Sunday, December 28, 2008

2008: A "really bad year" for women?

by Chloe Angyal

Jim Cunningham of The Examiner has written a pretty depressing list called "The Top 1o Political Train Wrecks of 2008"*.

At number two, sandwiched right in between "A poke in the eye for gay rights" and "The end of John Edwards' political career" is "The hijacking of feminism." Cunningham takes the time to hit all the standard targets, like the tendency of Hillary supporters to blame her primary losses on sexism rather than on her badly-run campaign, and of course, the selection of Sarah Palin, who couldn't put together a coherent policy position (or sentence) but had one hell of a set of ovaries, as well as Hillary's supporters' claims that they would support the McCain-Palin ticket, "apparently willing to overlook all else to see a woman in the Executive Branch of government." He then concludes:

I may have a penis**, but even I know that Feminism is about rights and equality, and not something that should be used as a crutch, bludgeon, or marketing tool whenever it’s convenient. This year we saw a lot of opportunism dressed up as feminism. Ultimately, such things hurt the movement and I believe history will show that, for women, 2008 was a really bad year.

So if 2008 was a year of dressing up opportunism as feminism, does this mean that feminism has finally become palatable to the general public? If we've arrived at the point where more sinister motives are being disguised as feminism, wouldn't it suggest that feminism, and feminists, are considered admirable? If that's the case, then half of Equal Writes' work is done: "feminism" is no longer a dirty word. Far from it, a feminist is what you want people to think you are while you're actually being brazenly sexist by replacing one set of ovaries with another.

Unfortunately, while I think that Cunningham is absolutely right about opportunism in feminist clothing, I don't think that we've arrived at a place where feminism - equal rights, opportunities and access for both genders - has become palatable and admirable to the general public. Rather, I think that "feminism" been redefined so that any woman who's "strong-willed" and "confident" gets to call herself a feminist. Unfortunately, there are plenty of strong-willed and confident anti-feminists out there too (Phyllis Schlafly, anyone?), so it takes more than a strong will to make a woman a feminist. As for Palin, in the words of Feministing's Ann Friedman, a woman candidate is not the same as a women's candidate: if you're not going to stand up for the rights of women, you don't get to wear that label, no matter how strong-willed you might be.

Cunningham's conclusion is that 2008 was a bad year for women, but there were glimmers of (watch out, here comes the h-word) hope. Many women rejected Palin, with some viewing her selection for the ticket as an insult to their intelligence. Many women saw through her "folksy" charm to her anti-woman record.
And many women were intelligent enough to say to themselves, "if this candidate were named Sam Palin, he'd be laughed off the ticket for his complete lack of knowledge about politics, to say nothing of basic geography" (to any Sam Palins out there, no, Africa is not a country). In other words, while a lot of voters, male and female, were rightfully upset by the sometimes sexist treatment that both Clinton and Palin received at the hands of the media, they were intelligent enough to notice that politically, Palin was being held to a much lower standard than she would have been were she a male candidate. And feminism that is not: the idea that we should expect anything less from women than we expect from men, especially when they're running for the second most powerful position in the country, is straight up, no-two-ways-about-it sexism.

As 2008 showed us, women have come a long way, and we have a long way yet to go. But all is not lost. Despite a serious hijacking of feminism by people who wouldn't even rank women's wellbeing on their Top Ten list of priorities, people who put the idea of women's health in derisive air quotes, this year hasn't been all bad news. We don't have a President McCain or a Vice President Palin, and with any luck, we'll see a smooth transition into the administration of Barack Obama and into an effective, diplomacy-centered State Department headed by Hillary Clinton.

And, because it's possible that Cunningham is right, and that 2008 was indeed a really bad year for women, I'm making one very tall order of a wish this New Year's Eve:
My wish for 2009 is that this time next year, we can look back over a year full of more remarkable achievements and glass-ceiling shattering both here and abroad, in the public eye and in our everyday lives. I hope you'll continue to join us here at Equal Writes as we keep working toward that goal.

*Ugh, we're all so list-happy this time of year, it's like one big month-long episode of Letterman. I mean, honestly, it makes me want to write out all the things I hate about Top Ten lists, numbering each complaint in a way that indicates the descending severity with which I hate each item. Oh, wait...

**This kind of makes me want to start every sentence I write about men with the precursor, "I may have a vagina, but..." Just to clear up any ambiguity.


At December 30, 2008 at 3:17 PM , Anonymous Roissy said...

A lot of guys, particularly those seeking to ingratiate themselves to women with a fawning act of white knighting nonjudgmentalism drivel, believe that it is wrong to categorize women by sluttiness, let alone to disqualify them as relationship candidates based on how many hot loads to the face they took over the course of their sexually active lifetimes. “Don’t judge!” is the rallying cry of weak women and lickspittle betas and lesser alphas everywhere. Conveniently forgotten in this social stampede to shame male standards out of existence is the fact that judgement is inherent to human nature. The frontlines of judging eyes are everywhere. We all do it, including those who judge others for exercising their judgement. If sluttiness were just another lifestyle choice with no implications, there would not be a stigma attached to the word, nor a concerted effort to enforce compliance with the equalist world order by the guardians of female prerogative and pushers of beta male submission howling with inflamed passion at the injustice of men who dare to promote less promiscuous women at the expense of sluts for the best of their masculine love and attention.

Men subconsciously judge women’s sluttiness for eminently practical reasons, just as women judge men on a host of alpha benchmarks for similarly practical reasons. No moral equation required. “Slut” is, in fact, a morally neutral term in the context of the sexual market, where a slutty girl is viewed, justifiably, desirably as an easy lay who will go all the way right away, and undesirably as a girlfriend or wife prospect in whom to invest precious resources. With the law and social institutions of the modern west arrayed against male interest as it hasn’t been in all of human history, it is of critical importance that men get this part of choosing girls for long term investmest and wife and mother potential down to a science. Mandatory paternity testing will aid them in this, and I predict such testing will seismically shift the playing field in a way we haven’t seen since the introduction of the pill and widespread use of the condom. While most married men are not soulkilled by cuckoldry, it only takes a radical change at the margins to have a huge effect on the behaviors of the whole.

Don’t bother whining ineffectually about “double standards“. They are a fact of deeply ingrained sex differences, and aren’t going anywhere. No one said life was fair.


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