Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Why I Listen To Hillary

Over at Shakesville, I shared my thoughts on some of the gross reactions to Hillary Clinton's book and why I choose to listen to her rather than demand that she go away forever.

Check it out:
"Almost a year ago, I wrote about how I think often about the silence demanded of marginalized people so that other people don't have to feel badly about being bigots. I still think about it, and most specifically about all the heavy lifting that silence does in service of false and one-sided political narratives, particularly the narrative that has developed since the 2016 election: In the wake of one of the most brutally misogynistic, racist, and xenophobic campaigns in recent history, Hillary Clinton needs to blame herself entirely for the loss,before walking into the woods to live at Grey Garden the rest of her life.

Meanwhile, Amazon currently carries no less than two dozen books that have already, less than a year later, been published about the 2016 election. The vast majority of these are written by men. Do we think these books thoroughly detail the events of the 2016 election? What are the odds that these men have keen insight into the nuances of misogyny, racism, and xenophobia that those across the political spectrum employed to help deliver Trump's win? Are these voices truly the only perspectives needed to shed light on what happened?"
Head on over to Shakesville to read the whole thing!

Monday, September 18, 2017

Have a Seat, Gentlemen

It's apparently not enough to see multitudes of dude-authored pieces in the mainstream media that are various iterations of how History's Greatest Monster Hillary Clinton Has Some Nerve, Writing a Book. doesn't She Know She Needs To Sit Down, Shut Up, and Let The Men Make the Narratives?

The other day, I logged into my Goodreads to update my status to currently reading That Book. To find a book, I ran this search: "What Happened, Hillary Clinton." These were the results:



Misogyny is when any random jagoff can publish his take on "what happened," but it's deemed horribly out of line when the person with perhaps the most insight into what actually happened does so.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Quote of the Day: Ta-Nehisi Coates

Ta-Nehisi Coates, in "Donald Trump is the First White President," is worth reading in full, but here's a snippet. After noting that Donald Trump won every class-based group of whites, he writes:
"The focus on one subsector of Trump voters—the white working class—is puzzling, given the breadth of his white coalition. Indeed, there is a kind of theater at work in which Trump’s presidency is pawned off as a product of the white working class as opposed to a product of an entire whiteness that includes the very authors doing the pawning. The motive is clear: escapism. To accept that the bloody heirloom remains potent even now, some five decades after Martin Luther King Jr. was gunned down on a Memphis balcony—even after a black president; indeed, strengthened by the fact of that black president—is to accept that racism remains, as it has since 1776, at the heart of this country’s political life. The idea of acceptance frustrates the left. The left would much rather have a discussion about class struggles, which might entice the white working masses, instead of about the racist struggles that those same masses have historically been the agents and beneficiaries of."
Of course, the focus on the white working class - particularly men - is not puzzling at all.

White men dominate the media narratives across the political spectrum. The white male media elite were largely enamored, entertained, and/or fascinated by the rise of the two angry white male populists who ran in the 2016 election. Many of these men, in the wake of their complicity, now demand that we ditch identity politics, stop listening to Hillary Clinton, and/or stop saying accurate things about Bernie Sanders because Trump is the "true" enemy.

We were close, in 2016.

We know how scared so many men were because of how they are acting now, desperate to stay at the center of all things.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Friday Fun: Wonder Woman

I realize I haven't posted about Xena in months or the new Wonder Woman movie at all, which I think knocks me back a few notches on the Kinsey scale.

Please enjoy this mashup of both:


But seriously, why would you ever leave the island of Amazons, though? There is no earthly reason to. Just fly the new babies in.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Hillary's Book: A Preview

Super looking forward to it:


Now, if I'm properly understanding the rules governing womanly discourse, it seems that some people are suggesting that Hillary's book, particularly because she mentions Bernie Sanders in something other than 100% glowing terms, is going to detract from The Real Fight, which is against Donald Trump.

The logic there, such as it is, seems to be part of the strange reasoning that suggests people - particularly vapid Hillary fans - are not able to multi-task when it comes to political grievances.

I'm here to say have no fear, Concerned Citizens. My capacity for anger about politics is boundless. I promise you that I can be angry at Bernie Sanders and still have a an exponentially more amount of anger at Donald Trump.

On the other hand, if the concern is that this book will divide the left even more, I would humbly offer that the uniting has to work in a way that is something other than uni-directional. There are real and longstanding divides on the left. They won't magically go away by telling Hillary Clinton and her fans to shut the fuck up. I offer, instead, that that narrative will actually make things worse.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Book Review: Divided We Stand (Marjorie Spruill)

In the wake of the 2016 election, I would add Marjorie Spruill's Divided We Stand: The Battle Over Women's Rights and Family Values that Polarizing American Politics to any list of recommended "how we got to here" books. That is to say, I don't think we can accurately understand why 53% of white women voted for Donald Trump without acknowledging the unique way the white-dominated, Christian conservative anti-feminist/"pro-family" movement in the United States is linked to the Republican Party.

Spruill centers her analysis of the feminist/anti-feminist divide around the years leading up to the National Women's Conference in 1977, laying out the case that this event, and the push for the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), mobilized both feminist and anti-feminist activists in ways that still ripple through today's political landscape and shape both major political parties.

On the feminist side, the book follows feminists active in the ERA movement and the Women's Conference, particularly Bella Abzug, Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan, and Maxine Waters. A primary frustration of the feminists, was not just anti-feminist organizing to thwart their goals, but that the government's sponsorship of the Conference led those on both the left and the right to charge that the women's movement was "establishment" even though the reality was that women were poorly represented in nearly ever facet of what is considered "establishment."

Speaking of ripples, during the 2016 Democratic Primary, Bernie Sanders called Planned Parenthood and the pro-LGBT Human Rights Campaign part of the "establishment" that he was taking on, because they endorsed Hillary Clinton, over him. That, even as Republicans continue a ceaseless war on reproductive autonomy and LGBT rights. A lesson here is that while mainstream political analysis often fixates on battles between the left v. the right, in some ways, feminism fits awkwardly into this dichotomy. There are factions on on both ends of the political spectrum that consistently portray feminists, and to a lesser extent women in general, as both enormously powerful and not worth taking seriously. This is not a new phenomenon. Second-wave feminists have written extensively about it, but it seems each successive generation of feminists is destined to re-live the dynamic.

Nonetheless, an important outcome of the Conference was the adoption of a National Plan of Action on topics such as business, child care, employment, health insurance, criminal justice, and rape. It also mobilized the anti-feminist right.

On the anti-feminist right, much of the focus of the book is on the organizing, influence, and efforts of Phyllis Schlafly and, in particular, the way she was able to unite Protestants, Catholics, and Mormons against feminism by emphasizing their common beliefs about gender and family. Spruill writes:
"Religion was at the core of the anti-ERA movement. Though it was not as clear to observers in the 1970s as it was later to scholars, active participation in churches was the greatest common denominator among ERA opponents and a far greater indicator than class or levels of education."
The trifecta of moral and economic issues around which the anti-feminist movement rallied white Christian conservatives was abortion, the ERA, and homosexuality, all tinged with racism and white resentment toward the Women's Conference's deliberate inclusion of racial, ethnic, and economic diversity among its organizers and delegates.

Prior to her death in 2016, I'd been following Schlafly, and the more general "pro-family" movement, for the entirety of this blog's existence. So, 10 years. The seeming-obsession with gays and lesbians that's documented in this book was therefore not a surprise to me. At the same time, some of the pearl-clutching somehow reads as both quaint and obviously-bigoted. Sample:
  • Schlafly's response when conservatives weren't able to elect as many delegates to the convention as they wanted: "[The conservatives would have] done better but our women didn't want to leave their families for an entire weekend and spend it with a group of lesbians. They're very offensive to all of us."
  • "Conservatives claimed that a bus with New York plates was bringing in male homosexuals to pack the convention. The astonished driver, however, explained to the press that he was transporting swimmers to compete in a meet at the Brown University pool."
  • Another anti-feminist's description of the convention: "There were about 2,000 lesbians in attendance, wearing all kinds of lesbian T-shirts and signs such as: 'How dare you presume I am heterosexual?' 'Lesbians fight for our friends.' 'Anita sucks organs.' 'Warm Fuzzy Dykes.'" and so forth.
During the Convention, Schlafly led an anti-feminist counter-rally, consisting primarily of white Christians, male and female, denouncing the recommendations of feminists. Further, in some southern states, the KKK influenced the state meetings in which the delegates to the Convention were chosen and promised to be at the Convention to protect "their women" from the lesbians.

(Helpful Hint to White Supremacist Women: Don't worry, I find you very resistable).

As Spruill tells it, this counter-rally "signaled the advent of a unifiying movement that joined single-issue conservative campaigns related to abortion, the ERA, child care, education, and gay rights into a common defense of the traditional family." And, further, as Republicans saw how these issues could be leveraged for political gain, more moderate Republicans both watched in frustration as their party was hijacked by extremists while they also stood by and did nothing to stop it. A New Gingrich campaign staffer described the new Republican strategy of gaining southern voters:
"We went after every rural southern prejudice we could think of."
My two mild critiques of Spruill's book is that I believe she too-generously cedes the label "pro-family" to conservatives, throughout the book, perhaps wanting to appear neutral. Yet, as she documents, the "pro-family" right primarily worked to carve out a special status for white heteronormative married families, while opposing policies and government support that would help all other types of families.

Two, more information or context about the anti-feminists' motivations to vote against their interests as women would have been interesting. Spruill suggests that anti-feminist women were more than "pawns of men eager to legitimize their own opposition to feminism," but in my opinion doesn't truly explain how or why. (Andrea Dworkin, of course, wrote Right-Wing Women in part based on her experience with anti-feminists during this era, but it would be interesting to examin the extent to which Dworkin's analysis holds up today.)

Nonetheless, I see this book is a valuable contribution to understanding today's political climate.

Melissa McEwan has noted that Donald Trump is not an anomalous Republican politician, but an inevitable one that has exposed the rot at the core of a Republican Party that both shelters, condones, and tolerates bigotry. I have previously observed that with 81% of white Evangelical voters choosing Trump in the 2016 election, he is their Conservative Christian Cultural Warrior. The white women who voted for Trump are likely to be, primarily, the political descendants of Phyllis Schlafly. That is, the women of the right who oppose the moral trifecta of abortion, LGBT rights, and feminism.

Yet, with many election post-mortems focusing on the purported "economic anxiety" of whites who voted for Trump, and the mainstream media remaining fascinating by angry white male "populists," the Christian anti-feminist angle is largely lost. In the quest to trash Democrats and remake the party around angry white people, some on the left, and in particular the Sanders left, seem perplexed (at best) and ignorant (at worst) of the way Republicans have mobilized white Christian opposition to abortion, feminism, and LGBT rights for the past 40 years for political gain.

In the 1970s, Phyllis Schlafly's anti-feminism "liberated" male politicians from having to cater to feminist demands, because they saw that anti-feminist women were also opposing these demands. As Spruill tells it, Schlafly's last parting "gift" to feminists, before her death in 2016, was her endorsement of Donald Trump. Schlafly's endorsement sent a clear signal to the Christian right that one could be a "virtuous" woman and still support the abusive, misogynistic, racist, and unqualified sexual predator.

Democrats, we ignore this history at our peril.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

On Those "Bernie Wouldas"

Bernie Sanders lost the Democratic Primary to Hillary Clinton over a year ago by more than three million votes.

Yet, during the primary, I took note of the many, gendered narratives the Sanders team and his die-hards employed in refusing to admit that Hillary was legitimately beating him:
  • Bernie was only losing because he was being too nice to Hillary;
  • Bernie was only losing because he wasn't even trying in the states that he lost;
  • Bernie was only losing because DemocraticCorporateNonprofitComplex had rigged the system against him;
  • Bernie wasn't even losing at all, but even if he were, the superdelegates could still vote for him against the will of the voters.
The larger narrative was that Hillary Clinton, a woman, could not have actually been beating Sanders, a man, and even if she were, he was still entitled to be the victor.

And so it continues almost a year after the general election.

Some commentators and Twitterers have a bizarre obsession with wanting Hillary Clinton to take sole responsibility for the electoral college loss to Donald Trump. Doing so absolves us, I suppose, from having to examine deeper-seated, structural factors at play.

Within this context, we also continue to see a lot of "Bernie woulda won" taunts. It seems to be a rallying cry of disgruntled Sanders fans who believe he would have prevailed against Donald Trump in the 2016 general election and that he should run in 2020.

The reasons for this taunt are several, I suspect, and varied for different people. But, given the context of Sanders and his die-hards' inability to gracefully concede that Hillary actually beat Sanders, here is what I hear when people say "Bernie woulda won":
"I saw Trump leverage misogyny against Hillary Clinton, but I'm going to act like it was a merit-based outcome in which the old white guy could have gotten the job done where the woman failed."
With Republicans holding power in two of the three branches of federal government, it is imperative for Democrats to unite going forward. That will be extremely difficult to happen if the Democratic establishment continues to kowtow to a man and movement that gaslights the people who comprise the actual Democratic base.