Sunday, August 17, 2008

What If Feminists Were Swing Voters?

August 8th Peggy Simpson filed another report (Women's Media Center) on the 'leadership' (current) in the feminist movement sucking up to Barack Obama yet again. Over "30 leaders of national women's groups," Simpson explained, met with Barack at the end of last month where they made "no demand for favors" and doesn't that just about say it all about how pathetic the current 'leadership' is?

While the gals were conceding issues that are not their issues to concede, others were working their asses off. To The Contrary's Bonnie Erbe (at US News & World Reports) was reporting on JustSayNoDeal's Diane Mantouvalos:

Mantouvalos told me that without Clinton supporters behind him, Obama cannot beat McCain: "We contend [that lack of unity is] the reason Senator Obama is in a dead heat with a 71-year-old Republican, and—no disrespect for Senator McCain, but age is a factor to many voters. He represents the incumbent party, [which] most of the American people are unhappy with. Why is it that they are tied right now?"

While the 'gals' deciding what is news (that would be "gatekeepers") couldn't tell you about reality or, for that matter, a grassroots movement, Erbe could and on Thursday she would be back to explain Barack and John McCain were tied in a statistical deadheat and that explained a great deal why the Barack controlled DNC had decided to 'allow' Hillary Clinton the same rights men who got far less than 18 million votes: her name will "be placed in nomination." Erbe noted:
"One might also call it an admission that the Obama campaign is desperate to win the support of the 20 percent or so of her 18 million supporters who have been telling pollsters they will not vote for Sen. Barack Obama."

No offense to Bonnie Erbe (whose work is appreciated) but it's a real shame that other so-called 'women's media' can't tell you the same basic facts. In July, Peggy Simpson reported on the NOW convention and the underwhelming reaction Kim Gandy got when she attempted to sell Barack to the organization -- apparently forgetting that she was NOW convention and not at a NOW PAC convention. Someone might need to let Kim Gandy know that not only was her stunt unpopular but it risked NOW's tax exempt status. NOW PAC can endorse candidates. NOW cannot. As president of NOW, Gandy's little act of prostitution crossed the line. And gals, you better start worring. Rebecca's first husband is big in the RNC and he's begun asking questions about Panhandle Media and women's organization's tax exempt status. (Rebecca has thus far taken a pass on women's organization but has been very clear about how 'independent' media has been spinning. The matter is now under review at the RNC.)

Kim's public service announcement for "Sister Baracka" not only risks the tax status of NOW, it insults NOW membership which does not exist to take orders from Gandy. As president, Kim is supposed to be responsive and acting on behalf of the membership. She's far from the only 'leader' failing to grasp that basic reality. She is not Moses leading anyone out of the desert. She was put in her current position to represent on behalf of women, not to sell them out to politicians.


Of all the attacks on Hillary (which Feminist Majority Foundation and Feminist Wire Daily ignored -- two 'briefs' over five months is not paying attention), one of the most offensive was when Hillary was attacked for her husband's involvement with Monica Lewinsky. It's the sort of sexist smear that blames a woman for a man's actions. It's the sort of sexist smear that only blames the woman but, by blaming the woman, suggests she's the problem and not her husband's own actions. You see that garbage floated regularly about Hillary and, no, Feminist Majority Foundation has never called it out when Homer's repeated it to Marge on The Simpsons (and everyone had a 'good' chuckle) or on Family Guy (too many times to mention). Little surprise that, in Texas, Barack elected to advertise heavily on both program's syndicated repeats in the lead up to the March primary.

When did the campaigns start playing dirty? How about this statement:

That one of the most important things that we need to know about the next president of the United States is, is he somebody that shares our values? Is he somebody that respects family? Is a good and decent person? So our view was that, if you can't run your own house, you certainly can't run the White House. So, so we've adjusted our schedules to make sure that our girls are first, so while he's traveling around, I do day trips.

Media Matters went into overtime trying to justify the remarks -- by Michelle Obama -- saying that she was speaking about herself and not other candidates! Bull-f**king-s**t.

First off, note the "he." Second off note her comments (a veiled attack on Bill Clinton) and how she then goes on (and on and on -- we cut it short) selling herself as the sainted wife of the sainted one. This was an attack on the Hillary Clinton campaign and it took place in August 2007. Michelle Obama launched it and damn well knew what she was doing. (The Obama campaign is very proud of that moment.)

When 'leaders' think they can sell Michelle as the reason to support Barack or that they can boo-hoo about some inflated claim that Michelle's been wronged, what they miss is that feminists have not forgotten that moment and will not. Michelle Obama is not a feminist and the grassroots is damn well aware that 'leadership' refused to call her out for her remarks which were an attack on Hillary and other women who had been in the same situation. It's not surprising that Media Matters' missed the boat. It's a male heavy organization. It is surprising that female 'leadership' elected to play dumb and now think they can sell Michelle as a poor, put-upon victim. Feminists aren't buying it and there is very real rage boiling over Michelle's actions and the silence of 'leadership.'

In those August remarks, Michelle invited the country to picture the next president and it was a "he" because others can't keep their houses in order the way she, Super Helpmate, and her husband can. Michelle Obama launched many attacks on the Clinton campaign and the press giggled and and enjoyed the cheap laughs then showed up in 2008 huffing about Bill Clinton (whose remarks had to be distorted by LIARS and the Obama campaign in order to stoke that rage).

While the 'leaders' have made asses out of themselves, women around the country (and a lot of men) have stood up to the sexism and their reward for that is to be blacked out by NOW, Feminist Majority Foundation, Ms. magazine, WMC, Women's eNews and Feminist Wire Daily? That's the response to women using and owning their own power?

Well it says a lot about how cowardly and foolish the current 'leadership' of the feminist movement is. Peggy Simpson reports Kim Gandy was at the end of the month meeting and was among the many 'leaders' not pressing demands on Barack. That becomes outright hilarious when you grasp that July 31st NOW sent out (NOW news) a mailing highlighting Gandy's "Obama, Are You Listening? This One's for Your Girls."

In that hilarious column, Kim wanted to press Barack to pick Hillary for his running mate. All the more hilarious when you realize that, when face to face with Barack, Gandy (as Simpson reports) had no demands.

So what is it? Is it the 'oikey doke' (to use Barack's term)? Do the 'leaders' think that they can toss out crumbs to the movement but rub elbows and trade quips with Barack?

That's not how it works.

And the feminist movement what has always worked: Demands.

When the second wave feminists emerged they were a wild card. Who was going to compete for their votes?

Tricky Dick's "southern strategy" was highly effective and would have been only more effective had the Democrats not picked up the emerging majority vote (women became majority voters in the gender quake elections of 1992). Without women supporting Democrats in such large numbers throughout the last three decades, the party would have collapsed.


Demands, not concessions.

"Leaders" want to get giddy with Barack and want to try to sell the women they are supposed to represent on the idea that because he has a "D" listed after his name, he's some sort of gift to women. He's not. His record on abortion in the Illinois legislature was appalling and a lot of lies (and liars) emerged to sell it as, "He was asked to vote this way!" No, he wasn't. And not only was he not asked to vote that way, the "present" strategy was invented for those representatives with conservative or conservative-trending districts. Barack represented one of the Chicago's most liberal districts. He was supposed to vote "Yes" and stand up for abortion rights but Barack was planning his someday presidential run and didn't want abortion rights 'tied to his neck,' so he sold abortion rights out and voted "present." That's the reality we all knew by the spring.

What we've seen since then is his comments about women "feeling blue" and having abortion and his other right-wing talking points, what we've seen is his spitting on Doe v. Bolton. It's not just about Roe and if 'leaders' don't grasp that, throw some cold water in their faces and wake them up.

Sarah Weddington argued Roe v. Wade before the Supreme Court and she recounts the battle for reproductive rights in A Question of Choice: The Lawyer Who Won Roe v. Wade. The last chapter in her 1992 book should not be overlooked, "Beyond Casey."

The topic of that chapter only further calls into question Democratic support for reproductive rights. "Casey" is Bob Casey, the anti-choice idiot. No, he's not in the Senate, that's JUNIOR. That's Bob Casey Jr. spawn of idiots. Junior was the 'man' to get behind even if the DNC had to muscle a candidate who supported reproductive rights out of the race (of course, she was a woman). The lessons of the last two decades are lost on leadership. In 1992, in "Beyond Casey," Weddington would note that Roe hung by a single vote. And it was true then. That it still is goes to a Democratic Party that has not fought to keep Roe legal. Two men have occupied the Oval Office since then. Roe gets chipped away over and over to the point that it's little more than legal language today and not an enfranchisement for women in most parts of the country.

While two men have sat in the Oval Office, multiple men and women have been senators and that's the thing; see, presidents make nominations, the Senate approves or shoots down the nominee. Bully Boy's stacked the courts! Only with the help of the US Senate.

Bob Casey (Snr.) loved to lie and say he was kept out of the 1992 convention. He wasn't. (Nat Hentoff is already at work typing yet another deranged rebuttal to that fact.) But guess who's speaking to the convention this year? Bob Casey JUNIOR.

Last week Rick Klein and Teddy Davis (ABC News) reported, "The Democratic Party is planning a convention designed to soften the edges on the party's support for abortion rights, with a revamped platform and a speaking lineup that reinforces efforts to broaden Democrats' appeal on the hot-button issue." [See also Cedric's "The battered syndrome is what Bambi works" and Wally's "THIS JUST IN! BARACK SPITS ON WOMEN AGAIN!"]

For those who don't know their history, let's drop back to more recent times. When "Sure Thing" John Kerry lost the 2004 elections, it was time to (as usual) attack women. Interesting Times (allegedly left) trashed women standing up for abortion rights while hissing that fools like James Dobson needed to be heeded and listened to. To set the stage for the Democratic Party becoming even more like the Republican one, the myth of "values voters" was invented and sold by The New York Times (even though their own raw data did not back up the sweeping conclusions/lies they front paged).

Feminist 'leaders' should have read the writing on the wall back then and grasped that 'friends' were not friends and that feminists were really going to have press demands in the coming years. Instead, they didn't. They showed no guts, no courage unless you think Kate Michelman crying in the halls of Congress is somehow a show of strength? (C.I., Ava, Kat and Wally found it humorous and took pictures and were sure to point it out to others present.) Poor, pathetic Kate. Let down yet again by Democrats in the Senate who refused to vote against Bully Boy's anti-choice nominee. They did that twice in 2006. And 'rage' and 'action' for that sell-out was . . . Kate sobbing in the halls of Congress. Is it any surprise that William Saletan would publish "Player of choice: How ex-NARAL head Kate Michelman learned to play by Washington's rules -- and was taken down by them" (Washington Monthly -- and the article makes the perfect companion piece to the photos of Kate bawling.)

How did it come to this? How did feminism go from marching in the streets to crying in Congress? Because 'leaders' want to be 'players' and that requires them being cozier with the Beltway than with their own members.

And because 'leadership' becomes more cowardly each year. Feminists especially should know that when you don't stand up to a bully you get beaten down. Too many abused women can tell that story. But 'leaders' want to play like contestants on a new Fox 'reality' show: Best Battered Bride In The Whole Damn World. The Democrats slug in the face and they just smile bravely and make excuses.

When women were swing voters and the unknown, the Democratic Party had to work for them. The party's leadership didn't like or respect women anymore than it does today, but they had to attempt to win them over.

Now they don't have to attempt anything. If you've missed each, each presidential election cycle becomes "swing voters!" Feminists would have far more power today (or tomorrow, if they wanted to get wise) if they'd stop propping up the DNC candidates and start standing up.

To put it blunt terms, Democratic leadership knows the feminist 'leaders' will put out so they make no effort to woo them. The ones getting screwed are the grassroots. In the 2004 presidential election, the Democratic Party went out of its way to run from its base. That's how you got John Kerry's campaign losing promise of he would fight the unpopular Iraq War "smarter." That's how you got no scheduled women for the 2004 convention. (Hillary was added late and only after intensive lobbying. Barack, whom no one had heard of, could give the keynote speech but one of the party's biggest fundraisers and most prominent faces wasn't even invited originally.)

The Power Of No. Unless you're willing to say 'no,' unless you're willing to walk away, you're going to get stuck with a lot of lemons. The Democratic Party needs votes. That's all they care about. They think they can push women around because women 'leaders' have let themselves be pushed around.

The Barack Obama campaign was built with attacks on women (from their surrogates, from Barack, from Michelle). Now is the perfect time for feminist 'leaders' to exercise real power and say, "You want my vote? Work for it." To make clear that feminists can and will walk away from the table. When we can't be counted on, we'll be as wooed as the mythical 'values voters' and 'security moms.'

Ralph Nader has rightly noted that the left doesn't know how to play poker. It's past time they learned. The future of America goes far beyond one election cycle. No election is worth selling out your beliefs.

But 'leaders' don't get that. Take crackpot E. Faye Williams who is not a feminist and not a leader (other than at her crackpot 'health' industry where she's CEO). Simpson quotes E. Faye Williams drooling (at the meet up with Barack -- her candidate of choice from the beginning) about the interaction between Sister Baracka and women 'leaders,' "There was not even a hint of confrontation. The tone was how can we help you and how can you help us in working with our members."

Williams is a crackpot. Her 'business' is the sort that advertises in tabloids (next to 'miracle pills' that make your boobs bigger). But pay attention to what that non-leader said, what she told on about alleged 'leaders.' They didn't go to make demands, they didn't pressure the candidate. They wanted to know "How can we help you?" That was their first issue. What good little ass-kissers the 'leadership' has become. The second question is even more embarrassing, "How can you help us in working with our members?"

Read over that again. Alleged feminist 'leaders' are asking a man how to interact with their own membership. If that doesn't digust and turn your stomach, you're probably still singing along to "He Hit Me And It Felt Like A Kiss."

E. Faye Williams may have gotten scared or may have just decided to sell out, but she's no feminist (yeah, we all know about her losing 1986 campaign and her horror about being called a Communist and how she elected to tell that story years later in a . . . Communist periodical) and that was obvious by her crackpot theories she served up about Hillary in May -- at the Obama campaign blog. Like its leader, the National Congress of Black Women is not a feminist organization. It's the equivalent of Future Homemakers of America on a grander scale and reminds us a great deal of Red Betty's efforts at trickery in the 60s and 70s.

In July, Barbara Cohn Schlachet outlined (at WMC) the basic realities for women:

It occurs to me that, among marginalized groups, women uniquely live with those that marginalize them, in a context of intimacy, loyalty, love and, often, dependency. Women are not literally ghettoized or ostracized. To the contrary, we are fully integrated into every community--with the exception of the power echelon in academia, business, media and politics--at least to the naked eye. However, ghettos (not to be advocated) offer the opportunity for a kind of solidarity; one knows who the enemy is, against whom one has to fight back, who is US, and who is THEM. This has played an enormous role in the civil rights struggle for African Americans, in the struggle for gay rights, religious freedom, and is now playing out in the effort to gain rights for immigrants.
[. . .]
I can't help but think of the statement about sexism made by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, one of the most powerful women in American politics today. When questioned about sexism during the primaries, Speaker Pelosi commented to the effect that she was aware of sexism, and had certainly had to face it herself, but that she didn’t let it bother her. Where would the civil rights movement be had Rosa Parks or the Reverend Dr. King not let racism bother them? Yet, if we do let it "bother us," we end up having to face in our homes and families what we regularly face on the TV screen. I'm sure that media commentators, the majority of whom are male, do not see themselves as bigots or misogynists. How can they be, when they love the women in their lives?

If feminist 'leadership' can't grasp reality, they need to be replaced (and not allowed to go off to another organization and 'lead' from there). Reality is that women have always been scapegoated since the beginning of time. It's not about race, it's not about ethnicity. Women have overwhelming been the most targeted throughout history. In Iraq today, it's easier to be a Christian male than it is to be a Christian female -- and it's deadly to be a Christian male in Iraq today.

In the September 2008 issue of Harper's magazine, Vivian Gornick offers up "Radiant Poison: Saul Bellow, Philip Roth, and the end of the Jew as metaphor" which really drives home who is always the scapegoat and how it's only more so when the issue is an under-represented group:

In Portony's Complaint, probably for the first time in Jewish-American literature, women-hating is openly associated with a consuming anger at what it has meant to be pushed to the margin, generation after generation; humiliated time and again into second-class lives; deprived, in egalitarian America, of a place at the table in matters of social importance. For men like Bellows and Roth, the sense of pent-up outrage was so instense that it was inevitable not only that it vent itself on those closest to hand but that it confuse them with the powers that be. Thus, humiliation goes kinky. Beginning with Herzog and Portnoy, theirs was a literature that screamed, "Don't tell me I don't run things around here!" only it was screaming it at the women its authors slept with.

And so it has always been and so it is today with attacks on Title IX, with the 'music' of gangsta rap, with one attack on women after another and we're all supposed to look the other (repeatedly) especially when it comes from a group that's still striving for equality itself.


We can't expect to live in a world where women matter until we make sure that women matter in our own worlds. That's feminism. Everything else is just a side-issue better left to another organization to take up the call for.

And when the women's liberation movement is willing to put the liberation of women front and center, real leaders will be more than willing to walk away from the table instead of begging for crumbs. When that day comes, equality will be a reality and not a longing.
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