Sunday, June 22, 2008

Lowered Expectations

I'd say Perrin has a decent handle on the masochistic nature of the Dem die-hards accepting Obama's capitulation on the FISA immunity bill. Although the "where ya gonna go" attitude obviously pervades both parties to some extent (though the Republicans have generally given more latitude to the fundie wing because they bring in money and voters with consistency), and Obama clearly believes this to be a tactical stance.

Who knows? Given the demonstrated brainpower of the creamy center of American political life, where people only comprehend a one-dimensional energy policy and the media still wonder aloud if some inbred Appalachian rube can handle a black preznit, there's not much to dispel the notion.

Then there's stuff like this, which sorta makes you wonder if giving women the vote was such a great idea:

So close and yet so far - that is the major stream of female thought in 2008 America. And nothing shows this better than two current cultural phenomena, Hillary Rodham Clinton's run for the presidency and box office hit "Sex and the City."

As phenomena go, Hillary's 18 million Democratic primary votes were an impressive feat, but the glass ceiling remains intact. Electing Hillary Clinton president would have been the single most powerfully liberating moment for American women ever. It was not to be. And while she scored many more female voters than her rival, that rival earned a whopping 90 percent of the vote cast by his own affinity group, African Americans.

Meanwhile, more millions of women (by a factor of four) have rushed to the nation's theaters to see "Sex and the City" than the millions of women who voted for Hillary in the primaries. And yes, it's mostly women and gay men who are "Sex" fans - most straight men wouldn't admit they saw the film, if they saw it at all.


More realistically, or at least seemingly so, traditional feminists tend to be armed with age and experience and sturdier shoes. They've been aiming for a bigger prize of elective and executive power much of their lives. They are determined to finally smash that barrier to the nation's highest office, for all it represents. They are the ones who laid the difficult groundwork for many of the workplace and lifestyle benefits that enable the younger, nontraditional types to go for the glass slipper instead.

Many of these women were ardent Hillary supporters. They are still suffering from shellshock. One of them tells me that it may be a while before she can clearly voice the depth and shape of her feelings. She feels both a profound sadness and a hot rage at the injustices she saw Hillary endure for months from both the media and from the Democratic Party. She says she feels like she has witnessed a metaphorical witch-burning over the past months, an event from which she cannot turn her eyes away. She feels that the party coddled a less experienced man into position while simultaneously shredding Hillary's character in the public imagination.

Kee-rist. "Suffering from shellshock". "It may be a while before she can clearly voice the depth and shape of her feelings". "Metaphorical witch-burning". Oh my. It goes on like that. Somewhere in sitcom heaven, Archie Bunker is rolling his eyes with a pained, dyspeptic expression, uttering those immortal words.

"Wouldja please stifle yaself, dingbat?"

Funny how we've heard so many of these tedious plaints about how poor Hillary was mercilessly calumniated by her own party, by a feckless media, by her naïve whelp of an opponent, yet there never seem to be any specifics, just these handwringing histrionics about how unfair it all was, and how all these would be Lysistratas are going to get back at us by voting for Poor Old Straight Talk. Never mind that Hillary, a lifelong pro as we were incessantly reminded, gave as good as she got every step of the way, wielding the smarmy innuendo club with barely-concealed passion.

Bullshit. Look, you really feel all that worked up from your "shellshock" and what-not over the "witch-burning", then fucking do it already. Vote for McCain, see what that gets ya. Climb out of everyone's ass and get on with your lives already. Go watch Sex and the City again or something.

That rage is particularly acute when discussing both mainstream and "progressive" media. Traditional feminists expected sexist attacks from the right, but not alleged lefty Chris Matthews saying that Hillary would never have been elected to the Senate had her husband not cheated.

The wound is opened anew when one of the most well-known exemplars of mainstream television suddenly dies and is revered as a "colossus" of journalism. This is the same man, the late Tim Russert, who chuckled benevolently when one of his guests, Christopher Hitchens on "Meet the Press," repeatedly called Hillary Clinton a "bitch." This is the same news icon who was satirized on "Saturday Night Live" as pitching softballs to Barack Obama and double whammy corkscrew change-ups to Hillary when he moderated a nationally televised debate. Women won't forgive him, even as he's laid to rest.

Who's alleging that Chris Matthews is a "lefty"? He had Ann Coulter on for a full fucking hour the last time she pumped out another retread two-ply manifesto. And Russert, who knows? He may have voted Democrat if he was serious about his working-class roots, but there's no guarantees there. He may not have even voted; a lot of Serious Journamalists abstain to maintain that veneer of objectivity.

The nut of all these whinges that have been coming out is this -- women will forgive pretty much any transgression imaginable, but if there's a perceived insult to a perpetually aggrieved self-selecting demo, well, it's on, chump. Russert had been a faithful lackey for many a year, allowing any and all sorts of liars and miscreants to snuggle up and peddle their line. But he let a professional contrarian tosspot get away with using the b-word. Now there's a problem.

It's not nice, and it's not fair. But it's also not Obama's doing. Objectively what they're saying is that they'd rather throw the election to John McCain and let him lawn-dart the country for another four years because Tim Russert chuckled when Christopher Hitchens called Hillary Clinton a bitch. Perhaps if they said this aloud to themselves in front of a mirror while trying on the Manolos and the Vera Wang, they would understand better how stupid that is. It doesn't even qualify as a line of reasoning. Why not just break into Obama's house and boil a pet rabbit, and be done with it?

This whole internal monologue about the glass ceiling and the glass slipper or whatever would be more helpful if just one (1) of these angry bra-burners could point to any other female, from either party, who would be a viable presidential candidate. It would be even more helpful if any of them managed to ascribe any level of importance to any one of her actual policies or positions, rather than just her plumbing.

The fact is, whether or not one chooses to believe that Hillary Clinton's political career was launched by the fallout generated by her husband getting blown by the help (but, you know, spanking it out in the sink, because coming in her mouth would have been cheating), her viability as a presidential candidate was in great part fueled by who she is, and by who he is. That's not to minimize her ability as a senator; she has proven to be as intelligent and resourceful a person as one could want in government, though too establishmentarian for her own good in the end. And she was the anointed front-runner for almost all of 2007. If she had gotten the nomination, a lot of people wouldn't have liked it, but they would have voted for her nonetheless. But in the end a narrow margin of people decided they liked Obama just a little better. That's how it works. Deal with it.

I have no illusions about being in the presence of greatness; truly great people tend to avoid the mendacious world of politics like the plague. I want the person who is going to do the least amount of harm to an already grievously wounded country, and right now that person is Barack Obama. I couldn't care less about race or gender. But for those people for whom identity politics trumps common sense, you'd think that having an embarrassment of diverse riches in their party's candidates (not only Clinton and Obama, but Bill Richardson, who is Hispanic, and Dennis Kucinich, who is of either elf or halfling stock) would be enough. Nope. It's all about them.

I have no idea how this all ultimately plays out in an extraordinary American season which is testing the limits of both misogyny and racism and consumerism in our culture. But while thinking about it all, I had the most fabulous phone call from one of the listeners to my radio show.

She and her female friends, most of them Hillary supporters in their 80s, were getting dressed up to go out for cocktails, dinner and a movie. Cosmopolitans, that's what they'd drink, just like Carrie and Samantha.

These women had been friends forever and would wear their fashionable and stylish best, perhaps Chanel vintage and a plumed, bejeweled, velvet pillbox, albeit with comfortable shoes.

You see, they haven't been content, ever, in their lives. They'd always wanted to both shatter the glass ceiling and to possess the glass slipper. They don't know how they'll vote in the fall. They're still trying to figure that out, but I bet you can guess what movie they went to see.

I sure can. I bet it's that one where Brando jams that stick of butter in that broad's poop-chute (which would make her a Samantha, because Charlotte's a good girl and Miranda's too much of a ballbusting control freak and....uh, so I've heard, hey, what about them Celtics?), because of that frisson of sexual liberation it connotes.

No seriously, I can't muster up the energy to give half a fuck why I should care what some addled dowagers who still aren't sure how they plan to vote have to say as they wallow in manufactured self-pity. It is a nice statement that this country can grow up and get over itself to nominate and/or elect a woman and/or a minority as president. It really is.

So if you're so bloody concerned about your precious diversity, why would you even jokingly threaten to go for the old white guy, and a belligerent, ignorant coot at that? Anyone making such a comment, whatever their degree of, ferchrissake, "shellshock", betrays themselves as callow, unserious. Maybe even hysterical and emotional.

And is the world really clamoring for yet another of these warmed-over too-clever-by-half SatC metaphors, another stale panegryic to some post-feminist consumer-fetishist erotomanic version of womynhood? Isn't one Maureen Dowd quite more than enough?

The thing that really pisses me off about the stream of inane anecdotal profiles such as this, aside from the cheesy pop-culture analogies, is how condescending it truly is to women. It emphasizes the perception of superficiality, of vindictiveness, of petty self-aggrandizement and of retributive fantasies. Any demographic painted with such a tendentious broad brush is being unfairly maligned, because anyone conflating a serious decision-making process with a meringue rom-com would have to be a damned fool. Jesus Christ, why not just let Kung Fu Panda make your decisions for you?


Dr. Know said...

Wow! Feel better?
I do. ;-)

Marius said...

I wouldn't say we should have second thoughts about giving women the vote; if anything, they have shown that a good deal of them are as unqualified to live in a free republic as some of their male counterparts--they just don't get what voting for a candidate is supposed to be about.

But I entertain plenty of doubts about allowing women intellectuals to publish. This lady you quoted amply from sure could have used a class or two in logic and argumentation theory back in college; she probably went all out on Derrida, French Bullshit, and other European anti-rationalists. As a result, all she has to offer is tedious, warmed-over shit forged in the era of identity politics and collectivist shit like that: she's still stuck in the paradigm of symbolic figures, rather than statistical figures. She falls for the fallacy that electing one of them is all that matters, even though few other women have a realistic chance of succeeding in politics or the high echelons of business and administration. But no, it's all about the "message" that electing HRC would send, and the "empowering" empowerment that having a woman in the White House would represent--nevermind that women in general still make about 81% of the money guys make for the same amount of work.

Stuck in the Nineties, she lashes out at more laid-back women who don't seem to care about the symbolic significance of having that woman elected--a woman who didn't blink at using the worst lib-baiting strategies and cracker-friendly messages to disparage somebody who was a non-entity when she began her campaign. Rather than point out that fact, and lament Hillary's mistakes (how the hell do you lose a race when you start out as Mrs Inevitable?), they choose to blame The Man and the ungrateful uppities who just won't let them womyn succeed.