Elizabeth Nolan Brown // Blog

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Obama’s vagina, and other disturbingly sexist/racist/weirdo journalistic framing

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My mother got me a subscription to Rolling Stone magazine a couple months ago. She was buying one for my father, and there was some sort of two-for-one deal, I think. I say this by way of explaining why I’ve been reading so many articles from the magazine. Not that I have anything against it, per se, just nothing particularly for it, either. Anyway, I’d really started to enjoy Matt Taibbi’s political coverage of late. First, he wrote a great, meandering exploration of the strange appeal of Mike Huckabee back in December, and more recently, an insider look at the inanity of the political press. Both were funny, slightly meta, and refreshingly devoid of punditry and/or any of the usual annoying tics of recent campaign coverage (race, race, gender, gender, race, gender, boxing gloves!).

But dammit, Matt Taibbi, just when I was falling for you … this. Oh, it starts off okay — Hillary’s like Nixon, she’s got her own Karl Rove, Obama’s the same, why don’t they say something substantial, okay, okay, and then —

Here’s Obama, a black man, coming into a crucial debate having watched his white opponent and her henchmen slyly remind voters about what he was doing “in the neighborhood” as a kid and then point out that MLK couldn’t secure his legacy without the help of a white man with a title. It was nasty, calculating politics, and any man with a pulse would have taken her to task for it here.

The “any man with a pulse” comment stops me, in it’s “real men shouldn’t take shit from uppity women” subtext … but no. Taibbi is better than that, surely. He could have easily meant any person with a pulse, any candidate with a pulse. It’s just unfortunate phrasing. Let’s read on …

While Obama — apparently spooked back into say-no-evil “general election mode” by his New Hampshire ass-whippings — bared his vagina to the state of Nevada, Hillary coolly mopped the floor with him.

Oh. Dear. God. Bared his vagina? Since when is that an okay way of saying “showed weakness?” I mean, okay for journalists writing about presidential candidates, not frat boys taunting pledges or something. Seriously?

This is the fourth time this week I’ve been shocked by the blatant sexism/racism/general bizarreness by seemingly better-than-that writers or publications.

On Wednesday, The New York Times published an article on the seemingly unprovoked shooting of a black Ohio woman and her infant during an unfounded raid on her house by white policemen. After mentioning that the woman had six children, it notes that these children were “fathered by five men, all of whom dealt drugs.” Because that is, obviously, relevant.

On Friday, the Times ran an otherwise interesting story on how fertility rates were tied to the housing market which contained this bizarro explanation:

“Those ARM-financed McMansions are in the middle of nowhere, where land is cheap,” he said, using the acronym for adjustable-rate mortgage. “That increases the time it takes to get to work, meaning it raises the cost for women to go to work. That should increase fertility.”

Ahhh, yes. The old “I was going to have a career but that commute is such a bitch, I figured I’d just have more kids instead.” Can’t count how many times I’ve heard that one.

But I think the weirdest example this week has to be the “Tainted Drugs Tied to Maker of Abortion Pill” headlines, in the Times and everywhere. The tainted drugs in question were leukemia drugs. The company does make mifepristone, the “abortion pill,” but it also makes all sorts of other drugs. And, the Times article notes, mifepristone “is made at a factory different from the one that produced the tainted cancer drugs, about an hour’s drive away.” An FDA statment noted that

F.D.A. is not aware of any evidence to suggest the issue that occurred at the leukemia drug facility is linked in any way with the facility that manufactures the mifepristone.”

So a drug maker who manufactures a variety of different pharmaceuticals made tainted cancer pills at a facility completely separate from the facility where it happens to make perfectly-untainted mifepristone, and this is the hook of the article? Wouldn’t a lede dealing with the actual tainted drugs in question be, you know, a tad more useful?

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Written by Elizabeth

February 2, 2008 at 11:01 pm

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