A Christian high school in Kansas refused to allow a woman to officiate at a basketball game earlier this month. The reason for this action was that it went against the schools’ beliefs to allow a woman to hold any position of authority over boys. I assume this means that all members of the school’s faculty are male. I haven’t ascertained that because the school’s web site does not provide any information about its faculty and administration.
It’s no surprise that some very conservative Christians (as well as Muslims) continue to believe that women are divinely ordained to assume inferior positions to men. The problem we, the chaplain and the deacon, have is that, when we observe the American political landscape, it appears to us that sexism is more widespread than most Americans want to acknowledge. We have reason to believe that media questions regarding whether the Democratic presidential nominee will be decided by either super delegates or a brokered convention are the wrong questions to ask. The chaplain, in her more cynical moments, goes further and wonders whether the questions are red herrings designed to divert attention away from the fact that sexism seems to be playing a large role in this year’s Democratic primaries and caucuses. Both of us anticipate that Barack Obama will be the nominee, due in no small part to the following factors:
The Mantle. Since the conclusion of the Iowa caucuses, Obama has positioned himself as a modern JFK. He began by echoing MLK’s “I have a dream” language and phraseology. After the South Carolina primaries, he broadened his language to take on JFK’s “new generation” idiom. The language took hold and the powerful romantic aura of Camelot is taking hold with the public. The promise to satisfy unfulfilled hopes is always a potent motivator that draws adoring fans and adherents to one’s cause.
The Money. When a race is close at the halfway point, the candidate with the money to outspend the closest competitor has a decisive advantage. Though they are costly to run, television ads are the most effective messaging avenue for swaying the masses, particularly those who do not delve deeply into the issues. Obama clearly has deeper pockets than Clinton and can easily afford to run glitzy television ads that reinforce his JFK aura.
The Media. CNN has given markedly greater attention to Obama, and has consistently spoken about him in warmer terms, than Clinton. In the half hour before last month’s State of the Union address, CNN ran an extensive interview with Obama. At the conclusion of the interview, pundits rehashed and analyzed what he he said. After the address, CNN interviewed Obama at length regarding his reaction to the speech. CNN neither interviewed nor highlighted Clinton at all that evening. The spotlighting that Obama received before and after this address, which many politically involved citizens certainly would have been watching, was worth weeks of television ads.
More recently, as the early results of the Louisiana primaries trickled in, there was a difference of just over two hundred votes between McCain and Huckabee. Wolf Blitzer announced that the Republican race was close. No notation was made as to whom was leading; it was just a close race. Moments later, with twelve votes separating Clinton and Obama, Blitzer announced that Obama held the lead. Was this a subconscious indication of his preference or that of his network? As an isolated incident, it may not have meant anything. In light of other statements and spotlighting that have occurred over the past several weeks, we have to wonder: are we are observing random coincidences or a pattern of misogyny?
Also, consider the way Clinton’s demeanor is typically described by newscasters and political commentators. If she raises her voice, speaks as loudly as a man, or is animated during her presentation, then the pundits, the majority of them male, describe her as shrill. If she speaks softly or shows any range of emotion, these same pundits question whether she has sufficient fortitude to be President. Has the media ever paid this much attention to a male candidate’s voice?
The Mindset. The authors understand why the African-American community gives heavy support to Obama, and we understand why many females are voting for Clinton. But the fact that white men are leaning much more heavily toward Obama than Clinton may indicate that many of them are not ready to be led by a female president. Given a choice between a male leader or a female leader, both of whom are more or less equally qualified (or not) for the position they seek, male voters appear to be much more comfortable with the male than with the female.
The confluence of all of these circumstances causes us to wonder if sexism is the ogre that nestles, unnamed, in America’s living room.
– the chaplain & the deacon