Why calling out is rooting out: Clinton-New Republic & Obamas-New Yorker

We had a major league tug of war over whether this New Republic cover of Hillary Clinton was misogynistic.

Some of the comments in my thread about the photo:

“All in all bloody brilliant I’d say.”

“…the magazine’s just having a little fun, getting a rise out of you,…”

My post even inspired this post, Hillary Fans and Apologists Risk Diluting Meaning of Misogyny and the comments there involved a very robust dialogue.  The concern was that by calling out that cover as offensive and misogynistic, I was diluting the impact I could ever have when I might want to call out something that is, in the opinion of others, “really misogynistic” – whatever that might be.

Well, now we have this cover from the July 21 New Yorker:

And plenty of people are willing to call it offensive and racist.

As do I and as well they should.

Every time. Every. Blasted. Time.

Should people calling it out on behalf of Obama be told that they risk diluting the concept and blinding themselves to real racism by calling out this particular cover? I sure as hell wouldn’t tell them that.  Because there should be no tolerance at any level.

When you pull out a dandelion, do you just take the flower itself, or even just the green stem and up?  No – you have to take out the roots below the ground.

And the same is true of racism and sexism and all the other isms that propagate fear.

In this interview with New Yorker editor, David Remnick, he says that the image is supposed to be a way of compiling and making fun of all the accusations and smears of the Obamas that are intended to cause fear in the voters.

What I think it does is hold up a mirror to the prejudice and dark imaginings about Barack Obama’s — both Obamas’ — past, and their politics. I can’t speak for anyone else’s interpretations, all I can say is that it combines a number of images that have been propagated, not by everyone on the right but by some, about Obama’s supposed “lack of patriotism” or his being “soft on terrorism” or the idiotic notion that somehow Michelle Obama is the second coming of the Weathermen or most violent Black Panthers. That somehow all this is going to come to the Oval Office.

The fact is, it’s not a satire about Obama – it’s a satire about the distortions and misconceptions and prejudices about Obama.

But if that was the objective, then what the cover should have done is skewer the people who propagate distortions and misconceptions and prejudices in the first place – not the very people already being demonized.  As Kevin Drum says (hattip to Jay Rosen’s tweet) the only way to have made this fair is the way a too-gentle on McCain media would never do it:

If artist Barry Blitt had some real cojones, he would have drawn the same cover but shown it as a gigantic word bubble coming out of John McCain’s mouth — implying, you see, that this is how McCain wants the world to view Obama. But he didn’t. Because that would have been unfair. And McCain would have complained about it. And for some reason, the risk that a failed satire would unfairly defame McCain is somehow seen as worse than the risk that a failed satire would unfairly defame Obama.


Except for that gendered comment about the cojones.

Which is sexist.

But not misogynistic.

But used for men and women.

But gendered anyway.  (oh, just go read more about the intersection of gender and race here and who is arguing for using “balls,” if you recognize her name)

UPDATE:  Read these:


Michelle Obama Watch


What About Our Daughters

Jack and Jill Politics


19 thoughts on “Why calling out is rooting out: Clinton-New Republic & Obamas-New Yorker


  2. Where I am, is sitting back laughing my head off at you and Eric going 10 rounds in the battle of the protected classes. The most entertaining yet tediously sanctimonious PC battle royale of the year.

  3. Kevin Drum wrote: If artist Barry Blitt had some real cojones, he would have drawn the same cover but shown it as a gigantic word bubble coming out of John McCain’s mouth — implying, you see, that this is how McCain wants the world to view Obama.

    McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds: “We completely agree with the Obama campaign, it’s tasteless and offensive.”

  4. Eric, we agree on this one. Let the debate be full and furious, and let the voters individually decide what’s fair vs. unfair, out of bounds vs. in. That’s just as it always has been in this country when it comes time to picking a president. As the old saying goes, politics ain’t beanbag.

    And I admit I find the prissy League of Women Voters approach–trying to fit political elections and political debate into some kind of neat and tidy rules-based formula–a little unworkable in our system. We all learn something even from the most extreme speech, which we’re all free to ignore, ridicule, or whatever. That’s how the system’s worked for 230 years, and in the end, it tends to shed more than enough light on the subject, even if we also get some heat.

  5. Pingback: everybody else is talking about it, why not me « Clueless White Woman

  6. Trey Ellis says the same kind of thing here at HuffPo as Kevin Drum re: anything else would have been better to get the idea across as satire. Same for the HRC TNR cover. There is almost always a better way – but the profiteers and provocateurs choose what they choose without regard for the racism or sexism they reinforce.

    There are so many other, better ways.

  7. Different memory there Eric. I raised the specifics of the image, then I was told that the image was nothing in the face of the June statement. I’ve never defended Clinton on that but I do find the image of Michelle Obama far more offensive. I did then and I do now.

    I take no issue with your tactic in spinning the cover. That only reinforces the fact that it’s racist and wrong. That’s fine.

    I’m saying that it’s a here we go again – because every time we don’t call out the fact that these things are at and expose the roots of racism and sexism, we’re just shoveling more dirt and giving them more fodder to grow.

    I don’t want it to grow – and I don’t want them to be used or spun. I want them to be replaced by real discourse and change, Eric.

    Spinning it as you are is fine – it’s another way of coping. And neutering something is one way of making sure it won’t grow again.

    But it’s not the only way, and this incident with the New Yorker isn’t the only worthy of being called out. You disagree with me on that. So be it. But that’s not going to stop me from having that opinion.

  8. First off, Jill. Here is how I remember it. You sit in silence over a remark made by Hillary that invokes the assassination of Obama, then expect me to get on your bandwagon of indignation when some random person on the Internet draws a disgusting cartoon graphic. I decided it wasn’t worth it. You decided the candidate you defended mentioning assassinations in June as a rationale for staying in the race was OK.

    So be it.

    All I know is if I spent time getting up in arms over every graphic I saw on the Internets that disgusted me I’d have none.

    Don’t continue to ascribe any motivations to me based on something I haven’t posted on.

    Now…back on topic. I view this New Yorker graphic in a different light than your or John apparently. In fact, I’ve not been whining at all. I celebrate the fact that they exposed the vile nature of attacks against Obama by the right. The sad thing is some on “the left” were responsible as well.

    I don’t disagree with John that it’s a tough game. Everyone knows this. All the same, the right better be ready for the mirror’s reflection as well because we’re bringing it this time.

    No quarter.

    The magazine cover is a perfect depiction of the wingnut brain on Obama. Absolutely spot on. We should remind them of that no matter how they may try to wriggle out of it in their uncomfortable attempts to shed their own thinking.

  9. Pingback: Glass City Jungle | New Yorker Cover certainly candy for the blogosphere too…

  10. All attacks and critiques and satires against any woman* is misogyny.

    All attacks and critiques and satires against any black man* is racist.

    * Unless of course they happen to be Republicans….

    Walk it off. Rub some dirt on it. We didn’t come this far being made of sugar candy.

  11. None of that advice makes the behavior of those throwing the barbs any more acceptable, John. It’s their behavior, not the toughness of the armor worn by the ones being attacked, that is far more concerning and ultimately detrimental to us all.

    (btw – your comment got stuck in spam for some reason – for any other reader as well: if you don’t see your comment show up, pls email me after a while because my spam has been out of control and I delete it in bulk now and then)

  12. I don’t know what you mean by parity, Eric, but I see the analogy and the parallel. I’m not going through this whole ‘splain it to me thing to you. You don’t see it? You don’t see it. I do.

    And by the way, you still have never written about the lynching image of Michelle Obama that had been posted on Daily Kos. Why didn’t you call that one out? It was both racist and sexist.

  13. If Obama, just like Hillary, wants to play in the majors, he’ll have to develop a tougher hide. If he and his supporters think this cover constitutes rough treatment, I’m afraid they’re in for a pretty bad time in the next three months, because it’s going to get a hell of a lot worse than this.

    And the whiners can forget all about sexism and racism and all the other isms. Anyone who knows anything about American history knows that our now-cherished Abe Lincoln came in for some of the roughest personal abuse of any president. It just goes with the territory of seeking the highest office in the land.

  14. there is absolutely no parity between a goofy cover of hillary spouting known campaign-isms and depicting michelle obama as a militant “blank panther” black woman with a machine gun and an american flag burning in the fireplace.


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