Category Archives: politics

#MeToo

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Therese Dreaming

When I first saw this hashtag on Facebook, I bristled a bit. I don’t know why but it struck me as self-consciously “brave” and “honest” — and even a little coy. What women hasn’t been sexual harassed at some point in her life? What man hasn’t been bullied? What employee hasn’t been disrespected? What child has been unfairly treated? Humans can be hurtful and unthinking and selfish, putting their own pleasures and profits over others. And, I guess, #metoo.

I didn’t voice this. I didn’t want to sound like an apologist. But a New York Times column called “Publicly We Say #MeToo, Privately We Have Misgivings” by Daphne Merkin gets it right, in my view:

“The fact that such unwelcome advances persist, and often in the office, is, yes, evidence of sexism and the abusive power of the patriarchy. But I don’t believe that scattershot, life-destroying denunciations are the way to upend it. In our current climate, to be accused is to be convicted. Due process is nowhere to be found.” 

She raises the issue of “Therese Dreaming,” a circa-1938 Balthus painting that two young Metropolitan Museum of Art staffers petitioned to have removed, based on its “blatant objectification and sexualization of a child,” per one of them. Says Merkin: “This is the kind of censorship practiced by religious zealots.”

Convictions without due process, censorship, “witch hunts.” Something has run amok. Again, Merkin says it better:

“These are scary times, for women as well as men. There is an inquisitorial whiff in the air, and my particular fear is that in true American fashion, all subtlety and reflection is being lost. Next we’ll be torching people for the content of their fantasies.”

 

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“Nevertheless, she persisted.”

Hell hath no fury like a woman silenced. Like Trump’s Nasty Woman putdown, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s rebuke (and silencing) of Elizabeth Warren last night only fanned the flames of female fury. Here‘s how it went down: Warren began to read a letter from Coretta Scott King’s feelings about a prior Jeff Sessions’ appointment. McConnell objected to both the reading of the letter and to Warren’s history of outspokenness, even after she is asked to stop talking. Then came the line.

“Nevertheless, she persisted.”

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Instantly, this has become a rallying cry for women in government, in the workplace and in relationships to “persist” in the face of would-be male silencers. Writes Heidi Stevens for The Chicago Tribune:

“Just keep talking. Keep your pauses short. Maintain your momentum. No matter if he waves his hands, raises his voice or squirms in his chair, you do you.”

Or push back. “Bob, I wasn’t done finishing that point. Give me one more sec.”

Persist.

Sometimes the floor remains yours; sometimes you get rebuked and silenced by your colleagues.

But you say what needs to be said. And here and there, you inspire a rallying cry.

“Nevertheless, she persisted.”

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Where the boys are

The debate about whether women should support women because they’re women has been simmering ever since Hillary Clinton announced her candidacy, polarizing feminists and/or strong women everywhere. In one camp is the venerable Madeleine Albright who just this weekend repeated this oft-offered opinion, at a Clinton rally in New Hampshire: “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t support other women.” There was much applause.

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Now I know politicians and their supporters share their more extreme views when surrounded by their base. I give to you Sarah Palin waxing kooky on her beliefs at faith-based event when she was on McCain’s ticket. But that prompts me to ask: Am I compelled to support Palin and also Carly Fiorina and also Michele Bachmann because they are women?

Women fought hard for the right to vote. Women in public office still fight hard to get there. It’s no more right-minded to vote for a woman simply because she’s a woman than it is for a man to disregard that candidate simply because she’s a woman. Candidates earn our votes because they’re the best choice, regardless of gender—or race or age or faith, for that matter.

Also this weekend, Gloria Steinem stepped in and stepped in it, during a conversation with Bill Maher that started off in a smart and informed way. For instance, she had interesting things to say about why women get more progressive-thinking when they age—because they tend to lose thier power. (Interesting, not sure the theory holds entirely, but something to think about.)

But then she said a really, really stupid thing to explain why polls show young women prefer Bernie Sanders over Clinton two to one: …because that’s “where the boys are,” per Steinem.

Making things worse, she followed up with a non-apology on her Facebook page, blaming “talk show interruptus” for having “misspoke,” with words that are now being “misinterpreted as implying young women aren’t serious in their politics.”

She said what she said and in no way did an admittedly pushy and interrupting Maher force those words out of her. To date, her Facebook post has nearly 17,000 comments, mostly calling her out for the insult and then her equally insulting explanation for why she said it and what she meant.

When I was watching all this on Morning Joe, especially thrilled by Mica and Cokie arguing about what this all means, my husband stepped in with his opinion that “women get so bitchy when they turn on each other.” And that capped off a morning of dubious feminism, offhanded misogyny and just straight up are-you-trying-to-make-me-craziness.

All before 7 a.m.

 

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well now this is galling

Hillary blamed for her husband’s affairs — as a co-conspirator, an apologist or, worse, the root cause of his philandering?160112_DX_Hillary-Scandal.jpg.CROP.promo-xlarge2.jpg

I’m writing this even while at a loss for words about how wrong this is. Fortunately, Michelle Goldberg, at Slate, is more coherent: “Hillary was a betrayed woman who nevertheless fought to salvage a marriage and political project she believed in. Perhaps she shouldn’t have. But the Times editorial casts her as an icy schemer stage-managing her hapless husband’s misdeeds. It turns her from The Good Wife’s Alicia Florrick into House of Cards’ Claire Underwood, from victim to villainess,” writes Goldberg.

You have been warned: I’m going to write more on this when I can find the courage to read Trump’s take on it.

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