Discussions surrounding Sarah Palin and Hilary Clinton have brought sexism to mainstream media attention. (see BBC article below) Beyond the superficial discussions of who women will vote for and who is a feminist, we are losing site of a fundamental and very dangerous problem. In the tradition of the Frankfurt School, in particular, Max Horkheimer, we are looking at the instrumentalization of ideas and theories for propaganda. As a system of oppression, sexism pervades social relations and the structures in which we live. Not only is sexism alive and well as can clearly be seen in the discussions surrounding Palin and Clinton but sexism has also been manipulated and therefore undermined. The use of sexism to invalidate a candidate’s credentials or to protect a candidate from scrutiny, results in the instrumentalization of sexism. This kind instrumentalization occurs when theories and ideas are used as a tool for domination. There are two effects to this: one is that sexism loses it meaning and power, it becomes a joke, a catchall if you will. Secondly, there is no possibility for critique. If we cannot critique Palin’s policy positions or qualifications without being sexist then we are no longer free and rational individuals (if we ever were).
Blackwell Reference Online entry on Sexism