The first presidential election I could vote in was in 1984, and I campaigned energetically and naively for Mondale/Ferraro because of Ferraro's being the first woman on a presidential ticket. I got to see her speak on campus at Ohio State, and got even more fired up. Of course, we all know how that turned out.
That all seems like a million years ago--in fact, I'd almost forgotten the whole episode. This time around, I didn't get excited about Hillary's candidacy because she was a woman, and while I'd like to think that's a sign of my and the country's growing sophistication, the Women's Media Center video below shows that I'm dead, dead wrong about that.
On a happier note, we do seem to have arrived at a point where other major media outlets can slice-and-dice that kind of hypocrisy:
[Side note: THANK GOD for Jon Stewart. As I heard a commentator say on a "This American Life" piece once, I would drink his bathwater.]
Now, we all know Karl Rove is an a$$hole, and we all know how unbelievably skillful the right has been at appropriating the political rhetoric of the left and turning it against them. But frankly, to hear Karl Rove denouncing others as sexist was the last straw for me.
It certainly helped me articulate the problem I've been having all along, which is that I'm fed up with the right wing coming along decades too late and slinging accusations like this without first acknowledging that yes: the left had it right (no pun intended) when they got behind feminism (and civil rights, and the 40-hour workweek, and on and on and on). The left takes the heat for trying to corrupt the nation with its wicked, culturally destructive ideas, and then the right gets to sweep in and say, "Hey, you know what? That was a good idea after all. Gimme some of that."
It's interesting to hear McCain's policy advisor in the Daily Show video, above, talk about being insulted by media "attacks" on Sarah Palin from her "female" and "feminine" point of view. Dammit, you were insulted because YOU'RE A [closet] FEMINIST. If you're going to steal rhetoric, you gotta steal the whole package, and be prepared for the backlash.
What Karl Rove knows, and what he's so freakin' good at, is tying up the conversation so that the left can't say anything without spanking themselves.
And he gets this, I think, from the left's idea that "the personal is political." Years ago, when I was in grad school, I was walking up the sidewalk to my apartment building when a teenaged boy walked by with a friend and said, "If you weren't so fat, I'd go out with you."
Now, this wasn't the first time in my life I'd had a random, unknown male say something to me on the street. I've heard it all, both the insulting and the (allegedly) "flattering." But that was the moment at which I fully understood what that maneuver was about: power, and the reification of (white, middle-class, straight) male privilege. The only men I know who have had such experiences are gay: a high-school friend at whom another guy shouted "AIDS case" to on the street, for example. And I got it, the ways in which sexism and homophobia are rooted in the same kind of hatred.
Now, though, if I share that experience, I'm "playing the gender card." And if any of you out there want to disagree with me, you're automatically being "sexist." The right, once again, has shut down all conversation about the issue, which is what they've been doing so skillfully and carefully for over thirty years. And it's how they plan to win this election (as they have in the past).
The only way to fight back? As The Temptations say, "Rap on, brothers [and sisters], rap on!" Crank up the volume!
--With deep thanks to friends and fellow bloggers at Historiann and Leaf-Stitch-Word for the inspiration.