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18 February 2008

i didn’t follow last week’s brouhaha over david shuster using the phrase “pimped out” to describe chelsea clinton calling superdelegates on behalf of her mother’s campaign. i heard enough to know there was a brouhaha. and to know that hillary clinton threatened to not participate in the next debate NBC (shuster’s network) sponsored and that the campaign called on NBC to fire shuster. but honestly, i think stories like this get overplayed.

i have encountered a bit of talk about it in the blogosphere. some people defending shuster. some praising clinton for her strong response. but what got me thinking about this long enough to actually care was a couple of posts at slate‘s blog, the XX factor. in his guest post at the blog, daniel gross briefly documents the clintons’ long history of forgiving, including hillary clinton’s forgiveness of her husband’s philandering (for which i’ve heard other women criticize her). and then he asks why the clinton campaign would reject shuster’s apology and suspension as sufficient recompense for his ill-advised choice of words on-air.

i found the post interesting, but i found gross’s explanation (clinton is currently sliding; she’s losing to obama; she’s hurting financially) insufficient. the question itself was provocative. it seems to me that clinton has played the ‘woman-as-victim’ card on occasion and this seemed another such moment. stir the outrage. rile up the female vote. point to all the good ol’ boys and how they couldn’t possibly treat a woman fairly.

now i recognize that sexism remains a problem. and i see how sexism has colored responses to clinton’s campaign. but i just don’t believe that playing the victim is the best response. or even a productive response. i think strength and competence and intelligence and graciousness are much better responses. the moral high ground.

i think a couple of the XX factor’s regular bloggers offer more interesting, if slightly tangential, answers to gross’s question about the clinton campaign failing to “forgive” david shuster. clinton has siezed the opportunity for a little emotional blackmail–either of the female vote or of the sensitive aught guys (who are of course stereotypically liberal). and i really think there is an effort to “slap around” the female vote to make women feel like they must vote for clinton simply because she’s female.

of course clinton’s campaign has not wholly been a manipulative emotional appeal to women (and sensitive aught guys). no one could win with such a campaign. and i appreciate the good things about clinton. but i get frustrated by the attitudes i’ve seen about the “historic” competition between the first woman candidate and the first black candidate for president. yes. it’s historic. i think it’s fantastic. but beyond that it means very little when it comes time to walk into a polling booth. because identity politics should have little–if anything–to do with voting. to say that i should vote for clinton because the two of us both have vaginas is as sexist and backwards as saying men should vote for obama because they all have testicles.

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