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Why activist group hopes you won't watch presidential debate on CNN

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An activist group is urging a viewer boycott of CNN's coverage of Wednesday night's presidential debate if the network doesn’t fire conservative commentator Erick Erickson for on-air and social media remarks it deems to be sexist. The offending comments include a characterization of speeches made by women at the Democratic National Convention last month as "the vagina monologues," according to UltraViolet, the group pushing the boycott petition.

There's a long history in America of female politicians of all political stripes – from Nancy Pelosi to Hillary Rodham Clinton to Sarah Palin – being subjected to sexist treatment by public and press. Their defenders emerged first on the left, but conservatives, too, are increasingly speaking out against speech they deem to be offensive to women, after having witnessed the trials of Ms. Palin, the 2008 GOP vice-presidential nominee, during that campaign.

Some see in the latest activism by women a possible critical mass of protest – aided and abetted by the message-spreading power of social media – that may start to shift American culture and attitudes. 

“The treatment Sarah Palin received really mobilized conservative women,” says political scientist Lara Brown at Villanova University in Philadelphia, “and now we are seeing a whole new level of activism from women across the board.” This kind of inclusive activism “is new for women,” she adds.

Amy Siskind, president of The New Agenda, an activist group devoted to economic and gender equality, is also one who perceives a shift under way on the issue of sexism toward women in the public sphere.

When it comes to politics, “sexism against conservative women is still sexism,” she says. “Palin didn’t have anyone to defend her.” Since then, she adds, there has been a shift toward that recognition among feminists whom she says previously ignored sexism directed toward conservative women.


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