We cannot afford to stay silent

For months, I’ve been a junkie for news about the Clinton/Obama nomination race. But out of laziness, I’ve relied on The New York Times online for my news. Just a click away, a break from writing without leaving my chair. Plus, living in Canada and not being a big TV watcher, I’ve been spared the divisive advertising and talk show host chatter that have assaulted my fellow Americans stateside.

However, the drama of the last few days of the campaign – will Hillary concede, will she endorse Obama? – drew me into a number of blogs to gain a broader perspective. I highly recommend Antonia Zerbisias (both her Toronto Star column and her blog Broadsides) for her unflinching look at women’s issues. I also recommend http://feministblogs.org if you’re looking for a compendium of current feminist blogs. It led me to Shakespeare’s Sister (how serendipitous is that?), now called Shakesville, where Melissa McEwan has been posting “Hillary Sexism Watch” in multiple parts over the course of the nomination campaign. From McEwan I learned:

• You can buy a Hillary Clinton nutcracker for $19.95.
• In Salem, NH, Clinton was greeted by a man shouting “Iron my shirt” and holding up a sign reading the same.
• When John McCain was asked by a supporter (a woman, no less), “How do we beat the bitch?” he laughed off the comment and changed the subject.
• On Fox News, author Mark Rudov said, “When Barack Obama speaks, men hear, ‘Take off for the future.’ And when Hillary Clinton speaks, men hear, ‘Take out the garbage.’”

I don’t view all 90+ of McEwan’s examples of comments about Hillary Clinton as sexist. But, then, I’m so entrenched in the patriarchal value system, I no longer see the many ways women are discounted and dismissed every day. I urge you to read McEwan’s posts and judge for yourself. And here are three other articles deftly summarizing abusive rhetoric directed against Clinton:

Women in Charge Who Charge
Ignoble Hillary
Iron My Skirt

I’ll be sending in my absentee ballot this fall. I’ve been ready for a female president for years; but Clinton lost me for good when she said, “I want the Iranians to know that if I’m the president, we will attack Iran [if it attacked Israel]. In the next 10 years, during which they might foolishly consider launching an attack on Israel, we would be able to totally obliterate them.” However I do wish I’d been more aware of how she was being slammed for simply being a woman. I applaud the people who spoke out against that and pointed out that we’re more sensitive to racism than we are sexism.

There was little outrage in the media against Clinton being made fun of because of her voice or because she wore pantsuits. In fact, members of the media often led the mockery. And more importantly, there has been no objection from Barack Obama to the disrespect shown Hillary Clinton throughout the campaign. (Please let me know if I’m wrong. I would love to be wrong about this.) All women need to be concerned about that and about John McCain’s laughing off the bitch comment. This isn’t about Hillary alone. If American women can’t count on their president to insist they be respected, then 51% of the population is disenfranchised.

But then, what’s new about that?

Personally, I’m making a pledge to speak out more often against sexism, racism and other injustice—and not just in my fiction. For starters, I’m gonna march down to the Hallmark card shop in downtown Victoria and complain about the greeting card I spotted last week. It illustrates Hillary Clinton as President of the United States and reads, on the inside: “See, there are scarier things than having a birthday.” Is there a similar card for Barack Obama or John McCain? I doubt it.

P.S. McEwan hasn’t been on watch for sexism alone. She’s also highlighting racial prejudice directed against Obama. You can find links to her sexism/racism posts at Double Whammy.

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