[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/06/19/art.michelleobamaview2.jpg caption ="Michelle Obama on 'The View' yesterday."]
President, Center for the Advancement of Women
The dissection of the mainstream media’s role in the downfall of Sen. Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign is not yet exhausted. The power of the print, electronic and cyber press to reflect society’s values and reinforce or influence change is indisputable. While the media washing cites isolated incidents of gender bias and overblown reactions, the debate revealed an often unspoken truth: sexism is not dead. In fact, it is broadly tolerated, beyond the candidates, crushing in various ways the lives of more than half of the electorate. Each of us must take responsibility for making sexism as unacceptable as racism.
Mrs. Clinton’s run for the Democratic nomination taught us that today’s sexism is cast at the individual, not at a system that’s capable of supporting a woman conduct a credible and competitive campaign for the presidency. She emerged from the fabric of our society’s sexist stereotypes as a lightning rod aspiring to the highest male bastion of arguably the most powerful political position in the world. However, her ascent was laced with shockingly open and often unspoken intolerance and hatred, not unlike the challenges women encounter in their daily lives. Gender bias is often insidiously subtle, sitting on the fence between humor and questionable behavior, and pernicious to the advancement of our country.
The conversation becomes more complicated by the intersection of gender and race, as the laser is now especially focused on the novelty of Michelle Obama as the first African-American aspirant for First Lady of the United States. In the absence of defining positions articulated by senators Barack Obama and John McCain on issues important to women, the focus is easily turned to their wives.
Women are a central part of the electoral process. We are 54 percent of the electorate; now, 57 percent of registered Democrats. Candidates must address our concerns in specificity and with seriousness and respect. This must not be relegated to surrogates and committees. Mr. Obama carries a heavier burden, given the resentment generated by the treatment of Mrs. Clinton during the latter stages of her campaign and exit. Charges of sexism could become as explosive as the Jeremiah Wright controversy. A nationally televised speech denouncing sexism in America and outlining how each candidate’s presidency would improve women’s lives would be a modest, yet powerful, start.
Anderson Cooper goes beyond the headlines to tell stories from many points of view, so you can make up your own mind about the news. Tune in weeknights at 8 and 10 ET on CNN.
Questions or comments? Send an email
Want to know more? Go behind the scenes with