2008: The Year of Casual Sexism?

New Year’s Eve always depresses me, as I feel compelled to look back over the lost year that was and contemplate everything I didn’t accomplish (it probably doesn’t help that I’m doing this while slouching on the sofa in my pajamas instead of partying with the glitterati). On the other hand, the next day cheers me up, as I can consider the fresh new year and all the ways I won’t screw it up (January 4: have already screwed up fresh new year).

It’s been quite disappointing, then, to be confronted in the fresh new year with multiple blithe instances of casual sexism in my TV viewing:

The Amazing Race: while struggling through a task that requires stringing a wedding garland, Big Strong Boyfriend chastises his partner for not being better at handling the flowers, what with her being a girl and all. This was very educational, as I had been unaware that possessing a vagina imbued one with magical abilities to make flower garlands. (I’d be more impressed that Snotty Girlfriend was able to come back with asking why Big Strong Boyfriend couldn’t row a boat better on a previous leg, what with being a boy and all, but her habit of calling other female racers bitches means she doesn’t have much wiggle room here.)

–ABC promos during college bowl games: I’d feel sorry for the announcers–I’m dismissive of Dance Wars: Hoohah versus Whatsit, too, and it can’t be fun to try to dredge up fake enthusiasm for such blatantly contrived garbage–if they hadn’t decided to solidify their manly, football-based credentials by linking their disdain so closely to the idea that only stupid chicks–and Other Persons of More Effeminate Natures, If You Get My Drift–were the target audience for the dance show. One can only hope they accomplished their goal of protecting the bowl audiences from getting their testosterone covered in sequins.

–MSNBC’s bizarre insistence on calling Senator Clinton by her first name. This may well be happening on the other 24-hour news channels, too, but the repeated use of “Hillary” to describe a major presidential candidate while still calling the candidates with dangly genitalia by their last names is dismissive, infantilizing, and insulting, and it just plain needs to stop. The woman has a last name–in fact, she has two. Pick one and use it, but stop calling her by her first name unless you intend to start talking about how Mike and Mitt are duking it out. Studies have shown that the tendency to refer to female athletes by their first names while persisting in using surnames for male athletes reinforces the privilege accorded to the “dominant” group–it’s hard not to think of that being an even more appalling state when dealing with reporting on American democracy. At least Keith Olbermann had the grace to notice this discrepancy on a graphic in his own show and seem upset by it.

Here’s hoping the year improves–and that the premieres of Cashmere Mafia and Lipstick Jungle don’t make matters worse. I can’t say I’m optimistic.

One thought on “2008: The Year of Casual Sexism?

  1. I have been paying such close attention to election season that I just now noticed that Clinton is perpetuating the “Hillary” thing by using her first name on all her campaign materials. Boo.

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