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Female Trouble

Feb
25
2008

Why is it that women in politics present the people who write about politics with such difficulty?

Sadly, I’m not talking about Sen. Hillary Clinton’s run for the White House. No, I’m talking about the New York Times, Sen. John McCain and a lobbyist you hadn’t heard “boo” about until last week and the silliness with which many of those writing about politics descend to whenever they have to deal with s-e-x.

The paper has come under attack for “hinting” at an improper relationship between McCain and a very pretty blond lobbyist named Vicki Iseman. It helpfully ran her photo so we could judge – cynically, for ourselves – if she was someone we’d sleep with. The sad thing here is that if the editors at the Times weren’t as willing engage in the sort of sex-role stereotyping that makes Washington the source of constant ridicule for those of us in the real world, they could have avoided this whole mess.

Here’s what the Times could have said in its story:

“Aides to the Senator became concerned about his relationship with Ms. Iseman, not because they suspected he was having a sexual relationship with her but because they worried others might draw that conclusion – fairly or not – and that speculation could cripple his political ambitions. Ms. Iseman, tall and blond, with an engaging smile bears a resemblance to Cindy McCain, the Senator’s wife.

“She’s an attractive woman and he’s a powerful Senator and you know how that’s often translated,” said John Weaver, the former McCain aide who says he talked with Ms. Iseman, warning her away from increasing contact with Sen. McCain.

Matter raised, matter addressed directly. Matter considered. You know, like grown-ups.

Instead, because of sensibilities of its editors or, even worse, what its editors (wrongly) think of as the delicate sensibility of its female readership, the Times had to twitter around like a bunch of high school cheerleaders, stepping all over a decent story about the role that lobbyist have played in the political career of a man who has sworn to opposed “special interests”. Ya gotta wonder if any of those guys have ever been to a college mixer. And then you gotta wonder: Just how dumb do they think we women are when it comes to men, politics, power and sex?

The issue, of course, isn’t that McCain was having an affair with a pretty blonde lobbyist (for the record, he probably did). The issue the larger story attempted to address is actually an interesting one having to do with the role that money and lobbyists – which go together like chocolate and peanut butter – play in American politics. McCain, as the story does a wonderful job of describing, may be the sworn enemy of lobbyists but, like pretty much anyone in the U.S. Senate, he can’t really defend that position as well as he’d like us to think.

And the Times has in its story muddied the water in McCain favor. The story is now about the story of allegations of hanky-panky, not the ways in which McCain may have let his actions contradict his rhetoric. No wonder the Republicans ares having a field day: This is a fight they know how to win. My God! My God! There’s VIRTUE at stake!!!!

So who do we blame for this nonsense? Well, it pains me to say it but we gotta blame the feminist prudes who clutter up America’s conversation about gender. You, Maureen Dowd, I’m talking to you (again!). You, too, Caitlin Flanagan and, of course just this month The Atlantic Monthly found us a new wet-blanket for girlie fun Lori Gottlieb, who wants us to all marry, pronto. The prudes want to be wanted for their brains, not their looks, even if that’s an impossible ideal that, honestly given their unrealistic ideas of what constitutes male companionship, can never be achieved. So we must all tread gently whenever we near their desks. You never know what can set a girl off…..

The problem isn’t Sen. McCain and Vicki – with an “i”! – Iseman, it’s that there are no women’s voices raised consistently in the conversations we have about American politics. And when we do have these conversations, we retreat into some odd version of high school where people are concerned that the “wrong” kind of underwear brands you a slut, where blondes really do have more fun (or claim to) and where nonsense, not clear thinking and direct talk, replaces dialog and conversation.

Share  Posted by Chris Nolan at 4:02 PM | Permalink

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