Sexism (with a capital S)

The New York Times actually published a whole article yesterday about Hillary Clinton’s laugh. I’m sorry, not her laugh, her “Cackle.” With a capital C. A totally negative, gendered word:

cack·le (kkl)
v. cack·led, cack·ling, cack·les
v.intr.
1. To make the shrill cry characteristic of a hen after laying an egg.
2. To laugh or talk in a shrill manner.

No, this isn’t Rush Limbaugh or Fox News using a gendered description of her laugh. It’s the nation’s newspaper. Aren’t journalists supposed to be better at finding original and creative ways of describing things? “Cackle” falls back on stereotypes. So does “giggle,” which is another descriptor used in the article.
The article goes on to discuss how Hillary laughs at inappropriate moments. Wouldn’t you, if you were trying to counteract the “ball-busting bitch” image bestowed upon you by both conservative commenters and the mainstream media? If she’s all serious, all the time, she feeds the stereotype. But she can’t seem to get ahead by trying to infuse more humor, either. She’s addressed this herself, after she laughed at her own joke about her husband’s infidelities, and reporters followed up with serious questions:

“You guys!� she said to reporters, chuckling, after the third question on the topic. “I thought I was funny. You guys keep telling me, lighten up, be fun. Now I get a little funny, and I’m being psychoanalyzed.�

No kidding. Psychoanalyzed and basically called a witch.
Slate has a slightly better take on the coverage of Hillary’s laugh, one that at least acknoweldges the sexism inherent in descriptions like “cackle” and “giggle”:

Clinton’s ideological enemies have had fun, too. Matt Drudge posted a sound clip of it, and Sean Hannity raised the pressing question of whether Clinton’s laughter was presidential. Hannity should be reminded that George Bush’s Beavis laugh was such an accurate imitation of the teenage cartoon reprobate he should have had to pay royalties. Like all aspects of the Clinton campaign, there’s sexism in the giggle critique: Women can only laugh in certain preapproved ways. Historically, men have categorized women’s laughter as a way to diminish them—they either cackle like a witch, or they titter like a schoolgirl.

No shit. If they weren’t using witch or schoolgirl allusions to describe the laugh, they’d no doubt be calling it “mannish.”
Below the jump, a video clip of what I’m now calling “The Laugh.”

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52 Comments

  1. ccomfo1
    Posted January 3, 2008 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    Sorry comp messed up posted three times.

  2. Lucy
    Posted April 23, 2008 at 12:40 am | Permalink

    I hate it when people have nothing better to do than criticize others. Nobody is perfect in this damn world and no one ever will be. There will always be a variety of people out there who are different. So I suggest they get use to it because that’s never going to change.
    And for goodness sake, she’s running for president not America’s sexists laugh!

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