Sunday, January 31, 2016

Hit or Misogyny

A few years back—maybe 15 or so—someone said to me, "We'll have a black president long before we have a woman." And at the time I was all LOL, because I didn't for a minute believe that America was as sexist as it is racist.

Well, I was wrong. We're really really racist, but we're really sexist, too. Still! Ninety-six years after giving half the population the vote, we're facing an election in which two women are running (out of fifteen candidates--13%, compared to the 19% in Congress). The male frontrunner on the GOP side is in trouble with his staff and with the media for blatant sexism, and it's pretty clear that not one bit of it matters to his supporters, who are eager to cheer Trump as he denigrates Hillary for her husband's peccadilloes but at the same time completely blow off Trump's very public affairs as irrelevant to his campaign. When he blasts Carly Fiorino for her looks, everyone simply agrees. He's speaking his mind! She's butt-ugly! It's all good.

Now we have the Bernie-bros and the Bernie-bro backlash. Because I like Bernie, I don't blame his disgusting followers on him, but I know for a fact they exist, because I make the mistake of reading a lot of comments on articles in the NYT, WaPo, Politico, etc.

Some stuff has come out about Sanders's treatment of women staffers, most of it very old news, and his organization is light on women at the top, although fairly full of women at field level. Is he a sexist pig? No more than anyone else his age. I'm old enough to remember how horribly sexist the last revolution was. At least Bernie is fighting for economic and social equality for women, and I have no reason to think he's faking it when he refuses to talk about Hillary's hair or husband.

Hillary is a deeply flawed candidate, if for no other reason than she thought it was a smart use of her time to spend the last four years garnering speaker's fees from some of the worst players in the 2008 recession. But Democratic women need to realize that saying, "Well, I want to vote for a woman, just not that woman" is as sexist as anything coming from the Bernie-bros, albeit a lot less filthy. When pressed, they often say, "Elizabeth Warren; I'd vote for her," as though there are only two Democratic women in the United States who could possibly be candidates. It is cringe-worthy—and reminiscent, a bit, of the folks who didn't want to vote for "that black guy" because he didn't represent the legacy of slavery. Not the right woman, not the right black guy—when oh when can we put that shit away and just talk about the right candidate for the times?

It's apparently okay to suggest that Hillary's not really a hands-on grandma but not to point out that Bernie never married the mother of his child. We can talk about spousal influence when the spouse is male; the assumption seems to be that female spouses don't contribute much. (That's where Hillary first got into trouble--as a hands-on First Lady. Don't underestimate how irritating some people found that.)

Here are some countries that currently have female leaders: Lithuania. Norway. Malta. Taiwan. Mauritius. Nepal. Brazil. Liberia. Of course, most nations have never been led by a woman, but that puts us in company with China, Russia, and most of the Middle East.

Full disclosure: I'm probably going to vote for Bernie April 19. I have a soft spot for people who campaign around income inequality. That's why I supported John Edwards, speaking of sexism. But I will be eternally grateful when I no longer have to read crap like this (just from today's reading of a variety of articles, and not all from Bros, some from female Bros):

You should have seen Hillary's meltdown in Iowa yesterday she took it all out on Bernie, lie after, lie, after lie. Threw the whole kitchen at him.

NYT= backer and contributor to Clinton foundation reports this story [on Trump's staffer] rather about #BillClinton indiscretions. You're kidding right?

Even the BO(ZO) administration and the State Department can't cover for Shrillary anymore in the face of overwhelming evidence of - at the least - criminal negligence - and at worst- deliberate flouting of the rules for handling classified material.

How is Billary going to change the system if she IS the system?

Yes, I want a woman president, just not Hilary Clinton. Elizabeth Warren would be a great choice but she is not in the race.

We can only hope that Bill calls the shots while she just plays the figure head.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Racism? Or Just a Proud Slice of History?

When you write social studies lessons, which I do but rarely, you learn quickly how every word matters. There is no objective viewpoint; both writer and reader bring bias to the text.

The other day, Chuck sent me a clipping about a new Scholastic book for young readers called A Birthday Cake for George Washington. The author is a New Yorker with a Caribbean-Iranian background; the illustrator is African-American, and the book tells the story of a real-life chef in George Washington's home, a chef who was also a slave. It is primarily about his relationship with his daughter, also a real person. As the writer of the blog noted, it appears to be "a book for parents who want to teach their children that slavery, American style, wasn't that bad."

I LOLed at the commentary and passed the article on to DZ, whose connections in the children's book biz allowed her to find out the moment Scholastic decided to scrap the book. This was after the VP of Scholastic, a well-respected African-American award-winning author of books based on historical personages, wrote a blogpost in support of the book. It was also after 900+ people signed a petition asking for it to be pulled. Now people are accusing Scholastic of self-censorship that takes away from our ability to have a reasonable conversation about race.

So who is right? I am reminded of my father's refusal to let us watch "Hogan's Heroes," because although you can make a show about people acting kooky and having fun in a Nazi prison camp, you probably shouldn't.

I grew up at a time when Communism was vilified and people of color did not exist in my childhood textbooks. I can't say that either fact destroyed my life or even made me who I am today, but I was lucky enough to have a lot of other influences. I object to censorship or trigger warnings for college-age students, and I'm disgusted when local school districts cave to parents who want LGBT-themed books off the library shelves. But when you write for little kids, even if you can't show horror, you should nevertheless not sugar-coat reality. The chef and his daughter may have had a loving relationship, but he ended up running away, and she was enslaved until she died. That's not your ordinary daddy-daughter relationship story. What do you think?