Wednesday, January 23

:: How She Move

An off-hand sexist comment about Hillary
turns out to be my last straw.
Behold my fury.
The setting:

I have become dependent on the website Pollster.com. I love that site. It has poll numbers. All the poll numbers. It has great analysis. It has none of the bombast that makes sites like Politico unbearable. The pollster who runs it, Mark Blumenthal, seems like a really good guy. He shares - for free - expertise that we used to have pay a lot for, and even after paying, sometimes didn't get (Mr. Garin). It doesn't have a very active comments area, but the comments that are posted are usually very brief and on topic. Active campaigning (Ron Paul Rulez!) is discouraged.

Now, join me as I relive my brief foray beyond the brink.


The trigger:

A totally ordinary post about the latest South Carolina poll numbers. Several comments were posted, including this one, from a fellow named "Joseph":
I think ultimately the votes will tell. There is still a considerable amount of racism and sexism in the south so I guess we'll just see which is more prevalent. I like Obama myself, as I've never seen Hilary as qualified as anything except a sellout in the cause of women having their self respect. She only stayed with Bill because her political boat would sink without being able to be towed by his political tug boat.

I've pretty much had it with anti-Hillary folk insulting huge swaths of women... this is in fact a peeve of mine with regard to Obama supporters. They seem to think that proclaiming, for months, at the top of their actual and virtual lungs, that Hillary is against change and akin to GWB, is not "negative," and they generally won't acknowledge that this is divisive messaging that is insulting to Hillary supporters, namely me. But more importantly, the god damn frigging omnipresent sexism! Anyway, I tried to be good:

To Joseph, who wrote: "I like Obama myself, as I've never seen Hilary as qualified as anything except a sellout in the cause of women having their self respect. She only stayed with Bill because her political boat would sink without being able to be towed by his political tug boat."

It sounds as though you think any woman - or man, I presume - who sticks with a spouse after infidelity has no self respect. That's very insulting to an awful lot of people who have gone through a wrenching situation not (generally) of their own making. Just fyi, keep this in mind the next time you say this. I'm sure you don't mean to be insulting, but people can take this sort of thing awfully personally - particularly older women, for whom divorce was greatly stigmatized, especially if there were children, and who might have had limited employment opportunities, less ability to borrow money or get credit, etc.

Also, its really a pretty bad thing to define a woman solely or primarily by her marriage. Are we saying Giuliani, McCain, etc. have sold out men with their marital behavior? Are we saying they shouldn't be president primarily because of their marital conduct? Of course not. We recognize them as multifaceted individuals, even if we disagree with their politics.

Well, same goes for women, my friend. Each of us is defined by more than just our relationship to a man. As it happens, Hillary is a US Senator, which makes her at least as qualified for the office of President as Barack.

Last, I'd like to suggest that you shouldn't purport to know the interior motives of anyone who is part of such a long term relationship. Especially someone you don't personally know.

I hope you take these comments as no more than an attempt to share a different perspective.

Joseph replied:

To reply to Ciccina, I didn't really find it necessary to expand my point, but Hilary isn't one of these classic examples of a woman who would face shame and social dismissal because of divorce. She seems to me to be a woman who continues with a marriage of political convenience for the sake of her own political career. Their child, Chelsea, is grown and has her own life now so I don't think she's staying with Bill for her sake.

It may be that they have this undying love for each other, speaking about Bill and Hilary, but I don't think this is the case. Certainly, a respect and a truce of sorts, but that would be the majority.

I wouldn't presume to make assumptions about other peoples reasons for staying with someone who cheats on them. I've stuck it out myself once so would not be inclined to pass judgement on someone for doing so.

A question to ask yourself though, would a divorced wife of the former President Bill Clinton have suceeded in her bid for office in the New York senatorial race? Not to say that she wasn't qualified as she would seem to be at least well qualified for a senators position if judged by the character and intelligence of her counterparts. I simply don't like people who stay together out of political expedience and use their relationship as a mechanism by which to attempt to win elections.

As for the other candidates, I think each individual can vote or not vote for who they choose for whatever reasons they have. Guilianini was a bit of a disgrace to office pre-9/11, but came out of it all dipped in gold. Would I vote for him? Unlikely, unless he was facing Hilary. Then it's the lesser of evils.

Character assasinations don't work if everyone whose voting only voted based on a person's political merits. We already know how effective these types of tactics can be though.

I personally, find that the character a person displays in their personal life "almost" inevitably leads to the character with which they will conduct themselves in their business or political life be it in the open or behind closed doors.

I recognize your response as a diffrent opinion and only offer this as an expansion of my own original cliff noted opinion. :)

Hmm. Not really what I expected. Mixed messages there. He totally didn't get it. A commenter named Paula di Lauro (paesan!) picked up on this:
So, in a post about the latest poll numbers, we get the following remarks:

"I like Obama myself, as I've never seen Hilary as qualified as anything except a sellout in the cause of women having their self respect. She only stayed with Bill because her political boat would sink without being able to be towed by his political tug boat."

"I simply don't like people who stay together out of political expedience and use their relationship as a mechanism by which to attempt to win elections."

"Would I vote for him (Guiliani)? Unlikely, unless he was facing Hilary. Then it's the lesser of evils."

And, of course, the writer goes to some lengths to persuade us that he's neither a lame sexist, a Republican shill, or a pathological Clinton-hater. No, just another of those terribly virtuous folk who live to tear the scales from our eyes when it comes to the Clintons, especially Mrs. Clinton.

She was far pithier than I was, or would be.

The next relevant comment was from a fellow named Henry, who had posted a long (but not as long as mine! I win!) comment speculating about what would happen next with South Carolina poll numbers, actual votes, and subsequent bounce going into Super Tuesday. He was not happy that no one had addressed his points. He wrote:
First, Re: Paula di Lauro (above),

Yes, and we also get comments actually analyzing the poll numbers, such as mine above. But apparently it's more important for you to highlight these comments that you deride than those which you purport by inference to prefer. Then you proceed to make broad cynical assumptions about what you feel are someone's intentions.

How unfortunate all of this is for the relevant discussion at hand.

He then restated the high points of his previous comment. Apparently the irony of criticizing someone for their "broad cynical assumptions about what you feel are someone's intentions" in response to a comment that was noting someone's broad cynical assumptions about someone else's intentions was lost on Henry. Still, I felt kind of bad that he was ignored, so as usual I picked out the parts I disagreed with and replied with the most respectfully candidate- neutral language I could muster:

Dear Henry,

I thought your post was intriguing, but I didn't feel I had anything to add to it. But this would have been (and now is) my response.

With regard to: "it would seem that much of Clinton's voter base is composed of less [politically] educated folks who are supporting her because, to grossly over-summarize, they recognize the name the most and remember Bill Clinton with some relative fondness."

As surveys of likely voters go, my guess is that voters over "a certain age" can compare the regimes of Reagan / Bush I to Clinton and know what a difference the Clintons made. Even though you acknowledge this as a gross oversimplification, I still think its way too reductive to call this name recognition + relative fondness. In my case, this is a politically informed, considered (albeit disagreeable to many) position. By contrast, the twenty-something Obama supporters, who became sentient (as I like to say) in their teens, can't compare the Clinton years to the economic depravity and asocial zeitgeist of the 80s (IMHO, of course). To them the Clintons are year zero, the pre-existing status quo. So in that sense one might say that they are less politically educated than older Clinton supporters.

Further, Obama's supporters skew upper income, so you could hypothesize that they are more insulated from the impact of income inequality, lack of health care, loss of jobs - hell, even on reproductive rights, its lower income women who pay the price of the anti-abortion "chipping away" strategy (24 hour waiting periods, driving rural providers out of business, defunding Planned Parenthood); for upper income women who periodically publish their anti-Hillary opinions in Slate, for example, its more of an esoteric issue. So one might say that upper income voters are *less* politically educated in terms of the true impact of policy positions; the evidence for this would be their failure to assign the appropriate value to pragmatic, if prosaic, policy solutions (again, IMHO).

Which is just to say that there are a lot of ways to interpret the numbers.

re: "On the other hand, it seems that as people become more knowledgeable of who Obama is as a candidate and a person (or the same for Edwards), they see him as more relatively attractive compared with Clinton."

Again, I differ. I don't want to harp on Obama here but I'll point to two items making the media rounds right now, post debate: his statement about supporting universal health coverage paired with the video clip of his 2003 AFL speech, and the meme that *both* candidates are now mudslinging (which undermines the message that his is a "different" kind of politics). The latter puts Obama in a real bind - as every errant child knows, "she started it" will only take you so far, and "I have to stoop to their level to win" isn't a great message either.

The complaint his campaign made to the Nev. democratic party will keep alive in the press counter-examples of inappropriate behavior by overly enthusiastic Obama supporters (they must be 'fair and balanced,' after all). Also Rezko is being covered more, paired with the news that Obama's camp held on to some of that money until relatively recently. At a minimum this mishegas steps on Obama's message that contributions, subsequently returned, from Hsu or other nefarious evil-doers are evidence of Clinton's corruption / poor character.

Clinton's decision to walk away from SC is the ultimate in lowballing expectations. And Obama, by leaning so hard on imagery that implies he is the inheritor of Dr. King's legacy, has paved the way for a media storyline that says SC black voters "only voted for him because he was black" (which is just as insulting and demeaning as the "NH women only voted for Hillary because she cried" BS). But I guess the press would have gone there anyway, eventually. Either way, its wrong, but some people will hear it and that's not a positive development (for anyone).

Of course I can point to no data to back any of this up, thus defeating the purpose of posting these overly long comments in a blog dedicated to polling.

Bask in my wisdom, you three. Did you catch the reference to Kate & Frances? I enjoyed that.

But keep reading... I wasn't finished yet. I also posted the following, an outburst of the frustration that's been simmering inside me for months....
But while I'm at it...

Joseph:

Surely you can see Paula's point about the double standard?

No one says that McCain's decision to cheat on his first wife, a former model who suffered a disfiguring accident while he was in Vietnam, with a beautiful 17-years younger millionairess, whom he subsequently married with the knowledge that her socially prominent father would bankroll his political career, reflects poor character that proves he is unqualified to be anything but a spokesperson for selfish male behavior.

Further, no one even says that this is a major blemish to his character. Nor does anyone ever say that McCain got to the position he's in now because of his wife, though we all know how important early money is to a novice candidate. It wouldn't be out of line to say that without that early money and social support - because of the person he married - McCain wouldn't be where he is today - but no one ever says that about him, do they?

Almost no one says that Giuliani's appalling performance as a husband - the cousin-marriage, the tele-divorce, the galavanting around town like a priapic - dare I say it - ferret, proves he's unqualified to be anything other than the poster child for a freakshow. You yourself say you'd vote for him over Hillary because of her character - and Hillary isn't even the one who cheated!

Even Dr. King is said, by sources including David Garrow, to have cheated. No one says this invalidates his status as a paragon of morality - because that, after all, only concerns his marriage, not his public life. And lord knows that among those who believe this, no one, but no one, says Coretta Scott King lacked self respect because she stayed with him. What really matters are his civic contributions, his leadership, his ideas - not the alleged personal misbehavior.

Your claim to know Hillary's inner motivations doesn't wash. This isn't about your special insights into her psychology; its about the different value placed on the personal behavior of women relative to men.

This is what I mean by defining a woman - even a woman as accomplished as Hillary Clinton - first and foremost by how she relates to a man, while simultaneously defining a man by his achievements, not by his relationship with his wife / girlfriend / 2nd cousin. Which is patently sexist, and, in case it needs to be said, wrong.

This goes right along with all those disingenuous folk who claim Hillary has no real experience other than her time in the Senate. Because of course before then she was "just a wife," right? And wives never do anything important - they just fritter away their time pouring tea, right? Never mind her legal work in the area of children's rights. Never mind her accomplishments reforming education in Arkansas. Never mind everything she delivered for women as first lady, nor her work in establishing S-Chip. That doesn't count because she was "just a wife" and not an elected office holder.

Meanwhile, its okay to crow about Obama's time as a community organizer and "civil rights lawyer"; Edwards is praised for his prowess as a trial lawyer standing up to the big corporations; Romney is praised for his business acumen, or his executive hair, I'm not sure. None of which, except possibly the hair, happened while they held elected office.

That's the double standard in action; a pristine example of sexism.

Sorry to go on about this, but like homophobia, anti-semitism, racism, etc., I think there is value in confronting this sort of thing in situ.

I was pretty sure as I posted this that I'd probably get myself banned from pollster.com for abuse of the comments section. But hell, its worth it, I thought, in the spirit of a thousand charred bridges. Luckily subsequent comments, so far, haven't called for my banishment.

But really, the freaking god damn fucking sexism is just unbearable. And not only that, but the invisibility of the sexism - i.e. the active and tacit support of it - is overwhelming. Have any of you noticed that when Obama talks about bringing Americans together, about how none of our hands are clean, he'll mention racism, homophobia, anti-semitism... and never sexism or violence against women? Please, correct me if I'm wrong, because I don't want to be right about this. Has anyone pointed this out? I'm asking this for real, because I can't bear to read Broadsheet and other feminst-ish sites lately.

Regardless of whether you prefer the policy positions of Edwards, Clinton, Obama or whomever, we are neck-deep in the biggest public throwdown on how our society judges women since 1973. And most of our feminist leaders - the old guard represented by Kate & Frances and the cooler-than-you "third wave" crowd - are completely AWOL. The groups, such as they are, are silent. Would it kill them to say that people of good will could disagree on the policy issues etc. of the candidates, but this sexism we will not abide? On one side of the divide you have women in the trenches - blue collar women, the women who shaped policy during the Clinton administration; on the other side you have our insanely sexist media and a sizable cadre of young and middle aged Democratic men who are supposed to be beyond this; and off to the side, babbling among themselves, the feminist dilettantes complaining that Hillary is either too mannish (Kate & Frances) or too girlish (Kate & Frances). It really makes me feel like I've wasted my time cohorting with some of these people.

2 comments:

ladybec said...

You haven't lost me - I kept checking every day to see when you would resurface to share your brilliance, and today I was finally rewarded! Lots to ponder and respond to in this fabulous post, which I do not have time to do now, but hopefully will later today. So glad you're back online and can't wait 'til Buffy gets back to town. Now if only Zippy comes to visit, we could have an in-person gathering of the Canary community...

zippy said...

Ok, you did lose me. I am always amazed about how you can write such long and cogent posts, when I can't write two paragraphs without checking my email! (Even now, I should be finishing a memo for a colleague...)

But I join LadyBec in being relieved to see two posts in such a short period of time. I'm so bummed I won't be there to celebrate with you this weekend. Thank the gods it is the first time in weeks that I'll be home for the weekend! But I will be there the long weekend in Feb. for my sister's baby shower. Perhaps then...?