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Posts Tagged ‘Meg Whitman’

Doncha just love campaign season? Phones aren’t hung up promptly; scandals ensue! As a Californian, I’m naturally thinking of Whore-Gate, or the instance of gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown calling the police union for an endorsement, and neglecting to hang up before an aide helpfully suggested “What about saying she’s a whore?” (The background is this: His opponent, Meg Whitman–the “she” in question–promised the police union that she’d exempt them from the pension caps she was proposing for “all” public emploees, whereas Brown is calling for cuts across the board, including police and fire. The police union endorsement had nothing to do with her being “tough on crime”; it had to do with dollars. Natch.) Anyway, back to Whore-Gate. Once that comment was leaked, Whitman was quick to pounce, calling it an “insult to the women of California.” The issue was brought up during Tuesday night’s debate, during which moderator Tom Brokaw put the issue to Brown, suggesting that the W-word is on par with the N-word. Brown disagreed with the comparison, but apologized. He was booed. Whitman retorted by saying it’s a “deeply offensive term to women,” then saying that when her campaign chairman, former CA governor Pete Wilson used the W-word in reference to Congress, “that is a completely different thing.” She was booed, too.

Wowee, right?! The fallout was equally salacious. The day after the news of the Brown-camp W-bomb was dropped, NOW announced its endorsement of him, which prompted right-wingers everywhere to proclaim that the National Organization for Women is a partisan operation. (Because, you know, men get to vote on the issues, but women can only vote for the similarly-chromosomed. Any hint of voting with something other than our vaginas suggests partisanship.) Others wrung their hands over whether the W-word is, in fact, as sexist as the N-word is racist. Some saying of course it is; others, like Salon.com’s Joan Walsh saying,

Like it or not, in the political realm the word has little sting anymore, and almost no tie to gender. Brokaw’s comparing it to the “N-word” for women was a rare misstep for the otherwise smart moderator.

I tend to agree that the word “whore” in such a context, while ugly, is not particularly sexist, but I do happen to think that ugly language deserves a comment or two at this particular moment in time. Because the thing is, words do hurt. Bullying is reportedly rampant, as are suicides of its victims. People can say and do really ugly things to each other. Look at the cases of Phoebe Prince or Tyler Clementi. Look at the ways in which Hillary Clinton has been talked about, for gods sake.

But that’s not what we’re talking about here. We’re not talking about sexism; we’re talking about pottymouth. We’re talking about the ugliness of politics, of what happens when someone who’s demonstrated zero interest in politics for the bulk of her life comes into billions of dollars, runs out of toys to buy herself and decides to buy a public office instead, breaking records on campaign spending, and swapping endorsements for favors. (Oops, did I type that out loud?)

But seriously, to suggest that the W-word in question is on par with the N-word–or “deeply offensive to women” in one instance while “a completely different thing” in another–is, quite frankly, offensive in and of itself. Splitting hairs is an insult to voters’ intelligence–and it points to the disingenuousness of Whitman’s decision to play the woman card here, despite the fact that there is precious little in her platform or proposed policy that would benefit women. Even putting that aside, claiming offense in this instance cheapens what people go through when they are the victims of truly hateful language. Politics is ugly, but not as ugly as hate. And what we have here is a non-issue, played up for drama–and votes. There’s plenty of truly offensive instances of hateful language and sexist bullshit to get pissed off about, but this is not one of them. And if you ask me, the most offensive part of the whole thing is this: California is in one hell of a mess, and in desperate need of some quality leadership. And this is what we’re talking about instead.


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And so we have all these women running for office in November.  Many of them are right-wingers.  Those are the ones I want to talk about.  (California has two:  Carly Fiorina, former CEO of HP, running for the Senate, and Meg Whitman, former CEO of EBay, running for governor.  Neither one has ever held public office before.  But that’s another story.) Following Sarah Palin’s lead, these new double XX politicos want us to think they are feminists.  (We’ve gone there before in this space.  Want more?  Go here.)

I’m not even sure they’re women.

Don’t get me wrong.  I think women come in many stripes and colors.  So do feminists.  And there’s nothing better than a big tent, right?

And yet.  There are a certain number of bedrock issues (Abortion?  Not even gonna go there.) that we can all agree upon, that you would assume any double X-er would support mainly because these are the issues that directly affect women.  All women.  And their families.  Women’s issues,  right?   Hello, kids?  But these right wingnuttettes?  Nope.  Seriously, folks.  A skirt does not a woman make.

(Neither does a tea party.)

Case in point:  The New York Times reports today that the GOP — which is banking on some of these whack-job women helping them achieve a majority in Congress — plans to reveal its plan to “take back America” today at a lumberyard outside of D.C.  Channeling the “Contract for America” cooked up by former GOP Speaker of the House and Family-Values-Guy Newt Gingrich (who, by the way, dumped his wife  for another woman when said wife was in the hospital recovering from cancer surgery.  But that’s another another story) the New York Times reports that they begin their blueprint with the following promise:

“We pledge to advance policies that promote greater liberty, wider opportunity, a robust defense, and national economic prosperity. We pledge to honor families, traditional marriage, life, and the private and faith-based organizations that form the core of our American values.”

And without question, we can expect to hear that these newly energized “feminist” politicos, these women who call themselves women, have signed right on.

To what, specifically?  Here you go.  One of the ways they plan to honor families is to repeal the newly enacted health care law.  On the agenda.  Front and center.

That sound you hear is me throwing up.   Because who suffered most under our our health care system of old?  Women.  And when women suffer, it’s often the kids who pay the price.  So much for those family values.  But let’s recall a few things we may have forgotten about the old way of health care.  Pregnancy:  pre-existing condition.  Women:  statistically more  likely to work  part-time jobs (so they can care for their kids) that do not provide benefits.   Sure, all is well and good for ladies who can depend on well-employed husbands for heath care benefits.  But what if he loses his job?  Hard to afford COBRA on a part time salary.  Or no salary.  Or even one salary, for that matter.

And what if she’s a single mother?  Sorry, kids.  No doc for you…

Back to a post from back in November that linked to a piece in USA Today, here’s a quick refresher on how the old health care system discriminated against women:

  • insurance companies are allowed to charge women more for the same policies as men in 40 states and the District of Columbia;
  • in those same states and D.C., insurance companies can charge businesses with mostly female employees higher group rates;
  • many companies don’t provide maternity coverage as part of their basic plans (perhaps you heard Rep. Senator Jon Kyl, of Arizona’s sensitive take on this issue? “I don’t need maternity care and so requiring that to be in my insurance policy is something that I don’t need and will make the policy more expensive.” Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich, called him on the jackass remark, replying “Your mom probably did.”);
  • insurance companies can exclude coverage for pre-existing conditions; having had a C-section is one of them;
  • if a woman is pregnant when she buys an insurance company, insurance companies can deny maternity coverage;
  • 8 states and D.C. allow insurance companies to deny coverage to victims of domestic violence.

There’s more, but those are the highlights of healthcare coverage for women who had insurance.  But what about the ones who didn’t?  Or their kids?  You do the math.

Should we go on?  Yes.  Let’s.

Then there’s the Meg Whitman plan for California that involves cutting off welfare at the two year mark.  Which would be great if there were jobs to be had.  (Ahem. You know how that one ends.)  But again, what about the families we care so much about?  What happens to the kids when mom and dad can’t get a job, or when a single mother can’t afford day care  — because, you know, we’ve never made affordable day care a priority?

A while back, one of the experts we interviewed for our book talked about the rise of the right wing women in politics and what she suggested is that maybe one of the reasons for their success so far is that they are not threatening.  And really, given their position on the issues, why would they be?

About a month ago, New York Times columnist Gail Collins had a chat with feminist writer Stacy Schiff, and here’s a little excerpt from what they had to say about the new wave of women activists, who had taken to calling themselves “mama grizzlies”, the moniker inspired by Sarah Palin, and whether or not they could really be feminists.  Let’s give Gail and Stacy the second-to-last word:

Gail Collins: Do you think the Mama Grizzlies really can be feminists? I don’t think you can throw a woman out of the club because she voted against the stimulus bill. But if feminism simply means supporting equal rights and equal opportunities for women, I don’t see how a feminist can be opposed to government programs that provide poor working mothers with quality child care.

Stacy Schiff: Exactly. The issue is no longer first-rate intellect, or first-rate temperament, but first-rate opportunity. Which is where the Mama Grizzly business really falls down.

An actual grizzly mom is a single mom. She lends a whole new definition to full-time homemaker. If Dad shows up it’s probably to eat the kids. What Mama Grizzly wouldn’t believe in school lunches, health insurance and quality childcare? Who’s going to look after the kids while she’s off hunting? It’s really, really clever to put this powerful vocabulary — pit bulls and grizzlies — in the service of disempowering people. Kind of like death panels in reverse.

Thing is, parity is important.  Absolutely.  We want equal representation in government, in business, in life.  But when it comes to those who make the policy, let’s face it:   Men vote on the issues, not the pants.
Same with us.  It’s the issues, not the skirts.  A woman who can’t-slash-won’t support women’s issues?  Fail.

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