Friday, August 22, 2008

How feminists are made.

Are US women so angry that they would allow McCain to take the Presidency? a post on another UU blog asks breathlessly*. He goes on to explain that women who don't like Obama, by, you know, not supporting a candidate they don't like, are "playing into an age-old trick of stereotyping strong women as insane."

Clearly these foolish women should be showing how sane they are by supporting the guy that the blogger wants them to. Then they wouldn't be playing into anybody's tricks at all, right? Right?

The thing is, despite years of pressure and some might argue indoctrination from the ChaliceRelative**, I didn't particularly see myself as a feminist until this campaign season began. I still don't like some of the hills mainstream feminism often chooses to die on, especially the linguistic ones, but I am more and more coming to get that society completely sucks when it comes to these issues and people really do accept and repeat crazy ideas about women without giving them the slightest rational examination.

(And I know using this campaign to make racism/sexism comparisons is pretty tired at this point, but do you really think that if Hillary had won, Slate would be printing articles about angry, irrational black people?)

The blogger seems to be getting this stuff from a Slate column by Dahlia Lithwick (whom one assumes is an Obama supporter, so you can trust in her sanity despite her apparent strength and apparent ovaries) writes a long column about "PUMAs" or, as she puts it "Hillary Harridans." She compares their image to that of Cruella DeVil and Lady McBeth, and, of course, Snow White's wicked stepmother and she makes lots of dramatic declarations like that they are "embracing the same she-devil stereotypes they once claimed to resent."

Lithwick, whom I suspect had this column nearly written before she turned up this article, is at least honest enough to link to a Columbia Journalism Review article that explains that poll numbers don't actually support the conclusion that these women, you know, exist in statistically significant numbers***.

Or, to give it to you in the words of the Columbia Journalism Review:

But back in June, when the primary wounds were the most raw, a Washington Post/ABC poll made a startling finding. Yes, 37 percent of Clinton supporters were considering voting for McCain or staying home on election day. However, this was not because anger about the campaign’s gender dynamics. “Obama is not disproportionately weaker among Clinton supporters who comprised her core groups, such as women, seniors and working-class whites,” it found. “Instead he’s losing those who value strength and experience over change, who doubt Obama’s qualifications and who see him as a risky choice—mirroring his challenges among all adults more broadly.”

And again, this was back in June when the Hillary supporters were most pissed. (For example, June is when I wrote this.)

The CJR article sums up their findings succinctly with:

But the angry-women-will-sink-Obama myth is yet another example of the media confusing activist opinion with public opinion in general. And public opinion generally defies such a simple—if dramatic—storyline.

But hey, that's not nearly as much fun as the "crazy bitch Hillary Clinton supporter" stereotype, is it?

I don't particularly expect more from the media.

I do expect more from UUs. (Which I probably shouldn't, after all, UUs are human and subject to the same culture everybody else is. But we are supposed to be refining stuff through reason and thinking things through and to me the "huge numbers of Clinton supporters are determined to sink the election" stuff doesn't even SOUND plausible to me.)


*I'm going on a rant here, so I will spare this guy a link. You're a smart person, you can find it if you care so much. He more or less parrots what Lithwick says and I do link to her.

**The Chalicerelative uses "you're a bad feminist" as an insult totally without irony, and has done so since I was a little kid.

***Though I swear to God sanctimonious Obama supporters are tempting me. No, I'm not going to retract my declaration that I'm voting for Obama and go become a PUMA. But I do feel that by making Hillary supporters' inferiority such a natural assumption, people like Lithwick and the UU blogger are contributing to a sense of learned helplessness that might not unreasonably lead one to a conclusion that if one is going to be thought crazy anyway, one might as well play the part.


Anonymous said...

"I'm going on a rant here, so I will spare this guy a link."

Rant or not, it comes off as a personal attack in a lot of places, and you're reading more into the Rev. Chip's post than is really there. If you don't feel you can link to what set you off, what's the point of publishing it?

Chalicechick said...

Because Lithwick makes exactly the same points, so I direct a lot of my ire toward her.

If you think I'm reading things into "Are US women so angry that they would allow McCain to take the Presidency?" that aren't there, feel free to supply me with a more sympathetic interpretation.

Personally, even if "PUMAs" were a significant factor, I think painting all of "US women" with the same brush is pretty offensive, but I was planning to let that one go.

I'd say my interpretation of some of his words was pretty kind.


Stephanie said...

I found watching the misogyny from all sides in the primaries to be absolutely demoralizing.

I'm pretty sure Obama is going to lose. I hope I'm wrong, but I think he's going to lose for a whole lot of reasons that don't involve angry older women. Will angry older women be (partially) blamed? Absolutely. Why not start early?

Chalicechick said...

I actually think Obama's going to win. I wouldn't bet my house on it, but I tend to think it's true.

I think the conventions will show a lot. I will be interested to watch them.


Stephanie said...

I would be shocked if Obama wins. Absolutely, completely, totally shocked. But I live in the red zone.

Chalicechick said...

Well, technically, so do I. And he has lost some momentum over the summer. But I'd say the Ds are a damn sight more energized than the Rs.

Of course, the polls have it as a dead heat, so it's way too early to be making any sort of declaration.


Anonymous said...

I hope Obama wins, but I think he's going to lose. DH thinks McCain is going to be the next president of the US, but he was saying that a year ago. He also thinks McCain is Satan when it comes to his technology plan, whereas Obama's is excellent.

Who knows? In any case, I'm too much of an individualist to keep up with who is the bad guy these days ... I know women have been blamed a lot (well, white women, and latina women) for Obama not being as successful as some would like. I blame the media. They are always stirring up the pot and making things bigger than they need to be.

Now, it is true that there have been issues surrounding race and feminism for decades, so that might be part of what's going on, but that analysis should surely be coming from feminists of color ... which isn't so much of what I see (at least in the mainstream).

And this is why I'm a turtle-voter. I'll poke my neck out when it's time to do the deed. Till then, I'm lalalalalalalala.

Sorry for such a poorly written post; I'm starving.

Bill Baar said...

My Wife and Mom are both strong HRC supporters and have been for many years.

(My Wife knows Chip as he was student minister at our Church.)

I don't know if they're going to vote for McCain instead or not.

As Chicagoans, neither have illusions about Obama.

Obama's political mentor, Emil Jones, just announced his retirment from the Illinois Senate (he's Prez of the Senate) and the Cook County Democrats just slated his son Emil Jones III (or ThreeMil as we call him) to run virtually unopposed on the ballot in his place. (The only opposition is a clown...literally).

That's Illinois Politics and it's mostly a family thing.

Comrade Kevin said...

I think we may be forgetting how the media loves the faintest wiff of a controversy, and this is one of the more manufactured garden variety.

Most of it is that Hillary Clinton, as any human being would be in her situation, is finding it hard to campaign for her rival turned party nominee. That may be as deep as it goes.

Chalicechick said...

(((t that analysis should surely be coming from feminists of color )))

Ummm... I don't think you have to be a woman to have an insighful perspective on feminism.

I'll take interesting ideas from whatever source.


PG said...

I am not sure if I am misreading you, or you are misreading Lithwick. She says, "And now, to hear the media tell it, she is a Hillary Holdout; she's a PUMA (Party Unity My Ass); and she belongs to 18 Million Voices." Lithwick emphasizes in every paragraph that the Harridan is a media fantasy, albeit one in which a few women are complicit, and her link to CJR is no reluctant concession; it's fundamental to her point that the Democratic women who are saying that Obama should lose are very much a minority.

Incidentally, I don't think someone can be accurately described as a Democrat unless she identifies with Democratic policies. Supporting Hillary because you like her better than any of the Republicans on offer, but going for McCain because you like him better than you do Obama, isn't being a Democrat or Republican; it's voting based entirely on the personal characteristics (experience, integrity, etc.) of the candidate. I'm not saying this is a bad thing; if you are a perceptive voter, you probably will get better results voting on this basis rather than on stated policies, because often politicians have to abandon proposals, but their personalities will determine a great deal about how their administration as a whole will do.

I wrote a lot in high school and college about women in Anglo-American literature, and the Madwoman in the Attic really is a great work. I do think Lithwick makes a good point that women have gotten past the point where their only weapon against patriarchal attempts to shut them away was to burn the house down.