Friday, April 25, 2008

Pickens: Media Analysis

Rampant Sexism in the 2008 Democratic Presidential Primary

I have taken our Media Analysis as the opportunity to step into the sphere of the political pundit and do a little analysis of my own on the still raging 2008 Democratic Presidential Primary. This primary is the first of it’s kind. The two remaining candidates for the Democratic Party’s nomination are an African-American man and a woman. These kinds of changes tend to make people shaky and they then fall back on things they believe and trust. Often stereotypes play a role in this comfort and the pundits in most mainstream media have fallen back on these stereotypes in their coverage of the race. In my video I will specifically discuss the sexism running through nearly all mainstream coverage of Hillary Clinton’s bid for the White House.

The sexism surrounding Senator Clinton’s campaign is not unique to her as a candidate, but represents what would happen to any serious female contender for the Commander in Chief’s job. The Senator’s reputation and relationship with her husband just makes things more obvious. Robert Watson states clearly in his article, “Madam President, Progress, Problems, and Prospects for 2008” that “A key challenge…is for the voting public to begin assessing candidates for office–and especially the White House–as individuals rather than through the prism of sex and gender. This is easier said than done and campaigning without drawing attention to one’s gender is inescapable given the way the media focuses on the personalities of candidates.” (Watson, 6). Watson explains very clearly that the major hurdle for the voting public to begin viewing Presidential Candidates in an issue based manner is the way races are covered by the media. When nearly all mainstream media of every type including print, television, radio, and blogs place a thick layer of sexism on all their analysis it hinders the public’s ability to view a female candidate as anything but that, a female candidate. This sexism affects not only the types of coverage a candidate gets, but also the amount.

Here too, I agree with Watson. “When women do receive media coverage, it is often through a feminine lens. For example, the media focuses more on her clothing, hair style, family, and other “soft” matters for female candidates than for male candidates” (Watson, 8). The media has covered every sexist base with Senator Clinton. They’ve discussed her clothing choices, from colors to styles. I have even seen blatant discussion of Senator Clinton’s cleavage. None of this has any bearing on her ability to perform the duties of the President and it seems to be the only thing that the media cares about with respect to her campaign. This makes it all the more difficult for the Senator to openly discuss her platform, answer questions, and appear to have a grasp of the issues. It makes her seem shallow as a candidate and can have a very real (and usually negative) effect on how she is perceived by the public. This would be the case for any serious female contender.

As my video will show through selected media works and my analysis of them, sexist coverage of the Presidential race doesn’t just happen where you’d expect it coming
from conservative pundits and men. Women, like Katie Couric and talking heads from more liberal media outlets like MSNBC are no more immune to it than Bill O’Reilly and the Washington Post. This is a serious problem that must be addressed within American Culture because now that the bubble has been burst, more minorities both in race and gender will be taking a serious shot at our nation’s highest office.

No comments: