Friday, November 21, 2008

Obama is cheap! AND - they care about DC!

Two relatively unsung bits of the Obamas' interview on 60 minutes that I LURVE:

1) The President-Elect is one cheap-ass motherfucker! Watching this with my husband, he was like, "He's cheaper than you!"

On the hovel he lived in in DC, which nearly burned down (but he moved back in after the fire!):
Michelle Obama: It reminded me of a little better version of the apartment you were in when we first started dating. That was a dump too.

Mr. Obama: Right near Harold’s Chicken Shack.

Michelle Obama: Yeah.

Mr. Obama: Yeah. That’s when I had the car with the hole in it.

Michelle Obama: And you could see the sidewalk, because the rust had gone through.

Mr. Obama: The air-conditioning.

Michelle Obama: So that was my side. I would look and see the ground going past.

I [HEART] a President who uses shit till it FALLS APART.

2) -- and this one seriously makes me stop and have one of those 'Whoa, we really get this President!?' moments -- We're going to have a President who gives a shit about DC!

Michelle: I, both Barack and I, believe that we can have an impact in the D.C. area. You know, in terms of making sure we’re contributing to the community that we immediately live in.

Do you guys get that, what she said just there? The President is going to care about DC. The President is going to give a shit about that poorest, blackest, most fucked-over, disenfranchised colonial territory of the federal government -- the junkies and tranny prostitutes and immigrants and service workers and struggling families who don't even get an autonomous city government or representation in congress -- the fucking President of the fucking United States is going to GIVE A SHIT what happens to them, how they are.

I was making my coffee this morning and I remembered this, as it crosses my mind periodically, and I stopped - as I stop every time I remember it - and just sobbed. I'm crying right now, at my keyboard. The President is going to give a shit about DC. Unless you're way older than I am, you've never seen that. I don't know if we've EVER seen that in the whole history of this republic and that poor, fucked-over city.

I love cities; the very best of America to me is embodied in its cities. To have a President who is of the city, who is aware of the city he lives in, and who loves cities too -- well, it's even better than having a President who once drove a car with a HOLE in it (and that's pretty great)!

It still seems too good to be true, y'all, but it isn't -- we worked our asses off and we earned ourselves the chance to make a new country.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

election-year weltschmerz

IS OVER!!! We fucking won, everybody! We CHANGED THE DEFINITION OF WHAT IT MEANS TO BE AN AMERICAN. We MADE it CHANGE. We saved our country, and took our future back from the haters and warmongers. Good job, everybody!

Yes We Can, Except for Californians who voted for Proposition 8 -- Seriously, you guys suck the worst of all. Fucking bigots.

Friday, October 31, 2008

awesome post about gross old racists and how much better we are than them! :)

this will warm your heart, thrill you, and get you fired up for your GET OUT THE VOTE EFFORTS, whatever they may be:


Happy Election Day weekend. It's been a long time coming - I'm headed to Las Vegas to get out the vote tomorrow!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

he's not a plumber, he's a lying, tax-evading republican!

who was PRETENDING NOT TO UNDERSTAND THE TAX STRUCTURE, because he would actually get a tax exemption under Obama's plan.

love the RACIST JOKE he cracks at the end of the article (NOT).

also, his name is only *nominally* JOE!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

she's not a 'poor woman,' she's a disingenuous, ignorant, hubristic liar!

Rebecca Traister ('Please. Cry me a freaking river.') UP:

Emily Bazelon DOWN on this one:

Judith Warner DOUBLE DOWN, OMG can't you see this kind of thinking is the exact problem?!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Barack Obama *dominates* on the O'Reilly Factor!

In the middle of the idiocy that passes for campaign coverage in the mainstream media these days, I recently got a HUGE charge of hope and encouragement for this election from an unexpected source -- have you guys SEEN Barack Obama on bill o'reilly's show on fox news?? He KILLS. I wish this were getting bigger coverage.

I'm posting the entire interview so you can watch it easily - IF you can stomach that much of Bill O'Reilly, though it's really not very long.
Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

O'Reilly has really met his match and more here; it is amazing how an interview subject as smart as Obama is just makes O'Reilly's twisted rhetorical smokescreening TOTALLY visible for the substance-free drivel that it is. It is really heartening to watch how good Obama is at refusing to get sidetracked or stereotyped or trapped, and at getting his message across with clarity, control, and panache...

If this is any indication, the debates are going to be awesome and this whole pancake is about to FLIP... (sorry, was that a sexist figure of speech??) ;)

Friday, September 12, 2008

send this video to everyone you hear saying they think the Republicans are 'moderate' on abortion!

To: my parents and a bunch of my friends, mostly women, with views on abortion ranging from radically-pro-abortion to pro-life-for-myself-and-pro-choice-for-everybody else, who might have republican or independent friends and relatives who are pro-choice in some sense as well.
From: [electionyearweltschmerz]
Re: good - scary! - video of McCain and Palin in their own words on abortion

Hey guys,
I'm only forwarding this on because it is actually a really succinct and clear digest of video clips of John McCain and Sarah Palin stating, on the record to interviewers, exactly what abortion policy they would support if they were elected. It's good because it's really, really scary hearing them say in so many words that they totally oppose allowing abortions in cases of rape and incest. Yeah the ad is a little over the top with the doom-music, but the clips don't need any embellishment, they speak for themselves!

So I'm forwarding it on because it's basically the perfect thing to send to any women -- to ANYONE who you think does believe that women and girls who are raped should have the right to decide whether to bear a child from that experience -- who you hear saying that they think McCain is "moderate" on reproductive rights. He USED to be kind of moderate -- he is not any more. He supports the total repeal of legal abortion. And with some supreme court justices not looking so good, this issue WILL most likely be in the hands of the next president.

Scarily enough, polls of lots of 'undecided' or 'independent' voters in swing states show that though most of them are pro-choice, or at LEAST support having abortion legal in SOME cases!, large numbers of them still think McCain is 'moderate' or pro-choice too. So anyone I hear say that, between now and November 4, is getting this email from me. I thought I'd send it to you guys for ammo too.


Tuesday, September 9, 2008

the email I just sent all my family and friends who are from - or in - "real america" (esp. swing states)

From: electionyearweltschmerz
To: all my friends
Re: the people fighting this war are donating to Obama 6 to 1

Hi everyone,
I guess I'm crafting a political mass-email -- sorry for the intrusion. It's just that I read this amazing figure this morning and have been obsessed all day with the opinions of U.S. military personnel about the Presidential election. Here's the figure: American service members stationed overseas are giving 6 TIMES more money to Obama's campaign than they are to McCain's!

Also, the Disabled American Veterans, the service and advocacy group for injured veterans' issues, gives Obama an 80 percent approval rating to McCain's 20 percent.

This research frenzy on my part was inspired by reading an interview with and watching the speech of Jon Kuniholm, a 37 year old Marine captain who lost his right arm in Iraq, who spoke at the convention in Denver last week. Here he is:

And here's the article, which is pretty great:

I just didn't know that Obama's support among active duty military people and vets was so hugely organized and pronounced till today. The more I research this stuff, the more I keep finding adamant critiques of the Bush administration and impassioned military support for Obama. These guys -- -- -- are a group of veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars of the past 5 years. Their website has TONS of criticism of the Bush administration and of John McCain from active-duty service members and their families. They have a slate of veteran and pro-vet candidates for races all over the country, and data on tons of candidates' voting records. They've "implored" John McCain to show up and vote for the 21st century G.I. Bill -- which Obama worked to get passed.

You guys know I don't even know anything about the military, and this just carries enormous persuasive weight to me. These are the people who are risking their lives, who are faced with the task of carrying out America's foreign policy, whatever our elected officials decree that it is. It is literally their asses on the line, and they're working them off to elect Obama President. If you know people -- family, friends, especially if they live in swing states -- for whom the opinions of the troops and injured veterans might be a deciding factor in how they will vote and how they will tell their friends to vote, TELL THEM these facts. Tell them about the 6-to-1 Obama campaign contributions from the front lines, and the Disabled American Veterans' scorecard. Or even forward this email to them... I think it really says a lot about which candidate can be trusted to give us what we actually need.

This last video is one of the most amazing things I think I've ever seen: a career Navy guy who was a P.O.W. with McCain in Vietnam, only he was there for eight years, who's going public saying that not only does that experience, being a prisoner of war, mess people up to the point that you really wouldn't want someone who'd been through that in a position of such stress -- he says John McCain was so angry and impetuous that it would get him into trouble at the Naval Academy, before he was ever shot down.
Here it is:
The political site that's publicizing his experience:

So, I hope ALL Y'ALL (correct usage) *do something* with this info, whether it's tell relatives and friend or forward it -- in whole or in parts -- or just keep it in mind and don't let misinformation go un-corrected...

love from California - I miss you guys!

PS - one last thing I ran across -- regarding Bush's attempt to beat Obama to the punch by announcing today that he'll bring 8,000 troops home by the time he's out of office already -- by far the most telling response I've seen to the announcement is from True Military Wives Confessions -- (what can I
say?! I started reading True Bride Confessions last year and got carried away...):

09/ 9/08 12:50 PM | category: Deployments | 2 me toos
that combat brigade was ALREADY leaving in February-ish of next year.

rolls eyes

So, to tell America it'll be "early" is just stupid. It's 15 friggen months after they deployed. I know, I've been COUNTING DOWN THE DAYS.

I don't wanna hear it

Thursday, September 4, 2008


Why don't these so-called 'pro-lifers' GET IT that the "choices" they're always making so much noise about respecting -- carrying an unplanned pregnancy to term and having a baby -- WOULD NOT BE a "choice" at all in the no-abortion universe they're working so diligently to bring about? Isn't this, like, a fairly simple 1st-semester Philosophy class thought experiment, where if you have 2 options then you can pick either without compulsion, but if you only have 1 option then you are being compelled and it's not a choice, no matter how great that one option is?

Linda Hirshman, whose Get to Work: A Manifesto for Women of the World feminist analysis I have always had huge admiration for, is apparently over her infuriating brain-fart of condescending feminist-generational-conflict platitudes re: Hillary Clinton's candidacy (won't link to it, too annoying) and back to her smart self with this Slate article, in which she observes that Sarah Palin actually had the gall to say in a press release that her 17 year old daughter "decided to have the baby."

OMG this makes me so unbelievably angry. Yes, Bristol Palin did apparently "decide to have the baby" -- Alaska, I was very surprised to find out, does not actually have a parental consent law about abortions for women under 18.

I -- and many, many people I know -- have some history of being terrorized by parental consent laws. When I was 17 in Mississippi, which has a two-parent consent law (don't know where your dad is? guess you can't let him know he's gonna be a grandpa, cause no abortion for you!), and my mother was flipping out at me on a regular basis about whether I was having sex (I had before but I wasn't then), one of her trump cards, which she reiterated to me till she was good and sure I heard it, was, "And don't you think for one second that we would just take you to get an abortion!" Whether this was an empty threat or not, whether she would have consented to allow me to get an abortion if I had actually been a pregnant 17 year old, I fortunately never got to find out. What matters is that one of the emotional and psychological weapons at her disposal to hold over my head was the incontrovertible fact that I did not have the legal right to decide what to do if that ever happened -- that whether I became a mother or not would be her and my dad's decision to make, not mine.

Thanks to a quirk of juridical chance, Bristol Palin could "decide to have the baby," whereas I would not have been able to "decide" at all -- ONLY because the Alaska Supreme Court threw out their parental consent law in November. One justice's vote otherwise, and the decision would have been Governor Palin's and Mr. Todd Palin's to make, not Bristol's. Wow, I wonder which state supreme court justices Sarah Palin agrees with ideologically? Probably the ones that would have made extra-sure this baby wasn't her daughter's to "decide to have."

Sarah Palin herself, it's safe to say, also got to make a choice when she decided to have her youngest baby despite finding out that he would be born with Down syndrome. As the governor of a state, I'm sure she has very good health care, probably with a sympathetic and ethical private doctor who would have supported her in terminating the pregnancy and kept it confidential. In a world WITH abortion -- the world Gov. Palin lived in when she found out her fetus had Down's -- getting that news meant that she had a real, and difficult,choice to make. In fact, about 90 percent of people who get the news that they're carrying a Down syndrome baby choose to have an abortion. Palin made the choice that a 10 percent minority of people in her position make. As this points out, that's a pretty fucking huge majority to look at and say, 'I think the choice that you made upon being put in this unbelievably difficult position is WRONG and should be ILLEGAL, and I would support amending the U.S. Constitution to BAN it.' The decision she made, that 10 percent of people in her position make, is the one she would impose on 100 percent of the population of this country.

What Sarah Palin stands for, her political project which she pursues with expert stealth and dissembling, is the OPPOSITE of a world in which carrying any pregnancy, planned or unplanned, to term would be ANYTHING like "private," "personal," a "decision," a "choice," or even "how a family deals with issues" (in the over-the-top-classy words of Barack Obama, who you should give some money to RIGHT NOW if you even remotely agree with one word of this blog). What she stands for is the shameless politicization of abortion issues in the service of her own political career and her extreme, merciless hard-line anti-choice ideological agenda. She RAN ON this abortion stuff in order to win the mayoral election in a town of 6,000-something people where mayoral elections used to be about who could get stuff done locally (read that NYT article - she also tried to ban books in the library!). She wasn't afraid to say some unbelievably sick shit to get elected governor.

I really wish that more people would grasp the fundamental impossibility of what these people who want to ban abortion are saying -- you cannot "choose life" if legal abortion doesn't exist. The choice to have a baby in a world WITH abortion takes place in a completely different rational universe from ANY reaction or response to an unplanned pregnancy that anyone would have in a world without legal and accessible abortion. (Unfortunately, those two worlds co-exist right now, with a shitload of women living in the latter world, unable to get legal abortions due to age, job, distance, money, relationships, health care, living situation, etc. etc. etc. Their unwanted pregnancies and un-planned-for children are not 'choices.')

And furthermore, I am sick of women like Sarah Palin using anecdotes about the difficult choices they or their loved ones have made to continue unplanned pregnancies to argue against the right to abortion. Let me state it even more strongly - NO EXPERIENCE of finding yourself unexpectedly pregnant, having the option of abortion available and accessible to you, and deciding to go ahead and have the baby anyway is EVER admissible as evidence in any argument for the legal banning or restricting of abortion. It is NOT POSSIBLE to extrapolate from that experience to ANY experience one would have if abortion were illegal. The same exact situation -- being Sarah Palin, for example, a married mother of four who's just discovered her fetus has Down syndrome -- would transform from one of choice to one of compulsion. It would be a different reality and you would feel completely differently about it. Instead of feeling empowered to take on what you felt was the difficult, but ultimately more rewarding and more in line with your values, choice, you would feel trapped and resentful. Don't they get it?! The rewards and blessings they are so adamant that they've experienced from continuing unplanned pregnancies in these difficult situations substantively DEPEND on their having made a free choice to take on the obligation of parenthood!

Linda Hirshman asks: do we really want to go back to how it was before? "I'm so old I can remember when this was common. At least two of my classmates at Shaker Heights High School in 1962 also 'chose' to marry their teenage beaus and have babies instead of, you know, going to college." I totally agree with her here: "That moment of risk will now determine the course of much of the rest of Bristol Palin's life,and every statistical indicator is that it will not be for the better. For the millions of women each year who do not want to make that choice, and for the parents who do not want that fate for their daughters, the cruelty of the Republican position on abortion rights is now graphically laid bare."

These are the "choices" that we'll have to look forward to if John McCain or, god forbid, Sarah Palin becomes president and the Republicans are in control of the Supreme Court and the vetoing/signing of legislation -- choices that very few people would actually make for themselves or for their children will become the law of the land.

This other Slate article calls Palin out on this kind of hypocrisy in other gender and family-life issues too, making the smart observation that for Republicans, the only acceptable kind of 'career woman' (not to say 'f**inist') is one like Palin, who actively opposes and works to abolish any and all social safety net provisions (what feminists have been fighting for for several decades now: parental leave, subsidized child care, etc.) that might make family life a little more manageable for those of us who don't have a husband earning a high salary in a job that gives huge chunks of the year off (like commercial fishing) -- or hell, for anyone who isn't uniquely financially, familial-ly, and physically positioned to excel in her career while having a huge number of children and never needing more than 3 days off after giving birth -- because if she didn't need those things, why should any woman? In effect, of course, these uber-privileged 'successful career women' would be few and far between, tokenistic exceptions to an all-male public sphere -- which is, I have to suspect, exactly the effect the right wingers would really like to see. (And Palin's "aw shucks, if I can do it anyone can be Vice President!!" affect oh-so-cleverly covers up the truly retrograde implications of her anti-choice stance.)

When I first heard McCain's announcement and found out about Palin's positions on all this stuff, this piece by Heather Corinna at Scarleteen came immediately to mind:

"I'd posit that a lot of conservative women have the best of all possible worlds. They can malign or try and limit sexuality education, birth control and abortion all they like, even very publicly, even fight it actively, and yet, it's still there for them -- for now, and tenuously because of their efforts to make it so -- when they need it, without judgment, and most of them do use at least some of these things. They can benefit from the feminist movement when it comes to getting them out of the house, allowing them the ability to be public spokespeople, to be politically visible, and reap those benefits while denouncing their source. They can even beg off sex to prevent pregnancy by being able to say they are so, so tired from doing the things in a day that only movements they oppose have allowed them to do. They can also cheerlead marriage and abstinence even if their marriages are a mess and they didn't abstain from sex themselves. They don't have to be consistent or truthful in any of this, because they know they can rely on our consistency, and the truth of our commitments."

When I found out about Palin's daughter's pregnancy, I was doubly reminded of Heather's observation that women's ability to even BE involved in politics, or, hell, in the public sphere AT ALL depends on our being able to control when and how we bear children, by having access to real sex education, birth control, and abortion.

Now I hope and pray that Bristol Palin may defeat the odds and prove me and Linda Hirshman and everybody else as wrong as we can be by achieving every dream her heart desires, but the odds are what the odds are: after having a baby and getting married at the age of 17, Bristol Palin will never be a candidate for Vice President of the United States.

Wasn't that supposed to be the whole point of women -- of anyone! -- being in public life at all?! That our daughters (and sons) would be able to go further than we did?? That they would attain rights, not lose them; have obstacles removed, not have the previous generation's advances taken away?? I think Heather Corinna is chillingly right-on:

"If you just think, as a woman yourself, that it'd be best for women to be without options anymore, for women's lives to revert (and when I say that, I'm not even talking about all women: for the poorest women and women of color in many areas, marriage never even pretended to offer financial security, stability or safety) to being about nothing but preparation for marriage-and-mothering-as-career, then just freaking say it, and out of both sides of your face, please, with baby food in your hair and in your sweatpants, not a $500 hairdo and a Brooks Brothers suit. If you want to say that comprehensive, accurate sex education benefits no one, then you'd best start planning now for how you're going to cover it when your perfect teenage kid who has pledged abstinence gets knocked up, or winds up with PID due to an untreated STI from their new husband -- who wanted to marry them, so he must have been a good guy, and who said he loved God and was waiting until marriage, so he must have been -- an STI they didn't even know they had since marriage = safe sex and no one who waits for sex until marriage needs regular pap smears and STI screenings.

If you think, as a woman, women should have no choice as to when they have sex, when they become pregnant, if they remain pregnant, if they parent, then just say so and mean it.... which means you're going to be saying it to a house full of whining tots, not on the evening news, not in your new Random House book; not with your sign you can somehow afford to stand holding every day in front of clinics where women are working, plenty to support the freaking kids women have already, plenty to support women just like you on the day you show up there, talking about how against abortion you are while you're getting one"...

...And not from the podium at the Republican National Convention!

God, what a hypocrite.

Friday, August 29, 2008

liveblogging mccain's vp announcement

it's mccain's birthday today -- he's the OLDEST MAN ALIVE at 72.

it's apparently the anniversary of women's suffrage?  who knew the last week of august was the anniversary of literally EVERYTHING THAT EVER HAPPENED?  I have a dream, LBJ's 100th birthday, Katrina, women's suffrage, john mccain's emergence into the primeval muck...

ALL mccain is saying in this introduction is the same stuff the democrats have been saying this whole campaign - he's blatantly lying about his own voting record, talking about independence from foreign oil, standing up to washington special interests, change, change, change, government that works for the people, addressing rising prices with the economy in the toilet, etc. etc. etc.  it sounds almost exactly like obama's speech last night, only it's all LIES, in direct contraversion of mccain's actual record and policy platform.

scary air force one/military music the instant he announces Palin's name
her whole family and her kids onstage with her

hubby todd is a world champion of (something something in some sport I can't make out what it is) - there have been like a million mentions of their SPORTS prowess, BUT at least this neutralizes the Obama family's basketball stuff from being marked as scarily, suspiciously Black...

it's her 20th wedding anniversary today - wait I thought commentators said her oldest son enlisted in the army after sept. 11??  was she a single baby mama??
OH NO, that oldest son enlisted on SEPTEMBER 11 OF LAST YEAR
and will deploy to Iraq on SEPTEMBER 11 OF THIS YEAR
She has said SEPTEMBER 11 three times now in the context of her son, who was like 11 in 2001,'s military service.  SUGGESTION, much?  Also, did she know she was under consideration back in Sept. when her son enlisted on that date?  And how fortunate that that's the day the boy ships out.  Did some republican pull strings to make it so?

and now the crowd is chanting USA, USA, USA, USA - f*cking scary.

several minutes into her speech, OMG they are chanting USA, USA, USA again.

'profiles in courage can be hard to come by these days, sometimes we just find them in books, but when we nominate john mccain, we will be putting one on the ballot!' - what kind of kennedy snark is that?!

shout outs to Geraldine Ferraro and Hillary Clinton, which surprisingly are getting cheers
re: the 18 mil. cracks in the glass ceiling, Palin wants to 'shatter it once and for all' - yeah cause she knows mccain will probably CROAK IN OFFICE, him being the OLDEST MAN ALIVE.  I cannot believe someone who says she 'never planned to be involved in public office' would be a heartbeat away from the presidency if this geezer wins.

closing line: 'I thank you and I god bless you, and I say, and god bless america!'
are evangelicals now saying "I god bless you?"  Is "god bless" a transitive verb now or something?

followup commentary on NPR:
Oh lord now Ralph F*cking Reed is a goddamn FEMINIST or something, he's so ANGRY about how Hillary Clinton was TREATED by the DEMOCRATS when she was RUNNING, and that she didn't even make Obama's SHORT LIST, oh the SEXISM! 

I swear, these right wingers starting to go on and on about women and gender and women etc etc make me puke.

Ok, finally a factual commentator:

mccain is against pay equity for women

mccain is against raising the minimum wage, so much for all this working-class-heroism bullshit. 

how DARE he talk about how great working people are when he wants to TAX their health benefits?

he is a liar and a snake, this is about the most hypocritical thing I have ever seen in my entire life.

i hate that I couldn't be happy and optimistic about this election for even one entire day.  hence the name of this blog, I guess.

Friday, July 18, 2008

more reproduction weltschmerz

4:18 PM r: that's crazy about the woman arrested for miscarriage
 me: isn't it?!!!!!!!!!
  I swear
4:19 PM r: have you read about the thing in Colorado where they want to confer the status of "legal person" onto eggs?me: oh, it's not so much the eggs, as the sperms.
 r: well the fertilized eggs
 me: they want to confer it on zygotes pre-implantation (aka pre-pregnancy)
4:20 PM which is THE first moment that the sperm is involved.
 r: pre-fertilization?
  what about menstruation then?
 me: no, pre-IMPLANTATION
 r: oh, right, the moment of conception
  what fuckers
 me: well, the dumb thing is that this happens like a lot, and you menstruate anyway
  there's no way to know
 me: implantation is the 1st thing that starts the hormones flowing
  ergo, the beginning of PREGNANCY
4:21 PM r: so once dicks get on the scene
  a woman's rights vanish
 me: exactly
on monday Health and Human Services redefined "abortion" to include any contraception that prevents one of these things from implanting
  which could be, like, the birth control pill, other hormonal ones, IUDs...!!!
every sperm is sacred
  that's some MAN'S CHILD you're talking about killing
 r: you know what?
4:22 PM maybe it makes sense to have every woman legally obligated every 3 months to go and get examined
me: In el salvador where abortion is totally illegal, they have FORENSIC GYNECOLOGISTSwhose job it is to examine women to see if they've been pregnant and if they've had abortions. we should harvest their eggs?
  or we could do like a kentucky fried chicken thing
  just keep women in cages all the time, cut off their legs, and make sure that they reproduce as regularly as possible
4:23 PM me: well, the fed. govt. did recommend that every fertile woman be considered "pre-pregnant" when she goes to the doctor...
 r: i guess such a collectivization of property is against american values though
 r: this is all right from margaret atwood
 me: oh yeah
  for sure
  outsourcing surrogates to india?

4:26 PM
r: yeah no shiti love the nytimes on that
what pieces of shit
  they did the usual false opposition
  'well on the one hand these women need their babies'
  'but on the other hand, isn't it possible that the poor people over there might not want to do it? but it's a job! yay capitalism!'
 me: ha, yeah, I remember that
  both parties needs are equal!
4:27 PM both parties get something out of the deal!
 r: yeah
  fucking flattening idiocy
 me: and also, it's like, scary in terms of the extreme stratification of reproductivity vs. non-reproductivity among women here in the U.S.
4:28 PM r: what do you mean?
 me: let's have one caste of women that has babies for a higher caste of women, rather than, oh, make it NOT OPPRESSIVE to HAVE A BABY
 r: yeah
 me: it's vital that pregnancy and birth be kept AS degrading and disadvantaging as possible
4:29 PM me: since, after all, you can be sure that the people being kept down by it will be women
  oh yeah
 r: it's true


4:02 PM P: Did you get my text abuot sketchy Chicago corruption?
 me: yeah!
  you're gonna love this new yorker piece
  the photo at the front is breathtakingly gorgeous
 P: yeah, if you want a government contract here, apparently there are lines of crooked fuckers who get a cut of your bribe money
4:03 PM Taped phone calls were played during the Rezko trial that were like: "We can't accept bags full of cash at the office anymore; you'll have to meet me after work. Sorry, it's a new rule or something."
4:04 PM me: it was talking about how he had to navigate all these labyrinthine alliances
  I mean, he had to like piss people off to get a coalition of any size of Democrats
  cause they have like 10,000 different kinds of Democrats there and they all hate each other?!  I never knew there could be so many kinds of Democrats.
4:05 PM P: hmm, I guess so. Geographically the entire state is red, but Chicago democrats run the show(s).
4:06 PM me: it has this old Abner Mikva story about when he first came there and tried to volunteer for the Adlai Stevenson campaign
  and they were like, "who sent you?"
  and he was like, "no one sent me, I'm here to volunteer,"
  and they were like "we don't want nobody nobody sent."
4:07 PM P: haha
 me: Which of course Obama has riffed on to gorgeous effect in his campaign speeches there
  about how simultaneously nobody "sent" him and the single mothers sent him and the jobless men sent him...
4:08 PM (sniff! omg I can't think about it too much, it makes me cry.)
4:09 PM P: I need to read that. Sadly, it's hard to find among all the google results talking about the issue cover.
  I'm about sick of the media covering the media.
4:17 PM me: I know, right
4:22 PM i actually thought it was awful and unfunny
  the cover
once I saw it in person
E.J. Graff is totally right about it on slate

back to barack

3:44 PM A: me and m spent a lot of time debating whether you would be mad at obama or not
 me: for what?
 A: or barama, as i now call him
  like, saying all that dumb shit a few weeks ago?
  about like abortion and gun control and the death penalty and shit?
3:45 PM me: i'm mad at him for not having more balls on the FISA bill
 A: well yeah, that too
 me: but that other stuff, I actually think it's kind of smart, tho I disagree w him
  it's not inconsistent with what he's said before
 A: hmmm
 me: he's always been pro-death penalty, we knew that abt him
 A: yeah, i dunno, im just a bit annoyed w/ him
  but whevs
3:46 PM me: oh yeah, it's annoying, for sure
 A: there was this hilarious though horrifying article in like yahoo or something
  that began "is obama about to be trampled by a giant pair of flip-flops??"
  or something like that
  i found the literalization of the flip-flop trope to be pretty funny
3:48 PM me:
this, btw, was hilarious about all that obama shit
  T. and I absolutely adored the lead
3:49 PM me: "Exactly where did everybody think this gathering was going to take place? Left field?"
  we like fell on the floor laughing
  we were like, "But... the workers... have to... seize... the means of production?"
  "and..... it's historically.... necessary?"
  "I heard him say that, didn't you?!"

everything we hold dear

1:57 PM me:
  this is amazing:
  The multi-ethnic, Catholic, Manhattanite [Al] Smith represented "card playing, cocktail drinking, poodle dogs, divorces, novels, stuffy rooms, dancing, evolution, Clarence Darrow, overeating, nude art, prize fighting, actors, greyhound racing, and modernism," as one Protestant minister raved.
1:58 PM great article on how the republicans use racism to prevent class politics in the new republic
smart commentary by bitch phd

academic labor is not real labor! academic knowledge isn't real knowledge either!

2:16 PM k.f:
2:17 PM me: OH LORD
  i've been bitching about things like that for 2 days in the comment threads on bitch phd.
 k.f: lol

yay the criminalization of miscarriage

12:20 PM me: oh yeah, a woman in alabama is being held on $50,000 bail for delivering a dead 7 month fetus
12:21 PM the cops (!) have decided that SHE did something to herself to make it die. not bloody likely, it sounds like. no facts. just OUTRAGEOUSNESS.
12:22 PM T: jesus.
me: This has been trying to happen for a while. you prob. don't remember a VA statute that was changed after massive outrage a couple of years ago that was going to require women to report miscarriages and stillbirths within 12 hours or face criminal penalties.
Yep, the criminalization of miscarriage is well underway!!!
12:23 PM will you get me off if i ever have a miscarriage and go to jail?
12:24 PM (i guess unless you decide that I've MURDERED OUR BABY and I deserve to be there!! :-P)
T: i'll get you off.
12:25 PM me: and then you'll deal with me at home!
 I think these things should be handled privately by the man of the house
12:26 PM (of course, he's free to call in the cops -- or just some big burly friends of his -- if he thinks he needs reinforcements...)
T: that's how it's always been done.

election year weltschmerz is back - and chatty

Hello. This blog would like to request a do-over? My Weltschmerz is
getting to be more than I can handle alone, and I thought -- the
Gchats I have about politics on a daily basis are as enjoyable as
anything I used to post here... So in keeping with the twitter-y,
rapid-bloggy zeitgeist, I am just going to cut and paste my political
chattings here. I loved the comments, so do keep chiming in. Let's
see if this works...

Monday, February 4, 2008

the sexism thing and the racism thing

I've been getting really down about the sneaky, sneaky ways sexism gets naturalized when people talk about the Clinton campaign. American political discourse in the past several months has provided a stunning example of how differently racism and sexism operate, how deeply underground sexist sentiments can be buried and how often they can come to sound inevitable, even 'reasonable', when spoken.

(well shit, I'd been gearing up for a race-and-gender post, but as soon as I plan what to say the discourse shifts and it becomes dated. here goes!)

[E.T.A. The formidable Bitch, Ph.D. posted this intelligent post about her primary indecision the same day I wrote this. It addresses many of the same issues I've been pondering here: the sexist roots of objections to Hillary's nomination, women's historical paths to political office, and the criteria by which people decide on candidates and what relation those criteria might or might not have to identities... I don't talk about the substance of my actual political decisions so much in this post, as it's more about how I think racism and sexism have been at work in the campaign. See the comments, which put more pressure on how these are or aren't different issues...]

A few people are addressing what I'm talking about: Rebecca Traister, thinking aloud in this piece in Salon about Clinton v. Obama -- I find her indecision fascinating and kind of (heh) mind-boggling in what may be an annoying/cliched generational way-- phrases the conflict thus: that Clinton might actually have a harder time overcoming her '-ism,' sexism, to get elected, because the great many well-intentioned default-racist white voters can regard Obama as an 'exceptional' black man, 'not like the rest of them,' whereas for a great many men Clinton very much embodies all the uppity bitches coming to claim their entitled places in the male-dominated power structure.

Which kind of adds up to: yes, it might in fact be easier to get A black man elected President, one who embodied this kind of special-ness or exceptionalism (and could play into the concurrent imagery, also born out of American racism, of the saintly/heroic black male savior-figure - what gives us all those liberal-fantasy black male TV presidents: see 24, Deep Impact). In short, that they could see him as not the sign of a substantive sea-change in which a new class of people are going to come and claim their rights of representation and access to power, whereas they can't not see her that way.

This is also, as Traister points out, because of who this woman candidate is, i.e. NOT some tool-of-the-patriarchy Thatcherite but a real feminist, a real liberal, a real baby-boomer beneficiary of the women's movement, a real Second-Waver. Barack Obama's unusual family background, his rather one-of-a-kind position vis-a-vis race in America as a black man whose parents are a white American and a Kenyan, helps with this more than anything else. (I do NOT agree with critiques calling him a 'sell-out' or a black-exceptionalist figure based on his politics. I think he's done a pretty amazing job of articulating a position within, and a vision for, African American political life in this country despite not being African American by descent.) You could phrase it in more abstract terms and say: 'it might be easier to get candidates elected whom prejudiced voters can think of in exceptionalist terms, than candidates who solidly embody racist/sexist American stereotypes.'

This blogger, too, points out, in a way I had never really considered before, the "familiar stench" of sexism underlying the hysterical 'OMG we can't nominate Hillary because she'll bring out the conservative base to vote against her!' arguments that are so prevalent right now -- because the reasons imputed to this 'base' for their pathological Hillary-hatred are precisely that she is an unapologetically ambitious woman playing hardball to attain a position of great power, and the argument then frequently becomes that this 'base' feels this way, so end of story, we shouldn't nominate her, Q.E.D. I actually think that PLENTY of these anti-nominating-Clinton arguments from Democratic men (hi baby!) conveniently use this 'conservative base' as a cipher to ventriloquize their own sexist objections to her persona and her candidacy. (The comment on the linked post is mine though, arguing that descriptively speculating on what the unjust-but-real political effects of nominating Hillary Clinton might be, because of her history with the 1st Clinton administration more than anything else, can have some function other than re-iterating sexism's inevitable triumph.)

It's scary, though, how unquestionable, even how reasonable, arguments like this can sound to us, to me -- I'm writing a dissertation on the weird play of resistances to power available in the performance of gender and sexuality, in a period when things like heteronormativity and women's separate sphere are first solidifying -- and the way patriarchal oppression is taken-for-granted escaped me here.

The root issue, which no one is really going down to -- and which I have been thinking for a couple of months now -- is that women are not a minority. Sexism is kind of a special case because it is levied by about HALF the population against another HALF the population. It's everywhere, and it's so naturalized largely -- chillingly -- because so MANY men feel that it's not wrong. You don't have to look far on the internets or in the world to see how many men feel that they do, in some sense, have legitimate grievances against women; how many men feel that they are in some essential way better than women just by virtue of their being men.

Many white people can be quite easily made to feel guilty about being racist (which is different from making them not be racist). Like I said, running concurrently with America's racist narrative is a narrative of strongly-desired redemption from that racism -- Obama's smart to play on that. Saying things that are overtly racist, being regarded as a racist... these are things that are openly condemned as socially unacceptable in wide swaths of the culture.

In uncritical, moderately-conservative to moderately-liberal cultural venues -- like mainstream media and electoral politics -- objections pointing out racism are frequently better-received and given more credence as legitimate criticisms (people have to apologize for their comments) than objections pointing out sexism, which are too often still heard as the degraded, shameful, simultaneously unjustified AND futile ranting of the feminist harpy.

Many whites understand that black people are justified in a legitimate struggle against their own oppression (however problematically they might think about it); many men (and some women) do not think that women's struggles against patriarchy are so justified. I'd wager there are lots more people who'd tell you that sexism no longer exists than that racism doesn't.

It's a perverse paradox -- at the same time I DO think, as Rebecca Traister does, that race presents a bigger barrier to success than gender in this country. There are way more privileged women, by almost every measure, than there are privileged black people of any gender. I don't go where Traister goes, though, with this: she asks, "If Hillary's success is less exceptional, does she deserve my vote as much as Barack?" (First of all, um, no... like I said in the last post, this is a PRIMARY, not an oppression beauty pageant.) No. Because of the different way sexism works in this country, the relative un-exceptional-ness of her success is one reason her candidacy may actually force a bigger confrontation between voters and their prejudices.

The dark side of this analysis, unfortunately, is the problematic way in which white feminists have talked about it. Princeton prof. Melissa Harris-Lacewell referenced this back during the Democratic Race and Gender Shitstorm 2008(TM) in her Slate piece on black Americans rallying for Obama. She brought up Clinton supporters, incl. Bill, complaining that the media was "hard" on Hillary and "soft" on Obama, and pointed out how not only is that complaint not substantively true ("there are no public tears shed for the strain Obama must feel as a result of death threats, which caused the doubling of his Secret Service detail"), it recapitulates "a familiar American narrative of race and gender."

She means the narrative I've heard white baby-boomer feminists recount time and again, the one I've heard my own mother recount: 'Everyone always talks about racism and race, how hard African Americans have it, well what about women, don't WE have it hard? You never hear about how hard WE have it; anyone can say sexist things and nobody bats an eye, but let someone say a racist thing and all hell breaks loose...' and so on and so on. My god, this is so destructive! (Like Gloria Steinem's op-ed in the Times back in Jan., the most unintelligent thing I've ever read of hers.)

Dr. Harris-Lacewell is right: what has happened with Clinton and Obama and the whole media circus is a familiar narrative. White women have played on racism's being less socially-acceptable to plead oppression-under-estimation. At the same time, white women are diminutivized, patronized, emotionalized -- which means there's a cultural value on our being protected, not respected. The whole culture has a freaking crisis when white women are the targets of violence (witness the endless hit parade of missing-murdered-pregnant-blonde-women on FOX News; witness, in a rarified electoral-politics way, the backlash against the backlash against Clinton).

At the same time black men, conversely, can be respected, and even idolized as per the sacrificial myth, but not protected. Fact is, we as a culture do not care when black people are the targets of violence in this country; we show it every day, and we show it when there's no media outcry over the death threats Obama has received.

I'm posting all this tonight because there is *literally no telling* what tomorrow will bring -- something exciting, almost certainly nothing we expected, and something that makes history.

Yay, history!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

why I *heart* NY

I absolutely love my neighborhood come election time. Just walking down the street you encounter this overwhelming outpouring of civic feeling. I live on a golden meridian of liberal politics, at the confluence of three distinct political cultures: the privileged-but-bossily-liberal-Jewish tradition on the Upper West Side, the community-activist-get-out-the-vote-rank-and-file tradition in Harlem, and the kind-of-naive-but-earnest-and-brainy tradition on the Columbia campus in Morningside Heights.

Today I walked out of my house and every corner on Broadway had Obama canvassers on it, handing out buttons and leaflets and engaging people in conversation. People stopped with their strollers and their dogs on leashes and talked for a few minutes each with the Obama-pluggers: I heard people discussing their healthcare plans and their worries about global warming on Broadway. (This happens a fair bit -- I have enjoyed getting into spirited discussions with canvassers about who they think could best beat the Republicans for a couple of years now.)

A tiny girl walking with her parents and sister was holding a sign she had scrawled and yelling "Red, White, and Blue, We Need You, to Vote For Obama! Every Vote Counts!" in this amazing little singsong voice. A dad and his son in an Obama t-shirt that hung down to his knees saw my button and stopped me just to say "Hey! An Obama supporter!" A white-haired old lady pushing her metal-frame shopping basket had a magic-markered nametag pinned to her shirt that said "Women for Obama."

Since I got my button just today, I'm getting these little "Obama!" nods and looks everywhere in New York, though, not just in my neighborhood: a guy with dreads in Penn Station, an old lady on the subway on the East Side. Since today, the first day I've been consciously noticing such things, I have seen one (1) Hillary sticker -- it was pinned to a coat near mine on the rack in the coat check at the Met.

I came home and tried to find out who was doing the canvassing that was so visible in my neighborhood today -- it was a group that organized through (yep, modeled on a social networking site!! I just joined!).

I'm also on the mailing list for my neighborhood's Democratic "club," what's left of the NY Democratic machine -- every neighborhood is under the jurisdiction of a party club that holds events and sends out a newsletter and coordinates volunteer opportunities. The Obama canvassing effort appears to have nothing to do with this local-level instantiation of the Democratic party establishment. In fact, the 50-something Upper West Siders who send out the club newsletter are some of the only people I've run across who are really, ardently FOR Hillary Clinton. You don't see people out on the street getting all *jazzed up* with partisan feeling and solidarity over Clinton.

[Confidential to the Republicans who are hoping that that will translate into any liberals staying home if she does win the nomination, or who would take heart in her "weakness in her home state" if she only gets half of NY's delegates but then wins -- THIS IS NOT THAT. It would be hard to find another neighborhood in the country where people identify as DEMOCRATS as strongly as we do. I can guarantee you that every single person I've seen canvassing for Obama or wearing a button will be at the polls voting for the Democratic nominee in November; many of them will be knocking themselves out just as hard no matter who the candidate is. This is a PRIMARY, and it was so refreshing today to see people who actually understand what that means and who take our responsibility as Democrats, to press hard for the Democrat we would actually most like to see as President, seriously.]

I am full of wild, frightened optimism tonight; optimism so cautious that as soon as I voice it to myself or to my friend M., who's sitting next to me on the couch, it instantly turns into its opposite: abject terror of this thing going the wrong way, again, and the possibility (which would seem unthinkable but somehow isn't?!!), of things getting MUCH, MUCH WORSE if it does.

But! I can't wait for Tuesday. My neighborhood's at its very best on election day; it's like a distinctly New York-flavored dream of America. The neighborhood is actually very economically mixed; I vote on a poor residential street at a school in an old building with mostly Spanish-speaking kids. Schoolkids from the richer schools are usually out on the medians yelling at people to "Go and Vote! Every Vote Counts!" with hand-lettered signs. Folks from those Democratic clubs have tables the regulation distance from the polling places and are chatting up other activisty-types. The little old ladies who actually work the polls are sweet as pie but practically blind and they need help finding my name (which is on the books twice, spelled once correctly and once incorrectly - no I'm not going to take advantage of this; I actually discouraged someone from committing voter fraud earlier this week!), and the younger poll workers are using their high-school Spanish to explain the whole process to some of the people on line. The kids who go to the school are in the cafeteria with their moms and teachers selling baked goods -- cookies decorated red, white, and blue. You line up to vote by address; you literally vote with everyone who lives on your block and the next, at the machine dedicated to that purpose. Perhaps best of all, there's no dithering about what some computer has decided to do with your vote -- you flip those little switches (vote for the candidate of your choice on the Democratic party line or, better yet, on the Working Families Party line!), pull that big lever, and there's such a big THUNK that you KNOW your ass has voted.

My new Obama button says "BELIEVE." I want to believe the button, but I'm f*cking scared -- I believed last time, and the time before that. I'm, like, an emotional wreck from the intensity of belief and pessimism oscillating wildly in my head about this election. But my neighborhood, especially on election day, could almost convince me to believe.

Just a warning about what will probably be the next post -- I get choked up every time I go to vote. When I step into that booth and the HISTORY hits me, I am going to lose it. Stay tuned!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

weltschmerz wow


"That girl? Her eyes speak for us all," as they're saying at The Rude Pundit, where I got this priceless photo.

I assume it was part of a photo set taken by an official White House photog and then taken down off the White House website? Does anyone have a source on it?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

blogging for choice!

It's Blog for Choice Day. (Read about it here too.) That means Roe v. Wade gets a 35th birthday... and it's not looking so good. Tons of brilliant people have posted brilliant things chock full of information and the power of their own experience all over the web -- those links above are a digest of some great writing on reproductive justice, gender, and self-determination. Another clearing-house of reproductive rights news and info is here.

Last year, this journal entry by artist and sex-ed activist Heather Corinna was my blog-for-choice citation on my livejournal, because I didn't have a proper blog. It's still great... But the intervening year for women's rights in this country has been one of the most dismal yet. Anthony Kennedy's opinion in Gonzales v. Carhart in April was truly one of the most infuriating, weltschmerz-inducing things that happened to me in 2007 -- and that is saying something! I wrote about it then:

If you look at the language in the Kennedy opinion today, it's really, really disturbing. I for one am glad to learn that the new test for demonstrating that a group deserves to have its constitutional rights protected is apparently whether a law is "unconstitutional in a large fraction of relevant cases" -- excuse me, wtf?!! I thought the idea that we should worry if ONE person would be left out was part of the whole reason for constitutional rights in the first place. How many, I wonder, is a "large fraction"?? I love how he basically acknowledges that this ruling results in an unconstitutional burden, risk, and deprivation of autonomy and privacy in SOME cases, just not apparently a large enough "fraction."

Also, I love how it says this decision "does not impose an undue burden" on exercising your constitutional right to end a pregnancy, but also reflects the state's "legitimate, substantial interest in preserving and promoting fetal life." [So the state regards itself as having a legitimate interest in women who want to have abortions, not having those abortions. Just great--but we knew that from Planned Parenthood v. Casey.] I love how it says that if there's major uncertainty in the medical community about whether prohibiting this procedure "creates significant health risks" -- well, that's no problem! The legislature now has the right to decide definitively in the face of medical uncertainty, settling it once and for all. Doesn't that make you happy?!

Also, check this -- probably the most grossly offensive part of the whole idiotic opinion. It totally reveals the egregious presumptions from which Kennedy is writing:
"It is self-evident that a mother who comes to regret her choice to abort must struggle with grief more anguished and sorrow more profound when she learns, only after the event, what she once did not know: that she allowed a doctor to pierce the skull and vacuum the fast-developing brain of her unborn child, a child assuming the human form." All of which lead up to this (unsurprising) statement, now the law of the land: "the government may use its voice and its regulatory authority to show its profound respect for the life within the woman." But not, it's abundantly clear, for the woman herself.
--------[end 2007 weltschmerz / begin 2008 weltschmerz]

Yep, I was pissed, and I'm still pissed. Salon has a great interview right now with an abortion doctor who's written an amazing-looking book called This Common Secret, about the real people she serves -- it's really worth reading. All these other brilliant bloggers-for-choice have done a fabulous job of showing the facts and the consequences of this bullshit rollback of human rights in the area of women's bodily self-determination... but I'm pissed off. So this is my day-late Election-Year Weltschmerz Blog for Choice, and in it I am going to say exactly what I think, and it causes me great weltschmerz that the terms of public discourse have been so co-opted that my position sounds extreme.

Abortion has been around forever, and it is not "rare," no matter what centrist Democrats would like to think. Around 40 percent of women in American will have an abortion at some point in their lives! (I can't even get with some of the stuff Frances Kissling of Catholics for a Free Choice says about this. I appreciate all the work she's done, but some of her rhetoric is still rooted in moral, which is to say religious and prescriptive, thinking about abortion as a choice.) We need to have it around! ABORTION IS GOOD.

Abortion is NOT in itself "sad;" in further news it is neither "selfish" NOR "selfless." Any of these emotions or value judgments that might be present in the set of circumstances around a particular abortion inhere in the circumstances, NOT in abortion as a medical procedure. Abortion IS the act of a person doing what is right for her in the area of life with THE greatest consequences: reproduction, parenthood, personal life, family life. This aspect to it, that it is the act of a person acting in her own interest, is what makes it a morally good act. It is specially serious because pregnancy is serious -- without an abortion, pregnancy makes TWO people (2, remember?) PARENTS. Responsible for a child.

I don't know about everyone else (actually, I do know about a lot of folks, hence the weltschmerz), but I believe that what's good for a society grows out of what's good for its members, on every level. If I got accidentally pregnant right now, I would in overwhelming likelihood have an abortion. And the only thing I'd feel guilty about is that because I live in New York and am privileged, I could make that happen for myself when so many women can't.

And no, a fetus is not a "member of society." (If Colorado decides it is in November, I will scream.) A baby is a member of society. After it's born! (Remember those? We don't hear as much about them in the news these days, unless it's to beat up on women who are fucking them up by doing _____[fill in blank].) Whether a woman wants to abort a fetus or have a baby is up to HER, and no one else. Whether some fun factoid about fetal development (yeah, I loved the movie, but Juno's "It has fingernails!" really pissed me off -- for one thing it's totally untrue, Juno was nowhere near 20 weeks, which is when it gets fingernails) is a charming, moving aspect of the mystical creation of a life taking place inside an expectant mother -- or a totally irrelevant, oppressive, disingenuous, propagandistic ploy to force a woman to abide by the decision-making framework of someone who is NOT HER -- depends on whether the woman wants to carry the pregnancy to term and give birth, or not. And nothing else.

I think a lot of our fucked-up-ed-ness around abortion comes out of this weird dual nature. It is at once a medical procedure like any other that should be the province of health-care providers, and it should be criminal to interfere with it for political reasons. At the same time, because of the physical capacity to reproduce that has been used by men to subjugate women for most of human history, we have this situation where women's ability to exercise the basic human right to bodily self-determination depends on this medical procedure and all the whole modern medico-juridical apparatus standing around it. On one hand, modernity is nice that way. Safe abortion, less risky than pregnancy and birth, exists. On the other hand, patriarchy advances along with progress, devising up-to-the-minute modern and postmodern ways to keep women -- all over the world -- down.

So, this January 23rd, after a full day of reading about the legal and policy issues in play, I say: FUCK THAT. Fuck the new anti-choice ploy to get young men who might otherwise realize that being pro-choice benefits them on their side by masquerading as touchy-feely pro-compassion faux-emo men's movement shit (which when you scratch it, is usually sexist!). Fuck the apparent new romantic-comedy genre of people who decide to go through with unwanted pregnancies and it all turns out fine (there's way more to be said about this, but fuck it until we have a genre where people get abortions and are happy and it all works out ok in the end!). And fuck Anthony Kennedy and the horse he rode in on. (And Hang On, Stevens.)

And work like hell -- everyone -- for the Democratic nominee for president, because we're already stuck with the 5 who are on the court now and their insulting excuses for jurisprudence, some of them for another couple of decades, but another 4-8 years of Republican judicial appointees would usher in an era of violence to all kinds of rights that I truly just don't want to imagine.

Monday, January 21, 2008

brushing up on women's political history

On Sunday evening as I was walking with my husband, T., to the station in Philadelphia, where I would board the train back to New York, we were debating talking about what Hillary Clinton's win (?in some terms but not others?) in Nevada might mean for the Democratic party and our chances of winning the general election in November. T. was expressing, as he does, the criticisms of Clinton that come out of a position typically (though not exclusively-I have been known to say this too sometimes) articulated by lefty white men for whom economic class tends to be the salient factor in how they judge the world around them (you know, in their college-age incarnation, the guys in Che shirts?), to wit: that Clinton's running for president in the first place is a signal of egregious "decay" for the republic. That electing her and bringing about a 'Bush, Clinton, Bush, Clinton' presidential succession would pile on nepotism on top of disgusting nepotism, that it would bespeak a total breakdown of our supposed-to-be-meritocratic electoral system, that it would be a long-ish slide down a slippery slope into outright hereditary political dynasty like they have in England or some shit, that it would be a black mark on America's name, like we don't have enough of those already.

I was talking about a lot of things I remember from the Clinton years in this conversation (more on that later), but in arguing about the "dynasty" issue on pure historical hunch, I pointed out that in a certain sense, according to a certain narrative, we have 'always known' that the first woman president would be a former first lady, because -- though it's a sad sign of sexism in itself, not ideal, not truly equitable at all -- that's how the first women in electoral offices in this country have gotten their jobs. I argued, from somewhere in the recesses of my feminist education, that the first woman Senator and the first woman Governor were both widows who were appointed to take their husbands' jobs -- and I was right.

I give you: The Election-Year Weltschmerz primer on women in electoral office in the United States!
First woman governor - 1925 - there were practically 2 at once!
Nellie Tayloe Ross, Wyoming - (info from Wikipedia)
In 1922 William Ross was elected governor of Wyoming by appealing to progressive voters in both parties. However, after little more than a year and a half in office, he died on October 2, 1924, from complications following an appendectomy. The Democratic Party then nominated his widow to run for governor in a special election the following month to succeed him.
Nellie Tayloe Ross refused to campaign, but easily won the race on November 4, 1924. On January 5, 1925, she became the first woman governor in the history of the United States. As governor she continued her late husband's policies, which called for tax cuts, government assistance for poor farmers, banking reform, and laws protecting children, women workers, and miners. She urged Wyoming to ratify a pending federal amendment prohibiting child labor. Like her husband, she advocated the strengthening of Prohibition laws.

She ran for re-election in 1926, but was narrowly defeated. Ross blamed her loss in part on the fact that she had again refused to campaign for herself and for her support for Prohibition. Nevertheless, she remained active in the Democratic Party and campaigned for Al Smith in the 1928 presidential election. She also served as vice chairman of the Democratic Party. Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed her as the first female director of the U.S. Mint on May 3, 1933

Miriam Ferguson - Texas - inaugurated 16 days after Ross, was governor twice!
(from Wikipedia) Miriam Amanda Wallace "Ma" Ferguson (June 13, 1875June 25, 1961) became the first female governor of Texas in 1925.[1] She was born in Bell County, Texas. Her husband, James Edward Ferguson, the governor from 1915 to 1917, was impeached, convicted, and removed from office during his second term. Under terms of the conviction, he was not allowed to hold state office again.[2] After her husband's impeachment and conviction, she ran as a Democrat for the office herself. During the campaign she said she would follow the advice of her husband and that Texas would get "two governors for the price of one."[3] Against what would have seemed insurmountable odds, another Ferguson was elected not only as governor, but the first woman governor of Texas.
During her first administration she averaged over 100 pardons a month, and accusations of both bribes and kickbacks overshadowed her term, resulting in unsuccessful attempts to impeach her. This led to her defeat in the primaries of both 1926 and 1930. However, she ran again in 1932. She narrowly won the Democratic nomination over incumbent Ross S. Sterling. She then defeated Republican Orville Bullington in the general election. Bullington fared stronger than most Texas Republican candidates did at that time. Her second term as governor was less controversial than her first.

First woman Senator - in 1922, Rebecca Latimer Felton served a 1 day term at the age of 87. She is the only woman Senator ever from Georgia. Her husband, who had died 13 years before, had been a US Representative. The governor of GA appointed her to fill the seat of a senator who died, until a special election, in order to win women's votes for himself in the special election. He lost the special election anyway, and the guy who beat him allowed her the honor of being sworn in. She and her husband both were huge populists, temperance, pro-state university, women's suffrage movt. social reformers. They were also deplorable, pro-lynching racists.

First woman Senator to serve a term - 1932 - (from Wikipedia)
Hattie Ophelia Wyatt Caraway (February 1, 1878December 21, 1950) was the first woman elected to serve as a United States Senator. Hattie Wyatt was born near Bakerville, Tennessee, in Humphreys County. She married Thaddeus H. Caraway and moved with him to Jonesboro, Arkansas where she cared for their children and home and her husband practiced law and started a political career. Her husband was elected to the United States House of Representatives as a Democrat in 1912 and served in that office until 1921 when he was elected to the United States Senate where he served until he died in office in 1931.
Arkansas Governor Harvey Parnell appointed Caraway to serve out the rest of her husband's unfinished term. She was sworn in to office on December 9, 1931 and was confirmed by a special election of the people on January 12, 1932 becoming the first woman elected to the United States Senate. (see also: Rebecca Latimer Felton).
Caraway made no speeches on the floor of the Senate but built a reputation as an honest and sincere Senator. She served a total of 14 years in the United States Senate, from 1931 until 1945, as a member of the Democratic Party. When she was invited by Vice President Charles Curtis to preside over the Senate she took advantage of the situation to announce that she would run for reelection. Populist Louisiana politician Huey Long travelled to Arkansas on a 9-day campaign swing to campaign for her. In 1938 she ran again for reelection against John L. McClellan and was victorious after receiving support from a successful coalition of veterans, women, and union members. She ran for a final time in 1944 and was defeated by J. William Fulbright. After leaving office she was appointed to the Federal Employees Compensation Commission and to the Employees Compensation Appeals Board .Caraway was a prohibitionist and voted against anti-lynching legislation along with many other southern Senators. She was generally a supporter of Franklin D. Roosevelt's economic recovery legislation.


I think it's interesting that these scenarios always seem to carry some kind of catastrophe -- the reigning male elected official is impeached or dies, leaving the ship of state rudderless, so to speak. This seems to create the circumstances under which people will elect a woman - perhaps drawing on some old-school virtuous-'savior' mythology? And also just a sense that the world is temporarily turned upside down, so why not this, too? There definitely seems to be a precedent for women in office coming out of disorder and crisis.

The first Senator to be elected outright, not appointed first, was Gladys Pyle in 1938 from South Dakota, also the first Republican -- she was never married, either -- and she was STILL elected in a special election to fill a vacancy caused by a senator's death, though not her husband's. (She had served in the state House and run for governor previously, though; she was a huge suffragist leader).

The first Democratic woman Senator to be elected, rather than appointed, was not elected until 1987 (!!). She is also a confirmed bachelorette - Barbara Mikulski from MD, who is still in there, the longest serving woman in the Senate.

I think it's interesting that if Clinton is elected president, it will be unlike any of these "firsts" in that a woman would be elected with a spouse who is alive -- although on a narrative level, the death of Bill Clinton still kind of lingers as a presumptive condition of her being in office, in a way that would kind of creep me out if I were him. (If I thought they were CRAZY as well as power-hungry, I would worry that he was planning on spectacularly staging his own death in the run-up to the general election....!! I do not think they are crazy, though.)

It may be that the most concrete gender 'progress' that we would see with a Clinton presidency, in terms of how women attain political office in this country, is that the previously-serving husband would not, in fact, have to die -- only to serve a previous term -- for a woman to get elected.

According to the set of tropes that emerges when we look at "firsts" of women in political office, Clinton's election would indicate -- maybe not "decay" as the Che-boys, who are justifiably angry about the obscene inequalities in opportunity and privilege in this country, call it -- but a crisis-level of disorder, power vacuum, uncertainty... a real sense of the world turned upside down and all the precedents gone, which was what was required for these other women to occupy these offices. If Clinton is nominated and/or elected, might that mean that according to a certain reading of the event, the whole Bush administration was experienced as a catastrophe on the order of a president dying in office?

I would argue, as I did to my husband on Sunday, that a former first lady becoming president is in nowhere near the same ballpark of corruption or 'decay' as a father/son presidential succession like that of the Bushes, which bespeaks no such crisis or revolution, no break with the patrilineal system that has been going on since, like, forever. In fact, I find it really sketchy that a first-lady succession is being tarred with the same brush of "dynasty" as Bush I/Bush II. It's actually pretty offensive to compare these "firsts" to the whole normative history of father/son succession, all the back into ancient times. Actually, sons have always inherited fathers' power. Wives inheriting their husbands' power has been a quirk of progress-couched-in-patronizing-caution or non-progress-vaunted-as-progress or... something. But it hasn't been the business of privilege as usual.

Also, I would point out that people are not raised by their spouses -- wives are not raised by their husbands. Powerful political couples like the Clintons, like the Doles, like the Feltons and Caraways before them, etc., are individuals who each come from their own set of circumstances and help each other out as adults; no matter what you think of Clinton's dependency on President Clinton, it's not a 1-way bestowing of advantages from the cradle. To equate this with Bush I/Bush II is basically to consider a wife as tantamount to her husband's child -- it tacitly assumes that her activities and capacities and what she can and can't accomplish are utterly shaped and determined by him. It implies that any woman who was married to Bill Clinton would be the Democratic front-runner for President 8 years after he left office. That's a pretty preposterously sexist underpinning to the whole "dynasty" objection.

As I said to T. on Sunday -- no, the first-lady-successor thing is not ideal, it's never been ideal, but in American politics it does seem to be how it goes. The list of women senators, representatives, and governors serving after successful husbands -- and true, also fathers, just as sons have always done -- is huge. Part of my point is illustrated by the fact that by being elected to the Senate when her husband was never a U.S. Senator, Hillary Clinton was still a ground-breaking politician (she's also the first woman from NY). The year she was inaugurated, 2001, was the year that the historical balance tipped and for the first time more of the (only 35, ever!) women Senators to serve in the whole history of the US had been elected than appointed to their seats. 2000 was the first time a woman has ever defeated a male incumbent Senator.

What's also interesting is that every single one of these women has ended up being boldly progressive in some ways, even if controversial, and even though unconscionably conservative in other ways, in her public service career. And maybe there's something culturally specific about that - i.e. no total tool-of-the-patriarchy Margaret Thatchers for us (perhaps because our actual conservative power structure is too dependent on retrograde gender ideologies for their power to ever nominate a woman, period).

Though it is deeply upsetting that several of these "first" women are so appalling on the issue of race... it feels like a warning sign from history: white women's "firsts" have, in fact, carried out discourses of 'white feminine virtue' versus 'black male savagery'. It's not like they ever campaigned for their offices, but you can't separate the anomalous gender positions in which they found themselves from their racist language.

It's not some activist fiction that the language white women have used to assert our right to participate in politics -- and when we have attained that right, the language in which we have performed and participated in politics -- has actively oppressed and sold out black people, especially black men. It's what happened.

White women's racism -- and everyone else's racism accumulating around white women, as it has always done -- is a specter that haunts what's happening now. More on this later.