March 12, 2009
Wa-Po blogger Cillizza implies Obama’s Council on Women and Girls is not for addressing gender issues
In an odd phrasing, Washington Post political blogger Chris Cillizza seems to imply that Obama’s call for a Council on Women and Girls, is not primarily a result of his recognition that we need policies and solutions to social problems that adequately address how they impact women and families (for whom women are still overwhelmingly responsible for the care of). In other words, Obama is forming this council out of the recognition that appropriate solutions to social problems must take both men’s and women’s experiences into consideration.
Obama has both personal — his wife and two daughters — and political reasons to make this sort of high profile move to ensure that women’s needs are being addressed by his administration.
In 2008, 53 percent of the electorate was female and Obama carried that group 56 percent to 44 percent over Arizona Sen. John McCain.
So Obama’s “personal” reasons for putting the council into place are that he has a wife and daughters. Yawn. How insulting to think that men are only concerned about women’s issues and the male-centric models of citizenship and public policy because they have daughters. I would hope that there might too be fathers of boys who are concerned about gender issues so their sons could have the socially-supported ability to be at-home dads if they choose, without their masculinity being denigrated and without threat to family finances because their female partner’s career is being stymied by gender discrimination (by pay or “mommy tracking”) or sexual harassment in the workplace.
And the “political” reasons Obama is putting this into place is…to keep the allegiance of his female voters (?). So Obama is doing this to keep women happy, not because it’s good policy?
Reading between the lines, much?
Oh and let us not forget, this council is in no way (expected to be) substantial: “Expect then more symbolic moves like the establishment of the Council to demonstrate Obama’s commitment to women and women’s issues.” Because all women voters expect are empty gestures without results. Because women usually applaud style over substance. Because women don’t want to be taken seriously, just acknowledged. Because women are above all, fans of [political] superficiality.
(I think you have us confused with lad-mag apologists.)
And I think you underestimate women as political actors who demand accountability, as well as our new President, who has demonstrated at least an understanding that there are structural barriers to success that equal rights legislation did not address.
September 12, 2008
Quote of the day…unfortunately, it was from a somewhat offensive and bullshit post at Huff-Po. But the end is excellent:
Stop voting for people you want to have a beer with. Stop voting for folksy. Stop voting for people who remind you of your neighbor. Stop voting for the ideologically intransigent, the staggeringly ignorant, and the blazingly incompetent.
Vote for someone smarter than you. Vote for someone who inspires you. Vote for someone who has not only traveled the world but who has also shown a deep understanding and compassion for it. The stakes are real and they’re terrifyingly high. This election matters. It matters. It really matters. Let me say that one more time. This. Really. Matters.
September 4, 2008
Everything I want to say about the hypocrisy around the rhetoric about Palin, and especially the Republicans’ vomit-inducing use of gender rhetoric can be summed up by this brilliant analysis by the “fake news” reporter, Jon Stewart, on the September 3, 2008 The Daily Show:
Vodpod videos no longer available.
In Canada, watch it on clip 2 here.
And in more The Daily Show-induced commentary….typically, I take the position that families and spouses/ partners are “off-limits” with regards to politics. But Stewart, in his interview with Newt Gingrich, makes an excellent point, which I think can help us forge a distinction between personal attacks on Palin’s daughter (i.e. “what an irresponsible slut!”) and dissonances between individual actions and beliefs and political positions. “The personal is political.”
Vodpod videos no longer available.
(Here in Canada)
Isn’t it sad when politicians and pundits seem to get called on their bullshit more often by “fake news” shows than the “real” ones?
July 17, 2008
I don’t write much (really, at all) on policy issues…there are so many blogs and organizations that do it much better than I ever could. But I wrote this piece for The Reaction, where I co-blog (see my sidebar), so I thought I’d post it here too even though it’s not relevant to the “theme” of my blog. Also, be sure to check out The Reaction, for smart commentary on U.S. politics and current events, with a smattering of global issues as well, and of course, I cross-post many of my feminist cultural studies pieces there too.
According to its report released Monday, the Department of Health and Human Services is seeking to change the definition of “abortion” used to determine which services can be provided or referred at a facility receiving federal funds. As RH Reality Check reports, there are two commonly used understandings of when a pregnancy begins: conception (fertilization of the egg by the sperm) and implantation (of the fertilized egg into the uterine lining).
The report states:
A 2001 Zogby International American Values poll revealed that 49% of Americans believe that human life begins at conception […] Both definitions of pregnancy inform medical practice. Some medical authorities, like the American Medical Association and the British Medical Association, have defined the term “established pregnancy” as occurring after implantation. Other medical authorities present different definitions. Stedman’s Medical Dictionary, for example, defines pregnancy as “[t]he state of a female after conception and until the termination of the gestation.”
The HHS report is suggesting that the definition of pregnancy be changed from the definition established by the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists to one defined by…I’m not quite sure. RH Reality Check suggests that this change is being determined by polling data, but unless some of the sample said they didn’t know, or they have some creative ideas about when pregnancy begins, 49% is not a majority. In any case, HHS is proposing that we change the definition of pregnancy from what has been established by medical bodies of experts to another definition established by…the Bush administration.
This new definition is highly problematic. Pregnancy would now be defined as occurring upon fertilization, and with no test for fertilization, women who utilize federally-funded health facilities can be turned away for contraceptive services on a whim. And as feministingnotes, the women who will be the most affected are low-income and uninsured women. Not to mention that claims that certain contraceptives prevent implantation after fertilization are scientifically unproven. From RH Reality Check:
There is no scientific evidence that hormonal methods of birth control can prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the womb. This argument is the basis upon which the religious right hopes to include the 40% of the birth control methods Americans use, such as the pill, the patch, the shot, the ring, the IUD, and emergency contraception, under the classification “abortion.”
What happens then is that the decision of whether or not something counts as an abortifacient is up to the individual…doctor or nurse (of courseit’s not up to the individual woman!). And since the proposal also includes mandating that doctors and nurses who are “conscientious objectors” not be “discriminated” against in hiring practices by facilities receiving federal funds, we have a recipe for disaster for women’s reproductive rights.
So we have an HHS report that refutes the definition of pregnancy made by medical experts, uses unscientifically proven claims about how contraception functions vis-a-visfertilization and implantation in order to redefine the contraceptive methods that 40% of women use as abortifacients, and enables federally-funded medical facilities to deny the most economically vulnerable women basic contraceptive services. And this from the “family values” administration who seems to loathe single women receiving social welfare, considering their perspective on the Temporary Assistance to Needy Familiesprogram.
This also comes from our President who chastises reporters for using the term “recession” in discussing the state of our economy, since reporters aren’t economic “experts.” As we see here, what the experts say doesn’t mean all that much to Bush when it comes to reproductive rights and pandering to the religious right’s agenda.
(Cross-posted to The Reaction)
May 15, 2008
“I’m calling to apologize on two fronts. One was you didn’t get your question answered and I apologize. […] Second apology is for using the word ‘sweetie.’ That’s a bad habit of mine. I do it sometimes with all kinds of people. I mean no disrespect and so I am duly chastened on that front. Feel free to call me back. I expect that my press team will be happy to try to make it up to you whenever we are in Detroit next.” (emphasis mine)
First, I really appreciate and respect that he admitted to being wrong. Though it’s awfully pathetic that I’m actually impressed by this; unfortunately, this is the kind of incident that in our culture would typically elicit the “I’m sorry you’re oversensitive and took it the wrong way” kind of apology. But it seems to me that Obama made a genuine apology and owning up to his “bad habit” using a type of language that perpetuate inequality. Unfortunately, though, this isn’t the first time this “bad habit” has come up.
Second, I like his swift response. I think he had already apologized by the time I had even read about the incident. Which makes him seem more genuine to me–he knew he was wrong and took care it it in a timely manner. He didn’t need to read the public response to his comment to ‘realize’ it.
Third, I have to say that he doesn’t do it with “all kinds of people”…namely, he doesn’t do it with grown, professional men. While I appreciate that he is trying to say he didn’t mean it personally, it isn’t quite accurate to say he says it for anybody. To say “all kinds of people” dismisses the specifically gendered use of the term, which while it may be used as a term of endearment for loved ones, is wholly condescending to use, especially for a professional woman. And as I said above, it’s certainly not the first time Obama has used it to refer to women he doesn’t know. And as it turns out, this woman never got her interview (insult to injury).
I like Obama. I was truly disappointed to hear him refer to a woman in this way. And I can’t ethically loathe the media’s sexism against Clinton without pointing out sexism if Obama does it (and especially with how much I blog about language). But I think his apology was genuine, that he understands he did wrong (rather than that it was merely “taken to wrong way”), and that he desires to do right by people. I just wish that he could have also realized that it wasn’t a generic “bad habit”. And especially with NARAL’s recent endorsement, I do hope to see him recognize the need for our culture to take women seriously.
(Cross-posted to The Reaction)
May 14, 2008
Um, yeah…this is annoying.
I posted yesterday about the excellent Huff-Po article about phallocentric masculinity in politics and one of the points was the feminization of Obama. Calling a professional reporter ‘sweetie’? Chalk one up for Obama’s masculinity!
(cross-posted to The Reaction)
Stephen Ducat’s recent Huff-Po article, “Revenge of the Wimp Factor: The Ironies of Proving Manhood in the Democratic Primary” is a fascinating read. He starts off with a very accessible summary of psychoanalytic theory on the phallus as a central organizing term of utmost importance and value, while actually being illusory.
In terms of elections, Ducat says:
In spite of being an evanescent hallucination, political consultants spend much of their time trying to paint a phallus on their candidate. […] In most electoral contests, the question is often “who’s the man?” And the manner in which political manhood gets displayed is tiresomely predictable: macho chest beating, posing with the fetish objects of anxious masculinity (trucks, big machines, and even bigger weapons), humiliating your opponent with castrating insults, calling into question his or her ability to be tough, ruthless, and merciless with the designated enemy of the moment — in short, phallic strutting.
He continues by showing how Sen. Clinton has made herself into the archetypal procurer of the phallus and all it represents, a representation that began by conservatives when she was First Lady, who also represented Pres. Clinton as feminized and emasculated. These representations were negatives for Clinton-as-First Lady, but as used by her campaign as positives.
Ducat makes the important point:
Some may ask a very reasonable feminist question that could challenge this argument: why must toughness, Machiavellianism, combativeness, or even swaggering bellicosity be viewed as masculine? They certainly needn’t. But it is, as we have seen, Hillary Clinton herself, along with her surrogates, who have explicitly gendered those traits in the campaign. As the oleaginous Clinton loyalist, James Carville, has said, if Mrs. Clinton gave Obama one of her testicles, “they’d both have two.” (emphasis mine)
I think this is an excellent point, and refers to the very limiting patriarchal constructions of masculinity and of civic competence specifically. One thing I’m wondering is if her phallic posturing is in part a response to the media’s sexist approach to her being a female candidate (see Shakeville’s series, currently on part 91), on top of the phallic seeming-requirement in politics and a way to avoid “the link American men have always made between effeminacy and aristocratic manners and privilege.”
Then there’s the representation of Sen. Obama:
More recently, we have the example of Barack Obama, the black candidate raised by a poor single mother, being called an “elitist” because of his grace, equanimity, intellect, dismal bowling performance, and reluctance to completely inhale his Philly cheese-steak. This, along with his willingness to negotiate with enemies, we are told, should lead us to question whether he’s man enough to be commander in chief […] Barack Obama stands in stark contrast to the attitude of the Clinton campaign. His guiding political ethos has always been one of bridging but not overlooking divisions, while privileging dialogue, debate, and negotiation over conquest. This is not only a new politics. It is a new masculinity, one that is inclusive of those panhuman qualities previously disowned and projected onto women.
And isn’t that a version of political and civic leadership that could provide space for women’s participation and challenge traditional masculinity while also producing a politics that’s more respectful and just, decent?
May 1, 2008
A (humorous) reminder that women and black Americans (not to mention black women!) actually vote for who they think is the most qualified candidate– shocker, I know. And what a f*cking insult that the media persists in insinuating they don’t. And funny, no one appears to be asking white men voting for John McCain if they’re voting their gender or race. Oh that’s right, McCain gets to be an unmarked “candidate” while Senators Clinton and Obama are marked as sexed and racial ‘others.’
(Cross-posted to The Reaction)
April 18, 2008
Today, April 18th, is “Blog for Fair Pay” day, in honor of the fact that today, women will have finally caught up to what men earned income-wise in 2007. Yes, the gendered pay gap means women have to work almost 4 months more to earn what men do. And Angry Black Bitch reminds us it’s even worse for women of color. Designating a day for recognition and advocacy of this is an important tangible reminder of the effects of inequality and sanctioned discrimination.
It kind of reminds me of Tax Freedom Day, the day that the nations has earned enough income to pay our tax bill. Funny, though–(federal) Tax Freedom Day is April 23rd (although this varies by state, mine in New York isn’t until May). That tends to make people pissed–realizing they work 4 months just to pay their government taxes.
But women have to work an extra 4 months to equal what men are paid yearly, which is about the same amount of time “Americans” have to work to pay their tax bill. Thus, , from a conceptual point, the difference in men’s and women’s pay is about the same as the amount of taxes paid by the “average” American. Think about that for a second. Or several.
Then write in your support for the fair pay act, and encourage others to do the same.
cross-posted to The Reaction