National NOW Foundation Times >> Fall 2008  >> Article

Media Hall of Shame Calls Out Sexist Offenders

By Lisa Bennett, Communications Director

Maureen Dowd, 'Lifetime Achievement' winner for sexist commentary, writes for The New York Times and appears in papers across the U.S.
Maureen Dowd, "Lifetime Achievement" winner for sexist commentary, writes for The New York Times and appears in papers across the U.S.

Media sexism has been a hot topic this election season, and the National Organization for Women took the lead in calling attention to the issue. For years, NOW and the NOW Foundation have addressed the inclusion and depiction of women in the media, and we were among the first to analyze sexist press coverage of presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Clinton, as well as newly-elected Speaker Nancy Pelosi, back in March of 2007.

This June, after more than a year of consistently condemning media misogyny aimed at Clinton, NOW created an online Media Hall of Shame where we post the worst offenders and readers can rank them and then talk back to the press. The Hall of Shame has grown to include items about Michelle Obama and Gov. Sarah Palin and currently is one of the most popular spots on the NOW website. The New York Times wrote about it twice, and NOW President Kim Gandy has done numerous interviews.

At the National NOW Conference in July, Gandy presented the very first "awards" from the Media Hall of Shame. The honors (or dis-honors) went to the media offenders who scored the worst ratings from web visitors. Rush Limbaugh, Tucker Carlson (MSNBC) and Charlotte Allen (writing for the Washington Post) were the "winners," and NOW presented lifetime achievements awards in absentia to Chris Matthews (MSNBC) and Maureen Dowd (New York Times) for their stubborn dedication to sexist commentary.

In her Sept. 5 Below the Belt web column, Gandy wrote about the condescension heaped on Palin in her first week as Sen. John McCain's running mate. Right out of the gate, several media pundits questioned whether a mother of five (including a new baby) should be running for the second highest office in the U.S. -- a question unlikely to be asked of a new father with four other children.

Chris Matthews, of MSNBC and NBC, received a 'Lifetime Achievement' award for his persistent sexism on the air.
Chris Matthews, of MSNBC and NBC, received a "Lifetime Achievement" award for his persistent sexism on the air.

Why would NOW come to the defense of an ultra-conservative, anti-abortion woman candidate, in the same way that we did for Hillary Clinton? Because, as Gandy puts it: "We believe that Clinton and Palin deserve to compete on an even playing field with their male counterparts. But even more importantly, we recognize that public prejudice impacts all women. As long as the media get away with it, no woman is immune from the injustices and cruelty of sexism."

It's too bad, Gandy notes, that the right wing didn't stick up for Clinton when she was on the receiving end of sexist pundit pronouncements. On the contrary, Palin herself scoffed at Clinton for even raising the issue. "Maybe they're finally learning that it's disrespectful toward women, potentially damaging to their careers, intrusive into their personal lives, and just plain unfair," says Gandy.

NOW's campaign wants to free the media from its dependence on outdated gender stereotypes and bigoted insults, but we need your help. Visit NOW's Media Hall of Shame, cast your votes, and take action!