Exposing Hillary So She Won't Get Elected

Hillary or Mrs. Clinton?

Is it possible to cover the first truly viable woman presidential candidate in a gender-neutral way? Can faux calls for neutrality be twisted into partisanship? Will we call Bill, America’s “First Gentleman?” And what about the Kardashians?

Some things have no place in serious discourse. In 2008, Clinton faced “Iron My Shirt” signs. Only a Kardashian fanboy could believe bitch, buxom, gal, or broad are reasonable words. The quick test is to flip things around, the “rule of reversibility.” If you would not describe Jeb Bush as bootylicious, and God help your eyesight if you did, you should not use it to describe a female candidate.

With the booty thing behind us, matters become fuzzier. A non-campaign affiliated group, HRC Super Volunteers, warned journalists of “coded sexism:” the usage of words like “ambitious,” “tired,” “entitled,” and “worn out.” They cite the Washington Post comparing Hillary to a “stale, musty old car” as an example. Nope. Such stretches are designed to water down criticism, not to weed out gender bias.

But words do matter; describing a male candidate as having brown hair, while his female opponent is a brunette, seems wrong. Names matter, too. Look at how Republicans use our current president’s middle name, Hussein, as code for his supposed Muslim leanings. So is “Hillary” wrong? What about “Jeb,” or “Rand?” Naw. The first name thing fails the reversal test; Jeb is regularly referred to as Jeb. The first name business is also a necessity given the dynastic state of American politics. There are three figures in the public sphere who’d answer to “Clinton,” three to “Bush” and two to “Paul” (though, luckily, only one Rick Perry).

Things turn smarter when you look at the serious work done by the Women’s Media Center (WMC) and their guide to gender neutral coverage of female pols. The WMC folks feel most commentary is not intentionally sexist or malicious, though the impact is the same as if it was. For example, research shows discussion of a female candidate’s appearance can hurt her election chances.

Which oddly brings us back to the Kardashians.

Some feel the media’s attention on Bill Clinton is an extreme sign of bias. Others’ spouses may not matter in the media, but then again no other candidate has had as public a marriage as Hillary, marked with affairs as gossipy as Monica Lewinsky, which led to only the second impeachment of a president in our history. The Clintons are the Kardashians of politics, replete with media attention – for all of them – in proportion. Bill, unlike say Ted Cruz’ unknown spouse, is a huge political force himself and has chosen to take a public role in his wife’s campaign. In some ways, the attention on Hillary’s spouse is self-inflicted.

And for the record, Ted Cruz’ spouse is Heidi Nelson Cruz. I’m sure she is a very nice person if we could ever get to know her.