Monday, March 19, 2007

I Ain't That Simple

On a recent NPR broadcast of News and Notes, Tony Cox interviewed Geraldine Ferraro about her bid for the office of Vice-President, in the 1980's. During the interview, Mr. Cox said that most women voters chose the other ticket. He wondered how Ms. Ferraro felt about the fact that women voters didn't support her. The implication, as I saw it, was that even women weren't on her side, as if they should have been - or perhaps more fairly, as they may have been expected to be.

I thought it was interesting that women who voted for or against a female candidate were assumed to have done so due to that candidate's gender, as opposed to her ability. I can understand the temptation to frame the discussion in these terms, but as far as I'm concerned, it ain't that simple. Not everyone votes for a woman because she's a woman and not everyone who votes against her did so for the same reason.

Another episode of News and Notes mentioned a poll that suggested many or most employees, including women, preferred having a male boss. It was assumed that this was because employees expected cattiness and bitchiness from female management.

This was seen as an example of the stereotyping of women... even by women. To some degree, I agree, but it ain't that simple. Folks are too quick to assume WHY someone doesn't want a female boss. Not everyone's management preference has to do whether the boss stands up or sits down to pee.

Personally, I prefer female co-workers overall, but I do prefer male supervisors. Why? I often find that female managers tend to communicate less-effectively, often making my job more difficult.

And then, there's Barack Obama. If the above is any indication, I'm confident of the following:
* If most Black voters pick Obama, it will be assumed that we did so because we'll vote for any Black candidate - regardless of his or her qualities or qualifications.
* If most Black voters don't vote for Obama, it will be assumed that was because we didn't think he was Black enough.

Again, I acknowledge that some people WILL vote for or against the color of his skin, but this is not true of everyone. Sure, I'd like to see a Black person in the Oval Office, but mostly, I like the idea of "President Obama" because of what he's shown me. He seems intelligent, articulate, wise, compassionate, and authoritative. He seems the kind of person I'd be proud* to have as my President - not just as a Black man, but as an American.

Unfortunately, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and others will largely be judged as the Black candidate, the female candidate, the Mormon candidate, etc. and anyone who votes for them will be seen as one-dimensional supporter.

Sorry, folks. It ain't always that simple - and dammit, neither am I.

* - It's sad that pride in one's leadership seems like such a foreign concept, to me, these days. I hope that changes soon, regardless of which person or which party takes the Presidency in 2008.


Anonymous said...

You still get "News and Notes" in your market? WBEZ here has went with "Talk of the Nation" in the spot, which forces me to listen to the podcast.

Anyway, I see your point, the media really over simplies things, the factors they mentioned may be significant but hardly definitive.

BUUTTTT that's the media, even NPR is not immune.

West said...

re: "You still get 'News and Notes' in your market?"

Yup, although I usually miss the full, live broadcast. Thank goodness for podcasts.

And you're right about the media. Honestly, I can see the value in noting demographic trends, but I wish it were a bit more balanced (and not just at NPR, of course).

Even Ms. Ferraro went too far, in my opinion, responding as if gender were completely irrelevant in American politics.

Michael May said...

Thanks for that post. I'm totally with you. I don't believe that most Americans are that simple, but I do believe that most journalists are lazy enough to try to paint us that way so that they don't have to do any real research.

West said...

I feel you, MM. I think it's a natural tendency, but I expect professionals (not to mention adults) to let evidence and reason win the day.

This is such a weird post to come from me since I'm not one of those folks who believes, "the American people are smarter than that" about too many things. If these things (i.e. Blacks blindly voting for Blacks) ARE true, I wish they'd present us with evidence to that effect.

Anonymous said...

It definitely aint that simple, and being black and a woman, I'm a "one-dimensional" supporter of 2 candidates, so its even more complex for me than usual.

So if I pick Obama, I value my blackness over my womaness. And vice-versa if I pick Hilary. And if I choose neither, I must really hate myself.

I too wish we weren't viewed as simpletons incapable of making a sound and wise decision based on something other than the superficial.

Anonymous said...

I agree with MM -- I don't think the majority of us are that simple. Even though I did hear one national radio personality declare that he was "voting for the brotha" and the only reason he gave was that he was Black. Personally, I need more.

Angie said...

West I concur! I listened to both interviews on NPR and was like "damn"! How stupid do they think we are. I'm was not old enough to vote for Mrs. Ferraro, but I don't think I would have. I do remember she didn't seem too bright. I'd vote for O'Boogie (my name for Obama) not because he's black - but because of the qualities you stated. I'm from Louisiana, where most of the politicians are Black and ain't no damned good. So black skin alone does not cut it with me.

Well put, I ain't that simple! : )

Shai said...

I was just thinking how crazy this presidential race will be. I do want someone new and fresh in the role. It would be great to have the first woman president or the first black president.

I don't like how we will be so bombarded with campaign stuff many folks won't vote from an informed perspective.

It will be a hard one for me to focus on. I know in the end I will vote for who I think will do the best job.

Liz Dwyer said...

Hmm... so according to this NPR logic, Obama should be the candiate we ALL vote for because he can get the white vote since he's half white and the black vote since he's half black. Muslims will vote for him since he has some Islamic roots and then the Christians will like him since he goes to church. He'll have the votes of the black women who are wearing the, "Thank goodness he married one of us!" t-shirts. Of course, Harvard affiliation is sure to get him some votes. Plus, you know we former Chi-town residents only vote for folks from our hood...but then again, we could say he wasn't born in there and so he hasn't fully proved his ride or die loyalty to the greater Chicagoland area.

Yeah, unfortunately, there are alot of folks who think we're all that stupid and are going to base our votes on that kind of stuff instead of on real issues.

West said...

I may have given the impression that I'm pissed at NPR or something, but I'm not. I gave NPR examples because NPR is just about the only radio I listen to (and I don't watch tv news).

NPR's not perfect, but it's a fantastic source of news, information, and (even) analysis.

Anonymous said...


I like NPR also and the BBC, however; they can be sometimes a little tooooooo left, so I listen to them with filters. Now, they are no where as far to the left as FOX is to the right, but everyone (media) has a bias of some sort no matter how slight or extreme.

West said...

You may have a point about NPR, DJBA. It's hard for me to gauge the degree, sometimes, since being against specific right-wing policies isn't necessarily the same thing as being a left-winger.

Journalistic standards have changed quite a bit in the last few decades. Some of those changes have both positive and negative consequences.

Miz JJ said...

I guess as an outsider looking (Canadian examining US politics) I would have to say you may not be that simple, but a lot of other Americans seem to be. There is a lot of misinformation fed to the American public. Like about who was really behind the WTC buildings, about weapons of mass destruction, about Abu Ghraib, about who really won the 2000 election, about why those Attorney Generals were fired, about why Valerie Plame was outted as a CIA agent etc, etc. I think Americans have a lot information, but the quality is not always the best and you have to sift through a lot of garbage to get to the truth.

Liz Dwyer said...

I know you're not hating on general, NPR is a dose of truth in a morass of misinformation. But, I do miss those Saturday Night Live skits where they would make fun of some of the stories and that certain NPR vocal cadence.

West said...

miz: There's certainly a lot of misinformation out there. No doubt about that. I kinda feel like this post only describes part of my position on the issue, but I didn't want it reaching epic proportions. I'm considering a part 2, at some point in the future.

liz: I hadn't heard about those skits before. I'd like to see'em (and the ones where they make fun of James Lipton). Maybe there's on YouTube.

Michael May said...

"I may have given the impression that I'm pissed at NPR or something, but I'm not."

I didn't get that impression. I'm a supporter/listener of NPR too, so this sounded like an anomoly to me. Definitely not the usual kind of interview I'm used to from them.

"I hadn't heard about those skits before."

I think she's talking about the Delicious Dish skits with Ana Gasteyer and Molly Shannon. The best of which was when Alec Baldwin played a guy named Pete Schweddy who was there to talk about how to make his famous Schweddy Balls.