News on Female Pols ‘Insulting, Irrelevant… Drivel’

Jennifer L. Pozner has a version of her new NPR commentary on the Women In Media & News website she founded (7/8/09), in which she asks you to “think carefully: Can you remember any passionate TV news debates about whether journalists or voters might want to get naked with former vice president Dick Cheney?” If you’re answer is no, that’s not only unsurprising, but also, says Pozner, “good. Because such an insulting, irrelevant topic would–and should–never be considered newsworthy.” She then calls attention to the fact that, “unfortunately, this sort of drivel frequently passes for journalism when the politician at the center of the story is female”:

Take Alaska’s soon-to-be-former governor, Sarah Palin. When she dropped her resignation bombshell–dubbed “breathless” “girlish burbling” by New York Times columnist Maureen DowdCNN‘s Rick Sanchez wondered, “Hey, could she be pregnant again?,” while others chalked it up to post-partum depression. Meanwhile, MSNBC analyst Donny Deutsch told Morning Joe viewers that the Quittah from Wasilla is divisive specifically because: “This is the first woman in power with sexual appeal…. We’re used to seeing a woman in power as non-threatening.”…

The ugly, nonpartisan truth is that corporate media have always seen women in power as threatening. That’s why they trivialize women who dare seek office by obsessing over their bodies, hair, shoes, makeup and motherhood–as if these have anything to do with their abilities and track records. Whether it’s cable news branding Hillary Clinton a “bitch,” the New York Times reporting that Condoleezza Rice wears a size six, or the Washington Post detailing Loretta and Linda Sanchez’ hairstyles, housekeeping preferences and “hootchy shoes,” journalistic double standards condition us to consider women as ladies first, leaders a distant second–and inherently less qualified.

Pozner describes the consequences: “We’ll never know how many talented people were dissuaded from politics because they knew it would be significantly harder for them to run, win and govern.” See the FAIR magazine Extra!: “Beyond Clinton & Palin: Coverage of Women in Election Misses Real Women’s Issues” (1/09) by Julie Hollar.