|Posted by Jennifer L Pozner|
July 31st, 2007
I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t been a huge Hillary Clinton fan, as my personal political memory dates back to her stumping for her husband’s administration’s Democratic Leadership Council, whose corporate-money-courting, move-the-party-rightward policies were terrible for women, people of color, low-income people and the media industry, from welfare “deform” to “three strikes you’re out” to the Telecom Act of 96. And that’s not even beginning to mention her votes to authorize and fund the Iraq war as a Senator from my home state of NY.
But when I read pieces like this one from The Politico, I’m reminded of Katha Pollitt’s comment in The Nation several months back: “If people keep making sexist attacks on Hillary Rodham Clinton, I may just have to vote for her.”
In “TV provides poor signal for Hillary,” David Paul Kuhn posits that:
When Hollywood producer Rod Lurie created fictional president Mackenzie Allen in 2005 for the show “Commander in Chief” he made no mistake about one of his goals: tilling the soil of popular culture so that it would soon be easier for a real woman to take root in a nonfiction Oval Office.
CBS News had no such goal in 2006 when it gave Katie Couric the anchor’s chair once occupied by Walter Cronkite. But it was a vivid example of the glass ceiling being shattered in one of society’s most prestigious platforms.
So will television be a leading indicator of politics in 2008? Hillary Rodham Clinton had better hope not.
The ratings of both the struggling “CBS Evening News” and the now-canceled ABC drama “Commander in Chief” call into question one of the premises of Clinton’s political strategy: that women are eager to reward role models who break down gender barriers.
On TV, at least, it hasn’t happened.
An analysis of ratings by Nielsen Media Research for Politico showed that competitors to the “Evening News” and “Commander in Chief” scored better with female viewers. The results undermine calculations by ABC and CBS that placing accomplished women in roles traditionally owned by men would be a ratings hit because of the number of female viewers drawn to one of their own.
Are kidding me with this, David?
The pundit circuit has spouted some inane theories about why Hillary Clinton is unpopular with women over the years, as most of us generally know. Married women don’t respect her since she didn’t kick Bill to the curb after his Oval Office intern action! Stay-at-home moms resent her professional success, jealous, emotional creatures that they are! are both popular media mantras. The latter notion was frustratingly professed by GOP political strategist Sarah Simmons (and echoed by Democratic pollster Anita Sharma after I challenged Simmons’ framing) during my BlogHer “Earn Our Votes” session, where I responded that it seems deeply disingenuous and definitely troubling to portray women as voting based solely on catty complaints and petty, personality-based jealousies about what other women have achieved, rather than considering that women may or may not approve of Hillary Clinton based on her voting record and policy positions.
Conservative women have a litany of reasons they consider Ms. Rodham Clinton some sort of radical anti-Schlafly, while progressive women don’t appreciate her support of the Iraq war, her failure to pass univeral health care and her moderate positioning, as Lakshmi Chaudhry explored in The Nation (click over to her piece to read some insightful comments from Lisa Jervis, co-founder of Bitch magazine and chair of the board of Women In Media & News).
But as ridiculous as it is that corporate media insiders can’t stretch their imaginations to concieve of women as thinking beings with actual political agendas, Kuhn’s TV-ratings-as-election-predictor premise may be the most intellectually vapid and off-base theory I’ve read in a long time.
I’m tempted to list some of the reasons why Kuhn is off-base, but I feel like doing so would be both a waste of my time and an underestimation of your intelligence, dear reader. I’ll just leave it with this question: does Kuhn think that the many highly-rated seasons of the bland, sniping Everybody Loves Raymond mean that Americans would readily elect Ray Remano to deliver the most nasal State of The Union addresses in the history of the United States?
PS: On a related note, one of my favorite moments from BlogHer was during the “Earn Our Votes” session I mentioned above. When someone - perhaps BlogHer cofounder and reporter Lisa Stone, if I remember correctly - asked for a show of hands to see if anyone in the audience would vote for a candidate for president based solely on gender, not even Kim Gandy, the president of the National Organization for Women, raised her hand. I thought that was notable, so I called attention to the fact that the head of NOW sees the need for a nuanced, policy-based evaluation of which candidate will be most effective in supporting women’s rights in office. The moderator then gave Gandy the mic, and she said that NOW endorses candidates not based on their gender but based on who will be the best advocates for women. “Do we love it when that person is a woman?”, Gandy asked? Yes, yes, they do. But that isn’t always the case, and even NOW will endorse a progressive, pro-choice man over a conservative, anti-abortion woman.
If even the country’s most established feminist organization doesn’t use gender as a guidepost for voting and endorsements, isn’t it time media get hip to the idea that politicians’ policy positions, not their plumbing, is what really matters?