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Counting Out Women

Melissa McEwan

Misogyny lives on in the US media – and it's time old goats like Hardball host Chris Matthews were put out to pasture.

That misogyny still plagues the American news media is not up for debate – at least not among people with the merest faculty for critical thought, the basic ability to count the numbers of men and women hosting, reporting, and guesting on news shows, or even in possession of eyes or ears and the capacity to point themselves in the direction of MSNBC’s daily politics show Hardball.

Chris Matthews is a repeat offender, failing on many days to get through an entire hour of his show without making an ignorant or overtly prejudiced comment about women. He leers at his colleagues, gropes other talkshow hosts, debates whether Ann Coulter is hot, makes tired castrating feminist jokes, refuses to confront sexism on his own show, and has been routinely disrespectful or overtly hostile to Hillary Clinton and other women in politics. Eric Boehlert has documented that misogyny is, in fact, a pretty sweet business for Matthews.

Yesterday’s show was no exception, as Matthews discussed the stimulus package (or, as he calls it here, Obama’s "big package") with Robert Wexler, a Democratic congressman from Florida, complaining that the money allocated for family planning is just a bunch of "odds and ends and cats and dogs".

Congressman Wexler why isn’t it just, why isn’t it just what we thought it was going to be…infrastructure, roads, bridges, stuff that everybody agrees on needs to be fixed and creates real jobs for real people that pay decent salaries. Why don’t we spend all the money on that stuff that people can see rather than all these odds and ends and cats and dogs?

Roe has collapsed and Texas is in chaos.

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According to Matthews, the only thing "real people" can "see" are infrastructure projects and the jobs they create – which, as has been pointed out by Linda Hirshman and discussed by Echidne here, are jobs that will disproportionately benefit men. Funding for family planning (arguably) primarily benefits women, rendering it, in Matthews’ estimation, a pointless waste of money.

Subsequently, after Wexler explains that family planning "saves, if done correctly, an enormous sum of money down the road in the healthcare system" – Matthews ignores wholly that planned and wanted children born to non-addicted women who seek out prenatal care are generally healthier children, dismisses out of hand the importance of choice, and instead accuses Wexler (and, by extension, the Democrats) of advocating "a policy of reducing the number of births".

I’m for abortion as a right and all that. It’s all right. But why should the federal government have a policy of reducing the number of births? I don’t know why the federal government has an interest in that. They have an interest in freedom and people making choices but I just heard a case made by Congressman Wexler that it was in the national interest to have fewer kids. I don’t understand that.

"It sounds a little like China," he notes, conflating the Democrats’ plan to provide women a breadth of reproductive choices with a state-mandated reproductive limitation which has resulted in the mass murder and abandonment of female infants.

It’s like a crêpe of misogyny, double the deliciousness, with a flaky pancake of ignorance wrapped around a gooey inside of unapologetic enmity.

That Matthews’ misogyny infects his work is not just problematic because it leaves viewers with any sense of egalitarianism and fairness reaching for the remote; it also makes him flatly bad at his job. It’s factually incorrect that the Democrats’ proposal is anything "like China", and it’s an authentically retrograde opinion to hold that funding family planning is not an essential expenditure, reflective of someone profoundly out of touch with the realities of modern American women’s lives, experiences, and needs.

And, as we speak, Matthews has opened tonight’s show on the same note. Everything about the news is old again, in the hands of Mr Hardball.

There is an inherent conflict in someone presenting the news (root word: new!) and clinging defiantly and pathetically to opinions of women that were already old when I was born nearly 35 years ago. Put him out to pasture already, MSNBC.

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