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January 10, 2008

Iron My Shirt


It wasn’t until Josh Marshall called out the “shirt incident,” along with Hillary’s emotional reaction to a group of women, as the week’s two defining events, that I paid more attention to this picture.  If the incident was unsettling when I saw it on television, looking back from now, it is abundantly clear how explosively offensive it is.

(If you haven’t seen it, by the way, I strongly urge that you watch the video.  As people register what happened, notice the strong visceral and unified reaction of the audience to this blatant act of sexism.)

Because of the historical significance of the incident, and the fact the image, at least in media space, has as much veracity as the real thing, I thought it was worth calling out a few elements:

1.  What makes it literally hard for me to view the picture is the fact that Hillary happens to be looking the other way.  Now, how poignant is that, given how women, in the act of being broad-sided, have traditionally been looking away, or forced to “look the other way,” in the face of slurs, put downs, innuendoes, and worse.  In many cases, much worse.

2.  Although research has had a hard time drawing correlations between color and emotion, I’m still struck, somehow, by that yellow color.  I don’t know if it pulls for domesticity or what, but my gut says these jerks instinctively understood this was an effective hue.

3.  What also makes the picture a little creepy is the gender division in it.  Notice that the row of kids stage left (and in-line with the sign) are all boys, while the people backing up Hillary are mostly female.  I would guess that’s a coincidence, but it doesn’t do a whole lot, visually, to complicate the one-sided gender blow.  (Also notice, by the way, how those boys on stage with the pro-Hillary signs are holding them down, as if deferring to the attacking sign, or “holding back” from “raising” opposition.

4.  The fact that most of the people on stage are so young also makes Hillary seem more exposed.  The absence of any grown ups between Hillary and the offending sign seems to make them feel more like opposite poles.

5.  Lastly, the most unnerving aspect is probably the fact that these creeps are in silhouette.  The invisibility pulls for associations to stalking, or random and anonymous violence — literally the worst kind of things you can imagine.

Remnants of sexism alive and well  (YouTube video)

Being For Both (TPM)

(image: Joe Raedle/Getty Images.  Salem, New Hampshire.  January 2007.

  • Quiet Jim

    Politician Gets Heckled! There’s a scoop for you. Hillary handled it well and the crowd went nuts with two standing O’s. I think the green house gasses are sucking up everyone’s sense of humor. Yea right Stalker, get over yourself. The line is funny and the guy was funny. Win Win.

  • blueinky


  • PookyShoehorn

    The line is funny and the guy was funny.
    Uh, Jim, no, and no.

  • DennisQ

    Call me an anti-anti-Hillary. I don’t forgive Hillary for her war vote or her coterie of business-as-usual advisors. But I don’t want to share the bed with the ugly crowd that opposes Hillary because she’s a woman. I look forward to Hillary’s defeat, but guys like the Iron My Shirt crowd spoil the party.

  • 14All

    Watched the video. I can’t believe I waited as long as I did to hear someone yell, “Go iron your own shirt!” But yeah, it was quite stirring and disturbing. Ugly.

  • Stan B.

    Doesn’t the incredibly “fortunate” timing of this knee jerk, emotional stunt strike anyone as just a wee bit odd– particularly from the democratic candidate already known for her preplanned questions, tight security and vetted audiences?

  • acm

    I hope that Bag and commenters have heard the subsequent news that the “iron my shirt” guys were plants from a local shock-jock radio station, and thus it was a stupid publicity stunt. Not that it doesn’t symbolize a lot of anti-feminist resistance, but it was neither a Hillary conspiracy nor the act of real (in the sense of expressing their own opinions) a**holes.

  • tekel

    Right. NH voters got played for suckers. Nice work, ladies.

  • boxcar

    PR Stunt or no, this is reprehensible and it is what it is– a reflection of the misogyny that afflicts this country.
    The only way this can be dismissed is IF Clinton herself planted them there to play her the martyr….again. Which Clinton is absolutely capable of doing. She will do anything to win.
    But she should not have to deal with cretins like this, outside of the home. ;)

  • Quiet Jim

    So I nailed it? Not bad. Think I’m the only one.

  • legalpad

    Whether it was a PR stunt by the radio station (whose management was probably promoting Hillary) or an event contrived by the campaign, it had about as much believability as Hillary’s widely ballyhooed and tearful response to the question put to her the day before (and I’m not making this up): “Who does your hair?”

  • Grillman & Luna

    In the world of Politics as a Show and Soap Opera, the Soap Opera Diva is Queen. As the media continues reporting so much on that aspect of politics (important as it is), it diverts talk from substance, such as more Clintonomics? Two Clintons for the price of one? The Show must and will go on.
    So, much ado about nothing? Hardly. Even if the Clintons didn’t CREATE this event, they profited from it and the coverage.

  • swarmofkillermonkeys

    I wear no tinfoil, but…
    Hillary plant. Those signs, and that exact timing implies that this was a Clinton campaign strategy. Look at the record of Mark Penn, that fits right in. Also the phrase? Please. The sexists I’ve met have plenty to say about her presumed “weakness” but that phrase has never surfaced. Why would it? It doesn’t benefit the sexists.
    She chummed the waters, and all the permanently guilty liberals ate it up. Sympathy votes indeed.

  • BeaTricks

    Stop with the “it was faked” nonsense.
    These guys were not plants. The campaign did not orchestrate this for votes.
    These guys are from the Toucher and Rich Show which plays on a radio station in Boston.
    I’m not sure which is more infuriating: the actual sexism leveled at Clinton or the denial that it exists.
    I imagine many of you posting are liberals/progressives so you should at least know better to jump on the media bandwagon.

  • Joe

    I’ve got a better one:
    “Hey Hillary, iron this flag-draped coffin!, oops! don’t set it on fire!”

  • Steve

    Have not seen the video, based on this photo only (traditional Bag’n) …
    The poster’s paper is thin enough to fold into a pocket. The words are written in a heavy, black marker. It is back-lit from the lights on the stage. The holder is facing the stage.
    Given that, I don’t think there are any words on the other side – or the bright lights from the stage would have shown them thru the thin paper. From the stage Hillary viewed no message, just a yellow rectangle.
    It looks as if the poster was displayed for the cameras in back, not the candidate.

  • mags

    i believe that clinton supporters held up that sign. my husband and i saw this and both of us immediately said that. it is simply too silly and amateurish to believe (unless you’re a young, disgruntled hilary support). i, by the way, am voting for hilary, but not because of tears or stupid signs.

  • James

    Michael, you are a psychologist, what do you make of these Clinton-haters? These people seem to be outright psychotic. Seriously. I’d really be interested in your take on some of these commenters. Forget the radio stunt.

  • Riggsveda

    The amount of vitriol and misogynistic ugliness that this thing engendered is absolutely stunning. The fact that it was a publicity stunt by a radio station doesn’t make it any less gender-hating–would it be disarmingly amusing if they did the same thing to Obama (“Pick My Cotton!”)? After I linked to the YOU Tube video I began reading the comments and nearly retched.
    Yes, racism and sexism are alive and well, among Democrats and Republicans alike. Even some of the comments here express the feelings of a constituency that holds women to a different standard than men. All this piling on about Clinton’s calculating coldness or whether she cried to get the sympathy vote…please, people. The cold bitch stereotype? As opposed to all those warm and cuddly types we keep voting in decade after decade?

  • Panurge

    As opposed to all those warm and cuddly types we keep voting in decade after decade?
    Well, that was always the appeal of Reagan and Clinton, wasn’t it? (And even Carter, to a lesser extent, so that’s twenty years right there.) Heck, with Reagan we got to have warm-and-cuddly and indulge our meaner side… :-P

  • Daro

    It was a plant. The fact there’s a traceable link to the perpetrator pointing away from Hillary’s organizing it just gives that “shudder of pleasure” factor to the inventors. The instigator at the radio station needs to be sourced…

  • david

    Has there been any consideration or suggestion that these guys might have been rogue Hillary supporters making sure this campaign stop would made headlines and stirring up feminist support for Hillary?
    I don’t really believe it myself, and I am not suggesting that Hillary’s campaign planted them …there is just something so strange and out of place about these guys, and the message is oddly innocuous, yet at the same time biting. If so it was a stroke of brilliance.

  • B.

    Great commentary about the photo- incredibly creepy. Exactly, Riggsveda, it is gender hating- stunt or not….

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