Yesterday, we celebrated Women’s Equality Day and the 90th Anniversary of Women’s Suffrage in West Hollywood with Councilemember Lindsey Horvath, Councilmember Abbe Land, veteran activist Zoe Nicholson, Kamala Lopez of Las Lopezistas and Gloria Allred. We honored Allred’s 30 dayfast in recognition of the continued need for the unpassed ERA and officially kicked off ERA 2010 Launch! Fellow blogger and president of the SMC FMLA, Rachel O, vice-president of the SMC FMLA and I represented Santa Monica College’s Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance, a chapter of the Feminist Majority Foundation’s efforts to bring feminist issues across college campuses.
Check out David M. Dismore’spost at Ms.blog to view the collection of vintage postcards that women fighting for suffrage used to get the word out and help cinch voting rights. They’re amazing. Also, check out Dismore’s website: Feminism 101.
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.
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.