Obama: bowls like a girl. Clinton: girl.

If like Historiann you’re concerned about the longer-term effects of bias in the media and the left blogosphere against Senator Clinton, check out Susie Madrak’s posts about Escacon ’08 last weekend at Suburban Guerrila.  Madrak reports on revealing conversations about Hillary hatred with Eric Bohlert of Media Matters, and with Paulie the K., Princeton’s coolest Professor/Columnist/Blogger extraordinaire.  (Apparently, Paulie dished about former student and top Obama advisor Austan Goolsbee over spring rolls and nam pla.  Yum!)  See also this analysis of how the orgy of Clinton-bashing works to keep all of us mouthy broads in our places, and this one too.

I think we need to consider that while Obama’s candidacy benefits now from both Dem-on-Dem insults and media bias, these gendered and sexuality-based insults and press coverage will be used to demean Obama too.  Let’s take a trip down memory lane to recall what damage this kind of bully-boy towel-snapping did to The Breck Girl, or Al Gore and his allegedly feminized Earth Tones.  Now, let’s see what washed up on the beach today:  Yes, Joe Scarborough called Obama “prissy” and “dainty” on the basis of watching Obama bowl, and contrasted his performance with other politicians who looked like “real men.”  (Bowling?  Did I miss Clinton’s “Candlepin Smackdown” in New Hampshire that assured her victory with that state’s voters?)  And let’s not forget that one of Scarborough’s sparring partners today was Congressman Harold Ford (D-TN), who in his Senate run in 2006 was the target of smarmy ads calling him “Fancy Ford” and used race, sexuality, and gender to smear him.

Indulge me in a little nostalgia, in the service of making a larger point:  Historiann attended a women’s college in the 1980s and 90s, and then I taught at one briefly right after I finished my Ph.D. in the late 1990s  One commonality of being affiliated with a women’s college is that as soon as you step off of the campus–and some jerk driving by sees you do it–you’re greeted with hostile screams of “Lezzie!”  “Dyke!”  Now, it didn’t matter if you were alone or with a crowd.  It didn’t matter if you were a femmy girlygirl with long hair and a miniskirt, or if you were a “Dyke to Watch Out For” in a flannel shirt and jeans.  And as I learned when I was briefly a faculty member at a women’s college, it didn’t matter if you were obviously a professor leading a group of students on a field trip to look at headstones in a local cemetery.  More often than not, we got screamed at, and occasionally, some people had objects thrown at them.  To jerks driving by in cars, the fact that we were affiliated with that campus was the only distinguising feature that mattered, and that distinguishing feature meant that we were subject to constant verbal harassment.

So, I’d like to remind all Democrats that to the rest of the country, it looks like we all live and work on a relatively small campus.  To the rest of the world, we look pretty much the same–when the jerks drive by, they can’t see if it’s a Clinton or an Obama for President button that we’re wearing.  And so, for some of us to tolerate–or even perpetrate–ugly insults based on gender and sexuality–it endangers all of us and our chances for electoral victory.  Because if it’s OK for some of us to be targets, it’s OK for all of us to be targets.

UPDATE, 4/2/08:  Via Suburban Guerilla, here’s an interesting look at what happened with blog traffic last month at 2 pro-Obama blogs, 2 pro-Clinton blogs, and one neutral blog.  Bottom line:   the 2 pro-Obama blogs, which have been the leaders in misogynist invective against Clinton, have seen a drop in unique visits, while the neutral and 2 pro-Clinton blogs have had relatively stable traffic without the noticeable declines that the pro-Obama blogs had.  (This may be because from my observations, the “pro-Obama” blogs are more anti-Clinton, whereas the 2 pro-Clinton blogs really are pro-Clinton rather than anti-Obama, and most Democrats like both candidates and don’t bear extreme animus against one or the other.)

UPDATE, afternoon 4/2/08:  Check out this post by Tom Watson called “MoDo Sets her Gaydar to Stun.”  Money quote:  “Liberals are just so gay. Wink freaking wink. Hillary’s been a lesbian since she first came to public attention. Gore and Kerry – well, a couple of sissy boys. Now it’s Obama’s turn.”

Somerby: incomparable! Ehrenreich: now comparable to Dowd.

Very foolishly, I posted today before reading Bob Somerby’s The Daily Howler.  Go read now.  Money quote:  “Eight years ago, [Barbara] Ehrenreich was getting good solid laughs with her comments about how wooden Gore was. Today, Gore holds the Nobel Peace Prize, and the dead of Iraq stare up from the ground. And Ehrenreich has moved on-to talk about Clinton’s vile haircuts.”

What a disappointment that Ehrenreich, a feminist who has written some very intelligent and important books, has typed up a screed so full of cliches about Hillary Clinton that I would have deemed it worthy only of Maureen Dowd.  Despite the troubling prayer meetings and hairdos (both of which were no doubt carefully designed to conceal her sprouting devil horns), Clinton appears to be up 1215 points in Pennsylvania, and a whopping 28 points in West Virginia.  It must be witchcraft, or something.  Poor deluded fools–I guess they don’t spend enough time reading the prestigious, peer-reviewed internets, otherwise they would know that “that stupid bitch” doesn’t have a chance!  She should quit now, before Pennsylvania, West Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky, Indiana, Oregon, and Montana hold their primaries.

Democracy is so divisive!  We should just all unite now behind St. John McCain, because the Republicans are threatening to vote for him instead of the Democratic nominee.

A-hem! A-men.

On this very blog Tuesday, March 4, at 11:32 a.m., Ari from Edge of the American West wrote this in the comments to my post called, “What is wrong with Maureen Dowd?”:

“If you can arrange for do-over in MI and FL, I’ll agree to campaign for Hillary from this point forward. Seriously, I’d love to see it. But it’s not going to happen.”  (This was in response to Historiann’s comment that she “would strongly support [a re-vote in Michigan and Florida], rather than the seating of the Clinton delegates from those two states, which would indeed be unfair.”)  If you recall, in the Michigan primary Clinton was the only candidate on the ballot.  In Florida both Clinton and Obama were on the ballot, but they had agreed not to campaign there, and Florida Democrats were told their votes in that primary wouldn’t count.

Well, Ari, Historiann has personally arranged for this, along with my BFF’s Ed Rendell, Jon Corzine, all of the Democrats in Florida and Michigan, and Clinton campiagn manager Maggie Williams.  We’ve just about cinched the deal.  According to this letter from Williams, the Clinton campaign is go-go for a re-vote.  Now, it’s true that we haven’t sealed the deal yet.  When that happens, you may sign up to start making phone calls on behalf of Senator Clinton in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Florida at hillaryclinton.com.  (To which address should I send you the tee-shirts and campaign buttons?)

UPDATE, this afternoon:  Obama Michigan campaign co-Chair rejects a re-vote; Obama campaign rejects mail-in vote in Florida and Michigan.

Free publicity for women's history bloggers!

pat-steir-1981.jpgAs one of the Program Committee co-Chairs of the 2008 Berkshire Conference on the History of Women, along with Peg Strobel and Susan Amussen, I sent out the following call for blogs (a CFB?) a few months ago:

“We on the 2008 Program Committee are assembling a links page for blogs that deal substantially with women’s history (both pedagogy as well as research and publications) and professional issues of interest to feminists both inside and outside of the historical profession.  While blogging is a free-form genre, and we understand that they will frequently offer a mixture of both serious concerns and humorous commentary, we cannot include blogs that focus predominantly on hobbies or other personal interests outside of women’s history and/or the aforementioned professional issues.”

Please let me know, in the comments below, if you have a blog you’d like us to list.  Just pop the link in your comment, and include a short list of the topics that you write about most frequently.  (You may also e-mail me if you have any questions.)  You do not have to be a professional historian or studying to become one in order to be listed–you just have to write a good blog that’s on point.  Also, I’d really appreciate recommendations for other people’s blogs you’d like to see on our links pages, which will appear on both this year’s conference website (www.berks.umn.edu) and on our main website (www.berksconference.org).  For those of you with blogs, I’d appreciate it if you’d help me spread the message–please link to this post with abandon, and encourage your friends to contribute.

As we approach the conference on June 12-15, I’ll be doing more blogging about the Berks, and highlighting some of the sessions that I think will be standouts, perhaps some “liveblogging” at the conference, and follow-up through the summer.  (Did you know that one of the fun things this academic conference offers is a dance?  F’real!  Check out the program, page 88, at the bottom.) 

Why no women's history? Blame the Patriarchive! (An International Women's Day omnibus spectacular and bee-yatchfest.)

someone was going to have to set a bad exampleWell, we’re a full week into Women’s History Month, but Historiann has been so immersed in one woman’s fate that she hasn’t had time to come up for air–until today.  Apologies, sisters and brothers!  Consider this an “open thread” for any and all random thoughts on Women’s History Month–but just for kicks, here are a few l’il tidbits for your brain to nosh on:

1.  Check out The Patriarchive, which I’ve blogrolled under “History Geek Squad” at left.  Aside from having a most excellent name, this blog is about “gender, libraries, archives, technology, outreach, teaching, the digital divide, and blaming the patriarchy.”  Whew!  And what will she blog about after breakfast?  Who is this young mystery Marxist feminist librarian, and can I read what she’s reading?  We know only one thing about her–that like this dangerous woman she attended a subversive undergraduate college–but I hope we’ll learn more. 

2.  Anxious Black Woman is following up her excellent Black Herstory Month series with Women’s History Month blogging.  Go check it out, especially because today is International Women’s Day.  (Ortho at Baudrillard’s Bastard might be especially interested in her most recent post on Global Lockdown, an edited collection on women in the prison industrial complex.)

3.  Women in medicine:  part of an occasional series on the lives of women professionals around the world.  This is a true story, although some of the details have been altered:  one of Historiann’s college roommates is in academic critical care.  (I know!  Thank goodness no one’s life depends on me!)  She writes:  I’m a meeting for [The Very Important Research Physicians in Intensive Care Conference].  I am approached by an ICU Professor at the University of [Ben & Jerry’s] who introduces himself and then asks, “So what do you do?”  I respond, “I’m here in [Whoville], and I work with [this Division Chief]”.  He looks very puzzled.  “But what do you do??” he repeats.  “I mean, are you a resident or a nurse?”  Uhmmm, no Jerky McJerkface, she’s just like you, an actual professor of this bullcrap, although she apparently has lady parts!  This is just one in a series of insults that she has been offered in partial recompense for her lifelong dedication to her field.  Is it better to get angry every time this happens, so that one doesn’t get become blase about these things, or is it better to take happy pills and say, “whatevs, Last Century Dude.”  (Or, in l’esprit de l’escalier, should she have said, “I’m an attending physician dumbass, are you looking for the Senile Dementia conference?”  What say you, PalMD?)

4.  Do any of you have recommendations for a good picture book (ages 3-8-ish) that would serve as a good introduction to women’s history for the preschool/kingergarten set?  Perhaps a moving story about a little girl in history?  (Example of something like what I’m looking for:  there’s a very good book for preschoolers that introduces the concept of slavery and emancipation called Henry’s Freedom Box, by Ellen Levine and illustrated by Kadir Nelson, about Henry “Box” Brown.)

 5.  Et vous, mes amis?  What’s happening around your council fire?

Simply perfect!

Let’s pretend that there are two women who might potentially be the next First Lady of the United States.

Lady A is a graduate of Princeton and Harvard Law School, and until her husband started running for president, she had a successful career as a corporate lawyer and a hospital vice-president.  She has never had a drug problem, is her husband’s first wife, and to all appearances, looks pretty much perfect.  Lady B, the heir to a beer distributor fortune, took up with her husband (18 years her senior) when he was still married to his first wife.  (Oops!)    Lady B attended the University of Southern California and has a degree in teaching, and had a drug problem.  (Double oops!)  She used her inherited money to set her husband up in his political career.

One lady is profiled in a high-profile magazine whose reputation as either interesting or authoritative has, well, slipped in recent years, to put it charitably.  In this article, the author writes that her “lack of pretense has made her popular with the portion of the electorate.”  However, she also points to her “tendency toward deflation” and “dismissiveness” of other people and their efforts.  She quotes a local newspaper columnist who said he [heard] “rumbles a mink coat reportedly belonging to [this lady], wife of [this candidate], may have gone missing following [a local politician’s] birthday bash.”  The author also notes that because in her job this lady made $121,910 four years ago then made $316,962 three years ago, a random letter-writer to a local newspaper complained that “Mrs. X is extremely overpaid.”  In sum, the author writes, “Some observers have detected in [this lady] an air of entitlement.”  Which lady was it, Lady A or Lady B?  Answer here.

The other lady is profiled on a cable news program in a segment called “Can [this lady] really be that perfect?”  The lede of the summary on the web reads, “She’s always dressed in a killer suit and never has a hair out of place.”  A friend and former local official in her home state describes her as a “fun down to earth person with a great sense of humor.”  Which lady was it, Lady A or Lady B?  Answer here.

Your thoughts?

(p.s.  Here’s the full quote from the last part of the summary of the The New Yorker article linked above:  “Some observers have detected in Obama an air of entitlement. Her defenders attribute these charges of arrogance to racist fears about uppity black women. While it’s a stretch to call the suggestion that Obama projects an air of self-satisfaction bigoted, it may at least reflect a culture gap: last April, after Maureen Dowd wrote a column criticizing Obama for undermining her husband’s mystique, a blog riposte, circulated widely on the Internet, was titled ‘The White Lady Just Doesn’t Get It.'”  Does anyone understand how the last sentence describing a supposed “culture gap” refutes the earlier “charges of arrogance” due to “racist fears about uppity black women?”  How does refuting a dumb Dowd hit-piece make one “uppity?”  Why do successful African American women seem to make people totally insane when trying to write or talk about them?)

UPDATE, 3/7/08:  I should remember never to publish a post after 9 p.m., when it’s sleepytime for Historiann!  I think I understand better now what that writer was suggesting in that paragraph–not that I think she’s correct.  She’s still insane, but for different reasons than I thought.  The writer insists that it’s legitimate and not “bigoted” to say that Michelle Obama “projects an air of self-satisfaction,” but acknowledges that there may be a “culture gap” (although I think she really means, black people and white people seem to have different reads of this accusation.)  Well, how many Princeton and Harvard Law grads do you know who are very successful professionally and personally at the age of 44 and who don’t “project an air of self-satisfaction.”  Why isn’t that allowed, as Susan points out in the comments below, if you earn your own money instead of inheriting it from a rich daddy?

Identity politics and presidential politics

future-president.JPG

This post is just a brief follow-up to a comment by David to the Ay-O Way to go, Ohio post below.  In it, he writes that while talking to an older woman colleague who has a granddaughter, “she started talking about how proud she is that she has a granddaughter who can play Little League, about how when she was a kid she was never allowed to play. And then she added: And now we could have a woman president, now that Hillary has won Texas and Ohio!”  David then writes, “When I hear comments like these, I think I understand better why so many women support Hillary.”

Related to this, I wanted to share a story about something that happened to me and a four-year old girl of my very close acquaintance.  I was out grocery shopping with her last week, and she was wearing a tee-shirt from the Henry Ford Museum that says, “FUTURE PRESIDENT” (see the image above–sorry it’s such a blurry photo.  You can see a clearer image here.)  Now, she doesn’t have long hair, and is often called “he” by people who don’t look beyond the haircut.  But that day, despite also wearing a skirt on top of pink tights and shoes with pink and orange flowers on them, she was called “he” by three different people who noticed “him” or made a comment about “him.”  I’d like to think it was just the short-hair mistake, but getting called “he” or “him” three times in twenty minutes suggests that it’s not just the haircut, but an avoidance of the category mistake that a “she” might be a “future president.” 

This is an exciting time for Democrats, because whomever we select as our candidate will help enlarge our vision of who can be president, and what a president looks like.  I think that’s one thing that unites all of us, whomever we support in the primary.