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Martha Coakley: Victim of the Patriarchy?

Posted on January 21 2010 8:00 am
Jenn escaped blue state academia for redder pastures in the South. Follow her on Twitter and read more of her work at
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There are facts, and then there are feminist facts.  Here’s an example:

Fact: Scott Brown is a white male who drives a pickup truck and won the Massachusetts special election.

Feminist fact: Scott Brown won the Massachusetts special election because he’s a white male who drives a pickup truck.

Can’t you picture the GMC warning labels? Caution: you’re driving a tool of the phallocracy.

Writing for Slate magazine spin-off Double X on Tuesday afternoon, Alexandra Starr bemoaned the “old boys’ network” that bolsters “Masschusetts’ [sic] proclivity for male candidates.”

The state may have a progressive reputation, but only one member of its congressional delegation is female, and for most of the ‘80s and all of the 1990s, Massachusetts didn’t send any women to Washington. In that context, it’s not so surprising that the truck-driving Scott Brown, who has campaigned with Red Sox hero Curt Schilling at his side, may be on the verge of scoring an upset.

Sure thing. Trucks and sports and the “old boys’ network” did in girly-girl Martha Coakley. Clearly Massachusetts voters didn’t care about her atrocious mishandling of a child rape case when she was District Attorney. They were just worried she’d spring an estrogen leak on the way to Washington.

Following Brown’s delightful trouncing of Martha Coakley at the polls, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow insisted the Massachusetts race was a referendum on gender:

It came down to the pickup truck guy versus the woman who made the gaffe about baseball, and we ended up with very, very, very gendered terminology in terms of the way people thought about this. But ultimately we go through another election cycle with another woman having a shot and not making it.

Forget Senator-elect Scott Brown’s nearly flawless campaign.  Forget that he was running against the Gaffe Master of Medford. And definitely forget that the people of Massachusetts wanted to send a message about health care reform.

The Massachusetts race was about pitting the guy who drives the truck against the gal who flubs her sports references.

This gives me an idea.  If you’re a man with political ambitions, now is the time to act. No need for charisma or winning ideas. Just get yourself a big ol’ truck – preferably a Dodge Ram for the Freudian mileage – rev the engine a few times, and presto! You’re Senator Testosterone.

Or not.

When I was in elementary school, my mother bought me a shirt to wear to a women’s history month event. It said, “A Woman’s Place is in the House … and the Senate.” A bumper sticker platitude to be sure, but I believed it then, and I still do.

I also believe that it doesn’t get more sexist than sending an atrocious candidate to Washington simply because she pees sitting down.

Martha Coakley could have been the first woman senator from Massachusetts. She could have brought the number of women in the United States Senate up to 18 for the first time.  We could have made history, say representatives from NOW, Feminist Majority, and EMILY’s List.

But the people of Massachusetts didn’t miss an opportunity to make history. They seized one by electing the better candidate. And it just so happens he drives a truck.


Follow Jenn Q. Public on Twitter and read more of her work at

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