No one can deny the role that gender played in the recent election. From the beginning, scores of articles and opublic discussions revolved around gender, race, class and their collective role in the political campaigns.
Naturally, a significant portion of the discussion revolved around Sarah Palin and her post-feminist feminist image:
“She isn’t going away,” Seymour said of Governor Sarah Palin. “There is a group of women out there who love her, who think she’s a feminist; she thinks she’s a feminist. Listen to her talk. She is a post-feminism feminist in many women’s eyes.”
“Women are hungry to see people fight, to see people be confident, to see people stand up and say things,” Huffington continued. “Even women who deserve confidence don’t have it. So, when a woman stands up like she did at the convention and speaks with confidence fearlessly and also has children, it’s very appealing.”
Of course, the panelists stressed that we must remember Palin’s true anti-feminist nature, but the conversations about her did not end. There is something very significant in the fact that Palin dominated a discussion at an event of educated, motivated feminists and it begs the question: Is Sarah Palin setting the agenda for modern feminists? When did we go from leading the movement to reacting to it? And ultimately, where does the feminist movement stand in 2008?
When the discussion turned to Senator Hillary Clinton, the commentary remained somewhat unsettling. “The way Hillary gave her final speech of the primary was very significant because it showed women, who are so terrified of failure, that you can fail magnificently, that you can fail and still succeed in so many ways,” Huffington revealed. “When she said that there was no resentment or bitterness, despite whatever she may have been feeling, she came across as somebody who was ready to move on and be in the future.”
While it’s true that Clinton’s conduct spoke to women and set new standards, how did she become an example of graceful failure and how is Sarah Palin considered bold, confident and still trying to win?
Feminist ideology, feminism and feminist identity also became a hotly debated issue post-Hillary and in light of Sarah Palin. The relationship between feminism and the media has a long, sordid history and there was ample discussion on the future of that relationship in the wake of Clinton and Palin.
Whatever you believe, this event spoke to the urgency and relevance of feminism in 2008. The panel proved one thing — that truly feminist, intelligent women must be involved in drawing up the country’s blueprints and maneuvering the cranes of change in the next four years. Donning political and cultural hard hats is the new feminist imperative. This is our chance to build a future, where all people can flourish equally. And it’s about time to get to work.
Read Maric G. Yerman’s complete article at the Huffington Post here.
I enjoyed this article at The Nation. I’ve been thinking along similar lines lately. Hillary Clinton brought feminism to the round table discussion and Sarah Palin kept it there and allowed feminists to take the conversation in new directions. The articles, interviews and commentary that were produced in response to her presence on the political stage was like a dam burst open. I don’t remember the last time we’ve had that much mainstream feminist commentary. Sarah Palin stirred the pot and enriched our conversations about what feminism is and what feminism isn’t.
Excerpts from Pollitt below:
And so we bid farewell to Sarah Palin. How I’ll miss her daily presence in my life! The mooseburgers, the wolf hunts, the kids named after bays and sports and trees and airplanes and who did not seem to go to school at all, the winks and blinks, the cute Alaska accent, the witch-hunting pastor and those great little flared jackets, especially the gray stripey one. People say she was a dingbat, but that is just sexist: the woman read everything, she said so herself; her knowledge of geography was unreal–she knew just where to find the pro-America part of the country; and don’t forget her keen interest in ancient history! Thanks largely to her, Bill Ayers is now the most famous sixtysomething professor in the country–eat your heart out, Ward Churchill! You can snipe all you want, but she was truly God’s gift: to Barack Obama, Katie Couric–notice no one’s making fun of America’s sweetheart now–Tina Fey and columnists all over America.
She was also a gift to feminism. Seriously. I don’t mean she was a feminist–she told Couric she considered herself one, but in a later interview, perhaps after looking up the meaning of the word, coyly wondered why she needed to “label” herself. And I don’t mean she had a claim on the votes of feminists or women–why should women who care about equality vote for a woman who wants to take their rights away? Elaine Lafferty, a former editor of Ms., made a splash by revealing in The Daily Beast (Tina Brown’s new website, for those of you still following the news on paper) that she has been working as a consultant to Palin. In a short but painful piece of public relations called “Sarah Palin’s a Brainiac,” Lafferty claimed to find in Palin “a mind that is thoughtful, curious, with a discernible pattern of associative thinking and insight,” with a “photographic memory,” as smart as legendary Senator Sam Ervin, “a woman who knows exactly who she is.” According to Lafferty, all that stuff about library censorship and rape kits was just “nonsense”–and feminists who held Palin’s wish to criminalize abortion against her were Beltway feminist-establishment elitists who shop at Whole Foods when they should be voting against Barack Obama to make the Dems stop taking women for granted.
So the first way Palin was good for feminism is that she helped us clarify what it isn’t: feminism doesn’t mean voting for “the woman” just because she’s female, and it doesn’t mean confusing self-injury with empowerment, like the Ellen Jamesians in The World According to Garp (I’ll vote for the forced-childbirth candidate, that’ll show Howard Dean!). It isn’t just feel-good “you go, girl” appreciation of female moxie, which I cheerfully acknowledge Palin has by the gallon. As I wrote when she was selected, if she were my neighbor I would probably like her–at least until she organized with her fellow Christians to ban abortion at the local hospital, as Palin did in the 1990s. Yes, feminism is about women getting their fair share of power, and that includes the top jobs–but that can’t take a back seat to policies that benefit all women: equality on the job and the legal framework that undergirds it, antiviolence, reproductive self-determination, healthcare, education, childcare and so on. Fortunately, women who care about equality get this–dead-enders like the comically clueless Lynn Forester de Rothschild got lots of press, but in the end Obama won the support of the vast majority of women who had supported Hillary Clinton.
I really enjoyed piece by Russell Bishop in yesterday’s Huffington Post that follows below.
It strikes me as a clear example of new visions of power, politics and interpersonal relationships. The emotional realm that includes compassion, caring, and empathy has long been regarded as “feminine” and subsequently devalued. The realm of the rational, linear, calculated and methodical has been deemed “masculine” and consistently valued over the weaker realm of feminine characteristics listed above. This has been a disservice for both men and women in our culture as each is encouraged to disconnect from the full spectrum of human characteristics and qualities. Simultaneously, in a patriarchal culture that values masculinity and the social constructions correlated to the masculine realm, we have culturally suppressed important and under emphasized qualities that would serve our aggressive, competitive, and, often, ruthless hypermasculine culture in a myraid of positive ways.
As Bishop implies, Barack Obama’s style and grace is a departure from business and politics as usual. And, it’s about time. As a culture mired in cut throat competition and a paradigm of power that stresses “power over,” a political leader that is balanced on the socially constructed gender continuum and demonstrates deep wisdom and compassion serves as an inspiring role model.
Last night we witnessed a graciousness that belies the apparent animus that oozed through much of the last several weeks of the campaign.
Last night, John McCain evidenced a grace and essence in his concession speech that helped me considerably. As much as I have disagreed with the Republican campaign rhetoric, I have tried my best to look past the unseemly smears and expressions of anger to see the person, the human being that lies more deeply within.
My sense is that had Senator McCain campaigned with the same grace and elegance as he evidenced in his concession speech, he just might have won.
The anger that often flares around John McCain is something I recognize inside of me. It comes out most frequently when I care deeply about something and feel frustrated and ineffective in my ability to communicate that caring.
Barack Obama cares and cares deeply as well. One of his great blessings is the ability to stay in touch with his caring and to communicate from that place of caring, even at those times when he, too, must be feeling frustrated, even angry.
As an educational psychologist by training, I recognize the difference between denial or suppression of deeply held feelings, and the channeling of that deeply held feeling into positive resourcefulness. Throughout the campaign, I witnessed times when Barack Obama found himself tested, angry, and otherwise mistreated. However, I also witnessed him channel those tests and discomforting feelings into a resourcefulness that allowed his caring to be communicated even more profoundly.
Like John McCain, Barack Obama demonstrated graciousness and a profound elegance in his election night speech. In particular, he evidenced a confidence unencumbered by hubris, an ability to assess the challenges that lie ahead, a conviction in his and our ability to address those challenges, and a willingness to embrace his opponents in discovering solutions to the challenges we face.
After Barack Obama gave his speech, the CNN panel tossed around ideas about how the President-Elect might lead going forward. As suggestions were made that he might govern from the left, or perhaps claim Reagan era centrist turf, David Gergen reminded everyone that Obama’s victory was not one of simply left or liberal proportions; rather, Barack Obama claimed vast numbers of voters from all across the nation, and from just about every demographic subset CNN could find to post on the wall.
As the govern-from-the-left vs. govern-from-the-right debate ensued, my wife offered a profound insight: Barack Obama has the opportunity to govern from the heart.
That struck me in a very resonant chord. What is it about Barack Obama that has penetrated so many different people from so many different walks of life? Sure, he has some brilliant campaign strategists and ran an amazing campaign over the past 20 months. However, there have been brilliant strategists and effective campaigns in the past. This one seems different.
The difference to me is that President-Elect Barack Obama cares, is willing to share that he cares, and has the amazing ability to connect his heart to his considerable intellect. By connecting heartfelt concern to reasoned problem solving, he represents an opportunity to bring about the change that was the theme of his campaign.
Beyond a mere campaign slogan, my sense is that this man cares enough and knows enough to realize that he must stay focused on the outcome, while be willing to adapt to the inevitable changes that will arise. He signaled clearly that solving the problems before us and creating real change will require far more than he can accomplish alone, and far more than can be accomplished in his first 100 days.
Perhaps his first 100 days will be characterized by the bridging of differences, connecting heartfelt concerns with practical realities. Perhaps we will focus on building like-minded communities of people willing to lead from the heart while slogging through difficult times of rebuilding our broken economic, social and political systems. Perhaps the common tie that will bind people of different backgrounds and disparate points of view about the way forward, will be a common bond of caring, commitment, and compassion.
Surely the nation could use greater caring and compassion. We already know that the President-Elect has the commitment to go with his caring and compassion.
The real question will not be what he can or will do as President, but what we and and will do as individuals. Are we willing to demonstrate the graciousness that both Senator McCain and President-Elect Obama showed us last night? Are we willing to take up the challenge to repair and rebuild with our own combination of caring, commitment and compassion.
Barack Obama, the son of a father from Kenya and a white mother from Kansas, was elected the nation’s 44th president Tuesday, breaking the ultimate racial barrier to become the first African American to claim the country’s highest office.
A nation founded by slave owners and seared by civil war and generations of racial strife delivered a smashing electoral college victory to the 47-year-old first-term senator from Illinois, who forged a broad, multiracial, multiethnic coalition. His victory was a leap in the march toward equality: When Obama was born, people with his skin color could not even vote in parts of America, and many were killed for trying.
“We have a righteous wind at our back,” Obama proclaimed in the closing days of the campaign. It turned out to be a gale-force wind. He won decisively with more than 350 electoral votes and 51 percent of the popular vote, the first time a Democrat has achieved a majority of the popular vote since Jimmy Carter and by the largest margin for a Democrat since Lyndon Johnson in 1964.* He won among whites and in working-class areas where there had once been concern about his ability to connect with voters. Obama won among women, who are 53 percent of the electorate, by 14 points. He inspired a host of new voters and young voters, who helped make him the first post-baby boomer president. They all call him Barack, and he responded by texting them on victory night: “All of this happened because of you. Thanks, Barack.”
With his history-making election behind him, Barack Obama was moving ahead with his transition on Wednesday as he prepared to confront the daunting challenges that he will have to face as president in just 76 days, amid two wars and the gravest economic crisis to afflict the country since the Great Depression.
Even if your candidate didn’t win tonight, you have reason to celebrate. We all do.
Ten months ago, when Obama won in Iowa, we had a glimpse of what was possible and what became real tonight. What I wrote then about one state is now true for the whole country:
Barack Obama’s impressive victory says a lot about America, and also about the current mindset of the American voter.
Because tonight voters decided that they didn’t want to look back. They wanted to step into the future — as if a country exhausted by the last seven-plus years wanted to recapture its youth.
And they turned out in unprecedented numbers today to make sure that no amount of scrubbed rolls, malfunctioning machines, endless lines, or polling places running out of ballots would block the way.
The history of America is studded with great breakthroughs — propelled by leaders such as Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, and Martin Luther King – followed by decades of consolidation and occasional regression.
The Bush years have clearly been in a period of regression. The repudiation of those years is now almost universal. Even conservatives are admitting it; over the course of today, I’ve received numerous emails from conservatives ending with some variation on “Go Obama!”
In America’s journey toward a more just and truly democratic society, tonight is another milestone. And not just because the son of a Kenyan father and a mother from Kansas is now President-Elect. But also because tonight’s outcome is a declaration that we are once again a nation more driven by hope and promise than a nation driven by fear.
The election of Mr. Obama amounted to a national catharsis — a repudiation of a historically unpopular Republican president and his economic and foreign policies, and an embrace of Mr. Obama’s call for a change in the direction and the tone of the country.
But it was just as much a strikingly symbolic moment in the evolution of the nation’s fraught racial history, a breakthrough that would have seemed unthinkable just two years ago.
I love history and had often whined to myself that I wasn’t lucky enough to have lived during a more exciting age: I sometimes like to think that I could have been a Tuskegee Airman, Buffalo Soldier or beatnik. Instead, I grew up in an America that often felt like occupied territory. After freeing Europe from the Nazis in the Forties, and then blacks in the Sixties and women in the Seventies, politically, the next thirty-odd years have largely been a depressing, embarrassing, soul-grinding drag. Throughout those years it often felt like the Empire struck back and would never return this nation back to its people. So I escaped in my mind, consoling myself by writing about the Airmen and the Beats.
I dreamt about Barack and Michelle Obama all night. I dreamt I was at the White House seated at the table with Michelle Obama sharing in the celebration. The evening felt electric and the gravity of the moment was not taken for granted.
Often, I wake after a particularly exciting dream with disappointment when I realize that, indeed, it is only a dream and that even continued sleep will not take me back to the relished moment of my dream state. But, this morning was unlike the countless other mornings that left my fulfilled dreams and aspirations in the memory of my slumber.
I woke up with the keen awareness that this day was marked by a significant change. I felt and continue to feel moved and inspired. The weight of the last 8 years, specifically the last few months, is noticeably lifted. I feel it in my bones, my heart and I hear it in the voices of my family, friends, students, radio commentators, international leaders and government officials in our own country that fought against Barack Obama.
Last night’s dream signifies the message of Obama’s campaign and the theme of last night’s speech: unity. we CAN share and will share in this moment because it is our moment.
But above all, I will never forget who this victory truly belongs to. It belongs to you. It belongs to you.
I was never the likeliest candidate for this office. We didn’t start with much money or many endorsements. Our campaign was not hatched in the halls of Washington. It began in the backyards of Des Moines and the living rooms of Concord and the front porches of Charleston. It was built by working men and women who dug into what little savings they had to give $5 and $10 and $20 to the cause.
It grew strength from the young people who rejected the myth of their generation’s apathy who left their homes and their families for jobs that offered little pay and less sleep.
It drew strength from the not-so-young people who braved the bitter cold and scorching heat to knock on doors of perfect strangers, and from the millions of Americans who volunteered and organized and proved that more than two centuries later a government of the people, by the people, and for the people has not perished from the Earth.
This is your victory.
And I know you didn’t do this just to win an election. And I know you didn’t do it for me.
You did it because you understand the enormity of the task that lies ahead. For even as we celebrate tonight, we know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime — two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century.
My partner and our friends gathered together last night over a communal meal and we sat riveted for hours upon hours as the numbers rolled in. In a matter of a few short moments the number of electoral votes for Obama jumped from 220 to 297 and CNN announced Barack Obama as the 44th president elect of the United States.
It took a second for the impact of that statement to process. We stood up, we cheered, we embraced, we cried, we felt relief, we smiled, we felt our hearts open and we knew that this moment was a moment with enormous implications.
I was impressed with the authenticity of Senator McCain’s conciliatory speech. Even he could not deny the power of this defining moment in our nation’s history.
In a contest as long and difficult as this campaign has been, his success alone commands my respect for his ability and perseverance. But that he managed to do so by inspiring the hopes of so many millions of Americans who had once wrongly believed that they had little at stake or little influence in the election of an American president is something I deeply admire and commend him for achieving.
This is an historic election, and I recognize the special significance it has for African-Americans and for the special pride that must be theirs tonight.
I’ve always believed that America offers opportunities to all who have the industry and will to seize it. Senator Obama believes that, too. But we both recognize that though we have come a long way from the old injustices that once stained our nation’s reputation and denied some Americans the full blessings of American citizenship, the memory of them still had the power to wound.
A century ago, President Theodore Roosevelt’s invitation of Booker T. Washington to visit — to dine at the White House was taken as an outrage in many quarters. America today is a world away from the cruel and prideful bigotry of that time. There is no better evidence of this than the election of an African American to the presidency of the United States. Let there be no reason now — (cheers, applause) — let there be no reason now for any American to fail to cherish their citizenship in this, the greatest nation on Earth. (Cheers, applause.)
Senator Obama has achieved a great thing for himself and for his country. I applaud him for it, and offer in my sincere sympathy that his beloved grandmother did not live to see this day, though our faith assures us she is at rest in the presence of her creator and so very proud of the good man she helped raise.
Senator Obama and I have had and argued our differences, and he has prevailed. No doubt many of those differences remain. These are difficult times for our country, and I pledge to him tonight to do all in my power to help him lead us through the many challenges we face.
I urge all Americans — (applause) — I urge all Americans who supported me to join me in not just congratulating him, but offering our next president our good will and earnest effort to find ways to come together, to find the necessary compromises, to bridge our differences, and help restore our prosperity, defend our security in a dangerous world, and leave our children and grandchildren a stronger, better country than we inherited.
I felt particularly moved by my partner’s heartfelt and jubilant response to this victory. As a biracial man, he has experienced the cruelty and hatred that fear of difference has fueled. The future of our unborn son was clear in our view of the future as we watched the crowds cheer, tears stream down Jesse Jackson’s cheeks, flags and banners wave, and image after image of city after city across the nation pop on to the screen uniting us with other members of this nation and the global community. Moments like these are not trite or cliche. They are ripe and abundant. They are rare and precious. They remind us of our humanity, our collective spirit and our ability to unite and work together.
I appreciated Obama’s humble tone and his honesty. I appreciated his message of unity and diversity. I appreciated his emphasis on collective responsibility and the joint effort it will take to make change happen now that the opportunity for change has arrived. We have been divided for far too long and we have denied the power of community and solidarity. The ethic of individualism and instant gratification that has been pervasive in recent history has not worked well for the majority of the nation’s citizens.
This victory alone is not the change we seek. It is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were.
It can’t happen without you, without a new spirit of service, a new spirit of sacrifice.
So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism, of responsibility, where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves but each other.
That collective spirit brought us to last night’s historical moment. I have never seen the dedication and drive to create change from the ground up in the way I have over the last year. My students have mobilized. My friends have become active in campaigns across the country. I have seen more and more people seek out information and become conscious. It is unlike anything I have ever seen. The activism of my early adult years pales in comparison to what has been accomplished in these final months.
As I drove to work, I savored the moment. I replayed the messages and conversations I had with my parents, my lover, my friends, and my students. I smiled. I think we can all feel the sea change that is beginning to occur. As opposed to riding the high and letting it drop, I am putting these feelings on a slow simmer and I hope that everyone that is riding the crest will do the same. This buzz can not wane for everything that can be accomplished to come to fruition.
As I listened to Bush on NPR, I was inspired further by the tone of his speech, similar to the tone of McCain’s speech last night.
Bush called Obama’s win an “impressive victory” and said it represented strides “toward a more perfect Union.” He said the choice of Obama was “a triumph of the American story, a testament to hard work, optimism and faith in the enduring promise of our nation.”
The defeated leader of his own party, John McCain, won accolades as well, but not nearly so glowing.
“The American people will always be grateful for the lifetime of service John McCain has devoted to this nation, and I know he’ll continue to make tremendous contributions to our country,” Bush said.
To a country with monumental civil rights battles in its past, Bush said: “All Americans can be proud of the history that was made yesterday.”
He recalled the millions of blacks who turned out to vote for one of their own, saying he realizes many never fully believed they would live to see this day. But he also hinted that he has personal feelings of high emotion at this moment, representing the end of a controversial eight years in the Oval Office during which he tried, but failed, to attract more blacks to his party.
“It will be a stirring sight to see President Obama, his wife, Michelle, and their beautiful girls step through the doors of the White House,” the president said. “I know millions of Americans will be overcome with pride at this inspiring moment that so many have waited so long.”
As I strode on to campus today wearing my ObamaMama shirt, I was moved by the sight of the campus population in celebration and the pride that last night’s victory has instilled in so many.
I feel hopeful and committed. I think we all recognize this moment for what is is: a watershed in history and an opportunity.
As my friend, Theresa, said in her text message to me this morning, “My inner child wants to hug everyone.” I concur.
I ended last night’s monumental evening celebrating with friends and family, managing phone calls and reading email after email from friends, family and students sharing their feelings about this collective victory. Carla sent me an email forwarding this open letter to Barack Obama from Alice Walker.
Dear Brother Obama,
You have no idea, really, of how profound this moment is for us. Us being the black people of the Southern United States. You think you know, because you are thoughtful, and you have studied our history. But seeing you deliver the torch so many others before you carried, year after year, decade after decade, century after century, only to be struck down before igniting the flame of justice and of law, is almost more than the heart can bear. And yet, this observation is not intended to burden you, for you are of a different time, and, indeed, because of all the relay runners before you, North America is a different place. It is really only to say: Well done. We knew, through all the generations, that you were with us, in us, the best of the spirit of Africa and of the Americas. Knowing this, that you would actually appear, someday, was part of our strength. Seeing you take your rightful place, based solely on your wisdom, stamina and character, is a balm for the weary warriors of hope, previously only sung about.
I would advise you to remember that you did not create the disaster that the world is experiencing, and you alone are not responsible for bringing the world back to balance. A primary responsibility that you do have, however, is to cultivate happiness in your own life. To make a schedule that permits sufficient time of rest and play with your gorgeous wife and lovely daughters. And so on. One gathers that your family is large. We are used to seeing men in the White House soon become juiceless and as white-haired as the building; we notice their wives and children looking strained and stressed. They soon have smiles so lacking in joy that they remind us of scissors. This is no way to lead. Nor does your family deserve this fate. One way of thinking about all this is: It is so bad now that there is no excuse not to relax. From your happy, relaxed state, you can model real success, which is all that so many people in the world really want. They may buy endless cars and houses and furs and gobble up all the attention and space they can manage, or barely manage, but this is because it is not yet clear to them that success is truly an inside job. That it is within the reach of almost everyone.
I would further advise you not to take on other people’s enemies. Most damage that others do to us is out of fear, humiliation and pain. Those feelings occur in all of us, not just in those of us who profess a certain religious or racial devotion. We must learn actually not to have enemies, but only confused adversaries who are ourselves in disguise. It is understood by all that you are commander in chief of the United States and are sworn to protect our beloved country; this we understand, completely. However, as my mother used to say, quoting a Bible with which I often fought, “hate the sin, but love the sinner.” There must be no more crushing of whole communities, no more torture, no more dehumanizing as a means of ruling a people’s spirit. This has already happened to people of color, poor people, women, children. We see where this leads, where it has led.
A good model of how to “work with the enemy” internally is presented by the Dalai Lama, in his endless caretaking of his soul as he confronts the Chinese government that invaded Tibet. Because, finally, it is the soul that must be preserved, if one is to remain a credible leader. All else might be lost; but when the soul dies, the connection to earth, to peoples, to animals, to rivers, to mountain ranges, purple and majestic, also dies. And your smile, with which we watch you do gracious battle with unjust characterizations, distortions and lies, is that expression of healthy self-worth, spirit and soul, that, kept happy and free and relaxed, can find an answering smile in all of us, lighting our way, and brightening the world.
Arnold Schwarznegger stumped with John McCain in Ohio yesterday, the state that hosts the Arnold Classic, a televised bodybuilding competition.
In true Arnold fashion, Schwarznegger decided to mock Obama’s physique as a sign of weakness.
“I want to invite Senator Obama because he needs to do something about those skinny legs,” he said to loud and amused roars. “I’m going to make him do some squats. And then we’re going to make him do some biceps curls to beef up those scrawny little arms.”
This is not the first time the Governator of California has utilized gendered tactics in politics that reinforces traditional notions of masculinity that emphasize muscularity and toughness as signs of true (male) leadership.
Who can forget his appearance at the 2004 Republican National Convention when he called “pessimists” of the economy economic “girly men?” This is also not the first time that Obama’s masculinity has been called into question during the course of this campaign.
Naomi Klein comments on the continued gender war in politics from her op-ed piece in the New York Times in June:
Hillary Clinton may be out of the race, but a Barack Obama versus John McCain match-up still has the makings of an epic American gender showdown.
The reason is a gender ethic that has guided American politics since the age of Andrew Jackson. The sentiment was succinctly expressed in a massive marble statue that stood on the steps of the United States Capitol from 1853 to 1958. Named “The Rescue,” but more commonly known as “Daniel Boone Protects His Family,” the monument featured a gigantic white pioneer in a buckskin coat holding a nearly naked Indian in a death’s grip, while off to the side a frail white woman crouched over her infant.
The question asked by this American Sphinx to all who dared enter the halls of leadership was, “Are you man enough?” This year, Senator Obama has notably refused to give the traditional answer.
The particulars of that masculine myth were established early in American politics. While the war hero-turned-statesman is a trope common to many countries in many eras, it has a particular quality and urgency here, based on our earliest history, when two centuries of Indian wars brought repeated raids on frontier settlements and humiliating failures on the part of the young nation’s “protectors” to fend off those attacks or rescue captives. The architects of American culture papered over this shaming history by concocting what would become our prevailing national security fantasy — personified by the ever-vigilant white frontiersman who, by triumphing over the rapacious “savage” and rescuing the American maiden from his clutches, redeemed American manhood.
Funny, considering the state of the California budget (which is 10 billion out of balance with a deficit much higher than the one Davis left him with), his continued budget cuts in education and the national economy, in general, Schwarznegger’s biceps have not served him, or any of us, well.
How was it allowed to happen? How did politics in the United States come to be dominated by people who make a virtue out of ignorance? Was it charity that has permitted mankind’s closest living relative to spend two terms as president? How did Sarah Palin, Dan Quayle and other such gibbering numbskulls get to where they are? How could Republican rallies in 2008 be drowned out by screaming ignoramuses insisting that Barack Obama is a Muslim and a terrorist?
As Monbiot points out, there are numerous variables that intersect and education is one of the most important. Oh, yeah, right, the system that Schwarznegger himself has continued to gut during his time in office. For a nation that celebrates education as a value, there’s no support. This is a classic example of ideal culture versus real culture or talking the talk and walking the walk.
In fact, politicians not only rip apart the educational budget to shreds but they mock at intellectual politicians. How many times have we heard John McCain and his supporters question Obama based on his vocabulary and ability to articulate intelligent ideas? How else can we explain why Joe the Plumber (who isn’t sick of this guy?) is on the campaign trail with McCain speaking on economic issues and foreign policy? This is ludicrous!
As Monbiot points out:
It wasn’t always like this. The founding fathers of the republic — men like Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, John Adams and Alexander Hamilton — were among the greatest thinkers of their age. They felt no need to make a secret of it.
So, not only is Obama’s intellect to question and be suspicious of but his lack of brawn reinforces the fact that he isn’t fit to lead: he isn’t a “real” man. Oy vey! See where these “real” men have taken us? Now, wake up.