Well, it’s time for me to put on my humorless, angry feminist hat again. To be honest, I thought I’d have at least until the summer before I’d need it for this political season, but here we go.
Somehow I missed Sacramento Bee cartoonist Jack Ohman’s May 1 editorial cartoon depicting former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her rival for the Democratic presidential ticket, Senator Bernie Sanders. Then a colleague sent me a link to it.
I’m sure your eyesight is just fine but to recap, the one-panel strip shows Clinton dressed in a blazer and skirt, seemingly about to uncross her legs Basic Instinct-style as Sanders lurks in the background.
The caption: “Sen Sanders ponders how to move her to the left.”
So, basically, Clinton is about to bare her down-there, a la Sharon Stone, as a way to…I don’t know, gain political favor? Titillate or distract the white male politico-corporate establishment? Get back at Bill for something?
Who the hell knows, but one thing is clear: This is a prime example of how you don’t cover female political candidates. You don’t objectify their sexuality. You don’t make their gender the focus of the conversation.
This double entendre isn’t just distasteful and sexist, it’s also downright dumb. We’re talking bro-level sexism here:
The political rivalry/tension between Sanders and Clinton has nothing to do with sex or, for that matter, gender so why did Ohman decide to portray it in such a crudely gender-specific way?
The cartoon offended one Mountain View woman to the point that she’s launched an online petition demanding an apology from the Sacramento Bee’s editorial board.
We call upon the Editorial Board to apologize for publishing a cartoon that sexually objectifies two presidential candidates as well as degrades and demeans women in general.
I’m not quite sure how the cartoon objectifies Sanders–rather, he’s the one doing the looking, but whatever.
For his part, Ohman defended the cartoon on Capital Public Radio’s Insight show. In an interview with host Pamela Wu, he said “I’ve seen sexist cartoons, I don’t do them.”
No, sorry it is indeed sexist. Back to the drawing board.
Updated to add: Several people have told me they don’t get the same Basic Instinct vibe but they do recognize the sexism in the cartoon. For starters, Clinton normally wears pantsuits. She even makes a crack about that on her Twitter profile. But even if she didn’t, the positioning of her body paired with her bare legs and the upskirt angle makes gives viewers a very distinct, sexually coded perspective. I’m willing to consider that Ohman’s intent may not have been sexist but, certainly, the outcome was. And subconscious, persistant sexism is, to be honest, is still pretty bad.