The Gender Trap: Yes, or Yes?

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Warning: I watched parts of the Democratic debate last night at the gym. This is the fate of the resident of the Pacific Time zone.

Watching Hillary Clinton smile as she listened to the final question, for a minute, I almost thought I liked her. But then the closed captioning caught up and I saw that the question had been, “Do you prefer diamonds or pearls?” Clinton’s response was, “I want both.”

Now a wave of really hating her passed over me. It’s not just the starving children in Africa who can’t afford precious gems—which, in case I need to remind you, have absolutely no function other than to advertise that the wearer has the money to buy something with absolutely no function. No, middle-class Americans with kids in school and mortgages can’t afford diamonds and pearls. The right answer would have been, “I’m much more worried about getting our soldiers home from Iraq.”

But now a wave of compassion for Clinton washed over me (yes, as a matter of fact, I am ambivalent about her). Any answer other than one which could be translated roughly as “I love jewelry” would have insulted the questioner. So Clinton was set up, something like this: “Okay, lady, so you’re a politician, but you’re still just a girl, right?” And she had to say, “Yes, that’s right, I’m just a girl—a middle-class girl who loves to be pampered.”

Now to add insult to injury, the MC then guffawed about whether he could ask the question to any of the other candidates—who are, you know, obviously not girls.

Because gender is the most obvious thing there is, right? Wrong. There are tons of people walking around who aren’t immediately readable as male or female. Say it is obvious, as in Clinton’s case. The debate question made it seem that her love of jewelry—and being regaled with it by a man who pampers and cares for her—follows just as obviously. Huge leap, people! And extremely misogynist.

Well, it turns out that the questioner had actually wanted to ask something about plans for a nuclear dump site at Yucca Mountain. So it was male reporters who planted a female questioner to ask a question that forced Clinton to say with a smile that yes, she did throw like a girl, and diamond’s are a girl’s best friend!

Does this shed any light on McCain’s bitch problem?

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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