The Name It. Change It. Awards for Most Sexist Media Coverage in the 2010 Elections

The Name It. Change It. Awards for Most Sexist Media Coverage in the 2010 Elections





PRINT: BOSTON HERALD on Massachusetts Gubernatorial Candidate and
LOS ALAMOS MONITOR on New Mexico Governors

Here at Name It. Change It. we’re sick of hearing more about what women wear than what they stand for – it’s a tired, sexist trope that we see repeated over and over. Yet the Boston Herald took it to new level when reporter Jill Radsken consulted stylists to analyze Green Party gubernatorial candidate Jill Stein’s fashion sense. The title of the article: “She’s a great candidate…for a makeover!” One stylist suggested her hair looked like, “a Brillo pad that’s seen better days,” while another cycled through a list of complaints about her clothes. Nothing about her policy positions. Nothing about her qualifications. Just that she dresses “earthy crunchy’’ and her hair is an, “unmitigated mop.” Now, Boston Herald, would you say that to your mother?

Not to be outdone, columnist Ned Cantwell penned a piece for the Los Alamos Monitor about the New Mexico gubernatorial race between Democratic candidate Diane Denish and Republican candidate Susana Martinez that forced us to declare a tie in this category. Cantwell can't seem to wrap his head around two female candidates challenging one another's positions, terming that behavior "bitch-slapping." Mudslinging, when done by women, conjured up for Cantwell images of "mud wrestling" instead. “So far these ladies have displayed such lack of class we’re beginning to think, ‘strip down and get ‘er on, gals’,” he added. Sexualizing women candidates and slurring them as aggressive or bitchy for behavior that's termed normal for male candidates is one of the reasons fewer women run for and win political office. And really, sir, would you say any of that to your mother?

TELEVISION: CBS’s Late Show with David Letterman

Although this is the inaugural presentation of these awards, David Letterman could be considered an honorary previous award-winner for inappropriate sexual jokes he made about Bristol Palin last year. But his claim to shame this election season came in a Top Ten list titled, ‘Top Ten Signs There’s Trouble in the Democratic Party,” in which number two read:

Nancy Pelosi found in hotel room drunk and naked with Charlie Sheen.

Not only does the quip make light of a real life sexually violent incident in which a woman was allegedly held against her will, Pelosi is the only woman even mentioned on the list and is portrayed in a demeaning, sexualized manner. Mr. Letterman, would you make that joke about your mother?

RADIO: WRKO Boston’s Tom and Todd Show

Morning radio shows aren’t known as bastions of feminist thought – quite the opposite, actually – so it’s a real feat to be crowned the “most misogynist” of the shock jocks. But hosts of the Todd and Tom Show on WRKO, Tom Finneran and Todd Feinburg, and their producer Bill Kingsley have earned that distinction for describing Karyn E. Polito, a Massachussetts Republican State Treasurer candidate, like a judge at a dog show might describe a prize-winning hound. On air, Kingsley offered this endorsement:

I think she's hot. She's tiny, she's short. She's got a banging little body on her. Facial wise, I give her about a seven. Body wise, I give her about an eight-and-a-half. Tight little butt.

Finneran, who once served as Massachusetts House Speaker, laughed and repeated the “tight little butt” portion of the remark. Even after Polito called to object and her Democratic opponent, Steve Grossman, called on WRKO to apologize, the station refused, saying, “"There's nothing to apologize for." We disagree. Here’s a good test to use in the future: Would you say that about your mother?


It’s no surprise that the blogosphere pushed out some of the most insidious sexist attacks this election season. For this reason, a three-way tie between three blogs was necessary. Virginia Virtucon served up one of the most shocking helpings when they leaked sexually suggestive photos of Virginia congressional candidate Krystal Ball. While the site eventually took down the post, it’s clear the intent was to smear a young female candidate to make her appear unqualified to hold public office without addressing her platform. Virginia Virtucon, all candidates have a past. Their elective future, whatever their gender, should be determined by their current policy positions.

We thought Virginia Virtucon had topped out the sexist, slut-shaming quotient for the season, but then gossip site Gawker ran an anonymous account from a man claiming he had a drunken sexual encounter with Delaware Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell three years ago. Gawker paid ‘anonymous’ for the story and let him remain ‘anonymous,’ clearly sending the message that women, but not men, deserve to be shamed in public for their sexual behavior. Gawker, the fact that Christine O’Donnell says she’s against comprehensive sex education doesn’t give you the right to think, talk, or publish anything about her private sexuality. Instead, use your brand of snarky humor to critique her flawed policies. It’s exactly because of stories like these that women are discouraged from running for office. Come on now, Gawker, would you write that about your mother?

Just when you thought the sexism couldn’t get more revolting, enter Human Events blog with an audio feature called ‘Babes of the DNC Calendar.’ The piece begins with the promise of a tour though a “feast of wrinkled flesh,” while “mesmerizing spiced beef” is used to describe Senator Dianne Feinstein as is the phrase “smells like wet dog.” Former Attorney General Janet Reno is described as a “beastly, unshaved, Danish carnival.” While the creator of this sick piece of propaganda obviously had a partisan agenda, dehumanizing female political leaders of any political stripe hurts all women. Really, Human Events? Would you say that to your mother?

Published by Kate McCarthy on 11/04/2010

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