Sunday, February 8, 2009

Further reflections on Gillibrand and portrayals of the new U.S. Senator

I was catching up on some newspaper reading this week-end and found myself ruminating again on this description of Kirsten Gillibrand by Michael Powell in the New York Times:
Eyes red-rimmed from lack of sleep, careening from the Port of Buffalo to Downtown Brooklyn to Manhattan fund-raisers for a Senate primary election that is still 20 months away (she attended 19 events in three days in three cities), Ms. Gillibrand has an occasional stranger-in-a-strange-land quality on her maiden voyage as New York’s junior senator. Ten days ago, Gov. David A. Paterson tapped this 42-year-old Democratic congresswoman from a largely rural and politically conservative swath of eastern New York to fill the seat of Hillary Rodham Clinton, who stepped down to become secretary of state.
Note that the journalist once again works in the reference to her "largely rural" Congressional district. The NYT has to date portrayed Gillibrand in ways that evince both sexism and "ruralism," so I hardly know what to make of the "maiden voyage" and "stranger-in-a-strange land" metaphors. Are these sexist? ruralist? both? neither?

The story also includes this quote from Gillibrand:
I didn’t know about milking cows but I quickly informed myself and asked to be on the Agriculture Committee . . . . The same thing will happen on immigration issues and gun issues. Now that I am a senator for the whole state I will immerse myself in these issues.
So, Gillibrand herself still invokes her ag credentials, more associated with her former Congressional district upstate than with the overwelming urban populace she now represents. Is she playing the rural card? If so, how could doing so possibly be to her benefit?

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