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Framing for (We) Old Feminists

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One of Patriarchy’s favorite games (and the reasons for this are obvious) is “Let’s Pit the Women Against Each Other.”  A classic of this genre is “Let’s Pit Women Who Work Outside the Home Against Women Who Work at Home.”  Another classic is “Let’s Pit White Feminists Against All African American Women.”  Still another version, and you can see it played out in comments whenever a Rubenesque woman posts a picture of herself on social media, is “Let’s Pit the Thin Women Against the Fat Women.”  There are endless variations:  “Let’s Pit Lesbians Against Straight Women,”  “Let’s Pit Infertile Women Against Women Who’ve Had Abortions,” “Let’s Pit Women With College Degrees Against All the Other Women,” and “Let’s Pit Christian Women Against Women from Other Religions.”  You can probably think of other examples and, please, post them in Comments.

When Hillary Clinton, a very serious contender, runs for the presidency of the United States, Patriarchy loves to play a special version of this game.  This game is “Let’s Pit Second Wave Feminists from Hillary’s Generation Against Younger Women.”  And I’m going to say, right up front, I’m a Sixty-Year-Old Second Wave Feminist and damn proud of it.  If all they ever carve on my gravestone (the one that I don’t really want to have since I want my ashes scattered at Bull Run among the bluebells) is:  “She Was Born a Feminist and She Died A Feminist,” that will be enough for me.  But this post is addressed to my sister Second Wave Feminists and it’s an heartfelt plea for us to stop getting trapped by this Patriarchal game.   Sadly, even those of us used to dealing with the media have allowed Patriarchy to use us in these games.

And, as I so often do, I see this through the lens of framing.

When Ms. Clinton ran the first time, Geraldine Ferraro, who ran as Walter Mondale’s Vice President and was considered, by many, to be the first realistic female candidate for Vice President, got caught up in Patriarchy’s game.  Ms. Ferraro said that now-President Obama benefitted from being an African American man in his contest with Ms. Clinton.  The media jumped and Ms. Clinton’s campaign suffered.

This time around, Patriarchy’s been playing the game just as effectively.   Former Secretary of State, Madeline Albright, who is pushing 80 and quivering when she holds a microphone, admonished younger women (who think that “it’s already been done”) that there’s a “special place in hell for women who don’t help each other,” and this, as was intended, was played as old women v. young women.  Feminist icon, Gloria Steinem, allowed Patriarchy’s beloved bad boy, Bill Maher, to trap her in this game.  When Mr. Maher asked why Ms. Clinton isn’t doing better with young women, Steinem bought into his assumption and said that young women will get more radical as they age, because women lose power as they get older.

Of course, Patriarchy never asks why mature men don’t support Mr. Sanders, nor does Patriarchy put Mr. Sanders’ supporters on the spot, asking them to explain why they won’t support a woman.

Dear My (Older) Sisters:  Please Stop Letting Them Do This To Us.

Look there is a simple answer to every question that attempts to pit Ms. Clinton’s supporters against other (often younger) women.  Take notes because here it is:

“I support Ms. Clinton.  Almost never has America had such an experienced, tested, and well-rounded candidate for president.  If you want to see her perform under fire, go watch the eleven-hour grilling that she took from hostile Republicans, determined to destroy her candidacy, concerning Benghazi.  Ms. Clinton brings exceptional credentials to the Oval Office, credentials that NO other candidate, Republican or Democrat, can match. I know many young women who are excited to see a woman finally, after more than two hundred years, make a serious run for the White House.  And I know many women who, regardless of Ms. Clinton’s gender, believe Ms. Clinton to be the best, most experienced, most realistic candidate for the White House.  And why is it, Questioner, that you need older women and younger women to engage in a dispute over this?”

Period.  The end.  Move on.

If we could (and I did) burn our bras, apply for jobs we never expected to get, stand up to clients that called us “lady lawyers,” and refuse to be called “Miss” or “Mrs.,” I think we can refuse to play Patriarchy’s games.

Picture found here.

 

Monday at the Movies

I’m definitely going to take G/Son.

Rudyard Kipling was, as a creature of his time, a racist and a chauvinist.  But, boy could he hit the ball all the way out of the park.

Sunday Ballet Blogging

Snowdrops in February

Great-Rooted Blossomer, Are You the Leaf, the Blossom, or the Bole?

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This is wonderful and I think you should read it.

“O body swayed to music, O brightening glance

How can we know the dancer from the dance?”

Words for Wednesday: Miz Rosa Rides the Bus

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Miz Rosa Rides the Bus

ANGELA JACKSON

That day in December I sat down
by Miss Muffet of Montgomery.
I was myriad-weary. Feets swole
from sewing seams on a filthy fabric;
tired-sore a pedalin’ the rusty Singer;
 
dingy cotton thread jammed in the eye.
All lifelong I’d slide through century-reams
loathsome with tears. Dreaming my own
silk-self.
 
It was not like they all say. Miss Liberty Muffet
she didn’t
jump at the sight of me.
Not exactly.
They hauled me
away—a thousand kicking legs pinned down.
 
The rest of me I tell you—a cloud.
Beautiful trouble on the dead December
horizon. Come to sit in judgment.
 
How many miles as the Jim Crow flies?
Over oceans and some. I rumbled.
They couldn’t hold me down. Long.
No.
 
My feets were tired. My eyes were
sore. My heart was raw from hemming
dirty edges of Miss L. Muffet’s garment.
I rode again.
 
A thousand bloody miles after the Crow flies
that day in December long remembered when I sat down
beside Miss Muffet of Montgomery.
I said—like the joke say—What’s in the bowl, Thief?
I said—That’s your curse.
I said—This my way.
She slipped her frock, disembarked,
settled in the suburbs, deaf, mute, lewd, and blind.
The bowl she left behind. The empty bowl mine.
The spoiled dress.
 
Jim Crow dies and ravens come with crumbs.
They say—Eat and be satisfied.
I fast and pray and ride.

Voting with My Vagina

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“I don’t,” they say with a tiny sneer and just a little bit of a thrill of anticipation at how they’re about to scandalize the old woman, “vote with my vagina.”  “After all,” the next line usually goes, “I didn’t vote for Sarah Palin just because she had,” and by now they’re not getting the reaction they expected and, so, are feeling the need to double down on the shock value, “a vagina.”  “So why,” they continue, “should I vote for Hillary Clinton just because she has,” — and you know what’s coming — “a vagina?”

Men have a variation on it, too.  They can mansplain for hours how a vote for Ms. Clinton isn’t “really” a feminist vote. And, by the way, they would totally vote for a woman.  They would.  Just not this woman, this time.  Maybe if Elizabeth Warren were running or maybe if the country weren’t at such a turning point, well, then, for sure, they’d almost certainly vote for a woman.  It’s not AT ALL that they’re sexist.  It just that it wasn’t that woman, that time, in 2008 and, now here we are again, and well, it’s still not that woman, this time, in 2016.  But, for sure, some other woman, some other time.  Check back with them in 2025.  Maybe by then we’ll have a woman who combines all the experience and gravitas needed with all of the je ne sais quoi of a young Barack Obama, an aged Bernie Sanders, an equivocating John Kerry, and a cheating John Edwards.  If not, well, there’s always 2034.

And, besides, America has a long history of delaying the day when women come into power.  You know, even Abigail Adams had to admit that winning the War of Independence from Britain was more important than “remembering the ladies,” and, then, women were supposed to wait until we got the slaves freed, because, well, of course, that was more important.  And, then, well, time went by and, gee, it was more important to win WWI than to deal with some interfering social issues, and then, OMG, there was the Depression.  MEN, you know, MEN were out of work, humiliated because they couldn’t support a family, and it was, obviously, more important to deal with that than to address, you know, “women’s issues.”  And then, well, next thing you know, we’ve got to win WWII, and thanks, ladies, thanks for being Rosie the Riveter and all, but, well, you know, now that the war is over, you need to give up your jobs so that “the soldiers” can have them back, at full pay, which was more than we paid you.  But, that’s OK, now we’re at peace, but, whoops, now it’s time to address the civil rights of African Americans and so, well, maybe you can run the mimeo machine and make coffee, Sister.  Your place in the movement is the same place it’s always been:  on your backs.  No one can multi-task.  That was OK, though, because as soon as we passed the Civil Rights Bill, we were going to focus on women except, well, first we had to end the War in VietNam where “our boys” were getting killed and where, for those of us on the Left, “our boys” were going to jail and moving to Canada.  It would have been pretty selfish to demand women’s rights in the face of those sacrifices.  So, the war ended, but, somehow, the ERA didn’t pass. And, so, well, sorry, but that super-experienced woman had to yield the job to that cool, young guy, whom we were all sure would be really! progressive even when he repudiated the “anti-war left” and said that his political hero was Ronald Regan.  After all, she “voted for the war,” while he just, well, embodied hope and change but showed up and basically continued Bush’s war on the Middle East, droned the hell out of wedding parties, and generally acted the huge hawk that she was criticized for being.  And, now, well, now it would impede the glorious Democratic Socialist revolution of a privileged old white man from New York and New England to vote with our vaginas and (as if men haven’t voted with their dicks for over two centuries) demand a woman president.

But, no worries, women. Some woman.  Some time.  Meanwhile, Sweetie, can you make some coffee, send some emails, assuage some dude’s ego?  Send out some tweets, post this stuff on Instagram, take care of the menial stuff.  Can you sneer at the old women while you do it?  We’ll give your blog attribution.

So, look, here’s the thing:  I’m totally going to vote with my vagina this time.  But that’s OK.  I’ve voted with my vagina in every single election in which I’ve ever been allowed to vote.  I’ve never walked into the voting booth unaccompanied by all of my ancestresses:  my grandmas and great-grandmas and aunts, and great-aunts, and every single ancestress who PRETTY MUCH LIVED HER ENTIRE LIFE DEFINED BY HER VAGINA AND WAS KEPT OUT OF THE VOTING BOOTH BY, OH YEAH, HER — you guessed it — VAGINA.

I’m going to be sixty years old in a few weeks.  I’ve been living in this man’s world for a long time and I’ve done a lot of things.  I’ve played let’s pretend, and I’ve done errands and chores, and I’ve read books, and I’ve gotten good grades, and I’ve fallen in love, and I’ve had a baby right out of my vagina while my husband and the doctor bonded over discussing fishing and ignored me right there on the delivery table, and I’ve raised a kind, wise, and wonderful son who married a wonderful, kick-ass woman, and I’ve gone to college, and I’ve taught highschoolers, and I’ve graduated near the top of my class in law school, and I’ve been on law review, and I’ve done appellate law for decades at a white-shoe law firm, and I’ve been in deep relationship with my land base, and I’ve been the world’s happiest Nonna,  and I’ve made a garden and a home, and I’ve done magic, and I’ve written a lot about Paganism, and every single one of those things — every single one of them — I’ve done them with my vagina. Because, here, in the Patriarchy, there’s no other way for me to ever do anything in which I am not defined by my vagina.  No matter what I do or how I do it, whatever I do, everyone involved defines me by my vagina.

But I should leave my vagina at the door when I vote?

Hells no.

Look, I don’t know anyone who’s suggesting that you vote for Hillary Clinton “just” because she has a vagina.  Nice strawoman.  No, I didn’t vote for Sarah Palin, either, but, here’s the truth:  I did spend a little bit of time agonizing over it. Because, as much as I disagree with Ms. Palin, and as much as I think she lacks what it takes to be Vice President, I do think that getting a woman, almost any woman, into the Oval Office would be a good thing.  (I had a lot of doubts about Mr. Obama’s readiness for the Oval Office, although, once he won the nomination, I supported him because I knew that he’d be better than John McCain or Mitt Romney.  But I think that having an African American in the Oval Office has been a very good thing.)  If the Republicans had nominated, for example, Christie Todd Whitman, with whom I disagree on almost any policy you could name, there’s a very good chance that I’d have voted for her, in order to break the glass ceiling.  I’m not going to vote for Ms. Clinton “just” because she has a vagina.  But her vagina is one of the deciding factors for me.  There’s a huge amount of sexism in the suggestion that including Ms. Clinton’s sex (her vaginia) in the calculus is somehow wrong. She gets dinged for it at every turn, but giving her credit for it is a bad thing?  Really?

I’m not alone in thinking this way.  Asheville’s village Witch, Byron Ballard, said:

I have a kind of electoral trauma that flings me right back to the 2008 election. Suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, there was a male voice saying exactly the right things for a certain portion of the electorate and the level of misogyny that erupted from self-described “progressives” was surprising, hurtful. But I know the beast now, having lived through that, and the Occupy movement with its careless sexism and frequently dangerous situations for women activists. So this year’s brand of misogyny will not stand in my world, whether online or face-to-face. Expect that it will be met with less wit and more vitriol. Because I–and many of the women I know–are simply done with it. We have spent our lives working on justice issues of many kinds and now it is time to focus on this. No more. No fucking more.

My brilliant friend, E, who wrote her UVA thesis on reconciling the ethics of care with the ethics of justice, simply pointed me to this article.

Another Asheville Witch, Star, explained that she finds it:

ironic that the things both the Sanders camp & the Republicans choose to attack her (and Bill) about are non-issues. She was a damn good Secretary of State.

So vote for the candidate you prefer. Mr. Sanders has some great proposals and if he’s the nominee, I’m going to remember that I live in a purple state, swallow my disappointment, and vote for him. But you can quit right now sneering at me for voting with my vagina. Because that’s exactly how I’m going to vote.

Picture found here.