Let’s talk about sex

Monica Heisey
Monica Heisey

As the United States gets closer to election day, the F-word that has been thrown around throughout both campaigns is being evoked with more intensity than ever before.

The F-word I’m referring to is feminism.

Though I wouldn’t use the word to describe myself—the term is sometimes misinterpreted as “women first” instead of “everyone together”—I have found its use troubling throughout the American election process.

The Republicans’ complete insult to female voter intelligence aside (really, John McCain, you thought that Clinton’s women supporters would blindly follow the next set of breasts in front of a podium to office?), Sarah Palin’s cutesy winking and hot hockey-mom act is demeaning to herself, to women, to the concept of feminism and to the position of vice-president; this is obvious if you have a brain and the Internet.

In the wake of Sarah Palin’s announcement as vice-presidential candidate, Democrats are claiming a newfound vigilance on the part of Republicans in pointing out sexism amongst politicians and in the media, while accusing them of sexist behavior during Clinton’s campaign. Many are arguing that Clinton was treated unfairly due to her gender, but that no one bothered to say anything until Palin was the victim of the same sexism.

As far as I’m concerned, neither side is correct.

For Clinton supporters to suggest that she received harder questions because she was a woman or was subject to greater media scrutiny on the basis of her gender is to suggest that she shouldn’t have to answer these questions or deal with the public’s perception of her simply because she is a woman.

If Joe Biden had been given a particularly difficult question during the debate, would he have claimed to be the victim of misandry? When journalists comment on John McCain’s creepy old-man aesthetic, is that sexism? The jobs of the president and vice-president are to answer difficult questions from Americans and occasionally to deal with unnecessary criticism.

Clinton’s self-confessed attempts to masculinize her image—the ubiquitous pantsuits, the short hair and turning down an offer to appear on the cover of Vogue because the magazine attempted to put her in a skirt—problematically imply that she believes competence and power are embodied in the male.

Sarah Palin’s pageant queen poses and ditzy persona create a picture of a woman in politics as Vice-President Barbie: pretty but hollow.

Elizabeth May recently made headlines when she represented the Green Party in its first ever inclusion in the televised party leaders’ debate. May conducted herself with fearlessness and dignity, holding her own amidst the more established parties and impressing many Canadians. Even more impressive, the issue of her gender never arose.

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