Thursday, September 27

:: The Ugly, and Non-Naked, American

Sexist is as sexist does - even if you write for Salon's Broadsheet.

Yesterday, a short article appeared in Salon (in the stupidly named "Broadsheet" section on lady issues) about the Women's Party of Poland. Formed about a year ago by a group of electeds, activists and card-carrying members of the intelligentsia, the Women's Party is competing in the October 21 national election. A decent article about them appears here.

But Salon didn't focus on the Women's Party's ideas, nor on their electoral prognosis. Instead, Tracy Clark-Flory, one of Broadsheet's (did I mention how much I hate that name?) resident "feminists," chose to focus - exclusively - on their current ad campaign. Here's a taste:
How best to advertise Poland's newfound Women's Party? Nude chicks, of course! That seems to be the thinking behind the party's latest billboard, which features seven of its candidates in their birthday suits. A handful of the candidates cover their private bits with a sign reading, "The party of women. Poland is a woman." Two other women sit in the forefront, curled up to conceal themselves.

Manuela Gretkowska, founder of the Women's Party, explains: "This poster is intended to shatter stereotypes in the anachronistic world of politics, which is more often dominated by uncommunicative men with their black tie outfits." She continues, "We are beautiful, nude, proud. We are true and sincere, body and soul. This is not pornography, there is nothing to see in terms of sex, our faces are intelligent, concerned, proud."
The Salon piece is titled "Poland's Female Politicos Disrobe" and appears to be based solely on the article "Polish Women Strip Off in Bid to Woo Voters," from the U.K. tabloid The Telegraph. But the "lookit - nude chicks!" attitude is straight outta the frat house. And the rest of the Salon article is even more cringe-worthy. I'll get just get out of the way and quote it in its entirety:
Their decision to publicly disrobe might make more sense in light of the conservative government's tight restrictions on abortion -- the billboard could possibly, by a stretch of the imagination, be seen as a statement that women own their own bodies. But it certainly doesn't seem to "shatter stereotypes"; instead, it seems to bolster them. Is flashing your flesh the only way to be noticed or taken seriously as a woman -- wouldn't refusing such cheap ploys do a better job of seizing power from the "uncommunicative men with their black tie outfits"?

Playing to the lowest common denominator as a means of getting brief, hysterical attention hardly seems any more communicative. In fact, it seems a surefire way of causing anachronistic male politicians to simply shrug and wave off those silly female candidates.
I let my thoughts on this gestate overnight, and this morning birthed a lengthy letter to Salon that I fully realize no one will read. And yet, this seemed like a good way to spend my time. Now I post it here, for only three people to read. Still, I think Zippy especially will have a laugh, so here goes:
Given the choice between trusting the judgment of Clark-Flory versus that of the Women's Party - a group of intelligent and experienced activists, politicians, writers, etc. who live and breathe Polish politics - the smart money's on the Women's Party to know what's what.

Note to Clark-Flory: the next time you're thinking about publicly slagging off a group of accomplished women's rights activists you know nothing about, working in a political environment you know nothing about, consider at least calling one of them (on Salon's dime) to pose your critique and ask for a response rather than judging them by an article in the Telegraph. Or is that too much to ask? Its not for nothing that European feminists criticize their American sisters for being superficial, ignorant of different political cultures and lacking in solidarity.

With regard to the Women's Party's electoral situation: Poland's national elections are scheduled to take place on October 21st. The current ruling party, PiS (Law & Justice - just a hair's breadth from fascist) is polling significantly ahead of their closest competitor, the center-right party Civic Platform. If things go as expected, PiS will have to form a coalition government, which will be difficult because they have alienated most of their former allies. In this equation, the support of even the smallest parties is key. I believe I read that the Women's Party is currently polling at 3 to 5% of the vote, with 5% being the threshhold for joining the Parliament.

Under the PiS, Poland has veered sharply right wing, not only defying the European courts with regard to abortion but also cracking down on liberal educators and the rights of gays and lesbians, fomenting anti-semitism, opposing the EU's anti-death penalty consensus, and so on.

It is in this context that the Women's Party is trying to rally support for a different way of life - one in which women (and men) have autonomy, individuality and self-expression are valued, and the culture more closely resembles that of Western and Northern Europe and less so that of Putin's Russia.

I don't think the Women's Party effort has much to do with American-style consumer culture objectification of women. These are strong, intelligent, confident women who are presenting themselves as such.

Among their concerns is the fact that there are some powerful women who hold public office in Poland who don't know or care much about women's rights. The Women's Party is saying that they will do good things politically, and that they won't forget they are women / abandon women's rights once they are elected.

Their makeup and hairstyles - as well as their evident comfort with their own bodies - indicates they are modern rather than traditional, part of the future rather than the past.

In addition, the honesty vs. corruption issue is very, very important in Poland, and the partial nudity (nothing to hide) and accentuation of their "femaleness" (there, as here, women tend to be seen as more trustworthy in politics) get that message across uniquely and powerfully.

Of course, such an ad campaign would be a laughing stock in the United States, where for the most part admitting you are a feminist is still taboo and women in the public eye are viewed first and foremost as sex objects.

And of course, there will be plenty of immature people who will point and snicker. Lowbrow media types will report on the Women’s Party solely because of the nudity, and will denigrate them as nothing more than the empty-headed perpetrators of a “sexy” publicity stunt (recognize yourself, Broadsheet?)

Note to Clark-Flory: its easy to be derisive and shallow. Its more difficult to be insightful and generous. Your job may reward the former, but the latter is good for the soul.

Oh dear. I think I just paraphrased a Smiths song.
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Sunday, September 23

:: Classy Move

Mayor Jerry Sanders (R) of San Diego announced that he's changed his position. It's a repetitive, rambling announcement, yes, but moving too. On a catty side note, what's up with his wife's plastic posture?

Thanks, Peter, for pointing this out.

P.S. I learned how to post video! I'm so proud...

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Wednesday, September 19

:: Arrrrh!

Ahoy, lassies! It's International Talk Like a Pirate Day. If ciccina refuses to post any Fred updates, and noone else has anything to add, then I can only say ARRRHHH!! Read more!

Thursday, September 13

:: The Daily Fred, Thursday Edition

Your Fred Thompson gaffe du jour - because with each passing day, it just gets better and better

Okay, this guy is making it just too easy - so easy, in fact, that I can post The Daily Fred and stay true to my lazy nature. He appears to be constitutionally unable to prepare himself for questions. Is there any subject in which he has expertise? Is there any conflict during which he pays attention? He's actually giving Bush a run for his money in the hoof-in-mouth department.

Today's entry is: "Thompson Gives No Opinion on Schiavo" courtesy of the AP. Emphasis added. And this is in Florida, no less.
THE VILLAGES, Fla. - Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson gave no opinion Thursday when asked about efforts by President Bush and Congress to keep Terri Schiavo alive, saying he does not remember details of the right-to-die case that stirred national debate.

Thompson was asked in an interview for Bay News 9's "Political Connections" program whether he thought Congress' intervention to save the life of the brain-damaged woman two years ago was appropriate.

"I can't pass judgment on it. I know that good people were doing what they thought was best," Thompson said. "That's going back in history. I don't remember the details of it."
Tee hee hee! Hee hee! I love it. Read more!

:: The Most Unexpected Places

Today I alert you to a George Will column that is mightily entertaining. In it Will expresses his utter frustration with Fred Thompson, candidate. It is but one of a cluster of pieces by conservative and "non-partisan" pundits rapping Thompson for being sub-par on an ever-growing number of counts. I myself was thinking of posting a daily "Today's Fred" item on whatever new nonsense he was spouting - it occurs that frequently. And then I remembered that I am lazy.

My favorite part of this column is the bit about campaign finance reform... emphasis added.

He also is unfamiliar with the details of his own positions. Consider his confusion the next day when talk radio host Laura Ingraham asked him about something he ardently supported -- the McCain-Feingold expansion of government regulation of political speech. His rambling, incoherent explanation was just clear enough to be alarming about what he believes, misremembers and does not know.

Thompson said he had advocated McCain-Feingold to prevent, among other things, corporations and labor unions from "giving large sums of money to individual politicians." But corporate and union contributions to individual candidates were outlawed in 1907 and 1947, respectively.

Ingraham asked about McCain-Feingold's ban on issue ads that mention a candidate close to an election. He blamed an unidentified "they" who "added on" that provision, which he implied was a hitherto undiscussed surprise. But surely he knows that bills containing the ban had been introduced in previous sessions of Congress before passage in 2002.

In 1997, Thompson chaired a Senate committee investigating 1996 election spending. In its final report, issued in 1998, Thompson's committee recommended a statutory "restriction on issue advocacy" during "a set period prior to an election" when the speech includes "any use of a candidate's name or image." And in 1999, Thompson co-sponsored legislation containing what became, in 2002, the McCain-Feingold blackout periods imposed on any television or radio ad that "refers to" a candidate for federal office -- a portion of which the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional in June.

Thompson, contrary to his current memories, was deeply involved in expanding government restrictions on political speech generally and the ban on issue ads specifically. Yet he told Ingraham, "I voted for all of it," meaning McCain- Feingold, but said "I don't support that" provision of it.

Oh? Why, then, did he file his own brief urging the Supreme Court to uphold McCain-Feingold, stressing Congress's especially "compelling interest" in squelching issue ads that "influence" elections?

Sweet. Read more!