Can’t we just kiss and make up?
Dahlia Lithwick discusses the polarizing effect the Clinton-Obama race had on feminists, in which women who chose to align themselves with Obama have been accused of “betraying” their sisters, as well as the core feminist platform.
The worst of the intergenerational bickering of the past months has resulted from a failure of empathy; a breakdown in our capacity to acknowledge that the experiences of others are as compelling as our own. In a sense, we have simply been doing battle over whose stories are more legitimate—the second-wavers or their Pottery Barn daughters— or whose perceptions of gender discrimination are more accurate. Forgive me for saying that this is an argument that is singularly unworthy of us as women. Aren’t we supposed to be great and gifted listeners and connectors?
Before I go on, let me just say this: any Democrat who is serious about voting for McCain simply because they don’t want Obama as president deserves to have their voter registration card taken away, burned to ash and then launched into space. This ain’t the student council election, people, there is no room for juvenile “nanny nanny boo boo, I’ll show them” gestures here. This is especially true for female voters, considering McCain’s decidedly anti-feminist voting record: consistently pro-life, voting against funding for sex and contraception education for teenagers, voting against expansion and additional resources for state-funded health insurance for children, etc.1 It’s time to get off the high horses and work together for a greater good, rather than letting pettyness and sour grapes guide our decision-making.
The rift between pro-Hillary and pro-Obama feminists is but one particularly public example of the in-fighting that plagues feminism. The ideal behind feminism is equality and support of women’s choices, yet no one is capable of making a woman feel more sheepish and insecure about her choices than another woman. The in-fighting between feminists is frequent, it’s harsh and it’s deeply hypocritical. It pits the childfree against mothers, the non-religious against Christians, women who choose to engage in alternative sexual practices and those who do not, even those who choose to wear makeup and high heels and those who do not. It elicits judgment and derision over personal decisions that impact no one else’s lives in the slightest. Amanda Marcotte of Pandagon a few years back wrote a blistering screed against the “embarrassing” decision to take one’s husband’s surname upon marriage, a decision that, let me reiterate, is nobody else’s goddamn business whatsoever, insisting that any woman who does such a thing is merely a weak-willed victim of societal pressure, giving into a bullying spouse who wants to claim ownership on her. But…but, isn’t feminism supposed to be about supporting women’s choices? Or is it merely the choices you support?
That seems to be the heart of the issue with the pro-Hillary vs. pro-Obama debate: a good deal of women apparently expected other women to just blindly support Hillary because of the whole “first female candidate for President” thing. Fine, a valid assumption on the surface, but where is the evidence that, just because she’s a woman herself, Hillary Clinton has other women’s best interests at heart? It seems a bit naive to just immediately jump on a particular candidate’s bandwagon because of their gender or race, to assume that they’re going to by default work for the better of those subgroups. I would say the same for an African-American who automatically supports Barack Obama because he’s African-American, you are being reckless with your vote if the sole reason you give for voting for someone is because they are of the same gender or ethnicity as you, and you are being short-sighted and hypocritical for criticizing those who choose otherwise.
We women are so quick to criticize each other for making decisions we personally don’t approve of, insisting that it’s “giving into the patriarchy” or trying to prove you’re not that kind of feminist, that it really destroys the most basic elements of feminism altogether. It seems to me that if you take a woman’s autonomy out of her decision-making process, i.e. this supposed giving into male pressure, that’s no better than several hundred years of men believing that women aren’t capable of thinking for themselves. Isn’t that what we’ve worked so hard to disprove? Is it a somehow more accurate assessment if it’s coming from another woman? If anything, it’s just more disheartening and disappointing.
Obama securing the Democratic nomination isn’t a loss for women, it’s a win for Democrats. It is still a remarkable event in American history, and a step towards eliminating the notion that the government should optimally be run by conservative old white men. Much work still needs to be done by November if we hope to win, the wound-licking by Hillary supporters either needs to be done quickly or put off until after that. If Hillary herself can do it, than so can the rest of you. Otherwise, all the in-fighting is going to prove as nothing else but a distraction, while Bush v.2 sneaks in through the back door.
1FYI, McCain’s complete voting record can be seen here. It’s about as alarming as you can imagine, and probably then some.