Subtle Sexism

Obvious displays of bias are often less dangerous than subtle displays, just as it’s better to know that your co-worker is actively campaigning for your job than it is to find out that there’s a microphone under your post-it notes.

The choice of the television media to consistently refer to Senator Hillary Clinton as Mrs. Clinton is a subtle form of sexism. I have never heard Barack Obama referred to as Mr. Obama or John Edwards referred to as Mr. Edwards on television–the word Senator invariably precedes their references; however, even when the discussion involves all three of them, there are many instances when Senator Clinton is referred to as Mrs. Clinton. (Note: I have seen Mr. Obama and Mr. Edwards in print many times.)

It’s obviously important to some people in the media to make sure that we notice that Hillary Clinton is a woman first and a senator second.

It’s also important that we think about our language choices.

As an aside, I find it fascinating to hear the onslaught of attention (mainly criticism) about Senator Clinton’s “crying” episode. First, she didn’t even cry–she showed a little emotion. I cry more when the alarm goes off on Monday mornings! Second, all of the comments about the weakness of someone who cries–or about how leaders shouldn’t cry–seems a little weak after the praise heaped on President Bush when he shed a tear at a military funeral last January.  

For a male leader, it’s a sign of strength to cry; for Mrs. Clinton, it’s a sign of weakness.

–Paul

Paul’s book–Literally, the Best Language Book Ever

Sherry’s Grammar List

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