07.16.10 Sleazy Sexism Headlines Local Blog
Let’s hear it for sensationalist lowest-common-denominator tabloid-style headlines! Unfortunately, that is exactly where otherwise-respectable Maryland Politics Watch has sunk in two recent posts. “Meow-Meow!” screams one headline. “Meoww!” (so much for typographic consistency) screams the other.
Going through a couple of months and dozens (I wish I could be so prolific!) of other MPW headlines, I see none other that are anything but matter-of-fact. What is even more remarkable is that MPW’s founder, Adam Pagnucco, pulls out the cat-fight sound effects for (you guessed it) two female candidates: Ilaya Hopkins (County Council, District 1) and Duchy Trachtenberg (County Council, At Large). Apart from whatever Adam may feel about these two candidacies, the incredible offense that sets Adam off is (gasp!), that the two women said negative things about opponents.
Again, go through the dozens of other races in the County and posts on MPW (by Adam or otherwise). Do you think there might be other cases of candidates whispering or shouting negative things about other politicians? Why is it then that only when two women engage in identical behavior that worn-out gender-bashing clichés are wielded?
Though I am no fan of Hilary Clinton and don’t believe for a moment that she lost to Barack Obama because of sexism, there is also no question that the press and public treated her differently from other candidates because of her sex. That was disappointing, to say the least. But just as I somehow used to expect local candidates to be purer than the national variety (until I became thoroughly disillusioned by working closely with them), I somehow expected local journalists not to fall into the tactics and biases that characterize “less enlightened” parts of the country.
Look, I’m not bashing Adam and MPW in general. I think the blog is an extremely valuable source of news (if not insight) about the Montgomery County and Maryland political scenes. But I hereby call on Adam to get out of the gutter and treat female politicians exactly the same way he treats men.
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Before I wrote this, I posted a comment on MPW complaining about this issue. Adam has now posted a reply, in which he points me to another instance where he used the catfight analogy for a battle between a man and a woman. This case seems somewhat exculpatory, but I still wonder if Adam would have used classic sexist language in describing a disagreement that didn’t involve a woman. I don’t know Adam personally, so I leave any judgment about this to those who do. I would still urge all journalists to avoid code language associated with bigotry.
©2010 Keith Berner