Martha Coakley: Victim of the Patriarchy?

My piece at NewsReal today examines the inclination of some feminist writers to immediately blame sexism for Martha Coakley’s loss to Scott Brown.

There are facts, and then there are feminist facts.  Here’s an example:

Fact: Scott Brown is a white male who drives a pickup truck and won the Massachusetts special election.

Feminist fact: Scott Brown won the Massachusetts special election because he’s a white male who drives a pickup truck.

Can’t you picture the GMC warning labels? Caution: you’re driving a tool of the phallocracy.

You can read the rest at NewsReal.

Boiling the entire Coakley/Brown race down to gender bias is not only shallow, disingenuous political analysis, but it deprives women candidates of the ability to sink or swim on their own merits.  Of course, that hasn’t stopped others from piling on with variations on the sexism theme.

In addition to the examples cited in my NewsReal piece, a POLITICO article about the “impenetrable” glass ceiling in Massachusetts decried “how mind-bending the gender dynamics in this campaign were.”  And in The Daily Beast, James Carroll wrote that “Martha Coakley was croaked by an electorate that could not get past her gender” in “Misogynist Massachusetts.”

When gender disparity is your bread and butter, that’s what an election post-mortem looks like.  So I was pleasantly surprised to see a smarter, saner analysis of Coakley’s loss at Salon’s Broadsheet:

But, as a lefty feminist, I’m calling B.S.  It isn’t so simple, and suggesting otherwise is dangerous.

It takes willful blindness to argue that Coakley’s loss was chiefly the result of anything other than a crappy campaign.

Clearly Coakley didn’t lose because she was the female candidate.  But her crappy campaign wasn’t the biggest factor either.  She lost because she represented everything the majority of Massachusetts residents detest about the Democrats’ agenda. And she lost because immoral, politically motivated decisions she made as a prosecutor came back to haunt her.

So does Massachusetts have a problem electing women to office?

The Commonwealth ranks 18th in electing women to positions in the state legislature. That leaves room for improvement, but it hardly merits the “Misogynist Massachusetts” slur.  And crying sexism because the better man wasn’t a woman is simply counterproductive.


3 Responses to “Martha Coakley: Victim of the Patriarchy?”

  1. DodiaFae on January 21st, 2010 11:53 pm

    Jenn, you know that this was bound to happen.

    I mean, it’s not like the majority of the people of MA are stupid enough to believe that a person who couldn’t do her job and properly represent the people she was meant to protect as DA would actually do her job and represent the people who elected her if she won the senate seat.

  2. Jenn Q. Public on January 22nd, 2010 12:21 am

    DodiaFae, that’s what gets me about the charges of sexism. If the people of Massachusetts really have a hangup about female politicians, how would sending Coakley to Washington have helped? It would have validated their gender bias.

    And don’t get me started on the people suggesting that Scott Brown was sending some sort of racial signals with his pickup truck. Disgusting.

  3. theblackcommenter on January 22nd, 2010 11:04 am

    Jenn, I hadn’t heard about the pickup truck = racist symbol meme… wow things are getting cooky out there

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