Sexist Shots at Palin, Pelosi Signal New Backlash Against Women

You’d think we’d be past the era of offensive comments that reduce a female contender to her gender.

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It’s comforting that women’s groups are inaugurating ``Name It, Change It,’’ an effort to identify sexist comments in campaign commentary and call out the offenders. It’s also depressing.

One would think, in the 21st Century, when we’ve had a female presidential candidate viable enough to be called the Democratic front-runner before any votes were cast, when we have a female House speaker who has proved to be far tougher than many of her male predecessors, when we have a record number of Republican women running for federal and statewide office, that we’d be past the era of infantile and offensive comments that reduce a female contender to her gender. But instead, we see an alarmingly unabashed bashing of female candidates and officials for their perceived failings not as candidates and officials, but as women.

Who’s watching Sarah Palin’s kids while she’s campaigning and speaking, and what kind of mother is she if her unmarried teenage daughter got pregnant? Has Nancy Pelosi had cosmetic surgery? Is Hillary Clinton “shrill?”

And yes, male candidates are ridiculed for their vanity and bad tempers, but it’s not the same thing. Late night comics might joke about Joe Biden’s hair plugs or John Boehner’s perpetual tan; John McCain might be cited for his testiness. But these are viewed as flaws in the men’s overall image as candidates, while the women are being attacked for falling down on the job of being women--that is, being naturally lovely and complacent.

Arguably, some of the assaults are an outgrowth of a general decline in basic manners and reasonableness in political dialogue; women are hardly the only targets of the anger-mongers. But the fact that the Women’s Campaign Forum Foundation, the Women’s Media Center, and Political Parity have to conduct this exercise at all is a disturbing sign of the new backlash against women in power.

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