Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Sarah Palin’

Did you catch Bill Keller’s piece in the New York Times yesterday? Called “Just the ticket,” it’s a pretty compelling case for replacing Joe Biden with Hillary Clinton for second-to-the-top job when this year’s presidential election rolls around. Now, we love Biden’s faux pas and f-bombs as much as anyone, but–hello!–how could we not jump on this bandwagon? So, without further ado, here’s our top 5 reasons why we’d love to see a Clinton-Obama—I mean, Obama-Clinton—ticket.

5. She’s ambitious. And she owns it. She wasn’t content to wrap up her time as first lady and demurely step aside. In a ballsy move, she ran for NY Senator. In a ballsier one, she ran for president–and nearly nabbed the nom. When so many of us feel our ambition is something shameful, something we should apologize for or even deny, Hillary puts it front and center. She’s taken her lumps for it, but ultimately, she’s proven that a woman can be both ambitious and liked. Which brings me to number 4.

4. We like her. I mean, we really like her. According to Gallup (by way of Keller):

Hillary is the most admired woman in America for the 10th year in a row, laps ahead of, in order, Oprah Winfrey, Michelle Obama, Sarah Palin and Condeleezza Rice; her approval rating of 64 percent is the highest of any political figure in the country.

An ambitious woman is something to be admired?! I mean, the whole George Washington/cherry tree thing is cute and everything, but how’s that–ambition and likability are not mutually exclusive–for a lesson in the history books?

3. She’s strong enough to cry. Almost four years ago exactly, during a campaign stop in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Clinton became emotional when answering a question from an audience member about how she’s able to deal with the madness of a presidential campaign–and it was in her answer, when speaking of how much she cares about the country, that she got choked up. Again, she took flak for it, but there’s another, monstrously important message in this for the rest of us: tears are not a sign of weakness. They’re often, as Elizabeth Lesser has told us, a sign that our heart is truly engaged. I personally know that to be the case for me, and I love to imagine what the world–not to mention the freaking workplace!–would be like if everyone understood that. Being emotionally invested is a strength; Clinton understands that. And yet…

2. She’s not afraid to laugh at herself. At one of the most humbling moments in her career–when she bowed out of the race and gave her support to Obama–the type of moment when some, um, lesser people might be reduced to temper tantrum (You’re not gonna have Richard Nixon to kick around no more! anyone?), she was strong enough to crack a joke–and not just any joke–one that poked fun at herself: thanking her supporters, whom she referred to collectively as the sisterhood of the traveling pantsuits.

1. She is the total package. She has the skills and the experience, the–as Keller puts it–E.Q. as well as the I.Q. She’s already made enough of a mark that when someone describes something as Clintonian, it’s as likely they’re referring to her as it is her husband, who is, you know, a former president. She handled herself impossibly well during one of the most impossible (and public!) humiliations imaginable–and, rather than opt for obscurity, held her head high and soldiered on, right into one of the most visible positions in the world. And what a tenure: as Secretary of State, she’s smoothly handled her share of dramatic world events. As Keller writes:

She would bring to this year’s campaign a missing warmth and some of the voltage that has dissipated as Obama moved from campaigning to governing. What excites is not just the prospect of having a woman a heartbeat–and four years–away from the presidency, although she certainly embodies the aspirations of many women. It’s the possibility that the first woman at the top would have qualifications so manifest that her first-ness was a secondary consideration.

And what a first that would be.

Read Full Post »

I’ve been thinking about Shannon’s post from Tuesday about the Mad Men finale, when Don Draper chose Pretty over Smart — even though Smart was herself quite Pretty.  Now, I tend to think that Don went from rock star to weenie when he proposed to his 25-year old secretary on a sex-charged whim:   He rendered himself ordinary, morphing from interesting to cliche faster than you can say “I do,” by buying into that age-old distinction between pretty or smart.  But that’s another story.

Nonetheless, I found it somewhat synchronous that Maureen Dowd’s column in Wednesday’s New York Times also touched on that same dichotomy:  beauty or brains.  Sexy or smart.  Elite or Just Folks.  She starts with a riff on Marilyn Monroe, who was sexy, but wanted to be smart:

The false choice between intellectualism and sexuality in women has persisted through the ages. There was no more poignant victim of it than Marilyn Monroe.

She was smart enough to become the most famous Dumb Blonde in history. Photographers loved to get her to pose in tight shorts, a silk robe or a swimsuit with a come-hither look and a weighty book — a history of Goya or James Joyce’s “Ulysses” or Heinrich Heine’s poems. A high-brow bunny picture, a variation on the sexy librarian trope. Men who were nervous about her erotic intensity could feel superior by making fun of her intellectually.

Marilyn was not completely in on the joke. Scarred by her schizophrenic mother and dislocated upbringing, she was happy to have the classics put in her hand. What’s more, she read some of them, from Proust to Dostoyevsky to Freud to Carl Sandburg’s six-volume biography of Lincoln (given to her by husband Arthur Miller), collecting a library of 400 books.

Miller once called Marilyn “a poet on a street corner trying to recite to a crowd pulling at her clothes.”

That last one breaks your heart, right?  Dowd then segues nicely to her real point:  the false dichotomy, cooked up by the women of the far right — on Sunday, she dubbed them the Mean Girls — who have set up a political either/or between the Smart Kids and, you know, the Rest of Us:

At least, unlike Paris Hilton and her ilk, the Dumb Blonde of ’50s cinema had a firm grasp on one thing: It was cool to be smart. She aspired to read good books and be friends with intellectuals, even going so far as to marry one. But now another famous beauty with glowing skin and a powerful current, Sarah Palin, has made ignorance fashionable.

You struggle to name Supreme Court cases, newspapers you read and even founding fathers you admire? No problem. You endorse a candidate for the Pennsylvania Senate seat who is the nominee in West Virginia? Oh, well.

At least you’re not one of those “spineless” elites with an Ivy League education, like President Obama, who can’t feel anything. It’s news to Christine O’Donnell that the Constitution guarantees separation of church and state. It’s news to Joe Miller, whose guards handcuffed a journalist, and to Carl Paladino, who threatened The New York Post’s Fred Dicker, that the First Amendment exists, even in Tea Party Land. Michele Bachmann calls Smoot-Hawley Hoot-Smalley.

We can hoot and laugh all we want.  But I wonder:  How many of us hold ourselves back because somewhere along the line, we bought into life according to the Cool Kids:  Beauty or brains.  Sexy or smart. Straight A’s or prom dates.  Are we still trying to follow the code of some mythical arbiter of high school Cool?  Is that one of the reasons so many women talked themselves out of majoring in math?  Or opted for Physics for Poets?  Or stick with a job in a cube versus one that takes you outside the building because, well, it’s pre-approved?

Do we still let that mythical arbiter of Cool define who we are — and make our choices to fit, whether those choices involve a white picket fence — or Zooey Deschanel bangs and/or a couple or three tattoos?

The tastemakers may change, but the habits die hard.  No wonder we second guess ourselves.  Or, like poor old Don Draper, let silly stereotypes cooked up by Someone Else dictate who we are and who we want to be –  rather than making the discovery on our own.

If we did make that inner trek, we might find out that we’ve got beauty AND brains.  We’re sexy AND smart.  And, you know, we’re even good at math.

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

Did you hear the one about funny feminists?

Check the repartee between New York Times columnist Gail Collins and writer Stacy Schiff, author of the forthcoming “Cleopatra: A Life”, in Wednesday’s Opinionator column.  They wax feminist about everything from Mama Grizzlies to Manolos, and give us a chuckle or two along the way.   Funny, stand-up style, in a true story kinda way.   Here’s a taste:

Gail Collins: I can’t resist the temptation to talk about women in politics even though I know we should be counterintuitive and debate the use of drones in antiterrorism operations.

Stacy Schiff: We can do that next time. Besides, I’m not sure topics divide neatly along gender lines when the individual tackling missile defense systems, nuclear nonproliferation and the Middle East is someone who once made national news with a chocolate chip cookie recipe.

True, that.   (Google Hillary and cookies and you get 668,000 hits)  Now, onto Grizzlies:

Gail Collins: One thing I’ve been surprised by during the current election season is the ongoing argument over whether Sarah Palin or her Mama Grizzly candidates could be regarded as feminists. Can I tell you how amazing it is to hear anybody fighting for the title?

Stacy Schiff: It is a word that can clear a room, isn’t it? Maybe only “bedbugs” does so faster.

Let’s hit shoes:

Gail Collins: Every time I go on a speaking tour I get questions from sad middle-aged women who want to know why their daughters all insist they aren’t feminists. They might be planning to devote their lives to healing fistula victims in Somalia, but they won’t let anyone call them feminists because they think it means being anti-man, or wearing unattractive shoes.

Stacy Schiff: Partly the word has been deliberately sullied, like “liberal” and “progressive.” It spells man-hating, militant, and, especially, no Manolos.

If it makes you feel better, I just texted my 17-year-old to ask if she considered herself a feminist. “If by feminism, you mean equality,” she answers, “then yes.” It’s not a word that appeals, because her generation thinks the work has been done. They’ve been reading articles about the End of Men. Somehow the news that men who work full-time make on average 23 percent more than women do seems to have escaped them.

And back to the Grizzlies:

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.

Strangely enough, politics may just be the one realm in which having kids imposes no penalty on women. Kids are practically a necessity. For scientists, or Supreme Court justices, or chief executives, or the woman who wants to learn to fly F-l8s off an aircraft carrier, it works differently.

Read Full Post »

Guess who’s calling herself a feminist? I’ll give you a hint: she doesn’t read much but cooks a mean moose chili, and while she isn’t a big fan of hopey changey stuff, she has been known to engage in such enlightened chants as “Drill, baby, drill.” (Though she’s been conspicuously quiet on that subject as of late.) Oh, and she’s super-mavericky, too.

Yeah, her. Sarah Palin’s taken to calling herself a feminist (never mind the fact that, during the 2008 Presidential campaign she told Katie Couric that, no, she was not a feminist)–and many other self-described feminists are none too thrilled about it.

And, frankly, I’m terrifically torn. Yes, a part of me believes that a part of the reason young women are so reluctant to call themselves feminists is because, at times, the movement has seemed been exclusionary. Elitist. Historically, such charges aren’t entirely unfounded. I have even argued that, to my mind, Feminism can be boiled down to the simple idea that women are people.

So why aren’t I jumping up and down, welcoming a woman from the other side of the aisle to the party? Well, just being a woman isn’t enough. And being a woman who’s championed causes antithetical to the interests of women as a whole certainly seems like an adequate deal-breaker, doesn’t it?

The ultimate irony may be in the event at which Palin dropped the F-bomb (upwards of ten times) itself: It was a speech given to the Susan B. Anthony list, an anti-choice group. During the speech, she said the suffragettes were the real feminists (disregarding all that’s come since–you know, like the women who fought to pry open the doors through which Palin walked to get where she is today)–and that they were pro-life. She went on to disparage pro-choice feminists, suggesting that, by championing a woman’s right to choose, they’re really saying they just don’t believe women can handle motherhood and work, and

send this message, that ‘Nope, you’re not capable of doing both. You can’t give your child life and still pursue career and education. You’re not strong enough; you’re not capable.’ So it’s very hypocritical.

Implicit in such a statement is, of course, the idea that that woman who’s capable of doing both will have the benefit of enough support from the social structures around her to make it possible to do both–an argument that’s tough to make, given, you know, the ERA that was never passed, the fact that we’re still underpaid and underrepresented, not to mention the issues of inadequate, unaffordable child care and–until recently–health care (reform of which Palin feverishly campaigned against).

But back to Palin and her F-bombs. Jessica Valenti, who made a compelling argument that Palin’s feminism is not feminism at all, but rather disingenuous pandering for women’s votes come midterm time, lays it out thus:

A related strategy for Palin and fellow conservatives is to paint actual feminists as condescending hypocrites who simply don’t believe in young women… Palin’s “pro-woman sisterhood,” however, “is telling these young women that they’re strong enough and smart enough, they are capable to be able to handle an unintended pregnancy and still be able to… handle that [and] give that child life.” (Unless of course, these young women were unlucky enough to live in Alaska when then-Gov. Palin cut funding for an Anchorage shelter for teenage moms.)

Ahem, who you callin a hypocrite, Sarah?

But then, just when you’re ready to banish her from the kingdom forever, there’s this, from Meghan Daum at the L.A. Times.

The word in question, of course, is “feminist.” It may be the most polarizing label on the sociopolitical stage (it makes “environmentalist” or even “gay-rights advocate” seem downright banal), but Palin seems to have stopped dancing around it and finally claimed it as her partner. Granted, this is a conditional relationship; there’s a qualifier here as big as Alaska…

Now, there are a lot of ways in which [Palin's] logic is contorted, not least of all the suggestion that supporting the right to choose represents a no-confidence vote for the idea of mothers leading fulfilling professional and personal lives. But putting that aside, I feel a duty (a feminist duty, in fact) to say this about Palin’s declaration: If she has the guts to call herself a feminist, then she’s entitled to be accepted as one.

Now, while a part of me agrees with Daum’s perspective, another part of me agrees with the in-your-face take offered by Kate Harding, who wrote on Jezebel that:

The problem is, words mean things. I could start calling myself a red meat conservative, or campaign for those of us who are against the death penalty to “reclaim” the term “pro-life,” but at some point, the relationship between your beliefs and your choice of words either passes the sniff test or it doesn’t. And someone who actively seeks to restrict women’s freedom calling herself a feminist is, not to put too fine a point on it, a liar. There’s a difference between a big tent and no boundaries whatsoever; if Palin’s “entitled to be accepted” as a feminist just because she says she’s one, then the word is completely meaningless–as opposed to merely vague and controversial. And I might just start calling myself a “right-winger” because I’m right-handed, or a “fundamentalist” because I believe everyone deserves a solid primary education, or a “birther” because I once hosted a baby shower.

Is she or isn’t she?? More troubling that all of this, to me, though, is this: it seems that what’s really happening here is that feminism is again being reduced to an issue of reproductive rights. Don’t get me wrong: I happen to believe a woman’s right to choose is critically, critically important–and while I find it nothing short of ludicrous to call an anti-choice argument “feminist,” something (else) about this entire debate rubs me wrong (and not just the high-school-clique-ish nature of the whole does she belong or doesn’t she question). I just think that every time we frame feminism as about abortion rights and nothing more, we take the focus off of what it’s really all about. And that is, of course, that women are people–people who deserve equal access, representation, freedom, pay, and support from all aspects of the social structures that circumscribe their lives. And while feminism may indeed be nothing more than the radical notion that women are people, a feminist is someone who puts her money (or her votes) where her rhetoric is. So, Sarah, call yourself whatever you want. But talk is cheap–and your record speaks for itself.


Share/Bookmark

Read Full Post »

Throughout the course of a woman’s life, a question that never ceases to be relevant is the one so many like to say isn’t–or shouldn’t be–relevant at all: What should I wear?

But the fact is, it is. Clothes, of course, do more than keep us warm and safe from indecent exposure citations: they are a form of self-expression–and they say something to the world about who we are. Or who we want to be perceived to be. Chuck Taylors or Jimmy Choos? Superficial, yes–but your choice likely speaks to much more than your preference in footwear. And even if it means nothing to you, well, the world is waiting to foist judgments based on little more. More so for women.

In a piece in yesterday’s Atlantic, Wendy Kaminer takes on the being judged side of the equation:

What do Elena Kagan and Sarah Palin have in common? They each offer complementary cautionary tales about the continuing appeal of an ersatz, “Sex in [sic] the City” feminism that rewards beauty and punishes plainness with all the subtlety and compassion of a Playboy centerfold. Kagan’s appearance and fashion sense are mocked or savaged, especially but not exclusively by pundits on the right, following a familiar script. Hillary Clinton and Janet Napolitano endured similar hazings. Sarah Palin, to say the least, did not.

Kaminer goes on to make the case that the judgments–both ways (that Palin was christened “Caribou Barbie” before she ever proved herself as informed as a plastic toy; that Kagan’s sexuality is a subject of speculation in a way it wouldn’t be if she looked like Sarah Palin or Kim Cattrall)–are yet another way women are thrown under the microscope that men are not. And obviously, she has a point.

Interestingly, before I saw the Atlantic piece, I came across a piece by Courney E. Martin, ahead of the upcoming anthology, “Click: When We Knew We Were Feminists,” she’s putting together with J. Courtney Sullivan, which features a collection of stories from women describing the moment that feminism clicked for them. And in Martin’s Aha moment, fishnet stockings played a starring role.

Barnard College proved to be a place where just about everyone else was in the same state of confusion I was. We were all whip-smart, quirky, and intense, but none of us wanted to call ourselves feminist. It’s comical to think of it now. Here we were, dorms full of spitfire girls who had chosen an all-women’s college, and we were still reluctant to don the label. We were the low-hanging fruit, and feminism just hadn’t managed to pluck us.

That changed for me the day that Amy Richards and Jennifer Baumgardner showed up on the third floor of Barnard Hall to give a talk on their new book Manifesta: Young Women, Feminism, and the Future. Amy was plucky and compact, smart without an ounce of pretension, a no-nonsense beauty. Jennifer was her opposite–long and sinewy, bright blong, and yes, wearing fishnet stockings. They were besties, taking over the world with totally fresh feminist analysis. This wasn’t the swishy-skirt feminism that my mom had manifested at her once-a-month women’s groups. This was contemporary, witty, brash, even a little sexy. This was who I wanted to be.

Consider her plucked.

In fact, both Kaminer and Martin make the point that fashion is a way in which we express our identification with certain groups. It actually reminds me of a story. Last year, I was in New York for a book reading–an anthology to which I’d contributed an essay. And I went, sporting an Outfit-with-a-capital-O. After all, I like clothes. And I spend more than enough time at home, alone save for my trusty laptop, ensconced in clothes that can most kindly be described as scrubs. And if people were going to be looking at me, I wanted to look good, dammit (and, you know, be comfortable–except for my baby toes). I was staying with the (wildly intelligent–and beautiful) woman who’d edited the book, and, while we were walking to the train, she–dressed decidedly down–told me how she feels like she has to dress that way in order to be perceived as a Serious Writer. You know, the kind who’s so busy being a Serious Writer she doesn’t have time for silly fashion. She said she even has a pair of fake glasses. (Even a Serious Writer has to accessorize!) The irony, of course, being that she loves clothes as much as I do. She was laughing about it, but I have to say, it kind of made me take note of what each of the other contributors wore that night, and what my choice of duds communicated about me. Fabulous and fashionable? Or literary lightweight?

Here’s a little more from Martin on that front:

I’ve experienced it myself. After speaking on college campuses, I consistently get emails from young women confessing that they had no idea that young feminists even existed, much less “cool” ones like me. I find myself–otherwise low-maintenance and notoriously uninterested in contemporary fashion–thinking very deliberately about what I wear to these events. Sometimes the irony astounds me: I don’t dress up for business meetings, but I do dress up for 18 year-old girls who might be converted to feminism by my knee-high boots or my trendy dress.

Both Kaminer and Martin make good points. And I think that what they’re saying cuts both ways. It shouldn’t matter if we like to show a little cleavage or opt to forgo shaving our legs. If we dress up or dress down. We shouldn’t have to worry about being judged on the basis of our appearance–or use our sartorial wiles to gain acceptance–or to persuade others to our cause. And yet.

Here’s a bit more from Kaminer:

Years ago, I watched an array of law students lingering in a hotel lobby, waiting to be interviewed by visiting firms. The men were completely, conventionally covered by their suits; the women seemed half naked by comparison, in fitted jackets, often showing a little cleavage, and above the knee, or shorter, skirts. Maybe they hoped to benefit from these reveals, but I suspect they were subtly disadvantaged by them. The men were free to focus on their interviews; at least some women were likely to be distracted by concerns about their looks and the need to sit and display themselves appropriately. How much skin is just enough? Stilettos, kitten heels, or flats? Hollywood or D.C.? These are questions men never have to ask. Will they ever cease to matter to women?

I don’t know–and yes, that men never have to ask such questions is unfair. But I think those questions matter a little less when you dress for yourself. Because when you’re dressing for no one but yourself, you’re at your most comfortable–and when you’re at your most comfortable, you’re at your most confident. And an ugly pantsuit or peek of cleavage kind of fades into the background in the face of a truly confident woman. Martin speaks my language, though–and I love that it’s become passe to assume a feminist wouldn’t be caught dead in heels. Not least because I love me my high heels–and I don’t, in any way, consider it a contradiction to call myself a feminist while rocking an artificial five inches. On the other hand, in my closet, both Chuck and Choo are represented–and they’re equally worn.

Read Full Post »

Given the –well, the shitstorm that’s erupted over the attempt to saddle health care reform with the cynical, sabotaging, decidedly anti-choice Stupak-Pitts amendment, it’s fitting to revisit an issue that simply will not go away. Us versus Them.

But first. There’s some awesome, mandatory reading currently waiting for you over at the New Yorker‘s website, in the form of a piece entitled “Lift and Separate: Why is feminism still so divisive?” written by Ariel Levy. In it, you’ll get a crash course in feminism’s second wave, beginning with the bra burning that never happened at a 1968 protest against the Miss America pageant that did, and continuing clean through last year’s presidential race, Gail Collins‘ recent book “When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present,” and Republican political analyst Leslie Sanchez’s new book, “You’ve Come a Long Way, Maybe: Sarah, Michelle, Hillary and the Shaping of the New American Woman.”

The Cliff’s Notes version: Levy is no fan of Sanchez, and her piece frames a compelling argument. She writes:

There are political consequences to remembering things that never happened and forgetting things that did. If what you mainly know about modern feminism is that its proponents immolated their underwear, you might well arrive at the conclusion that feminists are ‘obnoxious,’ as Leslie Sanchez does in her new book… ‘I don’t agree with the feminist agenda,’ Sanchez writes. ‘To me, the word feminist epitomizes the zealots of an earlier and more disruptive time.’ Here’s what Sanchez would prefer: ‘No bra burning. No belting out Helen Reddy. Just calm concern for how women are faring in the world.’

Call me crazy, but it seems to me that the time Sanchez dubs ‘disruptive’ was the time when some serious things got done. Calm, after all, is a close relative of passive.

Levy continues, accusing Sanchez of measuring progress “solely by the percentage of people with government jobs who wear bras.” And what, you might ask, is the problem with measuring our equality by the numbers? Well, in becoming what she calls “identity politics, a version of the old spoils system”–i.e., picking a group to identify with, and joining together to claim your rightful piece of the pie–we have become too focused on getting women into positions of power, but not focused enough on what they should do when they get there. In other words, Sarah Palin.

Consider Sanchez’ dismissal of Gloria Steinem’s criticism of the former Alaska governor, in which she complains that when Steinem wrote in the L.A. Times that “Palin shares nothing but a chromosome with Clinton,” to Sanchez’ mind, she was really saying: “You can run, Sarah Palin, but you won’t get my support because you don’t believe in all the same things I believe in.”

And that’s a problem? So, only men get to vote according to their ideals, and women have to vote according to chromosome? Come on.

Yes, it’s important that we’ve gained representation. But consider, as Levy reminds us:

In 1971, a bipartisan group of senators, led by Walter Mondale, came up with legislation that would have established both early-education programs and after-school care across the country. Tuition would be on a sliding scale based on a family’s income bracket, and the program would be available to everyone but participation was required of no one. Both houses of Congress passed the bill.

Nobody remembers this, because, later that year, President Nixon vetoed the Comprehensive Child Development Act, declaring that it ‘would commit the vast moral authority of the National Government to the side of ‘communal approaches to child rearing’ and undermine ‘the family-centered approach.’ He meant ‘the traditional-family-centered approach,’ which requires women to foresake every ambition apart from motherhood.

And so, here we are. The demise of that bill wasn’t due to in-bickering, but it’s nearly 40 years later. The women are there, but is the woman-friendly work getting done?

As Levy says:

So close. And now so far. The amazing journey of American women is easier to take pride in if you banish thoughts about the roads not taken. When you consider all those women struggling to earn a paycheck while rearing their children, and start to imagine what might have been, it’s enough to make you want to burn something.

Insofar as it relates to the current abortion amendment on the Health Care Reform bill, well, I hate to see lawmakers hedging their bets, pussy-footing around, and doing their best to take a critical right away from women who need it now–or might some day. And I loathe those who are telling those who care passionately about the issue to “Simmer down, honey; that’s not the way politics works.” (Check Kate Harding’s post at Broadsheet for a take that’ll make you scream.) Let me be clear: Fuck the Stupak Amendment. Reproductive rights are critical. But health care reform is critical for women in particular, for a ton of reasons: we’re overcharged, underinsured, more likely to be reliant on our spouse for insurance, more likely to go bankrupt due to medical reasons–and we can be denied coverage on the basis of “preexisting conditions” that include pregnancy, C-sections, and domestic violence. So, while I’d like to reiterate–Fuck the Stupak Amendment–at the same time, considering Levy’s words above, I have to wonder: what would women’s lives look like today if that Comprehensive Child Development Act was part of our world? We were so close, it would have seemed absurd in 1971 to say: Guess what? Come 2009, that’ll be so far from reality, it will seem ridiculous. In 40 years, do we want to be stuck with the same dismal health care system we’ve got now, wondering how reform slipped away?

Read Full Post »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 229 other followers