Monday, June 9, 2008

Today's hot topic is...

I have been a Barack Obama supporter from day zero, but watching the coverage of Hilary's concession on Saturday made me feel a little bittersweet. Don't get me wrong, I've been waiting for this thing to be over since Super Tuesday. I don't know, maybe it's the feminist part of me stirring or something. I do in fact feel that the sexism has been a huge issue in her campaign, and I feel bad about that. The things that certain cable pundits have gotten away with saying are pretty terrible. I think Hilary's candidacy has been a good thing for women overall--I think she did pave the way for someone else to win this in the future, and I think learning that sexism isn't as dead as we thought it was might be a valuable lesson.

Pardon my elementary take on the subject, I've never been a particularly good student of feminist theory, but the way I see it, women are (or have been in the past) disadvantaged in three ways: institutionally, culturally, and biologically. We've gone a long way in getting things equal institutionally--I have access to an equal quality of education and equal job opportunities as my male peers. The fact that a lot of women in Generation Y see this as no big deal is somewhat of an insult to the feminists who paved the way for us, but also can be seen as a sign of progress. There are still issues with pay equality, some glass ceiling stuff to work through, but for the most part, we're good there.

As for biology--well, that's kind of a tough one to change. Given the current medical technology, we can't make my reproductive scenarios as equally varied and un-tethered in time as a guy's. Maybe someday. However, this is one of the gender inequalities that most chafes me in my life.

Cultural sexism is what I think was most encountered by the Clinton campaign, and another thing that really bites me in my life right now. The fact is that culture is afraid of strong women. Part of the reason that the campaign went on so damn long is that Hilary was most appealing as a candidate when she was down. The second she was seen as an underdog, as she was seen as picked-on or ganged up against, the voters seemed to rush to her defense, in the same way that Martha Stewart became a much more popular figure after she was knocked down a peg and put in prison. A woman is only appealing when she's down. In the same vein, why is it that a man can raise his cachet with the opposite sex by becoming more successful, while the more success a woman attains she's less attractive in the dating market?

I was composing this entry earlier today but later had a conversation with my boyfriend about a book he was reading, and we started discussing good books in general. I mentioned a few (Memiors of a Geisha and Girls in Trucks) that I remember enjoying recently and he, half jokingly I think, dismissed them as chick books. Why is a book/movie with a female protagonist almost instantly dismissed in our culture as something for chicks? Why are men the default and women the "other"? It's these kinds of cultural things that I feel are the current battleground for fighting sexism. Culture takes a lot longer to change than it takes to pass a few laws, but is several orders of magnitude faster than biology, so I'm somewhat optimistic.

1 comment:

K said...

Nicely put, I agree with you :-)