Drive-By Sexist Click-Bait from the Houston Chronicle

Today’s New York Times features a graphic showing that so far, just over half of the women running for Congress this year lost their primary races.

The fewer women who run, and the fewer who win, the longer it will take to see true gender equity* in the US Congress.

Today’s Houston Chronicle suggests why we struggle so hard just to pull up even.

Call it a tale of two opinion pieces. I’ll spare you an extended riff on that grizzled opening line.

One is a compare and contrast essay on US Senator Ted Cruz and his challenger, Representative Beto O’Rourke. By essay, I mean something that uses actual words composed into sentences and strung together into paragraphs.

The other is a photo essay on the two women facing each other in the Democratic primary run-off for the right to challenge incumbent Rep. John Culberson.

The photos are primarily from their high school yearbooks. The framing in the captions suggests cheerleader versus jock.

Even though it is placed in the endorsement section of the Opinion page, you have to click on a link to find out who the Houston Chronicle actually endorsed in the race.

Yes, an article in the endorsement section does not bother to repeat the actual endorsement. In case you are wondering, I won’t make you click to find out. In both the primary and the runoff, the Houston Chronicle endorsed Lizzie Pannill Fletcher.

How did this even get published?

These are serious candidates tackling serious issues in a hotly contested race that has national significance. What on earth does publishing photos of them from high school accomplish? What insight does it offer?

I’m not even going to link to it. I don’t want to grant them any traffic for it.

I know the Houston Chronicle has many thoughtful, talented, and professional journalists. Several of them have covered this race.

Perhaps someone thought the candidates’ positions had been given enough air?

When was the last time you felt the local paper spent too much time covering a local race?

I ask again, how did this even get published?

Today and tomorrow are the final two days of early voting. Next Tuesday is the election. Turnout is going to be low, as it always is for primary runoffs. But is this the kind of journalism that is going to motivate people to go to the polls?

Or is this the kind of journalism that perpetuates pernicious stereotypes about women while click-baiting online readers with a slide show?

They disagree on some—a handful—of issues. The way they run their campaigns suggests two different philosophies on who will vote in this district. Their professional backgrounds offer insight into how each would be attacked by the GOP incumbent if she were the nominee.

That is what their race is about.

That is what a reporter covering the race should illuminate and explore.

Their race is not about who was cooler or prettier or more popular in high school. In fact, spoiler alert – they were both cool and had friends and did lots of activities and what they looked like then is as relevant now as it was then, which is not at all.

Those are harmful stereotypes that not only insult these two women, but also discourage other women from stepping up to run. If your high school photos and activities are going to be used against you decades later when you are a serious person conducting a serious campaign, why bother?

I’m disappointed, to say the least. No, scratch that. I’m angry.

This post is a one-draft wonder as I’m a busy person with work to do, but I have to admit that I’m tempted to spend more time editing it, adding citations to outside experts and verifiable data, removing my anger from the piece and substituting dry, careful reasoning, because I know what the criticism will be. I’m a bitter, hysterical feminist, letting my emotions getting the better of me.

The joke’s on the  Chronicle, of course. I barely show up in the SJS yearbooks from my time there. They’d have a hard time finding a photo of me to post to minimize me or my message.

I hope they will pull down this A+ example of drive-by sexism and apologize to the candidates, voters, and the rest of us for such lazy journalism.


*Gender equity is by no means the only equity we need to work on in Congress. By no means.

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This entry was posted in feminists & feminism, Houston, politics, so mad I could spit, Texas and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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