, especially, this political season, has had really anti-Hillary coverage. It is hard to sort out how much of that is an anti-Clinton preference and how much is a gender bias—there's almost certainly a mix of both going on. Neither is appropriate coming from what purports to be a professional, balanced journalistic outfit, so it's good to see that Sen. Clinton—as a groundbreakingly viable female candidate for president—could successfully pressure MSNBC to apologize for treating her differently than her male competitors (whyever they had treated her differently).
I agree there are more blatant, black-and-white cases of sexism in this campaign season. I thought that Feministe did a nice job writing about <i>why</i> the Clinton/media back-and-forth lately has been noteworthy for women, and that was why I recommended the read.


To me the difference between Shuster's comment and all the other sexist coverage, is that it targetted Chelsea Clinton using sexual terminology. Obviously Shuster does not believe that Senator Clinton is asking her daughter to have sex with potential voters - but the fact that it was made metaphorically is more offensive to me than if it had been used literally. To discredit or criticize a woman by reference to sexual promiscuity or abberant sexual behavior is to me the most classic and blatant form of sexism.
As for choosing this moment to step up and fight back, to me this reflects Senator Clinton's entire approach to her career: she focuses on protecting children in order to help women. Her campaign's response to the episode was framed as that of a mother offended by someone attacking her child, rather than someone protecting themselves.
I think Senator Clinton's relationship with her daughter has been an asset to her on the campaign exactly because a strong mother, sticking up for her child is less threatening to sexists than a strong woman sticking up for herself.


People here and elsewhere may not react negatively to "pimping" because we are so (sadly) accustomed to sexism and sexist language and because sexism is not as politicized as it should be or as other issues are.  We think pimping is a cute form of slang that people can sing about with glee.  In fact, it's a form of slavery reserved for women.  Women's bodies are literally bought and sold under the control of men.  In this terribly sexist election, stop and ask yourself if your reaction would be the same if someone made an equally racisit comment.  What if a news broadcaster said that Obama was "slaving" or "slave driving" his children if they were volunteering for his campaign.  I'm quite sure there would be a storm over that.  Yet we are willing to excuse sexist comment after sexist comment…


Oh, man, I'm glad you raised this point. We do get so used to sexism that we excuse/overlook a lot of it. You 're absolutely right about the underlying misogyny in the term "pimping." Thanks for the reminder.


yeah, but the point is that we do use terms like this in everyday language.  We do refer to people as slave drivers, we do pimp our rides, we do talk about witch hunts.  Hell, we even celebrate Columbus Day as a federal holiday.


I recommend this exchange between a father (who happens to be a CBS political correspondent) and daughter (who happens to be a NY BigLaw associate). First you wish you emailed your dad like that. Then you get pulled in to the discussion :o)

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