Thursday, November 15, 2012

Fun Watching For Today: Fox News and Women, Nancy Pelosi and Luke Russert

Well, fun on some levels of the term.  First, two videos from Fox News on the ever-fascinating topic of the Woman Problem.   This one debates the question whether girls should ever play in boys' sports teams:

The nine-year-old girl player is pretty wise in her game advice, too.  It can be applied to much of life.

This one reminds us that Fox always has sexists in-residence, the way some colleges have artists in-residence. Gutfeld has a long career of sexist utterances at Fox.

The last video is about Nancy Pelosi's answer to Luke Russert (the son of the late Tim Russert) who asked Pelosi about  the wisdom of her hanging around for so long, given that she is ancient and should retire for the benefit of younger people:

For those of you who might not be able to access the video, here's the question:

Nancy Pelosi was peppered with questions about her decision to stay on as Democratic leader on Wednesday, but one particular inquiry set her off: on her age.

"Some of your colleagues privately say that your decision to stay on prohibits the party from having a younger leadership and hurts the party in the long run," Russert said. "What's your response?"

The Democratic female politicians standing behind Pelosi booed the question.  Pelosi's answer, in its core:

When Russert pressed further, Pelosi responded: "So you're suggesting that everybody step aside? ... Let's for a moment honor it as a legitimate question, although it's quite offensive. But you don't realize that, I guess."


"I came to Congress when my youngest child, Alexandra, was a senior in high school, practically on her way to college," Pelosi began. "I knew that my male colleagues had come when they were 30. They had a jump on me because they didn't have children.


"So I don't have any concern about that, and as I've always said to you, you've got to take off about 14 years from me because i was home raising a family, getting the best experience of all -- diplomacy, interpersonal skills."

Now, whether older leaders should graciously step aside to let younger people have a chance is a different question from asking that of a rare powerful older woman who is giving a speech.

The time and place of that question is probably sexist, unless Russert routinely asks all men of Pelosi's age similar questions about them stepping aside to benefit younger people.

Because these concerns do not apply only to the very top:  They apply equally on other levels of politics. Ted Kennedy's successes  made it impossible for anyone younger in Massachusetts to run for his Senate seat if he, too, was running.   Maybe he should have retired earlier?  John McCain is plugging the pipeline and keeping younger Republicans from power.  Shouldn't he retire?  What about the libertarian god, Ron Paul, who was born in 1935?  Time for him to step aside!

I don't think these men are asked that question when they give speeches, and that's why I think Russert's question was a sexist one.  The fact that Pelosi is among the "firsts" (in the sense of a first woman who ever held some powerful post) adds a slight flavor of impoliteness to that question. 

Pelosi's answer, pointing out that she had started the political game much later than most men (because they probably had someone of Pelosi's sex taking care of their children) reveals a different kind of gender difference here:  Pelosi's age does not reflect the length of her political career as well as the ages of many male politicians do.  Her "real" political age is around 58.

But a young man like Luke Russert doesn't have to be aware of the problems women of Pelosi's age had in entering politics:  The culture wanted women in politics to have children  but the culture also expected women to take care of those children themselves.   That made (and still makes) it tougher for women to become politicians at younger ages.