Sunday, February 10, 2008

60 Minutes has pushed me over the edge

I have never blogged about anything before. I don't think I've ever written an angry letter to a newspaper or done much other than complain (lately more than usual) to friends about the problems we're facing in this country. I have stomached the growing anti-intellecualism and continuing shift to the right, and have simply gone about my business, giving to liberal causes, and working at the grassroots level. And I've taken heart in the fact that finally the Democrats have a deep bench, but, this election season has exposed some very ugly truths about the way that our society views women, particularly women in politics. Still, to this point I have kept my ranting to myself. When 60 Minutes, though, starts buying into and perpetuating the gendered and dare I say misogynistic nonsense that's gone on during this campaign, I find that I'm so beside myself that I must share and solicit your thoughts.

Now, the title of this, my very first (and possibly last) blog, is "60 Minutes has pushed me over the edge" and I say that because I have always believed that 60 Minutes was the last hope we had for an in-depth news program minus the Stone-Phillipsizing drama that is now so pervasive on all of our news programs. But, tonight I saw on 60 Minutes the most offensive and gendered set of interviews with Hillary Clinton and Barak Obama that I have seen yet-- and that is saying something in light of the Chris Matthews debacle circa the Iowa caucus (you can see one video here and another here, but there are plenty of great articles out there like Rebecca Traister's in Salon), the violent and offensive anti-Clinton nonsense on the internet (which was aptly described by Kathleen Hall Jamieson on Bill Moyers), and the odd "iron my shirt" comments that Clinton has been hearing on the campaign trail. I'm not even going to touch the "pimping Chelsea" thing.

Take a look and see what you think. But here's what I saw:

Obama interviewed by Steve Croft who asked inane questions about Obama seeming to have endless energy even though he sleeps only 4 hours every night, about Obama gaining momentum, about Obama playing basketball, and about Obama's success on Super Duper Tuesday. Now, granted, there were a few no-follow-up softballs lobbed about Obama getting a pass from the media, about him being light on experience, and about his light-on-details stump speaches. There was, however, no pressing; this was just a check-up on our pal Obama.

Then Clinton was interviewed by Katie "There's a war going on?" Couric, who pressed Clinton about bizarre and non-substantive issues, e.g., "What's your nutritional regime on the campaign trail?", "Were you the girl in front of your class with your hand up; didn't the boys call you 'frigidaire?", and (this was my favorite because KC asked it more than once) "What are you going to do if you lose?"-- I can only assume that the correct answer is cry or seek out Ben & Jerry, but I digress.

I don't think that the stupidity of the KC interview was the result of a bias towards one candidate, rather I'd submit that it was the result of some seriously gender-biased assumptions on the part of 60 Minutes and KC herself. But, if 60 Minutes has gone the way of MSNBC (see references to Chris Matthewes above) and Fox (I don't think I need to say anything), then we're all really in trouble, so I'm hoping that some of you fellow feminists can add something to this discussion because I'm at a loss.


Lisa R. Pruitt said...

I'm having tech problems playing the clip and didn't see it last night. Given your description, though, it seems that both CBS interviewers bought into some stereotypes associated with the candidates' characteristics (some immutable, some not).

Would they ask John McCain about playing basketball? or talk to him about getting 4 hours of sleep a night?

Maybe it's the sour grapes of an over-40 female speaking, but all this focus on Obama's energy and youth is a little off-putting. Or maybe it isn't so much off-putting as distracting from the issues we should see addressed more centrally in campaign coverage.

But wait, Obama's older than me. . . and Hillary's only 60, for heaven's sake. I have to say I've often been struck in recent months by how well she appears to be holding up, day after day on the campaign trail. I find her energy impressive -- indeed, inspiring.

I guess one way of looking at the 60 Minutes interviews is to see them as responding to what (according to pundits I heard recently on NPR) is of most interest to (most of) the voting masses: personality and personal story.

Anyway, thanks for your very well written post! You clued me in to lots of sources and events (iron my shirt!?!) w/ which I was unfamiliar.

Jen said...

I watched part of the interview and saw the "frigidare" question and almost fell out of my chair...although I gotta say HRC maintained her composure and responded like a pro. Unbelievable. How does a question like that help me vote?! I mean, I don't mind some more personal type questions, but please. At least ask something interesting or relevant.