I think this is a big enough issue to warrant its own diary.  I see this mistake made a lot, not just in the diary currently on the rec list.

Personally, I do not usually make superficial insults unless it's as a joke.  I think there's plenty of substantial reasons to rip on Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Sarah Palin, George Bush, etc.  But sometimes I will do it in jest.  I will go out on a limb and say that the vast majority of DKos members have probably at some point made some comment about the physical appearance of some conservative.  Whether it's calling Bush "Chimpy" or referrencing Bill-O the Clown's giant head.  I see it done casually all the time on here.

Unfortunately when someone makes a superficial criticism of a female figure, others call it sexism.  Depending on context it may be sexism, but usually it is not.  It's just being shallow.  Which everyone does sometimes, and is not nearly so big a sin as being sexist -- which hopefully we are not.

If I say Rush Limbaugh is incapable of eating salad because he's a man, that's sexist.  If I say Rush Limbaugh is incapable of eating a salad because he's the size of a small house, that's just being shallow.

Likewise many of the comments people cite about Palin as being sexist, are not sexist at all, just shallow.  It is especially bothersome to me that people would make claims of sexism when Palin herself leverages her appearance at every opportunity to further her career.  And why shouldn't she?  Obama does as well.  Bush managed to look somewhat authentic in a cowboy hat, and used that to his advantage as well.  Unless you run for office in nothing but a burlap sack and a Nixon halloween mask, you're going to be putting your appearance to effect.

It also bothers me when sexism is leveled incorrectly because it diminishes the cases where someone really is being sexist.  Actual gender based discrimination is rightly reviled.  Shallow behavior and comments while stupid and not particularly useful, are not an equal crime.

It's a perfectly legitimate criticism to say people are too focused on Palin or Coulter's looks, and that distracts from impeaching them based on the content of their message (as sparing as that may be.)  Why not make it that way, rather than throwing out the incorrect sexism label?

Lastly, I'm sure there is actual sexism leveled against Palin, Coulter, etc. -- I'm only referring to the incorrect use of the label here.

Originally posted to ebbv on Fri Jul 10, 2009 at 02:49 PM PDT.

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