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headdesking into eternity

Posted by pocochina on April 16, 2008

EZRA.

WE TALKED ABOUT THIS.

ASSIGNMENT DESK: HILLARY AND THE FEMINIST NARRATIVE.

[picture of the Lady in the Yellow Jacket quieting her adoring fans]

Petey seems to think that I’ll be scared to mention this article about Hillary and misogyny, though it’s not exactly clear why that would be.

Actually, what the commenter suggesting the discussion said was, after providing the link to the original article, “Oh, right. You can’t write about that. Write instead about how no one in the blogosphere is going to write about the Fortini piece and why.”  Which read to me as a commentary on the Prospect’s propensity to discuss media narratives that hurt Senator Clinton when the alternative is actually writing about something Senator Clinton did right.   However, he couches it in language of “I am SO NOT SCARED!”  Which is a favored tactic of kindergartners proving they’re Big Men Now, but also a way to ease the obvious Unmanliness of talking about – *gasp* – gender.

For most of the nomination battle, I leaned Edwards, and for some of it, I favored Hillary.

Ezra is telling us how non-sexist he is by telling us how excited he was to vote for the white guy.  I suppose this is a way of trying to say he is not an unreasonable Obama partisan – a little disrespectful to other Obama supporters – just someone who finds everyone else objectionable.

I was actually relatively unimpressed with Obama till he actually proved his electoral appeal in the snows of Iowa. Put another way, there’s an idea out there that anyone who doesn’t think the superdelegates should sweep in with a counter-majoritarian decision that anoints the candidate who’s won fewer pledged delegates has been some sort of implacable enemy to her candidacy. It’s untrue.

It’s also a total non-sequitur.  It goes from “I sorta liked Obama, until he won Iowa” to “HRC is gaming the system and everyone who is pissed about unfair coverage of her candidacy is a fucking psycho.”  First of all, the sheer unselfconsciousness it takes to get all excited about Iowa – a state which,  by SOLE virtue of historical accident has a hugely disproportionate impact on the nominating process, AND holds caucuses which are undemocratic and yes, Virginia, potentially countermajoritarian because only around 10% of voters ever fucking show up, many of them because they can’t – and then whining about how the RULZ are so unfair?  Is fucking astounding.  Notice, too, how he’s positioning himself as the detached observer, just (HIGHLY selectively) pointing out the Unfairness of the System, while people who like Senator Clinton are – NOT THAT THIS IS A SEXIST FRAMING OR ANYTHING – irrational.  Look at them, throwing around slurs like “implacable enemy.”  How could he possibly expect to take the criticisms of such a hysterical, superdelegate-loving, Will of the People (TM) – hating group of people seriously?  I mean, really, it’s almost like published political commentators are supposed to pretend to be even-handed.  Fetch me my smelling salts!

Moreover, some who are now ardent Hillary supporters, like Petey, were once deeply hostile to her candidacy (and my colleagues still remember being called “Clinton hacks” because they were occasionally sympathetic). The primary has been a long ride, and allegiances have proven fairly fluid.

Oh, those poor, poor colleagues, they came to Her Majesty’s defense and were tormented with the dreadful, dreadful appellation “Clinton hacks!”  No analysis at all of the phenomenon of demonization of even-handed commentary when it runs the risk of portraying Senator Clinton in a positive light!  WHAT COULD THAT POSSIBLY HAVE TO DO WITH SEXISM?  HE’S NOT A MIND-READER, PEOPLE!

But as it’s come down to two candidates and dragged into a grueling battle between them, what were once weak preferences seem to have hardened into tribal loyalties, complete with a list of grievances, enemies, and plans for insurgent warfare in case of defeat.

“Seem to have hardened.”  Nice, passive phrasing there.  It couldn’t have anything to do with us being mad as hell about our candidate being ruthlessly slaughtered with sexist slurs, and the way the once-promising online fact-checking watchdog of a blogosphere has totally let the mainstream media get away with it, right?  I mean, because that would be a rational criticism, and we can’t be having that, now can we.

Also, wonderful use of hyperbole.  Insurgent warfare.  When a Clinton supporter buys her first assault weapon, preferably to be fired directly from a heartland town across the wall we want to build to keep the immigrants out of our churches, an angel gets her wings!  Nice.

Petey, for instance, links to this New York Magazine article on what Clinton’s candidacy has shown about latent misogyny and the actual condition of feminism in this country. It’s a smart piece, and should be read widely. But insofar as Petey’s suggesting that all challenges to Clinton’s candidacy have come from sexism, it’s an odd and ill-fitting narrative.

Okay, I didn’t see that in Petey’s comment, but maybe he dropped some acid, got back online, and tried to explain (in small words and short sentences) the following phenomenon:  Though not all criticisms of Senator Clinton are sexist, they are all made in the framework of the rampant and unchecked misogyny and Clinton Derangement Syndrome of the mainstream media.  For instance, while Senator Clinton is condemned at every turn for “triangulating,” Senator Obama, who uses the word “bipartisan” about as frequently as we mere mortals use vowels, is praised for working across the aisle.  They mean the same thing, but the cock-wielding candidate is praised, the vag-having candidate pilloried.  When Senator Clinton misremembers an event which took place on a peacekeeping mission in a war zone, she is a liar and cannot be trusted with the Democratic nomination; when Senator Obama outright insults millions of voters, it’s a distraction and the media should just let it go.  When Senator Obama’s ties with a slum lord are coming out under oath during a fucking criminal trial, static and silence; the fact that a decade ago Senator Clinton’s husband – NOT HER, HER HUSBAND – exercised his constitutional right to grant pardons is a scandal.  This is called a double standard.  It’s not that all disagreement is necessarily sexist, it’s that it’s quite rare for the merits and drawbacks of the two candidates to be fairly weighed.

It’s not hard to imagine why a candidate who voted for the Iraq War and refused to apologize has met with hostility among segments of the Democratic base. Nor is it rare for an establishment candidate with tight links to the party’s centrist wing and a unique interconnection with its moneyed interests to face a powerful insurgent challenge.

Class, this is a perfect example of the double standard!  First of all, I certainly don’t remember this sort of hostility towards Senator Kerry in 2004, so while it’s not hard to imagine the difference, I suspect it’s not the difference Ezra is implying it is.  Second of all, Senator Obama also has moneyed interests and is a card-carrying centrist, so to classify him as an insurgent challenger in contrast to those qualities of Senator Clinton’s IS A FUCKING DOUBLE STANDARD.  When you have two people, one of whom is male and the other of whom is female, who share the same traits that you perceive to be negative, and you cite those traits as a reason to dislike the female person and by extension to like the male person better, YOU ARE BEING SEXIST.

Now, take that same candidate, and give the insurgent substantial appeal to African-Americans, the traditional bulwark against wine track renegades, and it’s easy to predict trouble for the establishment choice.

HE IS THE ESTABLISHMENT CHOICE.  You don’t get to call yourself an insurgent while you’re accepting Ted Kennedy’s endorsement, PERIOD.  Simply because President Clinton was the only two-term Democratic president in the second half of the twentieth century does NOT mean that he in and of himself is the only powerful Democratic machine in town.  I’m not saying that Senator Clinton doesn’t also have the support of old party pols.  But again, it’s holding the two candidates to different standards.

Which is not to say that Clinton hasn’t faced sexism. She has — it’s been real, and it’s been pernicious.

How generous, Lord Klein.  Would you like red or white to go with that inappropriate passive voice?

I don’t know how to compare it to the racism Obama has faced,

I didn’t see anyone asking him to compare the two – especially as that’s impossible – just to fucking pay attention to it.

but neither candidate has had a particularly easy ride of it. What is interesting, however, is that much of Clinton’s support has come from portions of the party you might’ve assumed would be hostile to a female candidacy — the so-called Reagan Democrats, otherwise known as downscale white ethnics. But they form the core of her constituency!

Note:  working-class whites are never women.  If a person has a socioeconomic status, that person is male, and of course assumed to be a chauvinist to boot.  Discuss. 

One could argue that it’s because they dislike African-Americans more than they worry about women,

In fact, your candidate DID argue that, and you whined about how stupid it was that the damned news outlets were reporting on it.  LIKE THAT WAS THEIR JOB OR SOMETHING.

but my hunch is that they’re simply the group for whom economic concerns are most salient, and Clinton is far better at talking about pocketbook issues than Obama is. Conversely, Obama has been better at talking about foreign policy than Clinton, and that’s been pretty key in the primary.

And there’s no chance, none at all, that the framing of “woman talks about money, and man does big important stuff like foreign policy” has anything to do with perceptions on those issues!  And isn’t it refreshing that he used the word “pocketbook,” associated with feminine accessories,  rather than, I dunno, a big manly word like economics?  I’m not saying she’s definitively far better on foreign policy, I’m saying that those are the roles we are assigning the candidates, because of internalized sexism, and that may be influencing how people consciously or subconsciously react to statements given by the candidates even if they actually have no intent to perpetuate sexism.  Not to mention, if lots of voters are getting squeezed, and someone talks to them openly about how to fix it so they go ahead and vote for her, THAT IS KEY TOO.  IT IS NOT LESS IMPORTANT.  Which, come to think of it, is probably why the real popular vote is essentially tied.  Because both sets of issues are important. Likewise, of course, my construct of being good at talking about foreign policy isn’t necessarily the same as someone else’s.  For example, I’m going to guess that a lot of those Reagan Dems are huge supporters of the military, and that a good number of them are actually vets, so the support she’s getting from high ranking servicemembers, current and retired, may, for them, be part of their foreign policy consideration.

Similarly, he’s been much more at ease with the reformist message, if only because he’s taken less money from large interests.

So he’s pure as the morning? I’m sure Ezra knows that’s not true, but again, the contrast implies differently.  Also, of course, the issue of being “at ease” IS NOT AN OPTION FOR WOMEN IN POLITICS, EVER.  See the fucking article you linked to, implying that you were actually going to, you know, discuss the article.

Add in that he’s been a better organizer — particularly in caucus states

Caucus states, you say?  Hmmmmm.

— and fundraiser, and that he started with demographic advantages that allowed him to cobble together an unlikely coalition marrying liberals and independents to African American voters, and his lead starts to look overdetermined, rather than a strangely inexplicable phenomenon that can only be explained by discrimination.

This is the fundamental fucking flaw in this dismissive, sorry-assed excuse for a discussion.  Nobody is saying that it can only be explained by discrimination.  We’re saying that there are systemic issues at play, EVEN WHEN someone’s conscious concern is ostensibly not about gender at all.  We’re not saying that everyone who votes for Senator Obama walks in the voting booth assuming she will just get placenta all over the Oval Office – though those people do exist – it’s that our reactions to candidates, our perceptions of the words we hear and the things we see, are based in a social framework that’s riddled with inequalities, and that’s turning out to be especially true in this election cycle for the mainstream media, which is a critical tool that nearly all of us use as part of our decision-making process.  It’s not enough to say “I’m not a sexist, I don’t care if she’s a woman, blah blah blah,” we need to actually be conscious of the way we might be using our expectations of men and women to judge our candidates.

And when you’re writing in reaction to an article about sexism, maybe actually read and listen to what the little ladies have to say, hmmm?
(H/T to Redstar, not so much for pointing out the post, but for telling it like it is in the comments)

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