Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Primary Lessons

If it's a Tuesday during Winter 2008, it must mean there's been a primary. So far Obama has taken Wisconsin, with expectations that he'll also take Hawaii. Some thoughts, not all together relevant to either candidate:

1. Plagiarism. Hmmm...I'm going to say it's not "plagiarism" by definition if you use some speech points your friend used. It's not too smart, but it's not plagiarism. I'm sure I use some lines in this blog that I originally heard from one of you, and if I remember how I learned it I'll generally say, 'As my girl Jen says." But otherwise I'm just talking...and I'm probably plagiarizing your words. If the HRC campaign combed this blog they would no doubt find entries where I used someone else's words, however unintentionally. Furthermore: now comes HRC to say, "It's not us saying this, it's the media saying it." Helloooo?! It was the Clinton campaign conference call on which Howard Wolfson announced the "disturbing similarities!!" Further, furthermore, is it plagiarism if your OWN campaign will not go on record assuring voters that YOU have not used another's words in any remarks? You are accusing someone of doing something that you are not even willing to say that you yourself have not done! So why are we talking about this? Oh right. Because Obama is "running on his rhetoric." Really? I'm actually voting for him based on his ideas and his policy positions, as are most people I know. I'd be stunned to find anyone who is voting for him based on the fact that he gives a great speech, as if they'd vote for him even if his great speech was filled with calls for more troops to Iraq, more greenhouse gases, and tax cuts for everyone with incomes over $750,000. Please. They knew they were close in Wisconsin so they threw out something disparaging that could eat up a whole news cycle on the eve of a primary election. I look forward to hearing from "the media" on March 3rd that Barack Obama is a lousy tipper. (For thoughts from a former speechwriter, click here: theatlantic.com)

2. Sexism. I've been thinking of Hillary recently in the context of sexism. Honestly, she is not my preferred candidate (as you have no doubt surmised these last few weeks), but I also think it's important to say that sexism is absolutely a part of why some people dislike her. When the media discusses her laugh as a "a cackle" or disparages her when she cries (how about we have a laugh fest next time George Bush tears up while saluting Old Glory and then let's characterize his stupid frat-boy snickering laugh as just that on national TV, shall we?), it really does make me angry. HRC absolutely faces challenges that stem from sexism, and anyone who says she doesn't has his head in the sand. Yes, we could argue (I might) that a woman, knowing of those particular challenges, ought not to cry. Or if she does, it ought to be about something other than her feelings about her personal quest for the Presidency, like perhaps Old Glory. Is it fair? Nope. But is it reality? Sadly, yep. But should she be held to some standard that no one, male or female, can meet? Certainly not. All of which is to say two things: my support for Obama should not be construed as a knock on HRC's "cackle" or whatever. She's just not the candidate I want to support. So don't try to get me to say she's a "rhymes with b*tch" or whatever cause it's not going to happen. Second, for people who email me and tell me that I'm letting down women by not supporting her: Hello! Have you worked that argument backwards? Because what that tells me is that to support Hillary is to be anti-feminist. Why? Because the feminism I believe in (and believe me, in college I was a womyn---fist raised, baby!) says that women have choices. If you think about the lives of women pre-feminism, theirs was an existence of pre-determined choices (or, as I see it, no real choices): "you can be a nurse or a teacher. You can marry this man or that man, and have kids. You can't be an astronaut. You can't be a lawyer. Those are not choices open to you." As that old bumpersticker says: "feminism is the radical notion that women are people." And THAT'S why it's pre-feminist to tell me that, as a woman, my vote must go to another woman. My vote must go where I CHOOSE it to go, judging that candidate by characteristics OTHER than gender.

3. Okay, moving on. Is anyone else watching CNN for these primary returns? My favorite/most annoying part is John King (a soon-to-be-Jew after he marries Dana Bash; welcome to the tribe, John!) on his touch-tap video board? It is hilarious because he is so clearly into the technology that he can't contain himself. The Board lets him tap on a state, then tap on a city, then on a district, and it gives the population of that district, the % pop of the state it represents, and where each candidate needs to do well/did well/hopes to do well. But he gets so excited that he out-taps himself and ends up having to say things like, "whoa! We left Eau Claire a little early there! Let's get back to it! Tap tap tap..." Besides staring at Anderson Cooper (call me, Anderson!), John King on his tap-tap video board is the reason I suffer through Wolf Blitzer and Gloria Borger for three hours on a primary night. The BBDD's theory is that John King was the guy who got tagged to go sit in the demo with the video board technology vendor and got so sucked into the sales pitch that he became the superuser and then lobbied the powers-that-be to put this thing on the air! Think of the synergy! Think of the multivariate analysis potential from a data warehousing standpoint! Imagine the...insert techno vendor sales language here..! Chris Matthews and Russert will be eating our tap-tap video board dust, those Luddites! CNN! Yes We Can!

4. On a completely different subject, but still touching on sexism, Bambina got a great book from her Gram last week called "Girls Can!" It has a cute narrative featuring stories about Sandra Day O'Connor, Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Sally Ride, and how girls can do anything they put their minds to. Well, Bambina has completely flipped out over Sally Ride, and I mean FLIPPED. She is so beside herself that this lady was in space, in a spacesuit, AND she has brown hair! It's like her whole little world has gone upside down in the knowledge that there is an actual photo of an actual woman who is an astronaut. So when we read the book we have to take the dust jacket off so she can be looking at the photo of Sally Ride while we are reading the story about the girl who loved numbers and baseball and decided to go to space. I could tell Bambina was wondering what the point of the book was, so I told her that a long time ago girls weren't allowed to do all the stuff that boys do. They weren't allowed to be astronauts or Supreme Court justices or presidential candidates. What followed was the most telling conversation of my life, because for the life of me I could not give her a reasonable answer to her question of Why Didn't They Let Girls Do That? I was trying to come up with something somewhat kid-friendly, like "well, they didn't think girls could run that fast. And then Jackie came along to prove them wrong and then they couldn't say that anymore." This answer did not satisfy her, and you realize that there is no reasonable way to explain prejudice and bigotry to a child; that if you raise a bigoted, prejudiced, racist kid you have gotten up early in the morning and gone out of your way to do so, because on its face such an attitude just does not jibe with a kid's sense of what is right and fair and just. So I was continuing to test out answers with Bambina, continuing to be unsatisfied myself, when the BBDD walked in the room, listened to two go-rounds of the "why didn't they let girls go into space?" conversation and promptly, honestly and perfectly answered the question to the satisfaction of a preschooler (and a mom, for that matter) when he said, "Because they were stupid!" Can I get an Amen?

1 comment:

Ken said...

E, I'll disagree with you in part and agree with you in part on the sexism thing.

Certainly some of the attacks on Sen. Clinton are sexist. They always have been - she brings out the most vituperative among a segment of misogynists. But I think she and her supporters are overplaying that hand. Making fun of a politician for crying is not inherently sexist and doesn't happen only to women. Just ask Ed Muskie. And male politicians have their charmless tics ridiculed all the time. Consider the Dean scream, or the guff that Gore got (not, IMO, unreasonably) for sneering and eye-rolling during debates with Bush.

The danger of overplaying the that-attack-is-sexist hand is that it smacks of a Victorian sensibility that female politicians are delicate and can't be treated as roughly as male politicians. A politician who wants to be categorized as a leader, and not as a woman leader, does that at her peril.

As for the Bambina-empowering book issue, I assume and hope you read her the Paper Bag Princess, which is my favorite to read to my daughters. Particularly the part where the princess tells the prince he is a well-coiffed bum and walks into the sunset by herself.