Woman trouble

>> Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Over at Slate's Double X, Hanna Rosin is telling us not to fret over whether there will ever be a female President of the United States. She writes this in response to a book, Anne Kornblut's Notes From the Cracked Ceiling, that I haven't read and that I'm actually not likely to; I'm writing to respond to a statement Ms. Rosin makes that comes-so-close-only-to-fall-so-far. Rosin writes, "Kornblut’s reporting reinforces the idea that Hillary and Palin are not good test cases for the feminist thesis because they are so particular," only to conclude, if I understand what she's saying, that the problem is with the media reporting on women in superficial ways.

Argh, I says, and argh I means.

You know, the problem with Sarah Palin isn't that she's a woman--it's that she's a really stupid person, and analyzing the popular perception of Mrs. Palin in feminist terms isn't really that productive because it doesn't change the fact that if a man talked about Vladimir Putin invading Alaskan airspace or still had trouble coming up with things he's read since junior high school in his own memoir we'd be talking about how dumb he was (see also: Quayle, James Danforth). And as for Hillary Clinton--y'know, even liberals like me who started out adoring Hillary Clinton in the '90s have had trouble with the whole Clintonian enterprise; it's not just what might be considered a kind of feminist issue in terms of the whole "What would it mean to have Bill back in the White House?" thing (a notion that actually appealed to some women I know), but the Clintons' (plural) ties to the centrist-right Democratic Leadership Council, reservations left over from the Clintons' (plural) handling of issues during Bill Clinton's presidency (including healthcare), concerns about Hillary Clinton's honesty and integrity after statements made during her campaign were revealed to be dubious if not outrightly false in a way that would have suggested a candidate of either gender was either divorced from reality or tended towards mendacity.

The point, of course, being that part of the problem for both then-Governor Palin and then-Senator Clinton wasn't that they were being judged in sexist terms by some kind of different standard for women, but that they were judged in general terms by the same standards that are applied to men and found wanting. That's not to say there wasn't some degree of sexism, though to be fair, I think one might point out that some degree of sexism was favorable--i.e. it's abundantly clear that the McCain campaign picked Sarah Palin over better-vetted, better-known and better-qualified candidates because her uterus was considered a game-changer to balance candidate Obama's melanin count, one that would also potentially siphon disaffected "PUMA" voters away from the Democrats; meanwhile, I think it's almost certain that the possibility of electing a first female President provided an energy to Hillary Clinton's early campaign and was seen as a counterweight to liabilities inherent in the Clinton name.

It may be that this is actually a big chunk of what Ms. Rosin meant by pointing out the particularities of Clinton and Palin, and that she sort of wandered into something else (lack of media versatility when insulting women); I say that because I've done that kind of thing myself, wandering away from what I thought I was writing about. But to me, personally, I sort of wish people doing postmortems of the campaign would put the particularities or peculiarities of Clinton and Palin up front. In Palin's case, trying to wrap her up in feminist martyrdom is not merely offensive to actual feminist martyrs, it's actually dangerous because, look, Sarah Palin is a horrible, horrible person (I know, I've read her fucking book, the one where she knifes nearly everybody who's ever helped her along in the back and confirms that she's a petty, profoundly ignorant human being). And in Secretary Clinton's case--look, I hate to say it, because I would have preferred her presidency to her husband's in 1992, but that ship has sailed and sunk. I think her husband's a smart cookie and she's probably smarter, and I suspect she's more liberal than Bill not withstanding her shared ties to the DLC, but she was also instrumental in fucking-up national healthcare in the '90s and there's just a taint there, from her association with her husband.

(I hope it's not completely tied to the Clinton name: Ms. Chelsea Clinton seems to have turned out to be a pretty awesome person, and if she ever follows her parents into politics in five-to-ten years, I'd wish her luck from what little I've seen and heard from her thus far.)

Naturally, I don't expect anybody to actually stop on my account. It's very easy to look at the rejection of Palin and Clinton and see it as something ironically impersonal, the manifestation of various bigotries and national psychoses as opposed to a look at and repudiation of the persons themselves. Easier to publish a book about that, too, I'd imagine, since there are plenty of personal looks at the individuals in question that are or come off as hit pieces (and not just as "hit pieces," but sexist hit pieces--how dare I, for instance, write that Sarah Palin must be stupid because she constantly says and writes stupid things, when we all know that I am a white male and that the patriarchy has, for centuries, belittled the accomplishments and abilities of women; I am a male chauvinist pig).

But one can hope. Right?


Janiece Tuesday, January 19, 2010 at 1:45:00 PM EST  

...how dare I, for instance, write that Sarah Palin must be stupid because she constantly says and writes stupid things, when we all know that I am a white male and that the patriarchy has, for centuries, belittled the accomplishments and abilities of women; I am a male chauvinist pig..

You may be a white male chauvinist pig, but I am arguably a put-my-money-where-my-mouth-is feminist and I agree with you unreservedly.

I proclaim that if Palin was any stupider she'd forget to breathe.

David Tuesday, January 19, 2010 at 1:47:00 PM EST  

Maybe you should read "Rogue" again. Just a thought.

David Tuesday, January 19, 2010 at 1:48:00 PM EST  

Flamist: Supporter of female pyromaniacs.

Eric Tuesday, January 19, 2010 at 2:57:00 PM EST  

Maybe you should read "Rogue" again. Just a thought.

::has epileptic seizure at the thought::

I will give Mrs. Palin this much credit: at least part of the problem with Going Rogue is that the publisher moved the book up on their publishing schedule (whether at Palin's insistence or their own whim, who knows?) so that there wasn't sufficient time to proof and revise the book. Some of the minor grammar errors and quirks that make the book a headache might have been avoided if they'd given it another pass before sending it to the printers.

Though that really doesn't cover the vindictiveness on display, or the pettiness, or the factual errors and glosses, or the...

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