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March 02, 2008

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I'm beginning to feel there is something wrong with me and my circle of women friends. I'm a white 60 year old woman who has been an active feminist almost 40 years. I voted for Obama -- I trust him (slightly) more to be a slightly less bellicose imperialist than Clinton.

Without any urging, most of my women friends who are demographically similar have confided that they too voted for Obama. It is not something they trumpet.

If we paid any attention to women who get to the top of the political systems in their countries, we would know some have been people to admire (Mary Robinson for one example)and others (Margaret Thatcher leaps to mind) that the world could have done without.

I don't make my electoral choices based on people's plumbing and I am heartily sick of anyone who thinks mine should dictate how I should vote.

Hirschman's foul tempered piece, I suppose, actually did belong in the same newspaper that would publish that egregious Charlotte Allen column. The Washington Post editorial page is plumbing new depths of obtuseness and irrelevancy.

But the worst thing about touting Hillary Clinton as feminist standardbearer is that so many ordinary people are voting for her specifically because they believe her husband will help her with the tough calls in the White House. This theme comes up regularly when regular voters are interviewed.

HRC is the wife of a former president; she skipped straight to the Senate (in New York, of all places, a normally cutthroat political environment) without ever having been elected to anything before, largely on the strength of her spousal connections. The idea of HRC as authentic "symbol of female power" is just laughable. She is a smart and talented woman, but without the Clinton name brand and fundraising machine does anyone really think she would have emerged ahead of Biden or Dodd in this nomination race? Seems to me her "experience" resume would look awfully thin up against those guys.

Speaking as a black man who did not vote for either Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, or Alan Keyes when they ran for President, I can only say to hilzoy: preach, sister. I pretty much reasoned exactly the same way ( although you put it better than I). Guess that makes me a self- hating black man to some. I prefer to think that I waited till the right black Presidential candidate came.
If its any consolation to women, there is still a chance that a woman may be on the ticket for President this year. Looking down the road, there are eight currently serving female governors. its quite likely that one of them- the right one- will be on the ticket in years to come.

This is kinda tangential, but in case anyone is looking for a good woman political candidate to support, one race I've had to make up my mind in is the race to replace the open Congressional seat in my district of Mark Udall, who will be the next Democratic Senator from Colorado (barring something totally unforseen happening).

As an alternate delegate to the county convention on March 15th, and as the precinct committee person for the next two years, I'm getting my vote solicited, being asked to meet'n greets, and so on, and so I've had to make up my mind which candidate to support, and I've definitely concluded that that's Joan Fitz-Gerald, who was term-limited out as the first woman President of the Colorado State Senate, and who has a fine record to my taste -- which is to say, highly liberal.

Like minded folk might want to check her out, and perhaps donate. After I researched her, and decided I liked her vastly better than her opponent, I was also amused at how many endorsements she racked up.

But her opponent, while a good Democrat, is also a multi-hundred-millionaire, Jared Polis, and while I wouldn't be horrified if he won't, I think Fitz-Gerald is a much better choice, and it's a real toss-up as to who will win.

Mind, the nominee at this point will chosen in the August 12th primary, and will be the next Congressional rep from the 2nd District; there was a Republican running, Tom Stone, but he apparently withdrew, and now there isn't even a Republican running, so far as I've noticed.

Thank you. I have been waiting to read such a post for quite some time now, and I've found various points you've made scattered among several different pieces, but...bravo.

What does Hirschman make of the fact that white voters aren't voting for the white candidate? I'd say that she ignores that because whites aren't an underrepresented group, but she does specifically mention men voting for the man.

Feminazis lack any trace of a sense of humor.

What Fran said.

I have long felt that it would be a mistake to choose as our first woman President, one who has gotten there hanging onto her husband's coat tails. Not MY idea of feminism. There will be other women in the future who will be running on their own merits and accomplishments. I will wait for one of those.

Jackie Spier is an outstanding candidate for the House seat in California's 12th district, and should be elected succeed Tom Lantos.

I would like to ask (in a far more popular forum) the same question I asked on my own blog a few days ago. Is there a good feminist argument for voting for HRC (rather than all the bad feminist arguments I see)?

HRC is the wife of a former president; she skipped straight to the Senate (in New York, of all places, a normally cutthroat political environment) without ever having been elected to anything before, largely on the strength of her spousal connections.

Why New York "of all places"? With a little bit of editing, you've just described RFK.

I've never found a "good feminist argument" for HRC, and I think it's because there aren't any. I tried coming up with one, to be devil's advocate to myself, and the best one I could dredge up was that just seeing a female president - no matter who it was - would show little girls that nothing is out of their reach because of their gender, and it would prevent a sort of insidious self-sabotage they might be doing to themselves.

But: 1. this might tip the scales if everything else were equal, and I very much don't think everything else is. Obama is out of her league in character and brains.

2. Even IF everything else were equal - who is in greater need of positive role models, little white girls or little black boys? Again, no contest. At all.

So if I were to - as a white chick - vote my wii avatar, then that would be sheer narcissism, and nothing else.

Oh yeah - this Linda Hirschman is a repeat offender. She wrote something in 2004 or thereabouts, a sort of manifesto saying that any woman who doesn't put career over everything else, including children, is a traitor to the feminist cause.

Phoebe -- You said, "Obama is out of her league in character and brains."

Your meaning is unclear. Do you think Obama is smarter, or Clinton is smarter? And what do you mean by "character"?

One of the many problems with Linda Hirshman (who I've come across several times before) is that it's not clear in her view of society what difference a female president would actually make. She is obviously not interested in anything like family friendly policies, because to her caring for families is inferior work for inferior people. To her mind only a life of highly-paid corporate work is a 'good life': her ambition is for women to be high-flying corporate drones in the same way that some men are. Therefore for Hirshman, I suspect, a female president literally exists only as a role model, to inspire other women to aim high, so they can leave the world exactly as it is at the moment.

Is there a good feminist argument for voting for HRC?

Yes.

If you go to One Vote 08 and compare them on AIDS policies, you'll see that all three candidates sound pretty much the same. Except HRC uses the word "prevention", which the others (and the One Vote organization) do not.

In other words, HRC would promote condom use. This goes along with a whole bunch of other "give women control over their reproduction" issues (the global gag rule, for instance).

When I looked at the candidates' positions as told to the League of Women Voters, I was struck by how much more humane HRC's immigration policy is than anyone else's. She's willing to say upfront that family reunification should continue to be a goal of US immigration policy.

This is a feminist issue because current immigration policy is especially hard on women & children (the latter being more likely to be native-born).

Together, both these issues indicate to me that HRC is more likely than Obama to be realistic and compassionate about women's issues.

Thank you, Doctor Science, that is interesting to know, and the kind of details on specific policies that I wish other pro-Clinton feminists would provide. If I had a vote in the election (which I don't), those particular more positive aspects to HRC's campaign would be things I would factor in (along with other issues).

Just an observation Doctor Science: The One Vote 08 writeup you link to doesn't (to my eyes) really present a noticeable difference in verbiage regarding prevention. Clinton wants to "help ensure universal access to treatment, prevention, and care," Obama to "ensur[e] at least 4.5 million people are on ARV treatment by 2013, and prevent[] 12 million new infections." Can you elaborate on what you mean there?

I'm also inclined to think that, in the absence of specific policy differences, their rhetoric on immigration is similar (Obama talking about family reunification on the Senate floor last May, for example, and the similarity of the language on their respective "Issues" websites). I see that Clinton introduced an amendment to a June 2007 immigration bill with a focus on this issue (http://www.senate.gov/~clinton/news/statements/record.cfm?id=275661), so one might see a difference in degree there.

All I wish is that people would stop talking about her marriage as if she were the lesser of the two. One can as easily argue that he would never have gotten to where he is without her smarts backing him up. They operate as a team. Most successful couples do. There is more to their marriage than subservience and sex and that seems to bother people the most. When will people get it through their heads that long term relationships aren't built on hormones alone.

I personally think, since they are both basically centrist politicians, that electing her now to deal with the Bush fallout and then using his charm to get the White House back after the backlash would be a better long term stategy. Modern politics is of the moment and he seems to be the Man of the Year. I still think it is a waste of a golden oppurtunity, but one voter, one vote.

Wow. What a thoughtful, well-argued piece. This is the best analysis of this issue that I've seen so far. Thank you, hilzoy!

This is a great post, and I'd only add (that is, if I COULD add, which, being a woman, I have some trouble with) that by imagining women as a "bloc," Hirschman perpetuates an arrogant misconception popular among second-wave feminists, that the first priority of any woman ought to be to get access to the social, political, and economic power the men have been hoarding so far. One reason that black women were wary of feminism in those days is that the men they hung out with had been doing no such thing; they'd been disenfranchised by the same people. One explanation for the overwhelming preference of black women for Obama is that they never found much of a place in the Movement. Another, of course, Hirschman brings up only to dismiss out of hand. Is it possible that "maybe Obama is the best candidate"?

I was assuming your footnote was going to explain what you meant by using the word "cisgendered," but I had to look it up myself.

Clouds on the sunny Obama horizon:

His finance chair Penny Pritzker co-owned, sat on the board of, and profited from the predatory lending practices of Superior Bank, whose collapse in 2001 was one of the largest bank failures since the depression. The Pritzkers acquired the bank at fire-sale rates in the wake of the S&L bailout/RTC selloff. Superior Bank, with help from Merrill Lynch, was a pioneer of the securitization of subprime mortgages.

Dave Moberg story from 2002
Dennis Bernstein

The Clinton campaign has been quiet on this, having brought Penny Pritzker's brother J.B. on board as a fundraiser/organizer. McCain might be too, since the story of the Pritzker's acquisition of Superior Bank brings the Keating S&L scandal front and center.

This kind of thing is why it's hard for me to take much pleasure in the massive amounts of money being raised by Democratic campaigns this season. We've got a structural problem -- one that anyone in a position to be elected to national office will be constrained from tackling.

Via A Tiny Revolution, which has more links.

Apologies to anyone who considers this off-topic. I don't think it is, because it has to do with the balancing of concerns that Hilzoy discusses.

Every candidate now in a position to win has grave defects as far as I'm concerned. I'm still rooting, passively, for Obama. But there's no risk of my getting very hopeful.

Don't get me started on Hirshman OR Charlotte Allen!!! I just have to wonder what WaPo was thinking -- they wanted to alienate the majority of their women readers??

I'm mostly a fan of Jonathan Schwarz's, but this sure is a dopey non-sequitur of a thought: "It's really quite wonderful how Goolsbee can maintain his deep admiration for the Free Market while living a few blocks away from billionaires who use massive government power to create and subsidize their businesses."

Um, what?

Does anyone else find their opinions susceptible to change depending upon who is standing, or living, within a few blocks of them? Can I change your opinion if I run down the block? How about if I move three more blocks away?

WTF logic is this?

This is, without a doubt, the best argument I've read all campaign season.

Also, I love the Wii Avatar comment above.

Wasn't it last month when we were treated to a diatribe from the NY branch of NOW claiming that any woman who voted for Obama over Hillary was a "traitor to her sex" or something like that?

I remember it had a lot of the feminist bloggers scratching their heads wondering who had allowed that piece of malarky out the door.

"Wasn't it last month when...."

January, actually.

"Women have just experienced the ultimate betrayal" was the lede claim.

Thank you. Thank you so much for articulating my feelings on this, and so well.

"Even leaving aside the obvious fact that the war has hardly been a net plus for Iraqi women, is being a feminist supposed to involve not caring about the destruction of a country and the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people?"

What an odd comment. I doubt very much that many Iraqi women would agree that life under the brutal and sadistic Baathists was preferable to life under a true democratic government with the very real prospect of hope, stability, and prosperity.

Thank you, thank you for this post. I was talking to my sister last night, and we were both expressing frustration with this attitude that we are bad, evil, stupid, selfish, ungrateful women if we don't vote for Hillary. We also hate this attitude that we are ignorant, shrill, crazed, brainwashed, sheeple in woman suits if we do vote for her.

What, shouldn't we be thinking for ourselves? I prefer being treated as if I were an intelligent human being, and you can blame feminism for that, if you like.

PG -- I'm sure you're correct as to the preferences of Iraqi women, if in fact those were the choices they faced in this dimension of reality.

Precisely. I've written more than one comment about how frustrated I am that my 50-something female vote will automatically be cast for Hillary or that I would make a decision on who is the best candidate based on gender. Whether a woman chooses to vote for Hillary or not, should not depend on gender, nor should appeals for support be based on her gender.

As for the Washington Post, blecch.

"I doubt very much that many Iraqi women would agree that life under the brutal and sadistic Baathists was preferable to life under a true democratic government with the very real prospect of hope, stability, and prosperity."

Your doubts aren't any more interesting than my doubts; the facts are what's relevant: do you have a cite to demonstrate that, in fact, more Iraqi women prefer the state of affairs today to that of 2002?

Here's a poll of Iraqis from September:

[...] According to this latest poll, in key areas - security and the conditions for political dialogue, reconstruction and economic development - between 67 and 70% of Iraqis, or more than two-thirds, say the surge has made things worse.

[...]

Since the last BBC/ABC News poll in February, the number of Iraqis who think that US-led coalition forces should leave immediately has risen sharply, from 35 to 47%, although that does mean that a small majority - 53% - still says the forces should stay until security has improved.

But 85% of Iraqis say they have little or no confidence in US and UK forces.

[...]

In terms of quality of life, 80% of Iraqis say the availability of jobs is bad or very bad, 93% say the same about electricity supplies, 75% for clean water, 92% for fuel.

And 77% of Iraqis say the ability to live where they want, without persecution, is bad or very bad.

[...]

Sixty-one per cent of Iraqis say they have little or no confidence in the national government, and 66% disapprove of Nouri Maliki's handling of the job of prime minister.

[...]

In 2005, 64% of people thought their lives would get better in the coming year, and 69% thought conditions in Iraq as a whole would improve.

In February, those figures had slumped to 35% and 40%, and they have dipped further in the latest poll, to 29% and 22%.

[...]

Eighty-eight per cent of Sunnis say things are going badly in their lives.

Fifty-four per cent of Shias think they are going well.

Also, strikingly, 93% of Sunnis say attacks on coalition forces are acceptable, compared with 50% of Shia (the overall total is 57%).

[...]

Only 34% of Sunnis have confidence in the Iraqi army, compared with 83% of Shias. The figures for the police are 37% and 83% respectively.

Only 2% of Sunnis approve of Nouri al-Maliki's performance, compared with 54% of Shias approve.

Graphics here. Full results here.

From that:

[...] 4. Do you think your children will have a better life than you, worse, or about
the same?
Better Worse Same No opin.
8/24/07 33 42 25 *
Sunni 7 72 22 0
Shiite 55 19 26 *
Kurdish 26 46 27 1
3/5/07 42 37 21 *
Sunni 6 71 22 *
Shiite 66 17 17 *
Kurdish 50 22 27 *
And:
5. Now thinking about how things are going, not for you personally, but for
Iraq as a whole, how would you say things are going in our country overall
these days? Are they very good, quite good, quite bad, or very bad?

[NET Good Bad No opin. Qb Very b]
8/24/07 22 3 19 78 40 38 *
Sunni 2 * 2 98 38 60 0
Shiite 39 6 33 61 42 20 0
Kurdish 17 2 15 83 36 47 0

3/5/07 35 4 31 65 35 31 *
Sunni 5 1 4 95 40 55 0
Shiite 50 4 46 50 32 18 *
Kurdish 57 11 46 43 30 13 *
11/22/05 44 14 30 52 23 30 3

"Quite bad" and "very bad," to be clear, were 40% and 35%, for a total of 75% of Iraqis.

On the question of the desirability of the invasion and overthrow of Saddam Hussein, these are the results:

[...] THE WAR and U.S. FORCES – Other assessments of the United States are overwhelmingly negative. As noted, nearly two-thirds of Iraqis now say it was wrong for the United States and its allies to have invaded Iraq – 63 percent, up from 52 percent six months ago and from 39 percent in the first Iraq poll by ABC, the BBC and NHK (and the German broadcaster ARD) in February 2004.

Even among Shiites, empowered by the overthrow of Saddam, 51 percent now say the invasion was wrong, up sharply from 29 percent in March. (Further deterioration may be ahead; among Shiites who still support the invasion, the number who call it “absolutely” right has fallen from 34 percent in March to 14 percent now.) Only among the largely autonomous Kurds does a majority still support the invasion, and even their support, 71 percent, is down by 12 points.

The results aren't broken out by male/female, but it seems reasonable to assume that opinion wouldn't be sharply different between Iraqi women and men, so have stats clearly demonstrating that most Iraqis think things are getting worse, and over the past year, more of them have been thinking that.

What polls do you get your information from, and can you please give us cites? Thanks.

"...but it seems reasonable to assume that opinion wouldn't be sharply different between Iraqi women and men, so have stats clearly demonstrating...."

Should be: "...but it seems reasonable to assume that opinion wouldn't be sharply different between Iraqi women and men, so we have stats clearly demonstrating...."

I've written more than one comment about how frustrated I am that my 50-something female vote will automatically be cast for Hillary or that I would make a decision on who is the best candidate based on gender.

and there are plenty of Clinton-supporters out there who are more than happy to blame my support of Obama on the fact that i'm (apparently) a misogynistic, male chauvinist, member of the All Boys Club.

to which i'm all like "huh? WTF are you talking about?"

"to which i'm all like 'huh? WTF are you talking about?'"

It shouldn't be that surprising. Lots of folks, including more than a few who drop by here, seem to at least frequently work under the premise that it's safe to assume that if someone is making a particular argument, that their motivations should be assumed to be the worst possible, and the person themself should be presumed to be an identical stand-in for the dopiest and most loathsome fellow holder of that position.

The assumptions regarding Obama/Clinton votes are just a specific case of the general practice and attitude of many.

Keep an eye out for this sort of general case, and you'll see it happening all the time, including not infrequently by some ObWi commenters.

The assumptions regarding Obama/Clinton votes are just a specific case of the general practice and attitude of many.

sadly true.

well, that, and all Clinton supporters are dopes.

Gary, Three things:

1. The BBC poll you quoted uses data that is now over six months old. The situation in Iraq has improved dramatically. I suspect that the BBC is not so keen to do polling in Iraq as it once was.

2. Still the polls you cited do not touch upon my simple declaration anyway: that Iraqi women would much rather live in their fledgling democracy than under the brutal and sadistic Baathists. The Shia and the Kurds comprise about 70% of the population. Hmmm, I wonder how many of Shia and Kurdish women will say,"Yeah I prefer Saddam over Maliki".

3. Your general thrust is absurd, that people anywhere on the planet would prefer being governed by murderous thugs than by democratically elected government.

3. Your general thrust is absurd, that people anywhere on the planet would prefer being governed by murderous thugs than by democratically elected government.

Given the relative freedoms of women under secular Baathists and under fundamentalist Islamic rule, I'm thinking the absurdity lies elsewhere.

Me: "What polls do you get your information from, and can you please give us cites? Thanks."

PG: no response.

Unsurprising.

"Your general thrust is absurd, that people anywhere on the planet would prefer being governed by murderous thugs than by democratically elected government."

I made no such "general thrust"; you're making that up.

Your notion that all it takes to make a country's situation preferable to another situation is to use the words "democratically elected government" to describe it isn't supportable.

But if it is, presumably your argument is that the Palestinian people are much happier now that they were able to elect Hamas to office than they ever were before.

Alternatively, factors such as the state of the country prior to the election, the establishment of civil institutions, how literate a populace is, how much access they have to information about the candidates and their goals, what percentage of the population voted, what the geographical, factional, communal, and sectarian differentiations in the vote and approach to the elections were, whether or not the "democratically elected government" is actually functioning, whether death squads are a popular local sport, whether the country is in a state of fragmented and corrupt dysfunctionality, just possibly might be relevant.

But there's no point in opining: put forward any facts you have. Presumably the fact that I already asked you to, and you failed to, doesn't mean that you don't have any, and your opinion is based on no citable facts whatever.

Right?

(Note that I have stated no opinion, myself, about what Iraqi women prefer.)

So: cite away.

Rats. A couple of links fell out of my comment; rather than repost the whole thing with them reinserted, I'll just put them here and here.

There has been a flood of "feminist" complaints as it became clear Clinton's candidacy was going down, and I've concluded my local paper (Boston Globe) just wants to raise my blood pressure.

To address a couple that recur:
If Obama were a woman with the same history, he'd never be taken seriously as a candidate. I just don't think this is true. Slightly steeper path, sure. But if she had all his gifts, especially organizing grass roots, I think she'd be about where he is now. Possibly better, as Clinton's supporters couldn't do the "can't you vote for a woman?" bleat. (Yes, bleat. I'm a feminist by Hilzoy's definition, I adapted it from Clinton's China speech, and I'm starting to want to go all Bunny Foofoo on those who whine about not voting my gender above qualifications.)

Now let's imagine that Mr. Pelosi announces in 2010 that he'd like to be elected to the House and made Speaker. He's married to Nancy, so he has a lot of crucial experience. He'd be laughed off the stage. So would the husband of any governor or other elected official seeking to follow his wife into office. (I will make an exception for taking over your dead spouse's house seat. But it only works when the spouse is dead and you carry on the legacy--see Bono, Tsongas.) They have this "what if the genders were reversed" argument completely backward.

The second point: In the 80 or 90 years women have had the vote, they've never voted as a bloc. It's time to stop acting all surprised when, in yet another election, it doesn't materialize.

Deborah: In the 80 or 90 years women have had the vote, they've never voted as a bloc. It's time to stop acting all surprised when, in yet another election, it doesn't materialize.

Wins the thread.

Thank you for this, i've been struggling with the idea of being an avid feminist yet voting for Obama for weeks... not to mention that everyone rubs in it, saying i must not really be a feminist if i didn't vote for the woman running... i actually found this post because i wrote a reaction to all that and a reader left a comment with the link here. Thanks for your post, it helps put words to what i've been feeling.

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