The Gender Trap: Yes, or Yes?

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Warning: I watched parts of the Democratic debate last night at the gym. This is the fate of the resident of the Pacific Time zone.

Watching Hillary Clinton smile as she listened to the final question, for a minute, I almost thought I liked her. But then the closed captioning caught up and I saw that the question had been, “Do you prefer diamonds or pearls?” Clinton’s response was, “I want both.”

Now a wave of really hating her passed over me. It’s not just the starving children in Africa who can’t afford precious gems—which, in case I need to remind you, have absolutely no function other than to advertise that the wearer has the money to buy something with absolutely no function. No, middle-class Americans with kids in school and mortgages can’t afford diamonds and pearls. The right answer would have been, “I’m much more worried about getting our soldiers home from Iraq.”

But now a wave of compassion for Clinton washed over me (yes, as a matter of fact, I am ambivalent about her). Any answer other than one which could be translated roughly as “I love jewelry” would have insulted the questioner. So Clinton was set up, something like this: “Okay, lady, so you’re a politician, but you’re still just a girl, right?” And she had to say, “Yes, that’s right, I’m just a girl—a middle-class girl who loves to be pampered.”

Now to add insult to injury, the MC then guffawed about whether he could ask the question to any of the other candidates—who are, you know, obviously not girls.

Because gender is the most obvious thing there is, right? Wrong. There are tons of people walking around who aren’t immediately readable as male or female. Say it is obvious, as in Clinton’s case. The debate question made it seem that her love of jewelry—and being regaled with it by a man who pampers and cares for her—follows just as obviously. Huge leap, people! And extremely misogynist.

Well, it turns out that the questioner had actually wanted to ask something about plans for a nuclear dump site at Yucca Mountain. So it was male reporters who planted a female questioner to ask a question that forced Clinton to say with a smile that yes, she did throw like a girl, and diamond’s are a girl’s best friend!

Does this shed any light on McCain’s bitch problem?

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We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

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