Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Hillary Clinton and a feminist awakening

TalkLeft's BTD posted, "Finally Someone Worries About Alienating Women Voters," referring to Kevin Drum who remarked "that an awful lot of liberal women are appalled at how Hillary has been treated during this campaign and that some of them might stay home as well if she doesn't win." Sweetie darling, what do you mean might?

Guaranteed, women in mass will either stay home, vote for an independent or McCain if Barry is on the frigging November ballot. But that iffy-ness is what one can expect of Drum's wishy-washy, OTOH and OTOH blogging. When he finally sees the big picture, it's after it's too late... like he did with the Iraq War.

Thanks to BTD, a link to an incredible article in New York Magazine by Amanda Fortini, The Feminist Reawakening: Hillary Clinton and the fourth wave.

When Hillary declared, "I'm in to win," Fortini recounts, "the sexism in America, long lying dormant, like some feral, tranquilized animal, yawned and revealed itself. Even those of us who didn’t usually concern ourselves with gender-centric matters began to realize that when it comes to women, we are not post-anything."

The egregious and by now familiar potshots are too numerous (and tiresome) to recount. A greatest-hits selection provides a measure of the misogyny: There’s Republican axman Roger Stone’s anti-Hillary 527 organization, Citizens United Not Timid, or CUNT. And the Facebook group Hillary Clinton: Stop Running for President and Make Me a Sandwich, which has 44,000-plus members. And the “Hillary Nutcracker” with its “stainless-steel thighs.” And Clinton’s Wikipedia page, which, according to The New Republic, is regularly vandalized with bathroom-stall slurs like “slut” and “cuntbag.” And the truly horrible YouTube video of a KFC bucket that reads HILLARY MEAL DEAL: 2 FAT THIGHS, 2 SMALL BREASTS, AND A BUNCH OF LEFT WINGS. And Rush Limbaugh worrying whether the country is ready to watch a woman age in the White House (as though nearly every male politician has not emerged portly, wearied, and a grandfatherly shade of gray). And those two boors who shouted, “Iron my shirts!” from the sidelines in New Hampshire. “Ah, the remnants of sexism,” Clinton replied, “alive and well.” With that, she blithely shrugged off the heckling.

It was hardly a revelation to learn that sexism lived in the minds and hearts of right-wing crackpots and Internet nut-jobs, but it was something of a surprise to discover it flourished among members of the news media. The frat boys at MSNBC portrayed Clinton as a castrating scold, with Tucker Carlson commenting, “Every time I hear Hillary Clinton speak, I involuntarily cross my legs,” and Chris Matthews calling her male endorsers “castratos in the eunuch chorus.” Matthews also dubbed Clinton “the grieving widow of absurdity,” saying, of her presidential candidacy and senatorial seat, “She didn’t win there on her merit. She won because everybody felt, ‘My God, this woman stood up under humiliation.’ ” While that may be partly true—Hillary’s approval ratings soared in the wake of l’affaire Lewinsky—Matthews’s take reduced her universally recognized political successes to rewards for public sympathy, as though Clinton’s intelligence and long record of public service count for nothing. Would a male candidate be viewed so reductively? Many have argued that the media don’t like Clinton simply because they don’t like Clinton—even her devotees will admit she arrives with a complete set of overstuffed baggage—much in the same way they made up their mind about Al Gore back in 2000 and ganged up on him as a prissy, uptight know-it-all. But whatever is behind the vitriol, it has taken crudely sexist forms.

Even when the media did attempt to address the emergent sexism, the efforts were tepid, at best. After the laundry incident, USA Today ran the extenuating headline, “Clinton Responds to Seemingly Sexist Shouts.” A handful of journalists pointed out the absurdity of the adverb. “If these comments were only ‘seemingly’ sexist, I wonder what, exactly, indubitably sexist remarks would sound like?” Meghan O’Rourke wrote on The XX Factor, a blog written by Slate’s female staffers. Many women, whatever their particular feelings about Hillary Clinton (love her, loathe her, voting for her regardless), began to feel a general sense of unease at what they were witnessing. The mask had been pulled off—or, perhaps more apt, the makeup wiped off—and the old gender wounds and scars and blemishes, rather than having healed in the past three decades, had, to the surprise of many of us, been festering all along.

And that's just Fortini's warm-up.

Hillary's presidential run galvanized "a kind of conversion experience brought about by Clinton’s candidacy" from women of varied age groups:

Women who had never thought much about sexual politics were forwarding Gloria Steinem’s now-infamous op-ed around, reiterating her claim that “gender is probably the most restricting force in American life.” In other cases, it had re-politicized them: A few women told me they were thinking about issues they hadn’t considered in any serious way since college, where women’s-studies courses and gender theory were mainstays of their liberal-arts curricula. “That whole cynical part of me that has been coming to this conclusion all along was like, I knew it! We’ve come—not nowhere, but not as far as we thought,” one said. A not insignificant number of women mentioned arguments they’d had with male friends and colleagues, who disagreed that Clinton was being treated with any bias. A high-powered film executive for a company based in New York and Los Angeles recounted a heated debate she engaged in with two of her closest male friends; she finally capitulated when they teamed up and began to shout her down. Nearly all of the women I interviewed, with the exception of those who write on gender issues professionally, refused to be named for fear of offending the male bosses and colleagues and friends they’d tangled with.

In particular, the campaign has divided women and the men they know on the subject of race. Indelicate as it seems to bring up, the oft-repeated question is, why do overtly sexist remarks slip by almost without comment, while any racially motivated insult would be widely censured? A few women told me that when they raised this issue with men, the discussion broke down, with the men arguing that racism was far more pernicious than sexism. “If you say anything about the specificity of Hillary being a woman, you’re just doing the knee-jerk feminist stuff, that’s the reaction,” said one woman who asked not to be identified in any way. “Thinking about race is a serious issue, whereas sexism is just something for dumb feminists to think about.” The point is not to determine whether it is harder to be a white woman or a black man in America today, nor which candidate would have more symbolic value. At issue is the fact that race is, as it should be, taboo grounds for criticism, but gender remains open territory.

What a shame. And this in America?! Feh! On Sunday, while channel surfing on the teevee, within 30 minutes I heard the B-word from two different cable shows. Like it's normal.

Fortini asks the ultimate question, "Why doesn’t our culture take sexism seriously?"

Gloria Steinem has suggested that “anything that affects males is seen as more serious than anything that affects ‘only’ the female half of the human race.” If that’s true, and I’m not convinced it is, then women are also culpable. Sexism is often so subtle, threading its insidious way through many aspects of our existence, that anyone who talks about it risks sounding like an overzealous lunatic at worst—scrutinizing every interaction for gender-specific offenses, dichotomizing the world into victim and oppressor—or trivial at best. . . And so, in our reluctance to appear nagging, scolding, hectoring, or petty, many of us have made a practice of enduring minor affronts, not realizing that a failure to decry the smaller indignities can foster blindness to the larger ones. We then find ourselves shocked when one of the smartest, most qualified women ever to run for public office is called “fishwife-y” by a female pundit on national television.

Remember this? When Obama responded, "I understand that Senator Clinton, periodically when she’s feeling down, launches attacks as a way of trying to boost her appeal." That's the language of insidious misogyny in action. Egalia at TGW interpreted for the dolts who missed the inherent sexist message, "She's PMS-ing." How many women have heard that accusation, raise your hand? Hmmm, that many, eh? And the better question, to show the gender disparity, "Can you imagine Obama pulling this crap on John Edwards? Or John McCain?"

No, I can't. And shame on Barry. And his co-chair Jesse Jackson, Jr. for his despicable mockery of Hillary's tears. And the shrieking McPeak, who had to retract his assertion that "Obama 'doesn't go on television and have crying fits.' " They all crossed a line that never should have traversed by a Democratic presidential candidacy, flanked by the Blog Boyz cheering their Precious onward, demeaning Hillary just like the appalling anti-liberal press corps we've come to mistrust and despise. Now it's liberal male bloggers that many of us--women and men who love women--have started to associate with the tactics of Tweety, Inc.

Fortini's article goes on for pages. One graf that speaks to the OFB intimidation factor:

But, according to my anecdotal research, it isn’t just “the hot-flash cohort,” to borrow another phrase from Tina Brown, that broke for Clinton. Women in their thirties and forties—at once discomfited and galvanized by the sexist tenor of the media coverage, by the nastiness of the watercooler talk in the office, by the realization that the once-foregone conclusion of Clinton-as-president might never come to be—did, too. We haven’t heard much about these women, perhaps because in this demographic, there is peer pressure to vote for Obama. A woman I interviewed described the atmosphere of Obama-Fascism in her office: “I really object to the assumption that everyone is voting for Obama in our cohort, but that’s the assumption these guys talk under,” she says. “They feel only idiots would vote for Hillary. There’s this kind of total assumption that of course any thinking person is voting for Obama.”

Go read and see if you can keep your head from exploding.

I'm mad as hell and I'm not taking this crap from any political party anymore. I'm ready to revolt. The Democratic Party has treated gays and lesbians like two-headed stepchildren. Now they ignore the debasement of women, and for extra bonus points, they're screwing MI and FL voters to shut Hillary out of the nomination.

I say UYATUPYRIO! What say you?