So Obama gets asked at a press conference about some negative ad that Clinton aired about him, and says this:
“I understand that Senator Clinton, periodically when she’s feeling down, launches attacks as a way of trying to boost her appeal,”
‘Cause gals are so emotional, y’know? They get to feeling down from time to time. Some might even say “periodically.” And during those times the claws might come out. Know what I mean, fellas?
It seems to me it takes a lot of effort to argue that Obama wasn’t using standard male shorthand about women’s motivations – or rather, the unspoken, pervasive idea that men act because of motivations and women react because of emotions.
I hear that kind of shit all the time from other men. And I think the idea is so pervasive and implicit that it can almost literally defy explanation sometimes, as now (not that I’m not going to try). What I mean is that as I try to explain this, I know that many, if not most of my readers (all eight of you) will think that I’m straining at gnats, seeing things that aren’t there because I’m predisposed to do so ’cause I’m always trying to be all liberal and feminist and whatnot (you know, fuzzy-headed, dare I say emotional). That I would make the case that sexism is so systemic and pervasive that this comment can just drip with it and even someone who normally spends a lot of time making the feminist case will miss it sort of pre-emptively disqualifies me from making that case. As zuzu says, putting it in the context of a dogwhistle:
Another way to send your message to your target audience while maintaining deniability is to go the wink-wink-nudge-nudge route, where you know that many people not in your target audience will pick up your meaning, but because you’ve crafted your statement to be facially innocuous, anyone who objects will be accused of being hysterical, hypersensitive, or overreacting.
And I’d add that the meaning will be picked up a lot of the time without your intended audience even realizing they’re picking it up, because it would be like noticing that people in our culture are constantly personifying the concept of an ordered universe into a male sky god named “God.” The luxury of not having to notice that your society is structured to your advantage is what’s been called the fog of privilege.
Please see also:
Once again, I’ll note that the same person who is almost universally regarded as an orator of unrivaled competence, who is heralded as a linguistic maestro gifted with the talent for launching a political movement with the mere power of his well-chosen words, cannot believably claim to not have had the slightest inclination that “periodically feeling down” might be construed as having a double meaning as applied to a female opponent.