Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Watch Your Eyes

The now-famous video of John McCain glancing repeatedly and furtively in the general direction of the backside of Sarah Palin while she gave her VP candidate speech has divided the electorate into those who say he was looking at her teleprompter (though why he needed to read her speech instead of listening to her, I don't know) and those who think he was being a sleazy guy (an impression boosted by his obsessive fiddling with his wedding ring while he was looking at whatever he was looking at).

I don't know what he was doing, but another odd thing about the event is how he keeps trying to kiss her at the end of her speech, and how she keeps moving out of his reach. Maybe this was just an awkward moment, but it sure looks like she doesn't want McCain leaning towards her as he does. Eventually she gives in and he kisses her cheek.

This has happened to me before (though never with John McCain), including an episode a few months ago when I was visiting another university and an American scientist I have met maybe once years ago insisted on kissing me, and not in a European-style cheek kissing kind of way. I stepped back and made it clear I only wanted to shake hands, but he ignored that. He's about a foot taller than I am, and I didn't feel like I had much choice. I wish there were a good way to avoid such experiences, whether or not someone is going to put a video of it on YouTube.

And then there's the issue of the ambiguous glance. This post is not a political rant or a comment on Palin's qualifications or her ability to be a "good" mother and a candidate/VP (I find the latter question abhorrent and cannot be objective about the rest of it). This is a comment on the significance of McCain's glances, no matter what he was looking at:

- If McCain was looking at the teleprompter, he wasn't listening to Palin. If he had to look sideways to see the teleprompter, why not just listen to her? Didn't he know that furtive glances would look strange? And didn't he know that, given the location of the teleprompter, it might not be obvious what he was looking at? Her speech was a rather important moment in his campaign, if not in history.

- If he was glancing at her, does he think that it's OK to look at a woman this way, on or off camera? Zuska and others have written about men-looking-at-women issues recently and in earlier posts, and I will not go over all the reasons why a woman might not want to be stared at in the way that McCain appears to be staring at Palin. I find Palin's political and social views repellent, but I think she should be treated in a respectful and professional way.

If this moment really is going to be historic, McCain should listen to his running-mate when she is speaking, he should look her in the eye, and he should treat her with the same respect that he would have given to any of the men he considered choosing as a VP candidate. And then, if elected, to show solidarity with all the women who are paid less than men for the same work, he should pay her 77% of Cheney's salary. [← joke]

28 comments:

BikeMonkey said...

I'd look for just about any excuse to nail either of these klowns but it really seemed to me he was looking at a teleprompter...

and with the kissing thing- that political kabuki is even more obligatory than cheek-kissing cultures I would think...?

Notorious Ph.D. said...

...he should treat her with the same respect that he would have given to any of the men he considered choosing as a VP candidate.

More importantly, IMO, he should treat her with the respect that he wants the electorate to treat her. If his glances mean that he thinks that either a) she's not important enough to pay attention to; or b) her female body is more important than what she's saying, then why should he expect anyone else to think differently?

johannarts said...

Unfortunately, it looks like she wasn't chosen based on her qualifications, meaning he probably doesn't feel obligated to treat her as an equal--> no progress at all....

Anonymous said...

McWhack makes me sick. The anti-woman woman makes me sick too. I am sad for her daughter and I am sad for McWhack's ex-wife. It's sad their families are thrown under buses because of their political bullshit.
I am gonna throw up if I have to watch that clip loop on TV. I don't want to know what disgusting ideas McWhack has while he's fidgeting with his ring and staring at her ass. Creepy old man. Gross gross gross gross gross.

prof j said...

There are a handful of FSP's that I, a MSP, have known since we were both students. If we met in a small social situation we would most likely hug, but it is just too weird at, say, a big professional meeting. Come to think of it, there are also MSP's who I would hug in a small social setting but not in a professional one.

I think the problem is that hugging sends many messages, both to the huggee and the audience. And the gender asymmetry, where men shake hands with other men but hug women, makes it more problematic.

My advice to a grad student would be that hugs are for social settings and handshakes are for professional setting.

Female Science Professor said...

I hug old friends when I see them, even at professional meetings. And I don't mind the European style greeting with Europeans I know. I do not like being hugged or kissed in a professional setting by people I don't know. That is unprofessional, especially if I've made it clear that I'd prefer to shake hands.

Anonymous said...

At my grad school, a professor used to hug me whenever seeing me and once he said (after hugging me), "I can definitely tell you are a girl".

Always good to get that kind of feedback. I might switch genders overnight.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Bike monkey--both of them are reprehensible but in this case I think he was worried about her speech, not her anatomy.

I love the symbolism of paying her 70% of Cheney's salary, however.

Mark P

prof j said...

FSP, you said in a professional setting you hug old friends and don't want to hug strangers. The awkwardness comes in between. I have been in a group where I would probably hug a few of them and prefer not to hug a few others. But I don't want to offend the others. And as an older MSP, I don't want to hug young female graduate students, it is fraught with too much baggage. The whole thing turns into a strange public ranking of my personal relationships, overlayed with inappropriate sexual overtones. I would rather skip the welcome hugs than give an unwelcome one, so I err on the side of handshakes.

female engineering grad said...

I am a female engineering graduate student, and I recently encountered some creepy dudes at an academic conference. When being introduced to a MSP he looked me up and down and later on actually asked me if was married. He then went on to state that my future husband would be a very lucky man. Ewwww!

This video of McCain just makes me wonder if men are even capable of acting professional. He has a lot to lose if he can't get it together. But to be fair, Biden has made some sexist remarks as well. Who do I vote for???

Dr M said...

I really don't think there's anything to be upset about in this video, regardless of our views regarding candidates for president and veep. Did McCain steal a glance at Palin? Perhaps, but people glance at other people for all kinds of reasons in all kinds of settings, and most of the time we'd all be better off for not worrying about it. To me though, most of those glances really seemed to be on the teleprompter. That does not at all mean that he wasn't listening to what Palin said (i.e. what she made out of the manuscript on the teleprompter). If I could see the teleprompter while listening to a political speach, would I be reading the text while listening? Yes, I would! I would do it automatically and without thinking about it (just as I will almost automatically read the subtitles if I watch a subtitled film, even if I don't need them). I am a rather visual learner, and seeing the text would actually help me listen to the speech. I think McCain was reading off the teleprompter just because it was there in front of him. You might argue that he should be more aware of what others might try to make of that, but personally I think there are more interesting questions to think about regarding the candidates.

And about the wedding band. One of the reasons I dislike wearing rings is because I can't seem to stop fiddling with them. I have met lots of people who will subconsciously jingle keys in their pockets, play around with their hair, clothes, and what not. Jumping to any conclusions at all from someone fiddling with his/her wedding band should be enough to make poor Occam rise from his grave and wave his rusty old razor around.

Alex said...

If I were at a super-scripted event, and I didn't have time in advance to rehearse my reactions and applause timing, I'd probably be looking at the teleprompter too. Not out of disrespect to the woman speaking, but because she and I would both be performers at a scripted event, and we'd both be working off the same script. If I don't have my parts memorized, I'll need some cues.

Politicians are performers--they work off cues. McCain was working off cues. Clearly he was not as smooth as he could have been, others do the game better, but he was acting like a nervous performer.

Just the FACS said...

Assuming that the posters here are all well-educated, its interesting that some folks cannot express themselves without stooping to the lowest common denominator. Why are John McCain and Sarah Palin Klowns? Why are they "reprehensible"? Why is he McWhack? Why are some "repelled" by their political views?

Why cant one just view the function of government differently without having sinister motives ascribed to their views?

As a MSP, I enjoy reading FSP for her perspective on working in an academic environment. I will continue to do so despite knowing that some of my views are repellent to her. This is because she offers advice and perspective that is valuable to me.

Some of you, FSP included, should step back and realize that looking at life through a political prism tends to make everything else a little fuzzy.

The Bear Maiden said...

I would imagine he'd be looking at the teleprompter, cuz I agree that these things are HIGHLY scripted and maybe the whole thing was so haphazardly pulled together to snag votes that he doesn't really know "where she's going" and so is following along.

Though maybe/shouldn't he have been briefed?

So I'm not convinced the video is really saying anything... but I have been having a sort of restless feeling in my gut about why he picked her as his Veep. See... if he had picked someone who's personality was more like Hillary's... I probably wouldn't feel so restless. And if had picked someone less attractive, I might also not have that feeling. And it's not that kick-@ss strong, knowledgeable women can't also be/shouldn't be beautiful or attractive... it's just that the unfortunate fact is men tend to see the looks rather than the substance when the two are combined.

Cuz I think what has been bothering me is a.) the age difference between them b.) her attractiveness combined with c.) her relative newness and her d.) small-town woman-ness.

Its as if he picked her because she makes a statement to the world about his progressiveness but is still "controllable", rather than he picked her because he admired her. I get the feeling he REALLY doesn't take her quite seriously. Because Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison is a strong woman, and of course Condileeza can't be messed with. Either one of those women on his ticket might have me paying him some respect... and I'm an ObamaMama myself.

I dunno. I'm not a good political blogger at all cuz I tend to go with gut feelings... so I guess what I'm saying is there's something about his picking Palin that makes you think he WOULD check out her @ss. Does that make sense?

Ms.PhD said...

I gotta say, it looks bad from a PR perspective, but he wasn't far enough behind her to see her behind!

I agree the fiddling with the wedding ring looks especially weird.

But I have a more ageist explanation:

I think he was reading her teleprompter because he's going deaf.

p.s. I'm much more horrified by the whole no-choice, five-children-and-one-of-them-is-pregnant thing. I think that sends a much bigger message about the role of women in our country: being a baby machine first, and anything else comes second.

BikeMonkey said...

well, for one thing, McCain observed that there is a special place reserved in hell for political operatives that aggressively insinuated that he had a brown skinned child out of wedlock. Then he turned around and hired one of these geniuses to work on his veep's campaign. This type of hypocrisy is so ripe it makes buffoon criteria. it is a mere semantic distinction between buffoon and clown. ...and this is just one of many examples.

cog said...

lol I hadn't seen that video before, so thanks for highlighting it. He looks just plain dorky and nervous and I think he was looking at the teleprompter.

Ya, I know what you mean about men glaring at women in ways to make a woman feel threatened or unconfortable. But what McCain was doing was just too hilarious. I'm still laughing.

Female Science Professor said...

I certainly find Palin's views on evolution (for example) repellent, but one thing I've learned from my family is that this doesn't necessarily make the person holding those views repellent. If I felt that way, I would never talk to anyone in my family except my parents.

Like to the Lark said...

I suspect he has a hearing problem or a listening one. Readingthe teleprompter suggests either partial deafness or impatience.

He was probably making sure of his facts - he'd only met her once!

Dr. Jekyll and Mrs. Hyde said...

The other odd thing about the speech was that McCain stayed right next to her, as he were her dad, or groom, or something. Normally (cf Obama/Biden introduction), the Pres nominee steps back and lets the VP have the stage.

But if you're going to be paternalistic about your cute-as-a-button VP pick, I guess maybe you stand right next to her. In case she needs you or something.

Anonymous said...

Yes, female engineering grad, men are absolutely incapable of acting professional. At every conference I go to, I try to cop a touch of every girl (and guy!) I see.

Anonymous said...

Okay, first let me say that I am male, and an academic scientist.
I think that the whole thing was strange, but he was not in a position to look at her behind. I thought that he was looking at her chest! But, even though I really dislike McCain, I'd say that it was more likely that he was reading the teleprompter or... nodding off. At any rate, quite strange.
As for the hugging/kissing thing. I hug old friends whenever and wherever I see them, male or female. But these are good friends, and there is no ambiguity as to motive. I definitely never never hug students. Sorry, but in my experience, guys are rarely ambiguous when doing that. I personally hate the kissing thing, and I think that folks have to be sensitive to the background of the recipient. For example, I am ethnically Indian, and the kissing thing is just not common, so don't try to kiss me, male or female, European or not. I have a couple of good Thai friends, both women, and they are very uncomfortable with the entire notion of being hugged! So we never do unless they initiate it. You simply have to respect the other person's boundaries and space, and if in doubt, be conservative. And stay away from the students, female and male.
And if you think that I am conservative, well, I live in Berkeley. We hug out here all the damned time.

Helen said...

That video was truly bizarre.

There's no possible excuse for the kissing awkwardness at the end; after all, McCain doesn't try to play kissyface with Bush or Cheney when he sees them.

Helen said...

Actually I might pay money to see him try to play kissyface with Bush.

Eliot said...

after not seeing the video I can only conclude that, he was probably looking at the teleprompter.

call my opinion void but,

a. even if he thought no-one was watching, politicians arent stupid, its a common fact SOMEONE IS ALWAYS WATCHING.
b. for my brain personally, understanding a speech works a whole lot better when reading it, or at least seeing the words at the same time, this is probably a visual memory somethingymagig... but I am not to sure about the details. all I am suggesting is that he may have had intentions of listening to the speech more clearly by looking at the words of the speech at the same time.

Eliot

Doctor Pion said...

I'm glad I didn't see that video until I caught up with your blog today.

Twirling the wedding ring sure looks like a "tell" to me. I'd wager, given his past, that he is using the wedding ring to tell himself "I'm married I'm married - What a MILF - I'm married I'm married".

And if he is checking on how she is delivering the speech, that shows just how little confidence he had in her.

duh said...

some people are more visual than auditory.

finchwench said...

If McCain was looking at the teleprompter, he wasn't listening to Palin . . .

This is extreme. I watch TV with captions enabled at all times, and I think that it helps my comprehension of the program.

Sen. McCain is old guy. Maybe he sees better than he hears, and in that sense reading served as his listening aid.