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Steinem & Jong vs. me & Paglia?


I read a post today on Women's Space about Gloria Steinem's support of Carol Moseley Braun's run for President of the United States during the 2004 election. I finally read Steinem's op/ed piece that was in the New York Times in January on the sexism Senator Clinton faces in the media compared to the (relatively) free pass Senator Obama is given regarding race. I found her piece, "Women are Never Front-Runners" disappointing in its reasoning, particularly, from a woman I admire so much. The generation gap has never felt so painful to me or so inexplicable. I heard the same things from my mom when I told her I was voting for Obama. If she wrote an article for the New York Times, it probably would have said the same thing. Suddenly, my mom--who had raised me up and trained me in a powerful sense of womanhood and feminism--and I were on opposite sides of the fence. Being the good daughter, I have found that hard to take. I also read Camille Paglia's recent Salon.com column on the election, which is fairly hilarious and, strangely enough, encapsulated so many of my feelings on the issue:
This disarray among Republicans, which may depress voter turnout or even spawn a protest splinter party, offers a fantastic opening to Democrats, if the party can only seize it. The galvanizing energy aroused by Barack Obama's thrilling coast-to-coast victories gives Democrats a clear shot at regaining the White House. However, the three-faced Hillary, that queen of triangulation, would be a nice big gift to Republicans, who are itching to romp all over the Clintons' 20-volume encyclopedia of tawdry scandals.
But, I am left rolling my eyes when she writes:
The old-guard feminist establishment has also rushed out of cold storage to embrace Hillary Clinton via tremulous manifestoes of gal power that have startlingly exposed the sentimental slackness of thought that made Gloria Steinem and company wear out their welcome in the first place. Hillary's gonads must be sending out sci-fi rays that paralyze the paleo-feminist mind -- because her career, attached to her husband's flapping coattails, has sure been heavy on striking pious attitudes but ultra-light on concrete achievements.
Meanwhile, Steinem writes in her piece:
I’m supporting Senator Clinton because like Senator Obama she has community organizing experience, but she also has more years in the Senate, an unprecedented eight years of on-the-job training in the White House, no masculinity to prove, the potential to tap a huge reservoir of this country’s talent by her example, and now even the courage to break the no-tears rule. I’m not opposing Mr. Obama; if he’s the nominee, I’ll volunteer. Indeed, if you look at votes during their two-year overlap in the Senate, they were the same more than 90 percent of the time. Besides, to clean up the mess left by President Bush, we may need two terms of President Clinton and two of President Obama.

But what worries me is that he is seen as unifying by his race while she is seen as divisive by her sex.

What worries me is that she is accused of “playing the gender card” when citing the old boys’ club, while he is seen as unifying by citing civil rights confrontations.

What worries me is that male Iowa voters were seen as gender-free when supporting their own, while female voters were seen as biased if they did and disloyal if they didn’t.

What worries me is that reporters ignore Mr. Obama’s dependence on the old — for instance, the frequent campaign comparisons to John F. Kennedy — while not challenging the slander that her progressive policies are part of the Washington status quo.

What worries me is that some women, perhaps especially younger ones, hope to deny or escape the sexual caste system; thus Iowa women over 50 and 60, who disproportionately supported Senator Clinton, proved once again that women are the one group that grows more radical with age.

Then I read on the Huffpo Erica Jong's take on the sexism in the election. To her, the issue of gender trumps all others.
Or Oprah who forgets she wasn't always Oprah -- I knew her when she had two names. She was always really smart, but she used to identify with women. And now she's joined the Obamarama. I get it. I understand. People want their own color in the White House (pun intended). And nobody said Barack wasn't brilliant.

But the truth is, we have no idea what he stands for. At least I don't. All we have are soundbites and attacks on "the" Clintons. But I guess the great American Amnesiate prefers it that way.
I'd have to disagree with Steinem on the voting record. The vote yesterday on FISA is a case in point. As one reader responding to Erica Jong's op/ed said:
As a young graduate of your alma mater, it pained me to not to cast my primary vote for the first female presidential candidate in my voting lifetime. Unfortunately (that was sarcasm, absolutely fortunately), because my education taught me think for myself and take reasoned, educated stances on issues important to me, I decided not to vote for Sen. Clinton.

Sen. Clinton voted against Senate Amendment No. 4882 last year, which would have banned the use of cluster bombs in civilian areas. While Sen. Clinton voted against the ban, Sen. Obama voted for the ban, acknowledging that cluster bombs are an antiquated form of collective punishment primarily impacting civilians and serving as a long-term impediment to reconciliation. Although the ban did not pass, this is one of the few Senate voting record differences between the two. It speaks loudly to me.

Another divergence between the senators appeared this week: I don't know definitively where Sen. Clinton stands on retroactive telecom immunity because- even though she was in the Potomac triangle when it occurred- she did not attend the relevant Senate session to cast her vote. Sen. Obama attended; he voted against retroactive telecom immunity.

I'm glad you write about the sexism this race reveals and I absolutely agree that in calling Sen. Clinton "Hillary" and Sen. Obama "Obama" we reveal the patriarchal, misogynistic tendencies underlying American society; however, I don't think this is an adequate argument for voting for Sen. Clinton. Does that make me a "Hillary Hater" worthy of your vitriolic language? I don't think so. I don't even think it makes me a woman-hater.
Addressing the issue of calling Senator Clinton "Hillary", I would point out that is exactly what her signs said at the Washington Caucus I attended on Saturday. Here is what they look like and here is what the Obama sign looks like:




Other commentators took Jong to task for invoking the memory of Bella Abzug, a renowned anti-war and women's rights leader to support a candidate that voted for war in Iraq and cluster bombing villages with children.

The statements of Steinem and Jong brought to mind the fight that occurred when it appeared that the 15th amendment would give black men the right to vote but not women. When Frederick Douglas announced that he would support the amendment without woman's suffrage included, Susan B. Anthony declared, "I will cut off this right arm of mine before I will ever work or demand the ballot for the Negro and not the woman."

By the way, here is a great video from the Google Employee Q & A series that shows (to answer Jong's request for more specifics) quite clearly what Obama stands for:

Jacqueline Keeler
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1 comment:

sfool said...

I agree with everything you've said. Excellent post! Great video -- Obama is inspiring.

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