It’s been quite a week for celebrity women’s deaths: first Elizabeth Taylor, and now the first woman to run for Vice President on a major party ticket in the United States, Geraldine Ferraro. I thought of the several obits I’ve seen that Joan Walsh’s was the very best, bar none. She’s someone who gets both the New York political and national women’s historical context of Ferraro’s life, her 1984 candidacy, and her unfortunate remarks about Barack Obama during the 2008 campaign. (Just go read Walsh–do it! Do it now!)
And now, something I should have posted in honor of Elizabeth Taylor but seems relevant for Ferraro too: Hole’s “Celebrity Skin” (from the album of the same name): Oh make me over/I’m all I want to be/A walking study/in Demonology. From one bad girl to two others, as it were:
I really wish I could have written “from two bad girls to two others,” but it’s my great shortcoming that I am terminally a Good Girl. Oh, I occasionally lip off, but I’m always surprised when someone gets angry. I really am extremely conflict adverse, and I think I was in fact the only teenager in the 1980s who “just said ‘no.'” I think I admire Courtney Love and other bad girls because they can do things I’ll never do.
Tina Fey wrote recently in the New Yorker, “Only in comedy, by the way, does an obedient white girl from the suburbs count as diversity.” (Sorry–the article is behind a subscription wall.) Sadly, it’s not just comedy. I’m sure you all would be able to list the arts, professions, and industries where’s that’s still true. For example, I know my sister-in-law in management consulting would say the same of her field, as she described her position at work as “the only woman left” when we had dinner last week. My friend the Pediatric ICU attending would concur, too. Most humanities departments are still male-majority (or even male supermajority at my uni), and the humanities and some of the social sciences are the only departments that seem to hire and promote women in academia.
In the 27 years since Ferraro’s run, we’ve had exactly zero Italian-American presidential or vice-presidential candidates, exactly two other Catholics run for either office (John Kerry and Joe Biden; Michael Dukakis should maybe get some recognition for his Greek heritage and Greek Orthodoxy? That was new!), and one other woman (Sarah Palin). As you might have guessed, I’m really not big on proclamations that “glass ceilings” have been broken, when they’ve barely been knocked on politely. Jeezy Creezy, people: we historians still make a big deal out of the fact that John F. Kennedy was our “first Catholic president,” but he remains the only one, and he didn’t even get to serve a full term!
So bring on the bad girls.