A hubbub over alleged sexism in the media is following Sen. Hillary Clinton's departure from the Democratic presidential race.
After downplaying gender during her campaign against Sen. Barack Obama, Clinton cast her defeat in terms of not being able to crash the ultimate glass ceiling and blamed the media for "incredible vitriol that has been engendered by the comments by people who are nothing but misogynists."
The National Organization for Women created an online "Media Hall of Shame" to draw attention to what it considers the worst sexist affronts against Clinton and a few against Michelle Obama.
I missed much of the dispute, as I seldom watch the cable TV news and commentary that spawned most of the criticism.
But I've not been a fan of Clinton's, and the furor inspired me to review my own writings about the campaign for signs of gender bias.
I was never accused of sexism, and only one anonymous poster on my blog hinted at it after I joked in my tongue-in-cheek weekly review that Obama was afraid if he came home for some surf time, Clinton would follow and fight him for every wave.
My critic wrote: "I wonder at the purpose of some of the attempts at humor at the expense of people your readers admire. ... It's typical of the treatment she received from the news media, though certainly not the most offensive."
I made a few other Clinton jokes, such as describing efforts to filch Hawai'i superdelegates after she was swamped in the caucuses as "No Loser Left Behind," and saying of the presidential swapping back and forth between Bushes and Clintons: "If we're going to keep dipping into the same political gene pool, surely we can find better DNA."
Nobody complained about these or when I quoted actress Tina Fey as saying: "Women have come so far as feminists that they don't feel obligated to vote for her just because she is a woman. Women today feel perfectly free to make whatever choice Oprah tells them to."
I considered the jokes in-bounds because I believe humor is an effective way to make a point and I joke about all sides.
Most of my comments about Clinton, though, were serious and gender-neutral attempts to explain my misgivings about her candidacy, with none of the offensive references that NOW cites about pantsuits, emasculation, shrillness, the b-word, wicked witches or she-devils.
I questioned the experience Clinton claimed, was troubled by her lie about coming under fire in Bosnia, felt her waffling on Iraq and other issues gave the impression of insincerity and was a bit aghast that the Clintons had amassed a $100 million fortune since leaving the White House.
Most of all, I didn't like the way she played the race card — blatantly arguing that Obama couldn't get the white vote — while encouraging complaints about gender bias against herself.
NOW's "Hall of Shame" makes clear that there were sexist remarks in some media commentary, and I can appreciate the sensitivity of women who fought so hard to get where they are.
But nobody has made a credible case that sexism was pervasive in campaign coverage or that it was key to Clinton's defeat.
More plausible is that she lost despite the advantages of money, star power, family connections and insider support because she turned out to be a flawed candidate with a poor strategy.
I wonder if we'll ever reach a level of political maturity where it's possible to express concerns about a female candidate without being cast as sexist — or a black candidate without being cast as racist.
David Shapiro, a veteran Hawai'i journalist, can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. His columns are archived at www.volcanic ash .net. Read his daily blog at http://volcanicash.honadvblogs.com.