Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Opening Our Eyes

I have written before (here and here, e.g.) about how distressing and shocking I find it that many younger women appear to believe that we live in a postfeminist world. We most certainly do not, and this superb article from last weekend's New York Times Week in Review suggests persuasively that current events might have crystallized this reality for younger women who mistakenly thought otherwise.

It's fascinating to consider that what it's taken to accomplish this revolution in thought - if indeed such a revolution is occurring - was the introduction of the Eliot Spitzer mess, which is about not just sex trafficking but also the deeply sexist and evidently obligatory eyes-downcast stoicism of the betrayed political wife standing by her fallen husband, into the already boiling cauldron of "sulfurous emanations" about Hillary Clinton's candidacy, those being the criticisms that are based entirely on deeply rooted and widely tolerated gender bias.

The article quotes Katha Pollitt, who wrote:
"The hysterical insults flung at Hillary Clinton are just a franker, crazier version of the everyday insults - shrill, strident, angry, ranting, unattractive - that are flung at any vaguely liberal mildly feminist woman who shows a bit of spirit and independence, who puts herself out in the public realm, who doesn't fumble and look up coyly from underneath her hair and give her declarative sentences the cadence of a question."

Well said, Ms. Pollitt - and what a great paragraph!

The article also crystallized for me why, despite my admiration for Barack Obama, I continue to feel a deep pull to support Clinton. All the sexist crap we've seen in connection with this campaign, and - not insignificantly - the media's amused tolerance of that crap, make me certain that this decision is about more than whom one would choose for president on policy grounds in a perfect world. The media is a powerful tool for creating cultural reality, but it also reflects the prevailing winds of that reality. For me, the fact that the media and a sizable chunk of the populace remain either blind to, or willing to tolerate, misogyny and gender stereotyping demands action.

Regardless of which Democrat wins the nomination, I hope with all my heart that the article is right in suggesting that younger women are getting radicalized by the reception to Hillary Clinton's campaign. We will not live in a postfeminist society - let alone one characterized by equal opportunity - until they do.


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Anonymous said...

My thoughts were similiarly illuminated after reading Ms. Pollitt's essay. I can not quite understand why the women of our younger generations are not danicng in the street in support of Hillary Clinton for our next president. Is it possible that they believe the women's movement of the late 1960s and 1970s was so successful that they need not stand up for/discuss/care about it?

Anonymous said...

...or is it because Hillary has revealed herself as a power-hungry grifter who will stop at nothing to attain the office? Mrs. Spitzer, like Mrs. Clinton, had/has every opportunity to leave her husband and refuse to accompany him on the sexual perp walk, but neither did... and THAT makes our society sexist? Puh-lease.

There is an ample supply of successful women in politics and in business (Debra having, herself, been one) to reveal Ms. Pollitt's paragraph as interesting, but grossly exaggerating of the facts ("ANY vaguely liberal mildly feminist woman...come on now).

By all means, let's preserve the importance of feminism, but let's not cheapen it by correllating it with Hillary's impending downfall and Mrs. Spitzer's inexplicable decision NOT to throw the bum out.