The Misogyny Network
Just over a week ago, Eric Boehlert returned to the continuing theme of Chris Matthews and misogyny:
Tongues are still wagging over The New York Times Magazine's cringe-inducing cover story about MSNBC talker Chris Matthews. The cringes came courtesy of the name-dropping Matthews, whose raging insecurities danced across nearly every page of the piece. As Digby noted after reading the opus, "He fulfills every single Village media cliche: obsessive social climbing, deep personal insecurity, primitively sexist and racist and just plain dumb."
Matthews has harvested a bumper crop of outrageous remarks during this extended primary season. Specifically, fueled by his obsession with the Clintons (he can't recall attending a single Beltway party where the couple has not been discussed), Matthews has unleashed a flood of sexist commentary.
On that front, of course, the Hardball host has not been alone. This election season, we've seen a cavalcade of white, middle-age men express their deep, personal contempt for the first serious female contender for the White House. Contempt, of course, that has nothing to do with Sen. Hillary Clinton's policies or her beliefs. Instead, it's been an oddly personal disdain dressed up as political analysis.
During the April 22 edition of MSNBC Live, guest host David Shuster said to senior campaign correspondent Tucker Carlson: "Before we get to predictions, Tucker, I want to present you something that actually was delivered to Chris Matthews today. But he's not here, and I stole it, and I'm giving it to you. ... It's a pen. It's 'Jabber Jaw Pens.' And when you listen to it here." At this point, Shuster pressed the top of the pen -- a likeness of Sen. Hillary Clinton's head -- and the mouth began to move as the pen began audibly laughing. After the pen stopped, Shuster continued: "[I]n honor of being on the air with you for the first time in a little while, I present to you with a Hillary laughing pen." In response, Carlson stated: "I can't tell you, David, how much I appreciate this, how much I appreciate your going through Chris' mail while he's gone and how much I'm really going to miss that cackle. I hope it goes on forever. It's brought light to my life." Carlson also pressed the pen.
Shuster then said: "As we -- to the refrain of Hillary cackling, let's start with predictions tonight. What's going to happen?"
As Melissa McEwan explains:
A press release from the pen's creator helpfully explains: "Some have said that Senator Clinton's laugh is infectious, but they didn't say whether it's infectious in the good sense, or infectious in the CDC sense. ... Our recommendation is to listen to the pen a few times, check for any redness or swelling, then make up your own mind accordingly."
This context—in which women's voices are singled out as so prohibitively unbearable that they are used to dismiss a woman entirely and compared to infectious disease—is why there's a difference between saying Clinton's voice makes your hair stand on end and Bush's voice makes your hair stand on end. There is just not an equivalent context, and if you are savvy enough to understand that the sexes don't play on equal playing fields in the first place, then you ought to be savvy enough to understand that singling out Clinton's voice as horrible necessarily invokes the woman-specific sexist context, even if that is not your intent.
As I've said before, you can't divorce criticisms of women from the context of womanhood.
Big Tent argues that, this time, MSNBC should fire Shuster. But that would be to merely make him the fall guy. It begins with Matthews, but there are too many examples, from too many of the network's on-air babblers. The entire network is tainted, and if the blame isn't first assigned at the corporate level, there's no point in assigning it.