Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

A Hard Act to Follow

I’ve been lucky enough to know a few folks who would be filed quite readily under the heading “a hard act to follow”.

For a couple of weekends this month, Garrison Keillor took the opportunity to yield the host duties of his “Prairie Home Companion” radio program to someone else. I don’t know whether he sat and listened to the shows along with the rest of us … but there was such spectacular subtext every time his guest host, Punch Brothers lead singer Chris Thile, opened his mouth that I actually found hard to listen. And it’s not even my show! Can’t imagine what the creator of Lake Wobegon was feeling, no matter how much he may have brushed off the idea.

Not that Thile did poorly; he did fine, considering the task set before him. But for forty years, the voice that has spoken words like “coming to you live from the stage of the Fitzgerald Theater in Saint Paul” and “heavens! They’re tasty, and expeditious” has been Keillor’s, and if anyone else tries it, it is simply Not. The. Same.

When NPR’s “Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me” news quiz program begins each week, I admire the baritone of “legendary anchorman Bill Curtis” doing the introductions … but it’s just not Carl Kasell.

Re-boots have that innate challenge. We love the folks who are “our first”. Shatner is Captain Kirk. Dirk Benedict is Lieutenant Starbuck. Don Adams is Agent Maxwell Smart. Lou Ferrigno is the Hulk. Good luck to Chris Pine, Katee Sackhoff, Steve Carell, and the CGI version of Mark Ruffalo. Your results may vary.

And heaven knows, in the last decade, I’ve had the opportunity to bid farewell to a number of performers for whom there will be no re-boots. They played their roles in such a way that any attempt to recreate those roles precisely … would be seen as cheap imitation. My Dad, as my primary example, will never be duplicated, which is a shame; but at the same time, doing a Dad impression is of less use than carrying on in such a way that the good works he left behind are what continue.

It’s a balancing act. Even in the Drum Major Academy world, we’ve brought both George Parks’ guiding principles and many of his bits of schtick along with us, in the four summers following his passing … but the curriculum and presentations are evolving. Wisely, the people who were charged with the task of presenting the “beware the drum major attitude” lecture session (which were shot through with Mr. Parks’ personal anecdotes) have been encouraged to bring their own additions and elements to it.

When Garrison Keillor retires, will “Prairie Home” even continue? His voice, his writing, his “old-time radio” approach, and without doubt the fictional Lake Wobegon community that existed only in his head, are so individual to him that it might be anywhere from wild and blind optimism to hubris for someone else to try to reproduce his act.

Assuredly, if it continues, it won’t be the same; but will that turn out to be okay? Depends upon whom you ask. Some will refuse to listen to a changed “PHC”. Some will keep on tuning in, to listen to Rich Dworsky at the piano, to Tim Russell and Sue Scott and Fred Newman’s able radio acting voices … but someone else will be writing the Ketchup Advisory Board and “Guy Noir, Private Eye” sketches – if they even survive the transition. And, if this month’s guest-hosted shows are any indication, no one will even try to reproduce the “News from Lake Wobegon”. At which point, some will say that it’s not really “PHC” anymore, and others will appreciate the “Moth Radio Hour” storytellers that may be brought in to fill that show segment. I don’t even know which direction I’ll go.

Last week, the radio world – and New England’s more local radio world – lost someone who will be a hard act to follow.

Richard Sher, the host of the public radio word-and-wit panel quiz show “Says You!”, passed away on Monday, February 16, after a battle with colon cancer.

I’ve been regular listener of the show for the majority of its eighteen and a half seasons. Happily, I live in a part of the country that plays host to live tapings of “Says You!” at least once a year; so once a year since 2009, I’ve taken my mother (also a big fan) to an afternoon or evening session wherein a couple of episodes of the show are recorded. (I even bumped into one of my former students in the audience on one occasion; I was both thrilled and totally unsurprised.) It’s as close to old-time radio as it gets anymore, with the possible exception of, yes, “A Prairie Home Companion”.

Part of the fun of “Says You!” has been its refusal to take itself too seriously. One of its philosophies is: “it’s not important to know the answers … it’s important to like the answers.” A larger part of the fun is the panelists who are asked to wrestle with the ferocious trivia quizzes, word puzzles, and brain-teaser questions that Richard Sher created for each week’s broadcast. Six New England-based writers, radio journalists, television personalities and other performers, in teams of three, tussle with the intellectual challenges and also interact with each other – with equal helpings of brilliance and silliness.

These masters of out-loud problem solving and on-the-spot joke-making were assembled into this verbal gymnastics team primarily because they all were long-time friends of Richard Sher. As the moderator and ringmaster of this flying circus of word and wit since its inception in 1997, by turns Sher guided the proceedings and sometimes seemed to hang on for dear life.

He would shamble onstage before a taping started, usually clad in tan corduroy jacket with brown elbow patches (necktie optional), and grab hold of each side of a small speaker’s podium, slightly hunch-shouldered … looking for all the world like a cross between an amiable English professor and Gru, the evil mastermind of the “Despicable Me” movies.

And always, he came off as the kind of person that his friends described him as, in the various obituaries that have appeared in the last fortnight: affable … creative … quirky … a mensch … warm and funny … “cynical but zany” … gentle and humane … eminently lovable.

Sher could make audiences laugh explosively at his gently acerbic emceeing (“That is a brilliant answer. Totally wrong, but brilliant even so.”). But he would not have been above literally falling over laughing at one of his panelist friends’ ad-libbed jokes. This happened during a number of the tapings that I attended; when it took him a few minutes to recover his composure afterward, the audience learned what an “edit point” in radio was. (“You’ll be amazed at how seamless this all will sound when it hits the radio.”)

When my mother handed me the Boston Globe‘s obituary page and said, “read this,” I read the headline: “Richard Sher, 66; created and hosted radio quiz show ‘Says You’”. I’ll admit that my first thought, following the initial sinking feeling that always accompanies such a realization, was: “aw, Ben.”

Benjamin Sher was Richard Sher’s beloved son, whom the obituary described as “part of the show, serving occasionally as scorekeeper and doing voice-overs”. At the end of each broadcast, the show’s credits finish with Richard saying, “Benjamin, give ’em the skinny!” and his son replying, “Says You! is produced by Pipit & Finch, Boston!” They’ve had to re-record Ben’s reply at least twice. I think there’s a four-year-old version, an eight-year-old version, and a thirteen-year-old version. He’s just as much a vet of the show as any of the panelists.

Mr. Sher was devoted to his son,” continued the obituary, “driving him to school and attending every event possible. When work took him out of town, his wife said, he would pause the taping to take phone calls with results of his son’s sports contests.” There’s no good time to lose your father, but I can appreciate that I got most of forty years to enjoy my dad’s company. Benjamin Sher got something like fifteen of them.

My next thought was: “Richard Sher is a hard act to follow.” I wouldn’t want to. There are just some acts, whether big and bombastic or subtle as a raised eyebrow, that are unique. My mother and I agreed that it would be next to impossible.

In January, when I attended the taping of two shows at Regis College, not far from Boston, I obviously didn’t realize that I was watching Richard Sher’s radio swan song. It’s not often in life that one consciously realizes they’re seeing something happen for the last time. And I wonder if anyone in that audience knew that Sher was suffering from colon cancer, that he had just six weeks left. He wasn’t lettin’ on, that’s for sure. It must have been one of the great moments of “the show must go on” that I’ve seen, at least live and in-person and in the fifth row.

Sure enough, Richard Sher (along with the extended family he’s left behind) appears to have defied expectations once again. Who might have predicted that a wordplay radio quiz show would thrive for most of two decades, in our current short-attention-span entertainment world – even if it was public radio and not commercial? And the website pronounced, not long after he passed away:

It was Richard’s wish that the show continues – the laughter it generates from you, our loyal listeners, will be the greatest gift that could possibly be hoped for …”

According to the Globe obituary, “’Says You!’ will continue its broadcasts. … [T]here is a reservoir of nearly 500 taped shows that can play at any time. Part of Richard’s genius was his foresight in editing out all topical references, so each program is freestanding.” “This truly is an ensemble,” said Sher’s wife, Laura, a program producer for the show. “While Richard has been the lead in that, this is an ensemble strong enough to go on.”

As in, not just in reruns. I’m beyond pleased to read that; I’ll be curious to see how they do carry on. I hope, and suspect, that Richard Sher has laid a foundation that really can endure. He was the literal voice of the show; but he emphasized and showcased the contributions of his team in such a way that the transition may actually not be nearly as jarring as it could have been.

Perhaps this past January wasn’t the last time I’ll get to a taping, after all. The show will go on.


February 25, 2015 Posted by | arts, entertainment, Famous Persons, media, npr, radio | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hearing Voices

I stumbled onto an intriguing job posting today.

No, I’m not looking for a new job. I just GOT this new one, for heaven’s sake.

In any case, the job is in an almost entirely different field from my current line of work; although some of the job qualifications I could have acquired eventually, had I somehow stayed in the journalism biz long enough and pointing in the right direction (which is to say, not the direction I was pointing, which was toward trade and tech journals, rather than television and radio).

National Public Radio is looking for someone to say, “This is NPR”. Repeatedly.

There’s more to the gig than that, but that detail was what got quite the attention of a number of my online acquaintances.

There’s a certain something about an NPR voiceover that makes it distinct, and distinctly different from, say, yahoo sports talk radio, or from 1010 WINS in New York City, or from most commercial broadcasters. Hard to pin down exactly what that certain something is. Once I heard some rube describe the men of NPR News as “announcers who’ve discovered their softer side”. But if you randomly turn a radio on and get an NPR voiceover, whether it’s “from NPR in Washington” or from a local affiliate’s on-air personality, you know you’ve hit public radio.

To describe the NPR voice, I suppose I could use adjectives like calm, relaxed, urbane, serene, or folksy; but that would label me as biased toward the organization. So sue me; I like the sound of it. With a few possible exceptions like the Car Talk guys, just about everyone on public radio, from news programming to “America’s Test Kitchen”, has those certain, yes, soothing elements in their voices. It’s a little jarring, the first time you hear “Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me” when one of the panelists is comedian Bobcat Goldthwait, he of the reedy and slightly desperate voice.

THAT’S what it is – nobody at NPR ever sounds like they’re breathless and desperate. (Except around pledge drive time, but that’s not really programming, that’s begging. So.)

Anyway, the job opening. I’m not qualified. I have a few of the qualifications that NPR lists in its classified ad, but not nearly enough for them to toss my resume in the “take another look” pile.

We’re looking for someone with serious production chops, … and is comfortable managing a complex workflow and ‘ready-to-air’ deadlines.” So, not me. I’ve only visited radio stations.

Must have strong [experience with] Dalet, Adobe Audition, ProTools or similar production tools” … I’ve heard of the latter two, but I admit that I looked at the first one and heard the word “exterminate!” in my head, so I think that tends to deny me full marks.

[Must have] at least four years of production or broadcast experience with emphasis in professional voice announcement and production” … not even nearly close, unless you count my emcee work at church hymn sings.

[Must demonstrate] at all times respect for the diverse constituencies at NPR and within the public radio system” … well, I know people who can confirm that I’ve never made fun of Garrison Keillor, Ira Glass or any attempt by NPR to cover professional sports, so that’s something. And, years ago, I wrote a set of lyrics to the tune of “O Tannenbaum” that on the surface made me sound like I was taking shots at the public radio fundraiser, but actually there was plenty of affection involved. (“O woe is us, O woe is us / If we don’t get your pledges / Our operating budget is / Ragged ’round the edges”…)

So, knowing that I was not going to be a finalist for this position, nonetheless, I got to wondering: what would I sound like if I tried to make an audition recording?

Very few people I know actually like the sound of their own recorded speaking voice. Something to do with how we’re used to hearing it from inside our own heads, and it sounds different on the outside, where we never are. Many times, students of mine have exclaimed, “that’s not me! That’s not us!” Ah, but it is.

(I’ve gotten used to my speaking voice. Now my singing voice is another matter, but that’s one thing that’s great about being a church choir director: you’re almost always facing away from the congregation.)

From the NPR ad: “Bonus points for the ability to sound authentic on the radio – we’re not looking for ‘the voice of God.’”

You’re not? Why didn’t you say so sooner!?

So for kicks, I marched over to my little digital recorder device, took a deep breath, and read the copy that NPR suggested would constitute a proper audition recording.

Support for this program comes from Zurich Insurance, providing risk management and insurance solutions to help businesses meet their ever-changing needs. Learn more at Zurich N-A dot com. {ZUR – ik}. Novo Nordisk, committed to diabetes care and changing lives for more than 90 years. Novo Nordisk hyphen U-S dot com. and CarMax, offering more than 35,000 used cars and trucks. Online, and in stores from coast to coast. Learn more at CarMax dot com. This is NPR.”

I will admit that speaking those words … words which for the most part are just ads for NPR’s corporate sponsors … put my mind in a different place than most words I speak.

All Things Considered is a production of NPR News, which is solely responsible for its content. Transcripts of stories you hear on this program are available for free the following day at NPR dot org. Select the “Transcripts” link on every story page. To find out more about the movies you hear about on NPR programs, go to NPR dot org slash movies. This is NPR.”

The equivalent in the non-NPR world would be contributing your own voice to the paragraph “You unlock this door with the key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension: a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind. You’re moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas; you’ve just crossed over into the Twilight Zone.”

Or substituting your own voice for the CBS Sports announcer who used to rattle off the commercial sponsors of its NFL games: “Brought to you bahhh…”

Or using your own voice to pull a Don LaFontaine movie trailer maneuver, saying things like, “In a world… where this and that collide… one man… has the power to change the world… forever.”

Can’t pull any of that off. Sorry.

But this, I can manage:

And even though Ernest Shackleton organizes another doomed expedition to the Antarctic whenever he hears us say it … this is NPR, National Public Radio.”

May 22, 2013 Posted by | media, npr, radio, technology | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

It’s 2012, Or So I Thought

I’ve been thinking a lot about women lately.

Slow down, everyone. It’s not what it sounds like.

In the last year or so, it’s seemed as if about every third day, someone says something spectacularly nineteenth-century on the subject of women, women’s rights, and other sundry characteristics of women. Usually, the people saying these things are not themselves women. Which, in most cases, causes me to wonder what exactly convinces them that they’re qualified to even make opinion about these issues, let alone policy, and in too many cases, comes off as what it probably is: “hey, little lady, don’t you worry about a thing – I know what’s good for you.”

I’m remembering February of this year, at which time numerous state legislators proposed laws that would require women seeking abortions to undergo some form of internal probing as part of that process. Many commentators characterized those bills as state-supported rape; the Virginia bill earned Virginia governor Bob McDonnell several pointed nicknames – the most broadcastable (on public airwaves) of which was Rachel Maddow‘s “Governor Ultrasound”.

Virginia Democratic state delegate David Englin, an opponent of the bill, recalled his conversation with a GOP lawmaker who told him that women had already made the decision to be “vaginally penetrated when they got pregnant.” Whoever that GOP lawmaker was … probably deserved to have the wits slapped out of him by whatever wife or girlfriend he may have been undeservingly lucky enough to still have.

Then in March, there was Sandra Fluke. Or rather, there was seemingly every middle-aged male pundit and commentator and alleged entertainer taking the opportunity to heap abuse upon on Ms. Fluke, who started out one week in March as a witness in a Congressional committee hearing and ended that week as the target of – I’m sorry, some of the most awful invective I can think of. To wit:

First this, from the host of the Rush Limbaugh Show: “[Sandra Fluke] goes before a Congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex, what does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex. She’s having so much sex she can’t afford the contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex.”

Media analyst Eric Boehlert wrote, “Incapable of self-reflection, player after player … rushed forward to condemn the law student and/or to insist [Limbaugh] had done nothing wrong by, (a) insulting the young woman, (b) mocking her parents, (c) demanding she post videos of herself having sex online, and (d) suggesting she was using condoms when she was in elementary school.”

Then this reaction, from the then-presumed and now-confirmed Republican Party nominee for the office of President of the United States: “It’s not the language I would have used.” As columnist Maureen Dowd wrote, “Is there a right way to call a woman a slut?”

Commentator and former Congressional candidate Krystal Ball [who, predictably, takes heat for her name] wrote, “[S]peaking out for women’s health care certainly doesn’t [make you a slut]. Standing up for your rights doesn’t mean someone gets to rhetorically rip your top off in hopes to send you running from the public square in shamed humiliation, a cautionary tale for any woman who dares forget her place.”

In both blatant and veiled ways, for the past year particularly, lots of commentators and politicians who are public figures have been very willing to make remarks that reveal their utter disregard for women as human beings. I wonder how anyone can think that some of those remarks are actually okay. Do these people – do these men – know any women? Their mothers, perhaps? Do any of them have sisters? Nieces? Daughters? Bueller?

But … the moment that has really gotten me jumping up and down happened this week. Compared to the forced-ultrasound bill and the Fluke abuse and all the rest of the stupidity of 2012, this may at first sound perhaps a bit smaller in scale. But to me, it reveals just how insidious these attitudes and this behavior have become.


Writer Joan Vennochi wrote a column for the Boston Globe this week which was meant to highlight the policy differences between Sen. Scott Brown (R.-Mass.) and his Democratic challenger, Prof. Elizabeth Warren, in such a way that she could make clear that Prof. Warren’s ideas were preferable to Sen. Brown’s.

But the way she wrote it was, to me, strikingly bogged down in the stereotypical way women in politics (and in many parts of American life) are treated, still, in 2012. Well, perhaps she didn’t realize that it came across that way. But here are the parts of that piece of writing that attracted my attention, and my ire:

Agreed: Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren wasted millions on ads that turned her into every man’s worst nightmare: a smarter-than-thou older woman sporting granny glasses and sensible hair.”

I have to pause here and note: ooooooo. That’s a most threatening thing, indeed: a woman who might actually be smarter than thou. (Beats the hell out of holier-than-thou; which is another essay altogether.)

For the record, in case it matters to you – I like sensible hair.

Anyway, onward: “[S]olid, substantive differences that should matter to Massachusetts voters … are diverted by the same old superficial nonsense. Brown is a good-looking guy with a lovely wife and daughters. Is that reason enough to send him back to Washington for a full Senate term? Warren is dogged by the same questions that always dog women. Democratic consultant Dan Payne wonders about the whereabouts of her husband and other family members. And why is she wearing the same old red jacket? … No one asked that about Brown and his barn jacket.”

The aforementioned Mr. Payne went on local public radio station WBUR’s afternoon current-affairs conversation program, “Radio Boston”, to address the Warren campaign and the advice he would offer to them regarding what needed to be done to SAVE her candidacy from those pesky age-old issues whose presence we always seem to take for granted … issues “that always dog women”.

I pause for a moment to acknowledge that very rarely are actual issues and policy proposals super-big selling points in modern American politics, whether those political races involve men or women, and lately the truth appears to have skipped town altogether.

I now move forward with the previous line of thought, or rather, what Dan Payne thought was important to ensure Prof. Warren’s future political success.

Payne made two main arguments, based on a column he wrote recently for WBUR, called “What’s Wrong With the Elizabeth Warren Campaign”. The first argument was about Warren’s appearance; the second was about how she communicates her thoughts in ads, and during speeches and other public appearances. For absolute clarity, here’s the exchange, from the “Radio Boston” transcript (and you can listen to it here):

Meghna Chakrabarti: Tell us what you think is wrong with the Warren campaign.

Dan Payne: It’s her advertising. Her television commercials seem to turn off people. Women have told me they find her hectoring, they don’t like her attitude, she’s school-marmish. These are the opinions of people who support her.

Chakrabarti: It seems to me that “hectoring, school-marmish” — those are criticisms based on the image that’s being projected in her advertising and not necessarily of her policy or how she may or may not be connecting with people on the campaign trail.

Payne: Right. When she works a room, when she gives a talk, it’s a completely different dynamic. People who have seen her in person think she’s wonderful. Those who only know her through TV have real questions.

Chakrabarti: You wrote that Warren’s vocabulary is coarse, that she says things like, “Small business owners bust their tails every day,” in one of her ads. [A sound clip of Warren is played, in which she says, “For many years, our middle class has been chipped, squeezed, and hammered…”] And you say that at the Democratic National Convention, she tried to convey toughness with words like rigged, hammered, corrosive, for example. [Another sound bite reveals Warren saying, “For many years, our middle class has been chipped, squeezed, and hammered…”] These aren’t necessarily phrases you’d expect to hear from a Harvard law professor. But on the other hand, she grew up on Oklahoma, in a struggling middle class family. Maybe this is her?

Payne: It’s possible that she talks like this all the time. But if it’s intentional, it reflects a desire by the campaign to not sound like a Harvard professor, to sound like she can talk street talk with the best of them. I think she’s trying to say that she feels strongly about these things, but it just comes across in many cases as coarse.

Chakrabarti: On the other hand, you admit politics is like high school, how you dress and act defines you socially, and you want to see her dress in a more modern way, lose what you call “the granny glasses,” get a different haircut. It seems like these issues leap to the forefront with much greater speed when we’re talking about women candidates.

Payne: Sure, it’s possible. Well, you do hear it occasionally about men. I think people complain about Romney not being able to connect. When he tries to go off the cuff, he makes mistakes. He says things like, “Ann drives a couple of Cadillacs.” … I was reflecting what women have told me about Warren. And they want to like her — that’s the shame of this. They want to like her.

Chakrabarti: We’ve only got under two months left until the actual election. Say her campaign is actually reading your commentary or listening to us. What if they did make these changes?

Payne: I like to think I performed a service. I think I told them things… maybe they had not heard before in this organized way.

Chakrabarti: If indeed any changes were made now, wouldn’t Warren be accused of being inauthentic?

Payne: I’m asking her to be more authentic. I want her to just sound like a human being, not read the script that makes her sound like some angry, hectoring school marm. But I hate to say it, about politics, but we live in a celebrity-based society, so a candidate for high office is considered a celebrity as well as a political figure. And so you’re judged as a celebrity is judged: by the way you present yourself.

Chakrabarti:I can imagine there are those out there throwing up their hands saying, “This is exactly what needs to change!”

[Chakrabarti now reads comments that, during the conversation, had been posted on WBUR’s website:]

Chakrabarti: “judiann1” wrote on wbur.org: “We need a government full of people like Elizabeth not an actress with a shiny veneer. We have a Congress full of these things.” And “travis” commented:This is exactly what is wrong with our current system, so far removed from basic democratic principles and issue-based voting. ‘Get New Glasses’?! ‘Soften the Hair’?! Shame on you guys for perpetuating such a laughable, ridiculous system.”

Payne: In general, you have to go with the flow. If people really believe they want to know something about you that goes beyond your name, party, issues — they want to know about your family, they want to get a feeling for you as a human, you have to do that, you have to respect the voters where they are. Now maybe that’s trivializing politics, but you can’t simply do commercials that say this is what I believe, this is what the other person believes and go back and forth like that. It just isn’t basically a useful way to communicate.


I pause for a moment to reflect that in those last two sentences, Payne (perhaps unwittingly) reveals what is shallow about his (and others’) political-consultant take on this subject, not to mention the exact thing that’s wrong with American politics.

Anyway, onward. One of the commenters on Dan Payne’s original article, posted at WBUR’s website, wrote in agreement with Payne (and, backhandedly, in support of Warren):

I’m with [Warren’s] political positions all the way. But I have to say: GET A NEW HAIRDO! This seems incredibly trivial, but it’s not. Everyone has an ‘identity kit,’ a roster of clues that others use to ‘place’ a person in society. Unfortunately, hers includes some rather unattractive visual cues. These can be fixed easily. Attractive people are more appealing to others. There’s no reason why these superficial signals have to put this great candidate at a disadvantage. Fix them – especially the hair!”

If I must remark about appearance, I would say that I have much less of a problem with someone who looks fairly close to average but has a whole lot to say, and much more of a problem with someone like Sarah Palin, who is all hair and makeup and the red-blooded middle-aged American man’s idea of what an attractive babe looks like, but doesn’t have a single reasonable policy idea to contribute to American politics, any coherent way to express any such idea, or any faintly firm grasp of American history – and proves it each and every darn time she shows up on television or drops a bowl of word salad on Twitter. You betcha.

But as this blog has so often been about words … so, finally, is this post.

Payne’s trouble with Warren, aided and abetted by Chakrabarti, is that her choice of words makes her sound like a “hectoring school-marm” and he’s uncomfortable with the fact that she chooses to talk tough. Ooooo. Must not sound “coarse” if you’re a woman.

When a male candidate “talks tough”, no one bats a flippin’ eyelash – in fact the candidate is praised for shooting straight, leveling with the American people, tackling the issues head-on. New Jersey’s blowhard governor, Chris Christie, routinely comes off sounding like a cross between Tony Soprano and Jabba the Hutt – and there are people who are actually considering him as a potential 2016 Presidential candidate. Meanwhile, Elizabeth Warren – who expresses an awful lot of thoughts with the kind of coherence and force that the Occupy movement might wish it could muster – and political and cultural commentators develop a sudden case of the vapors and hope to land on a couch when they faint.

Spare me.

Up to now, it has (forgive me) been mostly pundits and politicians from the rather far-right-wing end of the political spectrum, which seems to be where the Republican Party now resides on most issues, who have been perpetuating these attitudes toward women. But now? Behold! A consultant from the left side of the aisle who has hopped over the fence, effectively saying, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em – at least join ’em in saying things that are somehow politically smart. “You have to go with the flow,” he sagely declared.

Well, they may be considered politically smart, but they ain’t smart. To me, they don’t make this consultant, or any of the rest of the Republican talkers, sound smart – or sound like they’re aware at all of American history. You all do know that the the women’s suffrage movement was successful, yes?

Are we sure this is 2012? The, you know, twenty-first century?

Perhaps I’m reacting this way because I know plenty of women who are smart, wise, brave, strong … sometimes stronger than the men around them (including me) … and many of them are people whom I would characterize as tougher than me by a country mile. My mother, for openers. My sister, to continue that list. I can think of three friends right off the top of my head whose doctorates are earned (mine is just a nickname, I’m afraid). And there are more; and they know who they are (and some of them actually read this space!).

But even if I hadn’t been privileged to call those particular people friends and colleagues for many years … women, ALL women, are human beings. They don’t deserve abuse just because they’re women, and they don’t deserve to – maddeningly – be subjected to the ignorance that is chucked at them like a javelin, seemingly more and more frequently as days pass. Finally, at long last, somehow, can we please find it in us to go check out the Golden Rule again?

September 14, 2012 Posted by | celebrity, Famous Persons, government, media, news, npr, politics, radio, television | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments