Sexism and the Presidential Race

Recently, I walked into a large movie theatre with my wife Barbara to see "Sex and the City," the long, long rendition of themes that animated the television series: single, older women with money and time on their hands living in the greatest city in the world and complaining about life, love, and their uncertain future. As I entered, we came a bit late, and I went across the audience's front and began to climb the stairs. As I made my way across the viewers, a group of women applauded me. They said they were delighted that I would come to this event. Indeed about three of the people out of 200 were men. When I responded that I had suggested going to my wife, the women cheered. Then I sat down next to three women who were drinking champaign from plastic champaign glasses. They had waited four years for this. My wife asked why the women were cheering; I responded that they admired me for having the guts to come to this chick flick par excellence. It is especially hard for a guy who does not know about Prada shoes or Louis Vitton bags.

Later I thought that in some ways their kind response was so typically female: they wanted some recognition from guys to validate their views about this movie. That struck me as funny; I have never been to a James Bond film where we cheered the women entering the theatre.

Sex in the City is kind of like the exit of Hillary Clinton from the presidential race. Large segments of women believe that she was the victim of sexism. She even waited an ungracious length of time to salute Obama. We were told that her women followers were "in mourning" and could not face the reality right away. Having never watched sports, women had never learned one of life's most valuable lessons, how to lose. They want everyone to be a winner; they want to tell men endlessly how they "feel" not how they think. And they talk endlessly-according to studies, women and girls are just simply more verbal that men and boys. And when the males do not talk then it must be because they are afraid to show their true feelings. Finally some old Democrats told Hillary that she was embarrassing everyone. Concede will you?

But now some women and their liberal male fellow travelers are saying that she was defeated because of sexism-the politically incorrect hatred of females by men. They point again and again to the Hillary nutcracker which cracked walnuts between its legs as a fine example of male hatred. I am not sure how many men have the tasteless toy but a lot who saw it laughed.

What about it, was that sexism? I think one must be honest and say that there were some elements of sexism and that those sentiments were even a part of female critiques by such lightweights as Peggy Noonan and Maureen Dowd. The media, especially NBC and CNN, like the idea of having an African American president and they were rather supportive of Obama except during the Wright ratings. But there was a steady drumbeat of criticism against Hillary and the once liberal idol Bill Clinton. In the debates, it is fair to say that she was simply the best informed on public policy issues and her responses were thought out better than other candidates in both parties The media would forgive Obama gaffes and would revel in the moronic humor of guys like Huckabee and Gravel. Like her or not, she was the best prepared for the job. Not because she learned from Bill but because in the Senate she had indeed thought about the issues and tried to ameliorate the problems that people faced. She spent too much time trying to convince people that being first lady was good experience for the top job; it is not. Visiting countries and attending funerals are not good examples of decision making.

She also ran a lousy campaign. She and her advisors expected to be the favorite and run away with the early primaries. Mark Penn and her advisors never prepared her for the long haul, the world after Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. They never seemed to recognize that some states use the out of date and undemocratic caucus system to choose delegates, the political equivalent of coffee clutches instead of balloting. Harold Ickes for some nutty reason agreed that Florida and Michigan should be penalized for not respecting the Democratic National Committee's homage to Iowa and New Hampshire. Those former states were Hillary states from the beginning; the Clinton people just did not know the primary season would carry on so long. She then relied on the so called super delegates, believing they owed much to Bill and her. She forgot the first law of politics-there is no such thing as loyalty when one tail is on the line.

Bill's anger grew and grew. This young Obama was not ready to be president. Neither was Bill when he was chosen and his first two years were a disaster. Neither was the Illinoisan Abraham Lincoln who now is revered. It is a tough job.

Some of the older liberal media talking heads like Chris Mathews and the late Tim Russett took delight in Hillary's problems. They had found a new hero. Perhaps there was indeed some sort of sexism in all this. Some of the remarks made in the campaign reveal a real anti- woman bias against her and maybe even against women in general.

Why is it that so many of us who love our mothers, wives, daughters, sisters and aunts seem to have such a tough time with women in political power, the workplace, the communications industry? If we don't like Hillary that is one thing, but there is some uneasiness that we men may indeed have a problem with women-besides the fact that they tend to sound screechy while addressing large groups and wearing pant suits. We have problems when they cry in public, forgetting that Ronald Reagan cried for eight years and we loved him.


Michael P. Riccards is Executive Director of the Hall Institute of Public Policy – New Jersey.