Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Most People In This Country Are Probably Racist and Misogynist, But It's Only Okay to Be Misogynist.

I've been meaning to write about Gloria's op-ed on Hillary's gender quagmire in the Times since, like, the second I finished reading it yesterday, but you know, life interferes with virtual presence sometimes (as my Second Life sex partner will tell you), and so does a horrible betch CEO screaming at you over the phone at work.*

* Please do not infer that I am calling her a betch simply because she is a powerful CEO femaspecimen. She was simply a betch, and powerful. Unrelated. Or if related, it is because the patriarchy has forced her to be so. I mean, duhz, this is a feminist blogz, which incidentally shall some day be turned into a book if I can make enough money to buy the title I Blame Judd Apatow from Liz.*

Gloria's piece was so absolutely true and well-written I creamed my brain. I've already gone on record supporting Obama, primarily because I think we need a parvenu in the White House, but Steinem's column is making me reconsider. What it comes down to ultimately is not a huge difference in ideological issues--Steinem points out Clinton's and Obama's voting records are almost identical (except for the war, Hillary voted for it which was an LOLbad move, and though Barack wasn't in the Senate at the time he says he would have voted against it, which is obviously easier to say in retrospect than to do in reality.) Rather as of 11:23am, January 8th (the time of my second Steinem read-thru) I have positioned it as a choice between using my vote to symbolically battle misogyny or symbolically battle the insider political system. It's like if my wildest dreams came true and I could send one of the following two people to live with rabid wolves in Uzbekistan for four years--- which representation do I choose to abolish?! Misaligned Misogyny or Insidious Insiderism?

Which evil deserves rabies via wolf?

Steinem correctly draws attention to the fact that Barack is allowed to use his outsider status to his advantage-- he gets props for referencing the civil rights movement, or the lessons he learned from his Kenyan father, but Clinton is damned if she do', damned if she don't when it comes to drawing attention to her sex. If she says something critical about her opponents then she's a heartless man-eating betch, if she breaks down, lawd forbid, and slightly tears up, then she's a weak female unfit for leadership. Whatever she does, she is ridiculed and hated-- NOT as some say because of her personality, but always because of how she is using or not using her femininity. Seriously, do a Nexis search of "Hillary Clinton" and "Election"-- over the past year the media has churned out thousands of articles on her so-called "unelectabilty" that are solely based on her gender performance and are impossibly contradictory. Of course, there are articles on Obama's electabilty, and the "Is He Black Enough?" question, but those pieces are almost always long, thought essays, examining race in America, while Hillary's are usually short little snippets in mainstream news outlets quoting Tommy, a hunter in North Dakota saying something like, "I don't think anything that bleeds once a month should be running this country." They're not thought-provoking, or analytical of gender issues in our society, rather they're sad excuses for blatantly misogynist fear-mongering.

I think it comes down to the fact that it's okay, even PC, to be misogynist in this country. I'm not saying that misogynism is more rampant than racism, just that it's more widely acceptable. Chris Matthews can pinch Hillary's cheek, demeaning her like she's a little girl, but if he dared to demean Obama in a similar manner using the connotations and history of his skin color-- let's say, call him "boy" during an interview-- Matthews would be massacred. Hillary's frown lines or Botox rumors can make headline news, but if Obama came back tanned from a beach vacation and the media wrote about his darkened skin color, there would be an uproar. I mean it just wouldn't happen. Tommy from North Dakota is probably racist too, but the media won't publish him saying absurd things about black people. But women? No prob! Hillsogyny is practically a mainstream cultural joke, printed on tee-shirts:

Can you imagine a shirt with an image of Obama and a racial insult? Um no.

What especially resonated with me was Steinem's sad note that younger women especially seem to deny the presence of the "sexual caste system." We're more educated than ever before, but can't see the patriarchy even if Judd Apatow date rapes our eyes with it. Case in point (thanks to Marmsies): Moe on Jezebel, who is both smart, and mostly wrong about everything.

Unrelated (kind of)-- I need your help for an article! Email me if you can be involved!
I'm looking for some help for a story I'm working on about abortion and telling/or not telling future suitors. In my personal experience I've found that though my abortion was about as existentially angsty as knee surgery ( i.e. not at all), that most men I've told have reacted like I just confessed I fought on the front lines in 'Nam and have 18 bullets lodged in my body ( like I deserve a purple heart for bravery). I'm curious to do a larger piece on this situation-- focusing on men's reactions to abortion or the ways women talk about or don't talk about past abortions in new relationships. This is where you* come in-- I'm looking for a few good women and men who have been in this situation before and who are willing to go on the record talking about it. (Of course names can be changed if necessary).

* If "you" are one of those gross men from that barf-inducing L.A. Times men-owning-abortion article, "you" are excluded.


WendyB said...

I so agree with you on the misogyny issue. I'd go into it at greater length but I feel too crappy to write anything serious. Is it really possible to have a bad cold on Dec. 25 that lasts for a week and get a new cold on Jan. 9? Is that fair? Is it all the same cold? Anyway, I do have the strength to say the thing about Hilary crying (and I don't think tears welling and voice cracking really counts as "crying")? Some jackholes have said the most obnoxious things...what if she cried while talking to Kim Jong-il. First of all, no one would cry talking to him because his hair is so ridiculous you'd be laughing his ass off. And so what if anyone cried for two seconds at anything? Jesus! Like that would ruin the world.

WendyB said...

Laughing YOUR ass off. Not his ass. But maybe you'd laugh so hard, you'd laugh every ass off in a 50 mile radius.I don't know. I'm sick!

Perfect Ratio said...

HAHAHAHA. TOTALLY! I mean maybe even crying in front of Kim Jong-Il would save us from being nuked. Maybe he is just a big Dumb Man Baby waiting to let his emotions out?....

D. J. said...

While the op-ed is a fine apologia for Hillary, (never mind that the title "Women Are Never Front-Runners" is an obvious lie), the problem with Clinton isn't that she's a woman.

It's not in Steinem's interest to address the problems with Hillary because they don't fit into her gender-based analysis--what does Hillary's war-mongering have to do with her being a woman? Hell if I know, but Gloria never explains it to me. And that's the problem. What would she say about Hillary's attempt to put flag-burners in Federal Prison?

Is it gender-appropriate or innappropriate to call her a "corporate whore" with the same irony you might for any male politician? She's been the top fundraiser in the Democratic Party for years now--how do we address that?

Incidentally, what about Carol Moseley Braun? She had to apologize when she said "I think because he couldn't say nigger, he said corrupt" about George Will.

Also: "because racism stereotyped black men as more “masculine” for so long that some white men find their presence to be masculinity-affirming" Come on! She could have said "because racism stereotyped black men as more “masculine” for so long that some white men find their presence to be threatening" and it would have been just as true.

The reason Obama gets to use his outsider advantage is because he's actually an outsider, ESPECIALLY compared to Hillary. Hillary is so inside the machine that she was married to the President. (Imagine what they would say about Obama if he had married Jimmy Carter and then ran for office?)

The woman who asked that infamous question in New Hampshire voted for Obama:

"I took a walk on the beach and all I though was how Obama made me feel and I thought about Hillary's response to me, and I thought she was a soft feminine woman for seven seconds," she said. "When she turned, she adapted this political posture again, the stiffness and the rhetoric, and I said I really want to vote for Obama."

Almost shed a tear because she wasn't sailing through to the nomination as easily as she thought, gimme a break.

Perfect Ratio said...

Hillary's a politician, no one is denying that. The flag burning amendment was obviously an attempt to seem more centrist, the majority of Dems supported the war. I don't agree with her on these things obviously, and I like Obama's positions on them better (though he has said some weird conservative stuff about religion before-- can we excuse him for playing politics there and still blame Hillary for doing so? Well you do, obvs.) But ultimately, in my opinion, if either Obama or Clinton get elected, they are not going to run the country in ways that are that distinct from each other. And while I don't agree with everything Clinton has voted for in Senate, she's a fucking brilliant person, and I in no way doubt that she would make a smart president. The sole reason I was supporting Obama rather than Clinton before is that I think it would be refreshing to have somewhat of a political outsider run the country for a change. And now I'm deciding to sub out that reason for the simple fact that I despise the way she has been painted in this election, which really has little to do with her character, and more to do with wanting to bring down a powerful woman.

I really don't care who you call a corporate whore, that is a lameade comparison and has nothing to do with the fact that her breasts, frown lines, appearance can make headlines, or the fact that we're up against a social standard that allows Chris Matthews to pinch her cheek demeaningly. The media campaign against her has been downright misogynist, just as it was when she was trying to establish universal health care, and the thing is that Matthews would have done that to any powerful female contender. That is what I'm voting against, by voting for Clinton.

D. J. said...

That's what drives me crazy--her centrist bullshit is wasted on independents, who don't like her. Obama, on the other hand, does great with them, AND he's more liberal than she is. As soon as Edwards drops out Obama will be the only candidate to represent the left wing of the party AND draw high favorables from Republicans.

You have to realize their foreign policy would be vastly different. As Hillary should know, domestic policy is more of a legislative concern--she's a hawk, and look at who stands behind her at those victory speeches--war criminals!

A vote for Hillary is a vote for the establishment. And, I dare say, tokenism on the part of the DLC and McAuliffe's corporate buddies.

Perfect Ratio said...

I still think her new fangled conservatism is more of a political ploy, than a real change of heart and that Obams and Hills would be pretty similar in office.....

Also in reference to your first comment about how Steinem didn't address why Hillary's gender made her vote for the war or why she sponsored the flag-burning amendment-- Steinem's "gender-based analysis" in NO way is an attempt to apologize for Hillary's actions by chalking it up to a result of gender discrimination. She doesn't have to give reasons for Clinton's votes, because that's not what the column is about! At all! And that would be a pretty unfeminist piece by not giving Hillary agency in any of her decisions.

I agree with you that it's a vote for the establishment. Like I said, if you're positioning votes symbolically like that voting for Hillary is like voting for the same old political insiderism we've had for the last 2 decades. But voting for her is also a protest against the disgusting way she's been demeaned by the media and culture in this election because of her gender, and the larger pervasiveness and acceptance of misogyny in this society. So....I think that's the choice. That's all!