Archive for November, 2008

Women and Election 2008: A gut check

November 18, 2008

At the risk of flogging that dead horse, I renew the concerns expressed in my last blogpost by referring you to today’s The Daily Beast, which has an article that quantifies my uneasiness over the state of women following the recent election. According to its own poll:

• By an overwhelming 61% to 19% margin, women believe there is a gender bias in the media.
• 4 in 10 men freely admit sexist attitudes towards a female president. 39% of men say that a male is “naturally more suited” to carrying out the duties of the office
• 48% of women thought Hillary Clinton received fair media treatment and only 29% believed Sarah Palin was treated fairly. In contrast, nearly 8 in 10 voters thought the press gave fair treatment to Barack Obama and Joe Biden.
• More than two-thirds of women said they were being treated unfairly in the workplace (68%)

And, it determined, “Women over 50, the first generation to have a majority in the workforce, see far more discrimination in every area of life than younger women.” (HA! I wasn’t just imagining it!)

So clearly I’m not the only one grinding my teeth over this issue. We seem to be running harder than ever, but are we just running in place? Our biggest enemy may not be a biased media, but our own ambivalence, since The Daily Beast’s survey also found that, “Only 20% of women are willing to use the word ‘feminist’ about themselves [and] only 17% of all voters said they would welcome their daughters using that label.” And while more than 90% of African-American voters supported Barack Obama, American women did not back either Clinton or Palin in such significant numbers.

Do we really want to succeed? If we keep thinking that “feminist” is a dirty word, do we need to rescript or relabel the whole endeavor?

“What will women do now?” wonders The Daily Beast.

The poll suggests that there is tremendous potential for an expanded, revitalized, and updated women’s equality movement. Certainly there would be considerable support for boycotts of news stations that carry sexist commentators or generally cover women unfairly.

I think it’s time to us women to start speaking up — in ways small and large, gentle and forthright, local and national — instead of hoping that our sheer numbers are going to speak for us.

Update: Social critic Daphne Merkin shares my pessimism.


Michelle and Hillary: Salt in the wound?

November 11, 2008

imagesI remember hearing a story once when I attended a women’s conference from a woman who had been working in the secretarial pool at one of the local law enforcement agencies. She had always been handy with electronics — one of those hardy types who could fix her own toasters and TVs — and when a job came up in the motor pool working on the police radios, one of the patrolmen who knew of her talents recommended her for the job.

She left her desk in the office and spent a heavenly week in the garage, up to her elbows in electrical wiring and enjoying the challenges of a new task — and then abruptly found herself back at her desk and her typewriter. Seems the other women in the secretarial pool were so angry that she had been singled out and protested her advancement so vociferously that the chief had rewritten the job description to include a certificate in electronics, which our heroine did not have.

As she sat, bewildered, at her desk, the woman who had complained the longest and loudest sidled up to her and sweetly asked if she’d be willing to share some recipes for the office cookbook. They’d clearly pulled her back in her place, like crabs in a bucket.

I thought of this sad tale when I read about Michelle Obama’s overtures to Hillary Clinton regarding how to be First Lady. I’m not the world’s biggest Hillary fan, believe me, but, after waging a hard-fought and very nearly successful campaign to become President herself, it must have been GALLING for HC to be asked by the victor’s wife about daycare and private schools. What happened to foreign policy and economic renewal? I appreciate the fact that Michelle is more concerned about her daughters’ transition to the public eye than she is about politics, but show a little sensitivity, okay?

I’m also peeved with all the whiny Republicans and McCain operatives who are trashing Sarah Palin. Please. I agree with Nancy Nall that, all the wardrobe nonsense aside, Sarah probably knows that Africa is a continent, not a country, and that a lot of the gossipy stories are likely taken out of context in a feeble attempt to cover some well-exposed red arses. If the Straight Talk Express broke down, folks, it wasn’t because Sarah tinkered with the wiring.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, with all the gains that Americans are cheering about with this election, did the cause of women move forward at all?

Did you?

November 4, 2008