Warren(t)ed Bad Media Coverage?

Bloomberg Warren Image A review of recent media coverage of Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren exemplifies several instances of the subtle and not-so-subtle sexist language that Name It. Change It. has been working to combat. Starting with Last Tuesday’s Boston Herald cover, we have had a lot to talk about (and another media source continued the conversation).

Following last week’s excitement, Howie Carr unleashed his latest flood of sexist slurs this Thursday, first on his WKRO radio program and then in his column in the Boston Herald. Carr stayed true to his favorite misogynistic monikers on his radio show, referring to Elizabeth Warren as “Law and Order Lizzie,” and remarking that “Granny repeats like the bleeping Rainman.” Carr later resorted to racist humor in his column, as he ranted: “It’s not enough that Granny Warren, the fake Indian, is raising more campaign cash from the Beautiful People and, yes, the machine, than any congressional candidate in the country.”

Howie Carr’s abrasive language is one of the more transparent examples of sexist media coverage. Easier to miss are the subtler affronts on women that tend to slip under the radar, yet do real harm. Even liberal news sources like The New Republic are guilty of such remarks: in an article posted last Thursday, The New Republic wrote that “whenever Elizabeth Warren sat down with a liberal interviewer, a lovefest was practically guaranteed.” Implying that a female candidate is going to “start a lovefest” every time she is interviewed is sexist, gendered and unnecessary (see the Reversibility Test). The article continued to objectify Warren by quoting Jon Stewart (“I know your husband’s backstage. I still wanna make out with you”), and then describing her as the “Harvard professor whose rimless glasses perpetually slip down her nose.” The real slip-up here is the New Republic’s denigration of a female political candidate by focusing primarily on her appearance.

Last but not least, the New York Post published an article about Warren today titled “Warren’s kid gets dirty to save mom’s Senate bid.” Yes, politics are dirty, but we are pretty sure the New York Post was more interested in letting its readers imagine Amelia Warren as a “dirty girl” than in exposing a political scam. The article later laments that “Warren just doesn’t have the personality to win hearts.” Never mind Warren’s politics or her track record, her personality is the real problem; if a female politician can’t win hearts, then she clearly can’t win an election. Intentionally or not, The New York Post practically insinuated that Warren does possess the feminine charm she needs to sway voters.

Admittedly, these are not the most extreme instances of sexist media coverage that we have reported on at Name It. Change It. In fact, when we first came across these articles, they seemed tame compared to other articles that we have read. That does not diminish the importance of calling out sexism every time we see it. While it is easy to dismiss another “Granny” comment as just another Howie Carr atrocity, doing so will not detract from the harm that misogynistic language inflicts upon women everywhere. Tolerating sexist language allows it to become normalized in the media and in society. Here at Name It. Change It., we know that when you attack one woman, you attack all women. Our job is to ensure that those attacks do not go by unnoticed.


Published by Kate McCarthy on 08/10/2012

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