Former Mother Jones intern and current Salon.com writer Justin Elliott brings up some good examples of sexism in the race for seats this November. In one, Joe Miller briefly compares opponent Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) to a prostitute. In another, Ken Buck said Colorado voters should pick him over Jane Norton for the senate because he “doesn’t wear high heels.” Sexist attacks are nothing new on the campaign trail, though they somehow lack the destructive powers of racist remarks. But what some candidates are forgetting is that sexism is a two-way street.
Ken Buck said he made the remark about Norton’s footwear because she had assailed his “manhood” in an attack ad where she said he should be “man enough” to pay for his own campaign spots, and that Colorado should elect a senator who had “backbone enough to stand her ground.” Politicians use all kinds of gimmicks pursuing votes, but playing the gender card is a cheap shot, and one that often backfires. The “man enough” comment was indeed sexist, as was Buck’s response to it. Norton hit back in this video, but eventually lost to Buck by 3 points last month.
Sharron Angle is another female senate candidate who’s shown signs of playing the gender card, and not to her advantage. She said in two interviews that Harry Reid’s attack ads were an attempt to “hit the girl.” She told the Heidi Harris Show that Reid was bullying her in the campaign, “And he has been doing that to me and what we need to do is say, ‘you know Harry, it’s not going to do you any good to hit the girl.'” I have a lot of issues with Angle, but I can’t imagine portraying herself as a defenseless girl on the playground will do Angle much good: If you don’t want to be bullied, Congress is the last place you should go. I don’t think playing the gender card helps female candidates, but I for one would prefer to see candidates of both sexes attack one another based on what’s between their ears rather than what’s between their legs.