The Hillary Lesson

In today’s New York Times, Peggy Orenstein writes an important piece about what “The Hillary Lesson” is for our daughters:

One recent morning, as my 4-year-old daughter and I strolled to our favorite diner, she pointed to a bumper sticker plastered on a mailbox. A yellow, viraginous caricature of Hillary Clinton leered out from a black background. Big block letters proclaimed, “The wicked witch of the East is alive and living in New York.”
“Look, Mama,” she said. “That’s Hillary. What does it say?”
Let me state right off that I don’t consider Senator Clinton a victim. Her arm is so limber from the mud she has lobbed during her political career that, now that the whole president thing is doubtful, she may have a future as the first woman to pitch for the Yankees. So it is not the attacks themselves that give me pause, but the form they consistently have taken, the default position of incessant, even gleeful (and, I admit it, sometimes clever) misogyny. Staring down the sightline of my daughter’s index finger, I wondered what to tell her — not only at this moment, but in years to come — about Hillary and about herself… (continue)

I’m with Orenstein on not revering Clinton, but I am also with her on worrying about how the vitriol against Hillary has often been totally sexist and extremely offensive. One offensive jab that came through my own liberal neighborhood’s email list compared HRC to a certain Kentucky Fried Chicken assemblage. To my neighborhood’s credit, after this post many other people responded expressing how offended they were by his “joke.” To this he replied:

Doesn’t anyone have a sense of humor or believe in FREE speech…I see that anyone’s future comments can be silenced depending upon one person’s point of view… is this America ???? Or do we have to conform to editors….what does that remind you of….I have not liked comments made by certain people but I have NOT complained or tried to silence them…..Happy New Year and get a life !!

Free speech, speech free to attack women? Is that America? Not my America.

The best thing about this campaign, to my mind, is that it has allowed all of us to support people for their positions regardless of their skin color or gender. This isn’t really possible when it’s a campaign between a bunch of white guys and one white woman, or a bunch of white guys and one black man. But in a race between a black guy and a white gal, both of whom are progressive people with good values, then the scene changes considerably. I can lean to Barack more and Hillary less, but not because of some deep sexist stuff but because it’s finally possible to glean, however hazily, a post-sexist and post-racist future. But clearly there are still plenty of people caught up in old mind games over sex and race that still make this campaign a truly fraught one. And it’s only going to come to the fore more once the general campaign begins.

Working Through Political Change

Happy Easter, a good pagan and Christian holiday signifying rebirth, something I take very metaphorically.

Barack Obama’s speech last Tuesday on race could be read in this light as calling for a renewal of the American ideal — a renewal that will require very uncomfortable work: “working through” as a nation the trauma of racism. I blogged about this the other day on the Gender, Race, and Philosophy site, sparking some resistance.

Symposium on “Two Feminisms”

An article of mine that I wrote a few years ago, “Two Feminisms,” found a new life as the subject of the fall symposium of the online journal, Symposia on Gender, Race, and Philosophy. Every season the editors pick an article for a symposium and also four scholars to critique it. Then the author has an opportunity to reply; the reply along with the critiques are posted; and the symposium is open for public commentary. My four interlocutors—Amy Allen, Nancy Bauer, Scott Pratt, and Linda Zerilli—had quite varied responses to the paper, all of which prompted me to put the piece in a broader frame. “Having read my interlocutors, it now occurs to me that …’Two Feminisms’ isn’t about two distinct groups of feminist scholars; it’s about two different conceptions of power and politics.” In the original article and the response, I argue for a model of politics and change that is deliberative in the Deweyan (not Habermasian) sense, a model where change need not come from battling the other but from working on changing the ways in which the larger sociosymbolic system situates us. The deep problem that accompanies injustice is the ways “the system,” and not just segments of society, puts us in “our place.” By moving the focus from primarily particular bad actors to the larger sociosymbolic sphere, I’ve touched some nerves. But this is a discussion worth having.