Sunday, May 25, 2008

Omigod, Omigod, Omigod!

Meet the Press had four women on the show today! Which means it was a very woman-friendly show with no sexism, right? Maybe? No, not really.

What really bothers me about the role of women in this country is that we're supposed to be really happy with what little we have all the time, and pointing out any completely reasonable negative feelings you may have makes you a real killjoy. Hillary Clinton said this to a reporter for the Washington Post last week:

The manifestation of some of the sexism that has gone on in this campaign is somehow more respectable, or at least more accepted. And I think there should be equal rejection of the sexism and the racism when and if it ever raises its ugly head. But it does seem as though the press, at least, is, is not as bothered by the incredible vitriol that has been engendered by the comments and the actions of people who are nothing but misogynists.

I do think that Clinton has a bit of a point here, although I don't totally agree with it. I think the way people react to being called a sexist ("Pfft. Yeah, right. Whatever.") and the way people react to being called a racist ("What?! How dare you imply that race even exists in order for someone to even make a racist statement to begin with!") doesn't leave any room open for meaningful discussion either way. Neither does getting getting into any oppression Olympics. Anyway, first, Maureen Dowd's response:

I think it's poppycock, really. I mean, Hillary Clinton has allowed women to visualize a woman as president for the first time, in the way Colin Powell allowed people to visualize an African-American. And she dominated the debates, she, she proved that a woman can have as much tenacity and gall as any man on earth. We, we can visualize her facing down Ahmadinejad. But the thing is, Hillary hurts feminism when she uses it as opportunism. And she has a history of covering up her own mistakes behind sexism. She did it with health care right after health care didn't pass. She didn't admit that she was abrasive or mismanaged it or blew off good advice or was too secretive. She said that she was a Rorschach test for gender and that many men thought of a female boss they didn't like when they looked at her. And now she's doing the same thing, and it's very--you know, in a way it's the moral equivalent of Sharptonism. It's this victimhood and angry and turning women against men and saying that the men are trying to take it away from us, in the same way she's turning Florida and Michigan and riling up and comparing them to suffragettes and slaves. And it's very damaging to feminism.

And now, part of an editorial by Ruth Marcus of the Washington Post:

Hillary Clinton isn't going to be elected the first female president--not this year, anyway. The reasons for this outcome have gratifyingly little to do with her gender. ...

The notion that Clinton was the victim of unrelenting, vicious hatred because she is a woman--is it safe to call this reaction overwrought? Clinton managed to win more votes than any primary candidate in either party ever had before. It's hard to square that result with the notion that her candidacy exposed a deep vein of misogyny. ...

From a feminist perspective, Clinton's was not a perfect candidacy. Part of this stems from a fact outside Clinton's control, that her route to power was derivative, the Adam's rib outgrowth of her husband's career. Hillary Clinton had been elected to the Senate, twice, in her own right, but the fact that her road to the White House involved standing by her man, no matter how badly he behaved, made her a flawed vessel for the feminist cause.

And Clinton's least attractive campaign moments came when she took up the gender card and chose to play it as victim instead of a trailblazer. The notion that the male candidates were ganging up on her because she is a woman instead of--remember back when?--because she was the front-runner was silly. The complaint that asking her the first question in debates was evidence of a double standard was even sillier.

Both responses could be summed up in six words: "Look on the bright side, Hil!"

And why not look on the bright side, when people accuse you of rolling back women's rights for having a human gaffe machine for a husband (because Obama's wife never said anything potentially damaging)! I mean, don't you like living in a society where you're judged based on your relationship with your husband? Don't you like people judging your leadership abilities based on your adherence to gender roles? Don't you like people worrying about the inevitable PMS-induced nuclear bomb attack if you become president, despite the fact that you're 60 years old? Don't you like people expecting even a powerful and intellectual woman like you to get back in the kitchen or iron shirts for a living? Don't be such a Debbie Downer!

1 comment:

Erin said...

Awesome post, I had the same reaction when I listened to the MtP podcast this morning.