Thursday, September 04, 2008

Stereotype Watch: Women Candidates Called "Shrill"

It happened with Sen. Hillary Clinton, and it's happening with Gov. Sarah Palin. CNN has confirmed that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid characterized VP candidate Gov. Sarah Palin as "shrill."

It's a way to attack the person based on perceptions rather than discussing the relevant issues. And male candidates aren't called shrill.

According to the encyclopedia, such stereotypes are common, as in: ‘Well, she's supposed to be back by now but she's probably stopped off somewhere to gossip. You know how women are.’ There are many such generalizations: for example, that the tone of women's voices is or should be soft and feminine, while men's tones are or should be deep and masculine; that in female gatherings (hen parties), voices are shrill or cackling; that women's intonation is often (like that of children) whining or nagging.1.

Interestingly, Gov. Palin used the gender stereotype in this race too, calling Sen. Clinton a "whiner."

I call on the leaders and the media to stop using sexist terms to define and to silence female candidates - of any party. This includes: "shrill," "whining," and "Cheerleader-in-Chief."

1 Source: Concise Oxford Companion to the English Language Date: 1998

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