Sunday, June 08, 2008

Talking About It Is Better Than Pretending It Doesn't Exist

One thing that I discussed yesterday with the nice young man from Mother Jones was whether any good can come from the intense sexism directed at Hillary Clinton by the press and some supposedly liberal bloggers. I mentioned that Anita Hill went through hell and lost her bid to keep Clarence Thomas off SCOTUS, but it did open up the eyes of a lot of women and it did lead to changes that have made it less acceptable than it used to be to sexually harass women in the work place. (Yeah, it still happens, but, believe me, it's not as bad as it used to be.) My hope is that we'll see a resurgence of feminist thought, of discussion about the issue of sexism, and a move towards getting more women into politics.

On que, the XX chromosome side of left blogistan responds today w some v. good writing.

This week, Laura Flanders said we shouldn't have to elect women to get gender justice (among other things).
I agree. But doesn't gender justice include having women in government? I think putting more women into positions of power will improve society, if only because it opens up opportunities for women. It’s odd that this concept seems to have become controversial among feminists.
I would much rather have Condoleezza Rice as secretary of state than a white man who shared the same views. Her promotion may inspire girls, especially black girls. Having the career she does may make it easier for white men in power to imagine another black woman in that job.
I understand that it isn’t enough to add only a few token women. But it’s a start. We don’t get parity overnight. It starts with a few women, followed by a few more women, followed by a few more. I think women are more likely to change systems if we can get a foothold in them.
I'm writing this before I go on vacation, and so, I don't know the latest in the presidential race. But I have been mystified by progressive women who say gender doesn’t or shouldn’t matter when choosing a candidate. I guess this means that they have no problem with men holding the presidency forever as long as the men have good policies. The same goes for race.
I’m not saying gender or race should be the only things that matter. If you think Obama would significantly improve the lives of women, or the lives of some women, or your life, and Clinton wouldn’t have done so, I understand your vote. If you think it’s important to have an African American in the White House and you like Obama’s policies, I understand your vote. (Mix these thoughts up however you want.) But if you’re a feminist and you say that the gender or race of a candidate doesn’t matter, then I’m floored.

Go read the rest of what Suzie has to say at Echidne of the Snakes

Meanwhile, Digby is, as usual, spot on:

I don't believe Obama's win is [due to the sexist treatment that Clinton received].. He won it fair and square, carrying a heavy historical burden of his own. But that doesn't mean it didn't happen. Acknowledging that doesn't create a "toxic legacy" and neither is it just the sad lament of "lonely people" (translation: lonely old women.) But I'm sure those memes will catch on and we'll all be told that we imagined it all. (Youtube is our new best friend.)

Clinton's campaign ripped open a hole in our culture and forced us to look inside. And what we found was a simmering cauldron of crude, sophomoric sexism and ugly misogyny that a lot of us knew existed but didn't realize was still so socially acceptable that it could be broadcast on national television and garner nary a complaint from anybody but a few internet scolds like me. It was eye-opening, to say the least.

Jill responds to the amazing bullshit that the best woman for the job is a man:

I voted for Barack Obama. I like him a lot. He is very good on women’s issues. But that doesn’t make him the best “woman” for the job, any more than Bill Clinton was “the first Black president.” It erases the realities of being female to argue that a man can be a good enough “woman president;” it erases the fact that “good on women’s issues” is not the same as “woman;” it erases the importance of having women in positions of power. And it discounts just how huge of a milestone it will be when a woman is elected to the Presidency. We can applaud Obama on his progressive stances and keep him accountable on his less progressive ones without attributing to him a characteristic that he simply does not have. We can celebrate the practical and symbolic importance of his run for President without having to make him everything to everyone. And if we want to be as “post-gender” as Walker suggests, then perhaps we should really shift the paradigm and expect that issues of gender, racial and social justice be fundamental in any political system, and not the providence of “special interest groups” like women.

And, over at MyDD Natasha notes that:

Someone was telling me in earnest the other day that Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) should be the VP pick because, and I am not making this up, she's younger and prettier than the other women being discussed, and endorsed Clinton -- so shouldn't that make her a great person to appease the Clinton supporters?

Other points were offered in her defense, but if someone argued in favor of adding a Black candidate to the ticket on the basis of 'well, their skin's a lot lighter than the other people of color that we considered,' that would pretty much be the end of seriously paying attention to what they had to say. And rightly. Not to say the two things are directly equivalent, either. Just that where racist arguments are generally recognized right away, sexist arguments can be slipped by in even progressive circles, among people who insist that they're feminists, without usually causing much embarassment.

And yes, that'd be the Blanche Lincoln, who voted with Republicans on FISA and the estate tax, and was delisted from EMILY's List for casting anti-choice votes in the Senate.

When I argued the other day that people with bad records on gender issues should be automatically ruled out, it was exactly that sort of tokenism I was suggesting should be avoided. I didn't argue that Clinton should be picked, or even that another woman should necessarily be picked, but that someone should be selected that showed respect and consideration towards the issues that are important to her supporters. Issues that include, but are definitely not limited to, reproductive justice.

That's a whole lot of serious discussion about feminism. Let's hope that it's only the beginning.

Art found here.


Anonymous said...

"I would much rather have Condoleezza Rice as secretary of state than a white man who shared the same views."

Why? She's still an incompetent!

Terry C - Obama/Clinton 08

George said...

Terry C, I think that anon was saying that despite Rice's incompetence, she was still valuable in that other women/girls may see her and think "I can do that too". The job, not the incompetence :).
Men will also begin to get used to the idea of women at the highest levels of gov't.
Damn, we are so far behind Yurp in this respect.

Daniel said...

Uhh... Favoring a woman for a job and including "she's a woman" in that consideration is sexism.

Clinton wasn't a victim of sexism, she was it's greatest benefactor - millions of women voting for her because she was a woman.