Excellent Read: “Progressive”

Much as I agreed with Sady Doyle’s post, I wasn’t going to front-page it until a commentor on a late-night thread here expressed great astonishment that calling someone “hysterical” could possibly be construed as sexist. But I can attest, from personal experience, that male Progressives can be… well…

… “We’re a progressive site,” the man across the table begins, “And our readership, as with most progressive sites, is mostly men. You’ve focused a lot on women’s issues. Would you be comfortable writing something that men would be able to read?”

I’m silent for a second. I keep smiling — always smile at the job interview — but I cannot speak. Largely because I believe that what I just heard cannot possibly be what he really said. I misinterpreted something. I missed a word, misheard a word. He can’t actually be telling me that I would have to stop being so feminist to get a job at his “progressive” site. Or that “progressive” media is mostly for men.

“I read your most recent article,” he adds, helpfully. “That seemed very sympathetic to the male character.”

Okay. So I heard him right…

“Secretary Clinton, first ladies, as you well know, have used their position to work on important causes like literacy and drug abuse,” the moderator says. “But they also supervise the menus, the flowers, the holiday ornaments and White House decor. I know you think you know where I’m going here.”

I watch Hillary Clinton’s face. She smiles. You always smile at the job interview. She smiles like a motherfucker, that woman.

She smiles while she assures the moderator that she won’t make her husband do stupid lady things like – ick! – decorating. She smiles while assuring the world she won’t forsake her duty as a woman, that she will still “pick the flowers and the china for state dinners and stuff like that.” She smiles while answering the question of whether female Presidents are fundamentally unnatural, whether she is fundamentally unnatural, whether electing her will emasculate not only Bill Clinton but the nation itself. And she has been the second-most popular Secretary of State in history, and she has been the member of the Obama administration with the highest approval rating, and she has been one of the most liberal Senators in Congress, and she has been an early pioneer whose work laid the ground for both CHIP and eventually Obamacare, and she has been one of the single most visible advocates for feminism globally and in the United States since the mid-90s, and she has done the work, the basic work level of the work, the coming-in-when-you’re-sick-don’t-be-late-don’t-take-a-vacation work, and she still has to answer this fucking question – the one that’s not about her, but about her gender; the one that’s not about policy, but whether she could govern in a way men can accept – but smiling is just what you do, if you’re a woman, and a feminist, and you have to field questions like these. You don’t challenge the premises. You don’t tell them to fuck off. You let them test you to see if you’re an angry feminist, and you pass the test by letting them insult you to your face and not getting angry. Because after everything you’ve done, everything you’ve fought for, that’s still what most men want to know. They want to know they can insult you and get away with it. They won’t work with you if they can’t.

Hillary Clinton lets them insult her with a smile on her face, because she wants the job. Because there is no way to just flip a table, throw the coffee, walk out of this bitch in protest, and get the job she wants. There never is. Not for her, not for me, not for any of us. She smiles…

I know some of you remember Clarence Thomas’s confirmation to the Supreme Court, and the intense vitriol directed at Anita Hill and every other woman who cautioned that Thomas would be a terrible, terrible choice. One of the things I remember is how astonished a lot of otherwise thoughtful, progressive men — and quite a few less-thoughtful, unprogressive ones as well — were, to discover the level of mistreatment and abuse that women in the workplace were exposed to as a matter of course. Their wives, their moms, their daughters: The women who never said anything about the filthy ‘jokes’ and the body-touching and the assumption that every woman (whatever her credentials or gifts or relationships) could be, should be, treated like a barely-housebroken domestic animal whose only real value was its sexual attractiveness.

Anita Hill failed to deter the revanchists determined to put Clarence Thomas on the only Supreme Court we have, but when she spoke up, she changed the conversation around “sexual harrassment in the workplace.” And whether or not Hillary Rodham Clinton is elected President in November (and I most sincerely hope she is), she’s already changing the conversation around whether “feminist” is a component to any genuine use of the word “progressive”.

Open Thread: Clown Shoes, A Master Class

Before anyone asks: I’m using the ‘Vagina Outrage’ tag because the RoK guys seem to be very, very outraged by even the thought of vaginas.

‘SJW’ is ‘social justice warriors’, meaning ‘women and men who don’t hate/fear women’, and yes the guys slinging that phrase around do think it is a clever insult. ‘MRA’ is ‘men’s rights activists’, meaning… well, I think you can figure that part out.

Speaking of silly people, how’s the New Year’s Even preps going in your neighborhood(s)?

Saturday Morning Open Thread: Think Harriet Tubman Will Ever Get “A Moment”?

Since I grew up in New York City, where hustler-immigrant ODB Alex was our Founding Father, having people demand I listen to the latest fascinating news concerning a certain hot musical can feel like being an animation fan whose middle-school second cousin wants to bring me up to speed on this amazing unknown historical genius Chuck Jones (“way more significant than Disney, dude!”). But as a Tubman partisan, I’m glad Jack Lew has decided to do a bit of a walkback on his June decree…

The Wall Street Journal reports the “Treasury Will Delay Announcement on $10 Bill Redesign to 2016”:

The Treasury Department will delay until 2016 the announcement of which woman will be selected for the redesigned $10 bill after an unexpectedly large volume of public feedback prompted officials to extend their months long review, a spokeswoman said Friday.

Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew announced plans in June to put a woman’s portrait on the $10 bill, a spot that has been occupied by Alexander Hamilton, the nation’s founding Treasury secretary, since the 1920s. The department said in June that a decision would be announced by the end of this year following a public campaign to solicit ideas.

They received more than they bargained for from that campaign. While many applauded the decision to put a woman on the bill, some said they were disappointed that a woman wasn’t being put on the more prestigious $20.

The decision also drew surprisingly intense criticism from finance types that revere Mr. Hamilton, who is having something of a moment. A 2004 biography of the financier inspired a critically acclaimed Broadway musical that debuted this summer…

In response to the specific uproar over Mr. Hamilton, Mr. Lew has said Mr. Hamilton won’t come off the currency, creating a subplot that has at times overshadowed the bigger question of which woman will ultimately be featured on the bill…

Currency redesigns are driven primarily by security needs, and a redesign of the $10 bill was already in the works as part of an upgrade that will include tactile features on bills to assist the blind and visually impaired. Government agencies that oversee currency design and security recommended starting with the $10 bill in 2013, and outlined a timetable that could have the bill in circulation as early as 2020, which coincides with the centennial of women’s suffrage.

Mr. Lew hasn’t said whether Mr. Hamilton might ultimately find a home on a separate bill, but he has noted that the entire suite of paper bills is being redesigned. “It will ultimately be the whole series,” he said in July.

Apart from picking apart every damned concession (as us women always do), what’s on the agenda for the day?

Call It What It Is: Terrorism

From the Washington Post:

COLORADO SPRINGS — The gunman suspected of storming a Planned Parenthood clinic and killing a police officer and two others used the phrase “no more baby parts’’ to explain his actions, according to a law enforcement official, a comment likely to further inflame the heated rhetoric surrounding abortion.

The attack on the clinic, allegedly by Robert Lewis Dear Jr., was “definitely politically motivated,’’ said the official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is still underway. NBC News, which first reported the comment, said that Dear also mentioned President Obama in a range of statements to investigators that left his precise motivation unclear.

Yet even as authorities released few details about Friday’s shootings, the politics of the highly charged abortion issue seemed to outstrip their efforts to be methodical. Antiabortion activists denied any knowledge of Dear and said he is not affiliated with their movement, but abortion rights advocates countered that comments by conservatives against Planned Parenthood had precipitated the violence…

“Everybody’s entitled to their own opinion. And their own arsenal, as well.”

Dr. Jennifer Conti, at Slate, “Anti-Abortion Terrorism Must Be Stopped“:

We can speculate long and hard about the gunman’s motives or targets, but what is more significant—what keeps me up at night as an OB/GYN physician—is the concern that we as a nation have become complacent. Was it truly a shock that something so horrific emerged only weeks after anti–Planned Parenthood rhetoric dominated the presidential candidate debates? What was all of this manipulative campaigning if not an invitation to incite hate? And now this.

A few people were injured and only a few people died, some headlines will say. That’s not so many compared to the recent acts of terrorism in Paris. But here’s the irony: This is a homegrown terrorist, one that no amount of passport authentication or refugee rejection could have stopped. We spend all this effort agonizing over external threats, all the while overlooking the extremism, bigotry, and hatred that lives down the street. And now this.

This is a sign of crisis. When women are too scared to seek medical care for fear of being shot on the way to clinic, we are in crisis mode. This is beyond bullying and this is no longer simply a politicizing issue. This is a runaway train on which nobody is pulling the brakes. How far does this have to play out before we can stop pretending that abortion care is not real health care? Since 1977, there have been eight murders, 17 attempted murders, 42 bombings, 186 arsons, and thousands of incidents of criminal activity associated with U.S. abortion clinics. These numbers do not include what happened in Colorado Springs… Read more

Hey, Sandernistas: “We’ll Consider HRC for Our Sarah Palin, harharhar” *Is* Sexist

It’s also — take my word on this — not funny. Excising a lot of both-siderism from the Politico article:

… “I’m stunned that a man like Bernie Sanders, who has clearly committed his life to making the country a better place, would get sucked into this very dangerous rhetoric, which perpetuates sexist and misogynistic stereotypes,” fumed Christine Quinn, the former New York City Council speaker who sits on Clinton’s New York Leadership Council and does fundraising for her campaign. “The candidate is supposed to set the tone, set the agenda. If Bernie Sanders does not want to be seen as someone who uses sexist language and perpetuates a dangerous sexist stereotype of strong women, then he should tell his people to stop. And if they don’t stop, he should fire them.”

Quinn, who ran for New York City mayor in 2013, said a recent Bloomberg Politics story that quoted Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver as joking that “we’re willing to consider [Clinton] for vice president … we’ll even interview her” was beyond the pale.

“Seriously? Seriously? The absurdity of that statement almost merits no response. How arrogant and sexist can you be? It’s not OK to let people with a long progressive record get away with being sexist.”…

I don’t think Bernie Sanders is (deliberately) sexist, but I do think his campaign staff needs to check themselves, maybe run those “jokes” past some actual double-X-chromosome staffer before sharing them with reporters.

It’s a repeat of Sanders’ #BLM problem… except I doubt the Sandernistas can claim that the Vermont population is 96% male.

Open Thread: “Stop Treating Young Women Like Dumbbells”

Rebecca Traister, at NYMag‘s The Cut:

Free advice to everyone in presidential politics: If you want young women to vote for you, stop treating them like dumbbells.

It is, in fact, embarrassing how often this very basic piece of wisdom has to be doled out. Today’s example comes from Virginia, where, on Wednesday, 18-year-old University of Richmond sophomore Kayla Solsbak raised her hand high in the air from her back-row seat in an auditorium to ask a question of Republican contender John Kasich.

When the Ohio governor met her eye, he laughed and told her, “I’m sorry, I don’t have any Taylor Swift tickets.” The obvious implication of Kasich’s joke: that hysteria for the “Shake It Off” singer is the only thing that would motivate a female student at a campus political gathering to raise her hand with conviction during a town hall forum with a presidential candidate. John Kasich has a rich sense of humor.

But Solsbak didn’t find it funny, and she wrote a really good column about it for the Collegian, in which she reported that Kasich took questions from admiring older fans in the audience while dismissing a question about Planned Parenthood posed by another young woman, making it obvious that, in Solsbak’s works, the candidate believed he could “gain points by belittling me and my peers.”…

This is, of course, a larger representational problem that extends far beyond John Kasich or this year’s presidential election. Though women have had the franchise for just under a century, politicians still seem not to have warmed to them — especially young women — as rigorous political thinkers or participants…

…[T]he problem is that young women — particularly unmarried women — are key to anyone who actually wants to win a national election.

In 2012, unmarried women made up a third of all young voters, and comprised almost a quarter of the total electorate; they voted for Barack Obama over Mitt Romney by 67 to 31 percent. In 2016, the majority of women voters are predicted to be unmarried, according to Page Gardner, founder of the Voter Participation Center. Among that demographic are the students and recent graduates that Republicans seem driven to diminish as dimwits…

(Inter)Sectional Confusion

meryl-streep-teeJust read this Vox article by Alex Abad-Santos about a controversy involving Meryl Streep, who apparently sparked a Twitter outrage fest by wearing, along with fellow cast-members of a film about the British Suffragette movement, a t-shirt with the slogan “I’d rather be a rebel than a slave.”

The Vox article links to a Cosmo(!) essay by Gugu Mhlungu that’s critical of Streep because of the shirt (as well as other comments Streep made about feminism; she prefers to be called a “humanist,” apparently). Here’s an excerpt from Mhlungu’s essay:

The slogan comes from the famous speech by Pankhurst and the part from which the tee slogan is taken from is as follows:

‘Know that women, once convinced that they are doing what is right, that their rebellion is just, will go on, no matter what the difficulties, no matter what the dangers, so long as there is a woman alive to hold up the flag of rebellion. I would rather be a rebel than a slave.’

But taken out of context, it’s deeply problematic. Especially in the American context where during the American Civil War, the Confederates, who referred to themselves as ‘rebels’, came from the Southern slave states and fought for their right to own slaves. So Meryl appears to be wearing an item of clothing that says ‘I’d rather own a slave than be one’.

Emphasis mine. I roll my eyes along with Mhlungu at people who equivocate about the label “feminist,” which should be embraced by every person who believes women are fully human. But back to the shirt: Why isn’t the onus on the people who view the image sans context to find out the context before proceeding directly to outrage? It’s a fairly famous quote.

Abad-Santos also seems to assume that readers will share his view that wearing the shirt was an affront, or at least a PR debacle that Streep should have avoided:

Streep hasn’t commented on the shirt. She probably won’t, since Time Out has taken responsibility with its apology. But like the context of the quote, that apology pales in comparison with the image of the most recognizable and respected American actress of the past 30 years wearing a T-shirt her publicist shouldn’t have cleared.

And Mhlungu ends with this:

Although probably well intentioned, this Suffragettes movie campaign shows why intersectionality is so important if our feminism will mean anything.

I thought I understood what intersectionality means, but I guess I don’t, or at least not in the way Mhlungu and Abad-Santos understand it. I get that oppression around race and gender can’t be fully understood as separate experiences because their combined effect is greater than the individual components. I also get that our feminist forebears weren’t inclusive and that too many still aren’t and that we should be.

But I don’t understand why it’s considered insulting or wrong or tone deaf for people in the UK — which is a whole other country, after all — to use words like “rebel” and “slave” without considering the context of the American Civil War, particularly when the use is related to a famous quote by a non-American historical figure (whom Streep was portraying in the movie, doubtlessly with an absolutely flawless British accent).

My initial take is that the outrage is a stupid example of the social media “call-out culture” that I find annoying as hell as I settle into my dotage. But! I sometimes find when I’m rolling my eyes at kids today with their stupid tweeting and misplaced outrage, etc., I’m actually missing something important — particularly when it’s an issue involving race — because middle-aged white lady.

So, I’m asking with all sincerity: What am I missing here?