Veepness Stakes: Please no Webb, DINOs
by Natasha Chart, Mon Jun 02, 2008 at 03:22:49 PM EDT
In spite of the fact that sexism has been such a prominent dynamic in this campaign, the thrust of much mainstream public conversation is that Obama should pick a Republican or conservative Democrat to balance the ticket. Even when we're talking about Democrats, that almost always means someone willing to occasionally defenestrate women's rights or health. I don't want to get started on what a slap the anti-choice Chuck Hagel (R-NE) would be, but Jim Webb wouldn't be much better.
And while all and sundry Obama supporters bask in the joy of his ascendant, dudely vibe, it's becoming readily apparent that feelings are raw beyond all civility, even if people are probably going to unify. The Democratic Party is very popular right now, yet while the nomination might be in the bag, the general election isn't, and Democrats should have learned about the consequences of giving the finger to large constituencies during the NAFTA fight. Remember, the clusterfrak that took the wind out of the sails of the other Clinton's presidency?
Any discussion about the selection of the vice presidency can't be held in a vacuum as if the primary hadn't happened, infighting and all. Some caveats, though ... There are a lot of legitimate reasons a person might have had to support someone besides Hillary Clinton for the nomination. They were both good candidates, there's no cause to make assumptions without evidence about why anyone in particular supported one of them.
The only major demographic group still supporting Clinton to the tune of 51% or more is women aged 50 and older. This group's preferences have changed little during May, at the same time that Clinton's support among younger men (those 18 to 49) has declined by nearly 10 points. - Gallup
... Pundits debated whether Clinton's tears were "real" or "manufactured" -- that is, whether she was some weak sob sister who couldn't hack the rough-and-tumble of a man's world, or just a power-grabbing witch who would do anything to hang on to her broomstick.
A few, such as San Francisco Chronicle reporter Carla Marinucci, offered more cogent appraisals. She pointed out that female voters didn't seem to be responding to Clinton's tears so much as to their outrage at men's reactions to those tears (in particular, men in the media). ... - Susan Faludi
Maybe you hated the loathesome Mark Penn, a sentiment shared even by many HRC supporters that include me and, by reports, quite a few of her campaign staff. Maybe you just couldn't get over her war vote, and I understand that, it was sort of a big deal. I'm not going to talk about those reasons here.
... Hence the appalling preponderance of violent, death-infused imagery in conversations about Clinton, smuggled into otherwise ordinary political discourse like a knife taped on the bottom of a cake plate: On CNN, pundit Alex Castellanos said democrats must realize that "it's time to take the family dog to the vet." Matthews' MSNBC colleague Keith Olbermann expressed the hope that "somebody will take her into a room--and only he comes out." CNN's Jack Cafferty gleefully floated the specter of Clinton being run over by a flatbed truck. A recent Tribune editorial compared Clinton to a euthanized Kentucky Derby contender. ... - Julia Keller (via)
It could be that you decided not to support her because you felt that her campaign and surrogates descended into racist tactics that, whatever the potentialintent of various parties might have been, caused people a lot of pain. It's not my purpose to address that here, either, and I doubt I'm the most qualified person to do so. I want to discuss the sexism that's been brought to light in this campaign, within the media, within the Democratic Party, and not to put those two dynamics in a face off. As if the horror of the one could change the vileness of the other. Or as if, just because women sometimes join in the misogynist fun, that can make it all right.
... She is, according to author Andrew Sullivan, akin to the zombies in the film "28 Days Later" (2002), as well as that knife-wielding harpy in "Fatal Attraction"--the one with the relentless, rapacious, inhuman will: "It's alive!" Sullivan wrote, adding, "Whoosh--She's back at your throat." The comparison between the Close character and Clinton also seemed apt to U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), who wrote, "Glenn Close should've stayed in that bathtub." Translation: Death. Comedian Chris Rock loves the "Fatal Attraction" link as well. Ditto for blogger Wil Wheaton, who played Wesley in the TV series "Star Trek: The Next Generation," who dubbed Clinton "the psycho ex-girlfriend of the Democratic party." ... - Julia Keller
Full Firing? Or Just Gelded? ... Is Penn really out? Completely, positively out? ... - Josh Marshall
Racism and sexism are not like matter and antimatter. They do not cancel each other out (via). Oppressions, by that way of looking at them, invert and then turn into some weird sort of privilege over others, which is ridiculous; observe that lesbians of color do not run the world. Instead, Black women get whipsawed about whether they're gender traitors or race traitors when these dynamics come into conflict, like they need that crap.
Often, when people bring bigotries up together, they do it as if to say, 'here, so-and-so is suffering too, so be quiet.' That's both unhelpful and inappropriate. Can we skip that part, here, and talk about some things that need to be considered when picking a vice presidential candidate?
Voted YES on banning partial birth abortions except for maternal life.
S. 3 As Amended; Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003. Vote to pass a bill banning a medical procedure, which is commonly known as "partial-birth" abortion. Those who performed this procedure would then face fines and up to two years in prison, the women to whom this procedure is performed on are not held criminally liable. This bill would make the exception for cases in which a women's life is in danger, not for cases where a women's health is in danger. - Evan Bayh's abortion issues record.
As a kid, did it ever make you feel better about eating your Brussel sprouts that there were kids going hungry in [insert impoverished region here]? No? Me neither. Acting as though one oppression obviates another is sort of like that, but about a million times more of a non sequitur.
... Just a few years ago, Webb described America's elites in terms that might be familiar to the fans of Fox News. Liberals were "cultural Marxists," and "the upper crust of academia and the pampered salons of Hollywood" were a fifth column waging war on American traditions. ... - Excerpted from a Rolling Stone article about Sen. Jim Webb, 2007.
... This is the only country in the world where women are being pushed toward the battlefield. The United States also has one of the most alarming rates of male-to-female violence in the world: Rapes increased 230 percent from 1967 to 1977 and the much-publicized wife-beating problem cuts across socioeconomic lines.
These are not separate issues, either politically or philosophically. They are visible peaks in what has become a vast bog. They are telling us something about the price we are paying, in folly on the one hand and in tragedy on the other, for the realignment of sexual roles.
... There is a place for women in our military, but not in combat. And their presence at institutions dedicated to the preparation of men for combat command is poisoning that preparation. By attempting to sexually sterilize the Naval Academy environment in the name of equality, this country has sterilized the whole process of combat leadership training, and our military forces are doomed to suffer the consequences. ... - Jim Webb: Women Can't Fight, 1979, emphasis mine
Consider, for example, that there's nothing that's going to make me feel better about the fact that when I inevitably become old, I will become to a lot of people nothing more nor less than a fat, ugly, white bitch who needs to get my arse out of the way. Because about the worst thing a woman can be is unsightly (via). Nothing would make that better besides living in a society in which it becomes untrue.
For women, if we're not pleasing, it often follows that we're useless. That's why strange men so often tell us to smile. They're just reminding us that our purpose in life is to visually delight them, that we need to be happy, friendly and ready with our laughter, but not our cackling, because no one likes being around those humorless feminists. Aww thanks for the heads up, sweetie, you shouldn't have. Really.
He said he'd do anything for her, anything. 'Will you tell me the secret of your strength, my love?' Then he told her, because he loved her. So Delilah did steal shears into his bedchamber, cut his long hair, and deliver him into the hands of his enemies to be tortured.
Some Obama supporters also seem to want to believe that there hasn't been much sexism in this campaign. Or that if there was, it didn't really affect anything. Or if it did, stop crying about it, I'm sick of listening to you whine; god, you're worse than a child. Maybe they want to think that Obama won this 'fair and square', or whatever. That he wasn't helped by being a man competing with a woman in a sexist society. It must raise disturbing questions about whether or not you, if you're a guy, benefit from it, too. And men do. Even if they don't seek any such benefits. Even if they're feminists. Sorry to break it to you.
If you can't face that discomfort, you can't be part of the solution to the problem. If that discomfort prevents you from hearing women point out cases of sexism that you, or people you support, have benefitted from, if you turn every such discussion into how you never meant to do anything wrong, you are part of the problem.
"He who has ears to hear, let him hear!" - Matthew 11:15
And why won't you calm down, anyway, what are you so angry about? Christ. You never listen. I heard you the first time, and the third; you just don't know what you're talking about, so shut up. You're such a bitch sometimes.
I was at a meeting in [major city] today and bumped into a fellow female [low-level state party official]. She could barely get out how much she hated him ... she was so angry ... she's a Dem and eventually she will vote for him ... fortunately [state] is so blue it won't matter how angry woman are. ... oh I forgot to mention she's gay and they are furious as well ... But those guys just totally underestimate the female anger out there ... [There's a] difference between hardcore Dem[ocratic women] and the other kind: indies, republicans and women who will only go to the polls for her.
- Private email from an anonymous low-level state party official to me.
he only hit me a couple times. but the yelling, the insults, the fights he would start at all hours, the vicious phone calls while i was at work ... it all got to be too much. when he found me that day sitting in the closet with his gun in my mouth, trying to talk myself out of my cowardice and praying to distant gods through my tears, (just pull it, just do it, it can all be over today) i don't know whether i was more angry, sad or relieved to have been stopped. 'the safety's on,' he said. god. i'm every bit as pathetic and useless as he always says. i love him, i hate him, i hate myself for not leaving. i've never had a 'real' job, where would i go? sometimes i take my anger out on the cats. sometimes i barely talk for days. please, please, make it stop.
Hillary is "petulant, arrogant, whiny... a spoiled brat." She's "insane," worthy of hate. She's childish. A desperate, spurned lover. And, as ever, shrill... shrill... shrill... shrill. And, oh yeah, cold. (Brrrrr!) She doesn't have a heart, and she's jealous and vindictive (over, uh, boys?) Any woman who votes for her is voting with her vagina, not her brain. When she "periodically... is feeling down" she goes on the attack! She's ruthless.She has claws! But dude, there's nothing sexist about saying that! Especially according to the guys. And, you know, she really ought to just be beaten... to death. I mean, c'mon--don't you just want to punch her in the face? After all, she's ambitious, dominant, and controlling. She's carping, and a liar, and frigid, and when she smiles it's fake. She's controlling and humorless. Watch out--she'll bite you! And watch out for her supporters, too--those ladies, when they don't get what they want, they tend to go a little crazy! They may even cut your balls off. Ooh, but she has balls of her own--three of them! Arianna Huffington agrees with Maureen Dowd: Hillary's just a little wittle girl. - Erica Barnett ("claws" link altered from original posting, where it was broken)
We're a liberated society, better than all those brown nations. But if a woman is walking alone at night, or out alone with a group of male friends, and 'something' happens to her, she deserved it. Especially if she wasn't wearing enough, then she was asking for it, even if she said no. Why wasn't she taking any precautions? And so what if she said no. You can never trust the word of a woman, anyway; they never say what they mean, such liars. Such monsters. Such whores. Oh wait, it's the 21st century ... I meant to say 'hoes'.
... [O]verall women were more likely to be abused by an intimate partner than men, particularly for the more severe kinds of violence. For example, women were seven times as likely to have been threatened with a gun; 14 times as likely to report having been "beat up" by a partner; and twenty-six times as likely to have been raped. ... - Ampersand, 2004
... Homicide is the fourth leading cause of death among all American women of childbearing age; and one-third of all female murder victims each year are killed by an intimate partner. As pioneering medical researchers reexamine death reports of murdered women, looking for signs that the victim was pregnant, they are concluding that often, the killer of a pregnant woman is the partner or spouse of the mother-to-be. ... - Mary Papenfuss, Salon, 2003
... Nationally, homicide is a leading killer of young women--pregnant or not. In 1999, homicide was the second-leading cause of death among women ages 20 to 24. It was fifth among women ages 25-34. Accidents are the top cause of death in both age groups.
The Maryland study reinforced at least two earlier studies that found homicide to be the top killer of pregnant women.
... Police records show that homicidal violence cuts across all races and classes.
"There is no profile of what these men look like," Sharps said. "Many are educated, upstanding citizens." - Kim Curtis, AP, 2003
Well, what do we do now? Hmmm. Good question.
I always hate it when people assume that I'm telepathic, so I almost (via) want to help the confused on this one out of reciprocal empathy. But also, I can't sit on your shoulder all the time. Consider the discomfort; I dislike heights and prefer latitude to pace. This could leave us at an impasse.
Though I can tell you, once again, that this is much bigger than the Democratic nomination. That's been decided. Now everyone wants to know how to heal the party and what I'm saying is that it isn't going to happen if the same disregard for women's issues prevails in the vice presidential candidate selection process as it has done in the tenor of commentary coming from the media, and sadly, too many Democratic Obama supporters.
... Linda Hirshman to Andrew Golis of TPM Café: "So why did I not make the cut? Is writing for the times and the Post not good enough for TPM?"
Andrew: "It's not a matter of prestigious clippings, Linda. We're trying to both keep long-standing contributers [sic] around and flesh out the discussion by involving people who are covering things we're not yet addressing."
Linda: "And do you have a lot of contributors covering the female voters, who are likely to determine the outcome of the election of the President of the United States? I am assuming it's not that you don't want anyone who's not already in the tank for Obama. I am serious, here, Andrew. I think this is a real mistake; I have a point of view you don't have much of, I am getting increasingly prestigious opportunities to write and opine, and this is the moment you should capitalize on your relationship with me, not drop me."
Andrew: "I'm not sure the accusation of bias is particularly helpful. For now, like I said, we're focusing on getting our long-standing regulars and folks covering things we don't on the blog. I recognize that you think female voters should be one of those things, we disagree."
Take health care. Puberty usually signals for guys in this country the advent of some 30+ years of relatively good health, while it gives women the need for yearly medical exams and the potential for some very expensive and potentially dangerous medical conditions. STDs that might not even cause symptoms for a man can give women cancer or render us sterile. Women still do the bulk of both child and elder care, which means regular contact with two other subsets of the population that have even more routine health problems. And women still make less money, and are less likely to have health insurance, in a system where health care has become prohibitively expensive.
Getting a VP pick who's bad on this issue just isn't going to go over well. Obama has essentially got the version of the Democratic standard health care plan that runs its appeal on allowing young dudely types to bail out of the whole thing, and you know, any woman who makes it to a certain age has heard that story a few too many times.
... But the real objection is probably more deep-seated: homosexuality is threatening because it seems to challenge the conventional rules governing a person's sex, their sexual preferences and the general female and male roles in society.
... As Freud understood, most societies are based on relationships between men - most powerful institutions like parliaments or business corporations are male-dominated. And this 'male-bonding' demands a certain degree of sexual sublimation.
... In many societies the links between men are much stronger than the relations which link them to women. But these bonds are social rather than individual, and for this reason need to be restricted. ... Thus the most extreme homophobia is often found among tightly-knit groups of men, who need both to deny any sexual component to their bonding and who can increase their solidarity by turning violently on 'fags' or 'queers' who are defined as completely alien.
... Those societies which are best able to accept homosexuals are also societies which are able to accept assertive women and gentle men, and they tend to be less prone to the violence produced by hypermasculinity. - Dennis Altman
It doesn't escape women's notice that the worst thing you can call a man in most circumstances is a word that implies he's a woman. Or that he's spent too much time around a strong woman and has become castrated by contagion.
No one can possibly have missed that this mocking feminization, based on exaggerated and demeaning stereotypes of women's standard gender roles, is the most common way to smear gay men. Sissy. Mary. Sweetheart. That it's a form of social enforcement that sometimes (or often) prevents straight men from being comfortable expressing emotion, being helpful to their partners, being close to their families, or simply expressing disinterest in stereotypically male activities that they just don't care for.
Lesbians are held up as almost ungendered bogeymen, monstrously masculinized beings that straight women have to fear being mistaken for. Because in a patriarchal authoritarian  system, strength is inherently male and women who have it end up dancing on a knife's edge of having to perform enough femininity to try and escape mockery.
While it might take a professor to highlight it authoritatively, most women know it. Know that the authoritarian wellspring of homophobia is the same thing that poisons gender relations.
Getting a VP candidate that's poor on LGBT issues, another of the easy ways for a Democrat to garner 'conservative' or 'moderate' credentials, bad plan. Do we need to have the McClurkin conversation again? Good. Because I don't want to have any of those conversations over. Not ever.
There are other issues that it would be relevant to bring up, but I expect that I don't need to spell them all out from this point.
Anyway, please stop worrying so very much about winning Appalachia, which someone like Webb won't necessarily help anyway (via). Start worrying about keeping the base of the Democratic Party intact. There isn't any non-White-dude sector of the party coalition that isn't sick to the damn teeth of the 'where else are you going to go' schtick, so how about we actually do try something different this time around and spend less time pissing in each other's corn flakes? The unity candidate won, after all, that shouldn't in theory be so radical a proposal.
And then when we bring this up, a common response is 'stop acting like a victim.' I realize that being a victim is a terrible insult in patriarchal cosmology, and no dude ever wants to admit to it, nor any woman aspiring to dudely approval. (Especially not the women, because making dudes feel bad when they've been sexist is totally unappealing in a chick.) Being a victim isn't about having someone do something wrong to you, it's admitting that someone bested you in a contest of strength, punked you, p0wned you, and that makes you, like, a woman.
So don't even go there. But hey, let's talk vice presidents.
 - And by patriarchal authoritarianism, I mean a system of power-seeking based on strongly hierarchical social and gender  relationships, self-denial , complicated codes of personal behavior that keep people focused on personal instead of public morality and sharply restrict/pathologize sexuality, particularly that of women, that idolize and idealize power as something to be held by someone who embodies a stern and unyielding archetype of male dominance.
As Robert Heinlein (he had some funny ideas, but also, a lot of keen insight) said in "Revolt in 2100":
Take sex away from people. Make it forbidden, evil. Limit it to ritualistic breeding. Force it to back up into suppressed sadism. Then hand the people a scapegoat to hate. Let them kill a scapegoat occasionally for cathartic release. The mechanism is ages old. Tyrants used it centuries before the word 'psychology' was ever invented. It works, too.
Though there also seem to be a lot of people who are comforted by membership in authoritarian structures (which might not say anything essentialist about their personalities, they might even be non-ideological types plugging in for the sake of gaining power in a climb to the top of some bodies,) and seem to enjoy insisting that everyone else join up, and I think they can fairly be called carriers. Whether they believe or not is almost irrelevant to their function as enforcers or recruiters.
 I'd argue that authoritarianism holds women (and people impressed by popular sentiment with feminine traits, which may include entire races or nations) to be its first icon of a category of adult that, child-like, can't manage their own affairs, be trusted to be rational, or allowed any position of power from which they could seek retribution for their treatment.
This last is at the heart of authoritarian cruelty, because the enforcer knows simultaneously at some level that a) if they were treated similarly they'd become vindictive, b) continuing physical/psychic brutality will break the target's spirit so that they're less likely to come to be in such a position of power and must be c) used as a twisted justification for keeping the (add target)s down because they'd just act out 'irrationally', ie, exactly as the offender is acting. But maybe worse.
A sexist society is by definition authoritarian, though degrees of repression can vary significantly from manifestation to manifestation. Authoritarianism requires, as a foundation stone, distrust between men and women and stunted, crippled sexual love impulses whose full energies can then be harnessed for other ends. You can see its full flower in religious fundamentalism (h/t Mary @ PacificViews) of just about every kind, as religion is the usual enforcement mechanism. Though it is not an essentially religious philosophy; in describing the masses as feminine, this is exactly what was meant by the ultimate authoritarian, Hitler.
Misogyny is the usual first step towards creating people who can look at another human being and see an animal or a thing instead of a person.
 You saw "Dead Poets' Society", right? Consider that Neil's father was the ultimate authoritarian 'hard worker,' and all he was trying to do for his son was to teach him a particular type of work: self denial. Self negation, really.
The person is never to be themselves, they are to be a role. This is properly considered to be work , because no matter the position achieved thereby, it is forever difficult, brutal, dirty and unpleasant.
The true sin of the Dirty eFfing Hippie is that they are attempting to be happy, instead of diligently working to be a machine part. No one incapable of doing this unstated, and transcendently moral (in the authoritarian system of morality,) work of a true 'adult' will be given respect in an authoritarian environment.
 Specifically, it's mainly male work. Self negation involves a lot of negation of humanity, the senses of empathy and connection to others are expressly to be sacrificed, put to fire and the sword. This is painful.
As has been noted by others, women do less of this type of work because the separation of the female and male spheres of influence (private vs. public) is done to preserve a space in society where empathy and connection can be expressed such that people don't completely lose their shit, what with all the emotional repression.
... If the fathers of capitalist theory (Hobbes, Smith, Locke) had chosen a mother instead of a single bourgeois male as the smallest economic unit for their theoretical constructions they would not have been able to formulate the axiom of the selfish nature of human beings the way they did. They would have realized that human beings can be both selfish and altruistic, both aggressive and caring. They would have seen that human life is not just 'solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short' and that the law of history is not only the 'war ... of every man against every man (Hobbes); they would have been able to observe that people cooperate with each other, live in communities, can be peaceful and merciful and, in spite of hardships, enjoy and celebrate life.
Lieselotte Steinbrügge has shown that the Enlightenment philosophers of the eighteenth century were clearly aware of the difficulty the capitalist philosophy of the self-interested, competitive, rationally calculating, individualistic homo oeconomicus would create for society. What would happen, they asked, to mercy, peace, love, generosity etcetera?
They solved this difficulty by separating the public from the private spere and creating two different kinds of ethics, one for the private, the other for the public sphere. The responsibility for 'private' values was then relegated to women, while men could pursue their 'war of all against all' in the public sphere of politics, militarism and economics (Steinbrügge 1987).
The anthropology of the lonely, egotistic, male human warrior fits well into the cosmology based on a concept of nature as principally poor, stingy, with permanently scarce resources. As Carolyn Merchant has plausibly demonstrated, before the Renaissance nature was conceptualized as generous Mother Nature, a female organism with inexhaustible wealth and resources (Merchant 1980). But the theoreticians of capitalist patriarchy, above all Bacon, turned her into a stingy witch from whom 'rational man' has to extract her treasures by coercion and torture. ...
- From "The Subsistence Perspective", by Veronika Bennholdt-Thomsen & Maria Mies, 1988
Women are the safety valve for an emotionally crippled society, but ... it means they explicitly don't do the work of self negation -- so just like rebellious children, people of allegedly lesser classes or races, etc., they don't do the full work of adults and are by definition incapable of self-governance. Not least because, see above, the 'natural' vindictive tendencies of someone targeted for repressive abuse would in theory not be tempered by any kind of self-restraint, making them doubly unfit for holding power over others.