(from a letter to a friend)
A commenter just asked me whether, in the light of the recent revelations about Hillary’s e-mail and donor machinations, I still thought she was a good candidate.
Even before that, I was coming around to thinking: No, she’s not.
Three reasons: she’s a baby boomer (so am I, and I’m sick of us; I suspect the culture is too); she’s dynastic (what, another Clinton running against another Bush?? Groundhog Decade!); and she’s half of a corrupt political couple.
I have no patience with “It’s time for a woman president” arguments. Sexism can’t be fought with sexism, and preferring and promoting someone simply because “it’s time” for their category to be represented is as sexist or racist as barring or demoting them for same. If their category can’t come up with a good candidate this time around (for reasons that most certainly include persistent sexism in the culture as well as the malign influence of money on politics), it is extremely patronizing to put forward someone you otherwise wouldn’t want in the office. What’s more, it does the category more harm than good, because it leaves an opening for the other wing of sexists/racists to blame a mediocre performance on the category rather than the individual.
I thought it was a mistake to elect Barack Obama primarily for the reason that “it’s time we had a black president,” even though that was a moving milestone and created a glow of emotion and self-congratulation that lasted for a brief honeymoon before it was time for him to start governing. The only thing that would have been not-racist was to judge him on his merits. Which are? He can be very eloquent, he’s intelligent to the point of being cerebral, he’s deliberate and calm, somewhat removed. I didn’t think he had an executive temperament; didn’t have enough zest for wading in and getting hands-on. That assessment, whether you agree with it or not, has nothing to do with his “race.”
I also don’t buy that the Republican obstructionism against Obama really has anything to do with his race — although politics being an “all’s fair” game, Republicans have been perfectly willing to enlist the racism of some of their constituents in the effort to defeat and discredit him. No, Republicans want to do as much damage as they can to his record because he’s a Democrat, and they want the White House back. People seem to have forgotten that Republicans also detested and did their best to destroy Bill Clinton, who, despite being “the first black president,” was, last I looked, white, all the way down to Slick Willie (no, I didn’t get a look at that).
That said, I’m entirely the wrong person to listen to about politics. I have nothing good to say.
(Sorry I couldn’t figure out how to embed this video. Well, I guess girls can’t do everything.)
Here’s a shocker of an article about how the American obsession with population control in the 1960s and ’70s led American policymakers and NGOs alike to actually encourage sex selection. If traditionally male-biased families could assure themselves of having a boy right off the bat, the reasoning went, they wouldn’t have so many children. End result: 160 million missing females (and this “at a time when women are driving many developing economies”)—and a corresponding number of frustrated young males looking for trouble. Talk about unintended consequences!
Air National Guard Pilot Heather Penney remembers 9/11. Who has an hour to listen to an interview? (Wouldn’t you know it’s C-SPAN?) It’s worth it, though—among other things, to gaze on and contemplate a tough, pretty broad who flew an armed F-16. She says things like (on air defenses during the Cold War) “to defend our sovereign soil from the Soviet bear.” Fight like a girl, indeed. (Video unfortunately not embeddable.)
This should be required viewing for anyone (if there’s anyone left) who still thinks women are unfit to be full-fledged soldiers.
This sounds counterintuitive, but when the magnitude of the situation hit me, I really lost all emotion. I didn’t have an emotional reaction at all.
It was really much more focused on what are the things that I need to do to enable us to protect our capital, what are the things that I need to do to facilitate us getting airborne. . . .
[Later, when getting ready to fly] It wasn’t so much that I kept my emotions in check. It was just that they didn’t even exist. They just weren’t even there. But there was significant adrenaline. And it was really just, “Dear God, just don’t let me screw up.”
There’s a gap. That’s the best way I can describe it. There’s a gap women are afraid to leap or don’t know how to leap. I feel it. We — the majority of us women — still don’t know how to be primary in our own lives, how to relate directly to the world. We don’t know how to start our own engine; we feel guilt and fear at the very thought of doing so. We are deep-down sure that the only way to go our own way is alone and that the only way not to be alone is to compromise so deeply it bites to the bone.
Sure, I’m exaggerating. Go ahead, tell me about all the exceptions. Tell me love is worth compromising for. (It is, up to the borders of your integrity.) Tell me I should be saying “I,” not “we.” But I hear a lot of seasoned, accomplished women saying or hinting at some version of this — that they still feel derivative, secondary. Men romanticize this and see it as devotion. It completes them and it diminishes us. It’s also safe and easy for us, an ancient shtick, an existential cop-out with perks.
Freud thought the gap was the absence of a penis! It’s so much more — the collective memory of physical danger; millennia of forbiddenness; void of precedent; human cowardice and inertia, always more easily forgiven in women.
The best writer I know about this — so good her writing scares people, scares me — is my friend Dalma Heyn. Here she is on the danger of a new backlash, not so much against women but within them — a retreat from the challenge and chaos of rapid change into old, familiar, outgrown ways:
Women, conventional goodness isn’t your friend. Maintaining your vision for the future is. If we do all the things we used to do when chaos frightened us with, oh, loss of love, loss of husbands, loss of social approval, loss of funds, loss of everythng, we lose something far more precious: We lose our hope for evolving as women. We mustn’t ever again let anything, especially a flagging economy, threaten our own ability to push through the confines of that old story, the Romance Plot, the one that hurls women back into the kitchen. Yes, we all yearn for security, but it never did come in the form of old ideas, old roles, old habits. Don’t idealize what never was. We’ve spent years setting free a new narrative, one that promises forward movement in the home, in our relationships, inside ourselves. The old story that we fantasize as being magically problem-free, actually brought more women lifelong depression than it did safety and security.
What Dalma writes about is not spurning love, but rather the challenge of loving without lying about who you are. I’m a widow, which is forcing me to confront the gap in myself. Male friends tell me radiantly that I’ll always be one with my husband and that ours was a great love. I hate to tell them it was never that simple. Don’t misunderstand me: it was great. But it was also safe. Under his wing, my strengths were first derivative and then hypothetical. They became mine, but I was safe from having to decide how to use them. Eyes riveted on him — his grandeur, his trauma, his unquestionable genius for living — I never had to answer my own hard questions. And, appearances to the contrary notwithstanding, that cop-out did not serve him well.
Don’t chicken out, women. Go on, evolve. Yes, I’m talking to you. Me.
Identify a freedom women in developed countries have taken for granted for decades. Recognize how the lack of that freedom in developing countries is yet another force — so simple and obvious it’s been unrecognized — holding girls and women back from access to education and achievement. Then turn the remedy into a business opportunity for young women.
What are we talking about? The availability of safe, convenient sanitary supplies.
I started SHE because of my shock and outrage at the incredible scale and effect of the problem: of girls and women lacking access to affordable, quality, sanitary pads. Currently, girls and women in this setting—if they have an option at all—turn to either premium priced international brands, which are too costly for widespread and sustainable use, or to alternative methods such as rags, which, in combination with a lack of a clean and accessible water supply, are potentially harmful and do not effectively contain blood flow. Poor girls and women in rural settings may even use dried mud, or even bark. As a result of girls’ unmet need for affordable, high-quality sanitary pads, they are often absent from school—missing up to fifty days of school per year—thereby, thwarting their educational and professional potential.
Slogan: better sanitary protection. period.
Talk about things that make you go “DUH.”
. . . listen to Isabel Allende. Listen to her even if you don’t share her politics, or would disagree with her solutions, because she is right about so much beyond our relatively safe and special world. Oh, and because she’s funny.