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Signs We’re Back in the 1950s

[digg-reddit-me]Dear Ms. Tina Brown:

I just read Amy Siskind’s characteristically sharp blog post explaining why recent happenings in Obama-land demonstrate that we’re “back in 1950s.” Yes – Obama – by appointing women to three of his top national security posts – is demonstrating the kind of chauvinism that imbued the 1950s. Dwight D. Eisenhower and Harry Truman combined only had one woman serve in their cabinets in the 1950s – Oveta Culp Hobby. She was Eisenhower’s Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare for two years. Barack Obama will nominate Hillary Clinton, a woman, to the most powerful cabinet position, Secretary of State; he will nominate Janet Napolitano, a woman, to be Secretary of Homeland Security; he will nominate Susan Rice, a woman, to be the Ambassador to the United Nations – and will raise the position back to cabinet-level. In contrast, the only woman of real influence in the Bush cabinet was Condoleeza Rice – as National Security Adviser and then Secretary of State. But Siskind values sheer numbers over influence and power it seems – as she praises Bush for having more female cabinet members than Obama (so far.) Bush appointed women to head departments dealing with environmental issues (Christie Todd Whitman and Gale Norton), agriculture (Ann Veneman), labor (wait – Bush had a Department of Labor? yes, and it has been led by Elaine Chao, a woman!), education (Margaret Spellings), and transportation (Mary Peters.) Of these departments, the only one Bush seemed to care for were the Interior (including the EPA) in which Bush-Cheney wanted obstructionist heads of the departments (which is why Whitman soon left). Obama has yet to announce his appointments to these positions in which Bush had women appointed.

Yet another indication that we are back in the 1950s is that prospective Treasury head Timothy Geithner does not want Sheila Blair to remain head of the FDIC. Siskind characteristically gets to the heart of the issue by ignoring issues altogether:

So now, Geithner wants to silence a woman that disagrees with him. Sound familiar?

Yes it does. I don’t know the reason why Geithner wants to replace Blair – but based on Siskind’s “analysis” it’s clear that it’s simple misogyny. At the same time, Siskind points out, a woman, Brooksley Born, warned Robert Rubin, Larry Summers, and Alan Greenspan about the dangers of derivatives. Siskind doesn’t need to explain what this implies. But I will: yes – men and women both warned of these dangers, and men and women ignored these warnings (in fairness, mainly men were in charge) – but what is significant – and like the 1950s – is that a woman was “ignored” by men. Just because Warren Buffet was also ignored by men when he called derivatives “weapons of mass financial destruction” doesn’t make the “silencing” of Born any less proof of sexism.

The final incident discussed by Siskind is the infamous assault on Hillary Clinton. Yes – it was only a cardboard cutout. But the fact that this was made of cardboard means that it could not give consent, making the groping non-consensual by definition. Siskind calls again for Favreau to be fired and for the “all boys club” atmosphere to be ended. She shows the photograph again – although this time blurring out the actual woman in the photograph of the “all boys club.”

Ms. Brown – I guess my point is: I too can make analogies to historical time periods that bear no relation to reality. Maybe I should be writing for the Daily Beast as well. Here’s a few sample headlines I’m working on:

And there are plenty more where these have come from. So hire me, please.


Joe Campbell


P.S. Discussions of sexism and gender bias are ill-served by voices like Amy Siskind’s. I’m not trying to silence her. She can talk all she wants – and as long as she is provocative enough, the “Freak Show” that is our current media-political environment will pay attention to her. But the issues she claims to support are drowned in the idiocy of her commentary. Back to the 1950s? – c’mon. Fire someone for a Facebooked photograph? – let’s be serious. Has this woman seen the sexism and misogyny in fifties sitcoms or as portrayed in Mad Men?

On a technical note: It’s not clear to me that Favreau’s hand is actually on the place where Ms. Clinton’s cardboard breast would be. And he could be just as easily holding the cardboard cutout up as pretending to fondle it. It’s less fun to look at the photo that way – and with the booze and the other guy in the photo, the slightly scandalous version seems more interesting. But it just goes to show how ridiculous these puffed-up claims by Siskind and her like are – as they not only presume he is fondling the cardboard place where the breast would be, but that he is also pretending to assault the cutout.

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