POLL: What DO #Women Want?

We’ve been talking a lot on this blog about what we want to focus on in terms of equality and progress for women. Obviously the status quo is not working, because it is taking too long to realize our goals. One wonders what Alice Paul, the impatient activist, would have to say about all of this. If we want to decenter abortion as a priority for women, then we must determine what it is that women really want. What are their issues? There’s an entire constellation to choose from, and prioritizing them is going to be tricky, tough work. Make your opinion known here:

The answers are randomized in no particular order for each viewer. This list is not exhaustive. The poll is designed to give a place to start strategizing for a better way. Feel free to leave your own ideas in comments.

Feminism Branded

I’m setting aside the wall of papers I have on my desk tomorrow to go down to the Unite Against the War on Women Rally at the Indiana Statehouse here in beautiful downtown Indianapolis, IN. I teach right down the street in the morning and wouldn’t you know it, class lets out at 9:50, just in time for the 10:00 event.

I’m just going to drop some rhetorical verbiage on some folks. I’ve written a one-page appeal to the participants making the case for why we have a branded feminism and why it has to go. I’m planning to make about 100 copies and hand them out. Thought I’d share it here. Tell me what you think in comments.

Feminism Branded

Women have fought for a lot of their own rights. Few men were willing to give us the right to vote, for example, until we made ourselves a nuisance on the pavement in front of the White House and marched in large groups, often wearing white. You’ve seen the pictures: suffragists in white dresses, pushing primitive strollers through the streets, holding up handmade signs stitched of cloth, not the throwaways we like to use today.

Women’s rights have come a long way since those days. Since then we’ve had a second wave of feminism. This time women fought for the right to work and to control their ability to get pregnant and bear children, a major barrier to professional success at the time. They even fought for fair pay, and won legislation that was supposed to deliver that promise: The 1963 Fair Pay Act and the 1970 Fair Pay Act. Look them up. They’re real, and they didn’t help.

This is part and parcel of a major problem with feminism today. It’s been branded. It got branded in the ugly fight that centered around Roe V. Wade, the controversial Supreme Court Ruling that delivered legal abortion rights to American women. Since that ruling, the predominant activity of feminists and the rhetoric they produce has been centered around expanding or protecting those rights, and that mindset has been adopted by one party: Democrats. Not all Democrats are pro-choice, but they are the party of choice and they are gathered here today to voice that support again. And that’s great.

But you have to know that this is no way to pursue progress for women. Look up and notice what has happened in the last 40 years. Abortion is more accessible than ever, and pregnancy is more easily preventable than ever. It is possible to prevent pregnancy now before an egg is even implanted. Birth control is no longer limited to the very strong pills prescribed to women in the 1960s. There are a host of chemical and non-chemical options available and more women than ever are controlling their ability to get pregnant, choosing when and how to have their babies, if they chose to even have them at all.

We need a more diverse feminism and it starts with debranding feminism and abortion. Feminism needs to be branded with the problems we face today and solutions that women need now. We don’t need more abortion or contraception. We need real delivery on the promise of fair pay. We need more economic opportunity and more professional development. We need to dismantle the pink ghettos we’ve built and maintained, where women still get shuffled into careers based on gender. We need to acquire wealth (right now we only hold 10% of global wealth). Above all, we need parity in representation. Nothing less than 50% in office across the land.

We can’t do that when feminists today reject diversifying the field with conservative women and their solutions. We can’t do it when they don’t care that the vast majority of poor women choose to keep their babies. We can’t do that with a branded concept that alienates the significant portion of this country, including almost half of women, who would like to find another way for women to control their biological destiny with methods besides abortion, but who also support progress of women.

We can only do this by building consensus and proposing new solutions, and being open to them. Like our foremothers, who showed us the way, we must fight for our own rights instead of fighting each other. A true feminism reflects the diverse needs of all women, not those with the correct ideology. Party shouldn’t matter. Parity & unity should.

Why Posting is Light

…or nonexistent. Sorry folks, I’m teaching 5 classes this term and the final two weeks class and grading are kicking my butt. I don’t expect I’ll post much, if anything, ahead of May 8, when grades are due.

That said, there is a lot of good work happening at various blog on our rolls, so please help yourself to the partaking. See y’all soon!

#MommyWars: Letters from the Front

In the wake of the Mommy Wars Redux, some interesting stuff is being written. Of note, two new letters out this week by mommy bloggers, which I think are perfect examples of the two sides of feminism battling for the hearts and minds of tomorrow’s feminist daughters. These letters articulate two points of view of the way things are, but surprisingly offer similar solutions for the future. This is where we can work together. But first, some excerpts.

Traditional feminist letter, Dear Daughter, by Mur Lafferty:

Dear daughter-

You should know that you are hated.

I’m not sure why they hate you. You didn’t do anything to them. You don your princess crown, take up your sword, and pretend at Pokemon. You read your books and you learn how to draw comics and dragons and you play piano and practice kung fu. You delight in pretty dresses and weaponry. You love me when I nurture you as a mom, train with you as a warrior, and play video games and card games with you.

“You throw like a GIRL!” – obnoxious drunk asshole behind us at a Durham Bulls game (Apparently he threw 75mph)

There is nothing worse than being a girl. I’m not saying this as a former girl- I quite liked being a girl. I’m saying this from the POV of the entire rest of the world. There was a lovely feminist TED talk – A Call To Men – where a man discussed his conversation with a twelve year old boy, and the boy said he would rather die than be called a girl. And the man thought, Good Lord, how do these boys view girls, if being compared to them is the worst thing in the world?

“What did Jesus do, when they put nails through his hands? Did he scream like a GIRL, or did he take it like a man?” – “The Book of Mormon” (the musical, not the holy book), “Man Up”

I’ve seen boys cry when injured. Frustrated. Feelings hurt. Blocked out of play. Denied something. It’s what kids do as they learn the world around them. The world is tough; before you learn to cope, you cry, whether you sport the penis or the fallopian tubes. It’s fucking lesson #1 after you take your first breath. I cried. You did too.

So. The world hates you. You are considered the worst thing to be compared to. Throw like a girl. Talk like a girl. Cry like a girl. God forbid we ever be girls.

And here’s an excerpt from Melissa’s letter A Different Perspective, from the blog Redefine Girly: Continue reading

What Parity Brings

Short answer: reform. And it works on both sides. Check out this video from ShePac, a conservative women’s organization that was launched in February.

From my point of view, this is HUGE. This is exactly what I mean by pushing for parity leading to reform. More women, no matter where they come from, will change the game. Republicans have run women, but they have not yet run on women’s issues. And they’ve preferred to reject identity politics…until now. This is the first time I have seen a conservative women’s organization note that Congress is 85% male, and it’s the first time I’ve seen them run women specifically FOR other women.This is three years after they ran their first woman for VP. Three years. Democrats have been saying they’re the party of women and haven’t delivered half as much for the last twenty.

This is representative of reform, folks, and that’s the point. I am loving it. I get paid Friday, and I’ll be donating. What do you think? Is this what reform looks like? Or are you not yet sold?

Cuomo Aide Professionally Stalks Woman Reporter

Liz Benjamin (via: capitaltonight.com)

The story broke last night at Buzzfeed, and of course I was up to catch it. You know it’s my job now to track and speak out against injustice against women. Meet Liz Benjamin. She’s a New York journalist who’s been working for a number of years, and now she’s Editor-in-Chief at a big New York political blog run by NY1 called State of Politics, and has a weekly show by the same name on YNN. The story, according to Buzzfeed, is that Cuomo aide Richard Bamberger (it’s always Dick, ain’t it?) assembled a 35-page dossier of Benjamin’s work that was construed as critical of the Gov. That’s bad enough, but then this is what happened to that dossier:

Bamberger said the document was prepared for a meeting last fall between Bamberger, generally viewed as the most media-friendly of Cuomo’s aides, and a top Cuomo confidant and campaign pollster, Andrew Zambelli; and senior executives at YNN, a Time Warner Cable subsidariy [sic] that provides local cable news programming to most of New York State, on which Benjamin hosts the public affairs show Capitol Tonight, also the title of her blog.

Bolding mine. The paragraph, like the article, is sloppily written (and filled with typos) and it’s necessary to parse what actually went down. He took this dossier to her bosses so he could go over and complain about every inch of it with them. To what purpose, we can’t know right now. Was it to get her fired? Or just reign her in? I’m calling this as a significant case of sexism and an example of why Obama and his brand of Democratic politics must be stopped in its tracks. Don’t think this was a case sexism, huh? Think maybe there are other dossiers on other journalists, some of whom might be male? We have a confession straight from the horse’s mouth:

Bamberger said that there are not files on other reporters. He also denied that the Benjamin document constituted a “file.”

So, if this is true, we have a case of a male-heavy, jocular New York governor’s team going after one woman in a sea of male journalists. How does that sit in your craw today? It’s sticking all up in mine.

Even if you aren’t convinced it’s sexism in action, you must admit that it’s a rather authoritarian, bully thing to do. And it paints Cuomo in a creepy light. His team is pushing back hard, with Bamberger simultaneously suggesting it’s a garbage file he threw away and that the leak of it is “dangerous.” Which is it, big boy? It’s only dangerous because you got caught. Continue reading

The Fine Art of Trolling for Women

She's a maniac, maniac, oh nooo-hooo.

Earlier today my friend Cynthia and I were discussing her interactions with Maha of Mahablog. I wouldn’t recommend clicking that link unless you’re in firm control of your emotions. Maha is Barbara O’Brien, the About Buddhism writer for About.com. Ironically enough in light of that, she runs Mahablog, which is the one of the stinkiest kool aide waterholes I’ve ever had the displeasure to revisit. Extremely pro-Obama, O’Brein is also one of the left-identifying women who thinks she speaks for the vast majority of women, except of course for the 514 she thinks stay at home to take care of the kids. She lives in NYC, so I do understand why she’s fallen victim to the noise machine. It’s all she can hear.

Apparently she and Cynthia got into it after I dropped a link to Cynthia’s latest about the exciting demise of traditional leftist feminism into a snickering post about how Republicans couldn’t possibly win the war for women, as the WSJ suggested. O’Brien is still of the mind that Democrats have got this woman thing, the result of 2010 (and 2004) notwithstanding. She doesn’t see that the ground has shifted and that her communication style is offensive to vast swaths of the American middle. If she did, she would swing very fast into a tone of reasonableness and be strategizing for how she can effectively sell her side to American women. Instead she’s still laughing at the possibility, even though she was just shown in 2010 that it could be done, that Republicans could win so many women that Democrats would lose and lose hard.

This led to a discussion with Cynthia about the fine art of trolling for women, which is something I’ve been engaged in unofficially (and on my own) for almost two years now. But it’s not something I’ve ever talked about much, or written about for P&L. It struck me that maybe it’s time I did. Maybe there are others who would like to join me or strike out on their own to attempt to insert their own POV into the narrative. I developed this idea on my own, but it was born of the genius of the Obama camp’s employment of Cass Sunstein’s group polarization study in the 2008 campaign. Now, I’m sure you’re wonder trolling for women? WTF is that?

Trolling for Women involves dummy accounts and dedicated time spent at opposition headquarters. It can be as simple as dropping a link into comments at one of these places, or it can involve the long-term development of characters at some of the most powerful blogs, like Daily Kos. The purpose is to persuade, confuse, or  intimidate depending upon the audience. At the Washington Post, one wants to keep a reasonable tone because the audience is going to be all over the place and you want to be persuasive. At a place like Daily Kos, you might want to write a diary that stealthily introduced opposition memes into the conversation (being conscious to avoid buzzwords from the opposition). The reason is because intimidating them does no good and they are beyond persuasion. Confusing them is a good end result. But you might also want to become a diarist known for writing about the moderate or liberal cause that is near and dear to your own heart. I have a longstanding account with a male name at Daily Kos that I use to write about pro-woman things. I do this to provide another example to that very needy audience of a male supportive of women and feminist issues.

At a place like Mahablog, where you have true believers and dangerous anti-feminist narratives floating around, you want to intimidate and confuse if you can. You want to go toe to toe as strongly opinionated women and you want to win. It doesn’t matter if Maha or her regular commenters are persuaded, that’s not winning. Winning is modeling that you won’t back down and how to not back down for any chance readers, or casual or young readers who are not entirely persuaded to her side. This is a good way to drop links for those readers as well. Believe me, there a lot of moderate people out there and a few on the left as well who would breathe a sigh of relief if what has traditionally been called feminism died. I left the link for them. But I also left the comment I did with Cynthia’s link because it fed Maha’s (and her regular audience’s) paranoia, wasted her time, and likely raised her blood pressure. Why would I want to do that? Continue reading