Archimedes’ Lever

Thursday, June 12th, 2008 · 85 Comments »

In 1972 the Democrats became, somewhat half-heartedly, the party of women’s rights. Throughout the 1960s the Democrats had served as the de facto gathering ground for all the social justice movements of that era, and with the advent of the McGovern Commission rules, what had been informal became formal. The rules were changed, the convention was opened up, and suddenly all the various grassroots activists (feminists, civil rights workers, the anti-war crowd) had a seat at the table.

Ever since then the Democratic party has served, however inadequately, as the political home for people who care about human equality. Think of Jesse Jackson’s magnificent Rainbow Coalition: that has never been the reality, but for 35 years it has been the ideal. It’s what the Democrats are supposed to be.

But increasingly over those 35 years, we women have been taken for granted. Even the lukewarm support we enjoyed in the 1970s is just a distant memory. The Democrats no longer attract our votes so much as the Republicans repel them. We vote Democrat simply because the Republicans are even worse.

This is a wonderful situation for the Democratic party elites, of course. They don’t have to really fight for anything or take risks or work hard for their constituents; all they have to do is be marginally less bad than the Republicans. Or not even that: they just have to maintain the appearance of being less bad. For us, on the other hand, it’s a distinctly unwonderful situation. We’re stuck with riding this donkey (to borrow from Al Sharpton’s glorious speech) as far as it’ll take us, but there doesn’t seem to be a damn thing we can do to actually make the fucker go anywhere.

This has been the problem facing American feminists for years. Long before Hillary ran for president, long before Barack Obama smugly assured the world that Hillary’s supporters would vote for him in a flash, we had a problem. The Democrats weren’t earning our loyalty. They were taking us for granted, knowing that no matter how little they did to earn our support, every year women would still go to the polls and vote Democrat anyway because, remember, the Republicans are even worse.

It’s reached the point that we can’t even rely on the Democrats to stand up for our basic rights. Twenty-two Democratic Senators voted to confirm John Roberts as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in 2005. A few months later, when Democrats failed to block the confirmation of batshit-crazy Samuel Alito, most feminists I know went into a state of barely-contained rage. Many of us had worked our hearts out for years to elect every Democrat we could, in no small measure because we were relying on the party to stop the erosion of our rights under a conservative Supreme Court. Lot of good it did us.

The netroots have been no better. New Democratic power-players like Markos Moulitsas have made it clear that women’s rights are at the absolute bottom of the priority list — any priority list. Kos himself famously invited those of us from the “women’s studies set” who disagreed to either don a burka or get the hell out of Dodge. (Meet the new boss: same as the old boss.)

What we needed, feminists said to each other, was leverage. How could we get leverage? How could we get the Democrats — old and new — to represent women’s interests? How could we create a situation where women’s votes weren’t assumed to be in the bag, but were a prize that Democrats would have to work for?

Voilà. Leverage is here.

It’s here because of Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the shameful way she was treated — by the media, by the Obama camp, and, most damning of all, by the Democratic National Party. Even women who didn’t personally support the Clinton candidacy were nonetheless appalled by the Trashing of Hillary. It’s not that she lost; after all, losing is part of the game. It’s that she wasn’t beaten in a fair fight. She was treated like garbage, and she’s still being treated like garbage. (As of this writing, Howard Dean is refusing to let Hillary’s name be on the ballot for the first vote at the convention, a startling departure from the norm. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote in this campaign and she earned more primary votes for president than any Democratic candidate in the history of this country. And the DNC won’t even let her name be on the ballot.) The huge swell of anger in the land is the righteous rage of millions of women — women who are armed and more than ready to punish the DNC. Over and over the message is being beamed straight to the powers-that-be on a laser light of pure anger: You don’t get to take our votes for granted anymore. No more.

It’s a glorious situation. It’s what we’ve needed for years. Finally, the Democrats have to work for our votes! Finally, we have leverage!

That’s why despite my anger at Hillary’s mistreatment, I am thrilled that so many women are drawing their line in the sand. I’m thrilled by the growing PUMA movement (Party Unity My Ass). I’m thrilled that for the first time since the 1970s, women as a group are demanding that a national political party treat us with respect — or else. And they — we — are dead serious. We’re too old to be tricked or browbeaten or guilted. We’ve been riding the Democratic donkey faithfully for 35 years, and damn if that ass didn’t turn around and fuck us.

No more.

What’s interesting, though, is that many of my sister feminists — the prominent pundit types, not the regular Jane Doe types — haven’t yet grasped the import of what’s happening. Even some of those who supported Hillary are now heard to quietly mutter that it’s time to “unite the party.” They don’t recognize the great big lever in front of us because, well, we’ve never had a great big lever in front of us. We’ve talked about leverage for years, yearned for it, but never had it. Most of us have spent our entire political lives being taken for granted. We’re so used to voting Democrat no matter what that it’s become almost second nature.

Another reason, a more insidious one, is the powerful social conditioning that even feminists struggle to transcend. We women are supposed to get along, to not make waves, to put our own needs aside. To sacrifice for the greater good. To unite the party.

But “unite the party” is simply nice-speak for “give up your leverage.” The Democrats certainly know that, as do the Obama trolls who are now flooding our moderation queues with comments. Every time they say “unite the party,” what they’re really saying is, “please give up your leverage. Please just put down that gigantic lever you somehow got hold of and walk away. Please go back to the way it was before, when you voted for the Democrats no matter how much they took you for granted.”

Not bloody likely.

It’s going to be interesting to see how this plays out. My own prognostication is that the existing feminist movement and this new wave will remain largely separate, at least for awhile, and very possibly even oppose each other. That’s because modern feminism is dominated by a) young Third Wavers who support Obama anyway, and b) “establishment” feminists who are too plugged in to the money circuit to fight City Hall. This new wave is different: a big grassroots uprising of women of all ages whose latent feminism has been awakened by this election. This group is big and messy and fairly diverse in its political orientation (from leftists like me to near-Republicans), much the way the Second Wave was in the 1970s. But these women are united in their anger and their exasperation and their determination that now is the time to draw the line. No more.

I’m looking forward to it. But that’s another post.

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85 Responses to “Archimedes’ Lever”

  1. Perry Logan says:

    Great post, Violet.

    I want you to know that millions of Democratic men are 100% with you on this.

    The rank misogyny of the Obama campaign–along with half of the “progressive” blogs–is an inexpressible outrage.

    No real Democrat could ever support Obama.

  2. Violet says:

    I appreciate that Perry. With so many men on the left turning out to be horrible sexists, it’s terrific to hear from guys who really get it.

  3. kenoshaMarge says:

    Wonderful post Violet! Thank Goddess for women like you that don’t crumble at the first sign of trouble and fight back.

    Do I think you are so smart because you say what I think or am I smart enough to realize a brilliant post when I see one? Either way, I win!

  4. desert dawg says:

    The problem, of course, is how to translate that anger into organization. “Big and messy” won’t do it. A PUMA party website? A boycott? Of what? Disruption at the convention? Counter-productive in ’68.

    It would probably be most instructive to look at how the evangelical movement wielded its power enuf to have Rove bow and scrape to it. He recognized that if that bloc stayed home, Repubs would lose. But that bloc had megachurches and huge broadcast outlets to aid it.

    Don’t know the solution, esp. in a 5 month window. I think the only answer at this point is the power of HRC withholding delegates until certain concessions are made. Like Dean and Brazile must go. But it’s looking like Dean holds the cards.

  5. Violet says:

    Desert dawg, the simplest option is to not vote for Obama. I’m not going to.

    A Democratic party that has lost the women’s vote will be a Democratic party bending over backwards to win it back.

  6. apostate says:

    Amazing post. If anyone can convince me not to cast my first vote ever as an American citizen for a Democrat, it’s you. (I’ll likely have my citizenship before November rolls around, and it had ever been my intention to register as a Dem. Now, I’m pretty sure I’ll go Independent.)

    I’d love to get your thoughts on the first two posts on my blog. I have one foot in the third wave and the other in “establishment feminism” (Planned Parenthood Golden Gate board of trustees). I’m a leftist like you, farther to the left than Ghandhi, Mandela and Marx put together, but I’m firmly a part of Corporate America because I have to earn a living. And I’m struggling with a lot of questions, and you’re one of the people I’m looking to for guidance.

  7. anna says:

    I think it would be most useful if a large group said “We won’t vote for Obama unless he promises to ratify the ERA and CEDAW, repeals the partial birth abortion ban and the global gag rule, puts teeth back into Title IX, etc., etc.” I know he might not keep his promises, but at least he’ll be under pressure.

  8. Kat says:

    Reclusive Leftist, you are a rare gem. I feel excited and energized, too — I think this weird primary season has revealed many of the contradictions and breaking points of the “big tent,” and that was a long time coming. And, very necessary.

    The whole movement is indeed big, messy and diverse, which doesn’t bother me, since it seems to me that’s how grassroots movements generally are. I think it’s an artifact of authenticity. If it’s not slickly packaged and sold back to yourself by the corporate media, then it’s possible that it’s the real deal.

    Shout out to Perry Logan: I appreciate your comments and the men who are part of this dynamic.

    I was not around to witness the feminist movement(s) of the 1970s, but it seems that relentless mockery and degradation are par for the course. Media interests in particular are always so darn threatened by women. How can we be in a “post-feminist” world when the very word feminist is still loaded and verboten?

  9. Delphyne says:

    Thanks for another great post, Violet – so glad you’re back on line.

    I don’t think that the DNC, media, etc really take that “line in the sand” seriously – it’s a shame, because we do mean it and they ignore it at their peril. I remember saying to my ex that he should be very careful about even thinking about pushing me into any corner; same thing goes for the Democratic party. I’m over 50 and have no intention in being a “good girl” and voting for a party that disses me, takes advantage of me, rigs nominations and thinks I’m stupid. I don’t put up with that in private life and I sure has hell will not tolerate it from any politician.

  10. Helen says:

    Yes. This.

    This is exactly where I’m at. This is why “the other guy is worse” arguments have zero effect on me.

  11. Kali says:

    Thanks for this post! Those who keep repeating “how can you let McCain win” really don’t get it. We don’t have any leverage to lose with Republicans. But we do have our chance now to use leverage with the Democrats. If we allow the DNC to get away with what they did to us, we will never have any leverage for decades to come. We will get laughed at and ignored, as has been increasingly the case over the past three decades.

  12. Disgusted Beyond Belief says:

    I can understand the general sentiment of wanting to apply levarage to the Democratic party to get them to do what is right. I have made posts about how I feel like voting Republican just to get the Democratic party to listen to me thinking that that might get their attention.

    Unfortunately, I don’t think that strategy would ever work for the simple reason that the leadership of the party is Stupid and has no idea how to ruthlessly exploit power. They took all their previous electoral defeats as evidence that they really just need to act more like “winners” which they meant to mean “Republicans” – so anything you do that makes the Republicans win an election just convinces the stupid Democratic leadership to tack further and further right to try and be nice and Republican because hey, Republicans win elections.

    Really, if you want to ruthlessly exploit power, the time to duke it out like this is in the primary. If you try and do it in the general election, you’ll just push the party further to the right if the party loses. Which is not to say that they don’t deserve to lose for the stupid things they’ve done, like meekly going along with the war, failing to impeach Bush, failing to enforce FISA, failing to enforce congressional subpeonas, failing to do a whole lot of things they should have done once they got the power to do it in 2006. And prior to that, they should have stuck together and filibustered the hell out of every insane thing the GOP congress was doing. But in the end, who has power matters. Looking at the Gitmo ruling today, today we have Habeous Corpus only by a 5-4 margin – one more justice and we lose it – all of us. That stuff matters. I’d rather the Dems lose congress then let the sociopathic GOP have the awesome power of the presidency ever again. In that regard, it isn’t even about Obama and Clinton – I would vote for either – I’d vote for anyone but a member of the sociopathic GOP. Though I would not be beyond voting the dems out of control of congress and focus my efforts there. I still am pissed at Senator Stabenow for voting to support the president’s FISA lawbreaking. It is easier to have an impact (and have leverage) with your local rep and even local senator than it is to leverage at the presidential level anyway.

    I should say that I don’t register as Democratic, though I have tended to vote that way (mostly as votes against the GOP). Unfortunately, it has often been the case that the only thing worse than a Democratic politician is a Republican.

  13. buck says:

    apostate (and other like her reading this),

    have a look at the green party…they are not as much against corporate america as they are made out to be…just out-of-control corporate america…especially, have a look at item # 6 of their 10 key values:

    the democratic party has been repub-lite for several years now…i cannot yet vote in this country as i’m still getting my green card, but i know for sure that i will embrace the green party when i become a citizen…

    i am always surprised at how much resistance there is among leftists in this country to the idea of going with the green party…it is almost as if everyone thinks that the only people who vote green are some crazy anarchist environmentalists…

    the green party is the best party for feminists, and shares in your disillusionment with the democratic party…

  14. tinfoil hattie says:

    Excellent post. I’ve been trying to articulate these thoughts for days. Now I’ll just point people here.

    I do have to object to your misrepresentation of Markos Moulitsas, however. He did not refer to feminists as “the women’s studies set.”

    He referred to us as “the sanctimonious women’s studies set.”

  15. ea says:

    Please consider the Green Party.

  16. ea says:

    Okay, links don’t work. Green Party USA

  17. apostate says:

    My “problem” is not with the Green party’s platform (and I want to apologize if I gave anyone the impression that I love Corporate America – no, I just have to make a living somehow). My problem is with the lack of progressives in this country, and the many progressives who don’t vote because that would be validating the system.

    Thus, the Green party might be great, but is it a viable alternative? I am still deciding if I should vote for them — and I’m very close to thinking, yes, I should — but I worry that as a strategy, it’s not effective.

    Not convinmced that it isn’t, but really, when Gore lost quite a few votes to Green, what changed with the Dems? Nothing.

    How many Dems deserting the party would it take to send the message? And of course, can we mobilize enough people to hold to that strategy? I see everyone caving when they imagine another 8 years of the recent past.

  18. Pat J says:

    What a great post. Your expressed thoughts are exactly what I feel. They take us for granted and expect we will be only too happy to go back out into that kitchen and scramble them up some eggs. And smile while we are doing it.

    What has been done to Hillary is what has been done to all of us who have fought the good fight over the years. No longer.

    There is no way in hell that I would sanction a vote for Obama and the cheating DNC. It is over.

    But I take heart that there are other like minded voters who know this primary was stolen.

  19. LucyAqui says:

    Violet excellent post… leverage indeed and so right regarding time for you “girls” to play nice!

    Forget that, I for one will never vote for Obama nor any of my state super delegates
    that support his candidacy. The failure of the Democratic Party to address the sexism leveled during this campaign is unforgivable.

    Dean’s comment to George Stephanopoulos on June 1, 2008 was a disgraceful attempt to sway female voters back into the fold, ignoring the months he remained silent on the issue. Guess what Howie, it’s not working… you condoned the vile sexist comments with your silence; I now understand where the Democratic Party stands regarding women.

    I’ll take my cues from Mother Nature; everything has to be burnt to the ground to initiate new growth. The fresh scorched Earth provides an abundant supply of nourishment that, over time, allows for new growth. Perhaps it is long past time that new growth and awareness occurs within the hierarchy of the Democratic Party.

    Because I for one, am not taking it quietly… like a “good little girl.”

  20. Elliot Lake says:

    The DNC’s purge of Hillary is precisely because they smelled power (that they could not control). And that power is why they are suddenly flooding us with the fake-make-nice folks, who claim to have been Hillary supporters but then seen the light, or threaten us with loss of Roe V. Wade–(reminiscent of all the changing reasons the Iraq war was supposedly for)—they see there is power there they need but don’t have.

    This is exactly the time to hold on to that power and not give it up for fake unity. No matter how sweetly they say it, I don’t believe the check is in the mail.

  21. Violet says:

    I’d love to get your thoughts on the first two posts on my blog.

    Apostate, I just now found time to go read your two posts. And I agree with you! Of course I owe you more than that, and this is a discussion I’d like to have, as we were saying in the other thread where the topic of Third Wave came up. But for now let me just say that I completely understand and sympathize. In fact, if I were coming new to feminism now and was basing my impressions on what’s in the blogosphere, I would be utterly repelled. I barely even recognize blogular Third Wave feminism as feminism. It’s more like kabuki theatre, an inexplicably baroque and self-involved performance, all posture and signal. It has almost no relation to the real world and the real life of feminism I’ve lived.

  22. Cyn says:

    Oh, Violet, you nailed it.

  23. waiting says:

    Well said, Violet.

    I am one of those dried up old hags from the 60′s that fought for a woman’s right to jobs in the male dominated world. This election cycle has brought back all the crap I experienced in the 70′s and 80′s trying to make my own way. I didn’t back down then and I won’t back down now.

    The Democratic party needs my time, money and vote. They won’t get any of it with Obama and the DNC elites playing their fraudulant, undemocratic games. I have no problem voting for McCain.

    I always voted democratic even though it was often against my best financial interests. Not any more. I will do what I can to make sure Obama doesn’t get in the WH. No amount of guilt triping will make me vote for him. Ever.

  24. CognitiveDissonance says:

    Great post, Violet. We do indeed have a big gigantic lever that we need to use, once and for all. If not now, when? What could possibly happen that would be worse than what we just experienced?

    And quite frankly, I don’t care how many Obamabots or DNC’ers that scream about Roe v. Wade or Iran or anything else. If those things come to pass, our democratic congress will be directly responsible for them, not me. I am at the point where I think the only way to save the democratic party is to endure 4 more years of horrible republican rule. Were it not so, but that is the reality. The democratic party will not survive if Obama and his hate brigade are allowed to remake it in their image.

    I wish it were enough to vote Green. I would do it in a heart beat. But I don’t live in a safe democratic state like Massachusetts. I live in a swing state. And therefore I will hold my nose and vote for a republican for the first time in my 55 year old life. Were there only another way.

  25. Toni4Hill says:

    I registered as a Democrat in 1968 and my first presidential vote went to George McGovern. Unless Hillary is at the top of the ticket I vote Republican for the first time in my life. We are on the frontline of Democracy right now. We need to stay strong and keep writing letters and calling. We need to stay visible and viable and with great posts like that it won’t be hard.

  26. Tabby Lavalamp says:

    I’m not American, so I don’t get a vote. However, like everyone else on this planet, American politics affect me.
    We have the Green Party up here in Canada too, but I’ve never voted for them so I’m not saying this as someone striving to get votes for the Greens.
    Obama, his campaign, and his supporters have outraged me too, and I can’t imagine voting for the Democrats after all of this. But voting Republican isn’t the answer. The old cliched saying of “cutting off your nose to spite your face” comes to mind.
    If enough women (and men too) are angered enough to not vote Democrat, if enough people vote Green, that will send a huge message to both major parties. Perhaps even two powerful messages, which isn’t bad as all the equality in the world will be no good if there is no world left in which to enjoy it.

  27. sassysenora says:

    thanks, Violet.

    we will have power if we organize and don’t cave in. i think the Dems are helping ensure that we don’t unite behind Obama. all the Dem appeals i’ve seen say that we’ll flock to Obama after we learn about McCain’s stand on reproductive rights and women’s pay.

    the appeals themselves are so steeped in misogyny it’s appalling. the Dems are so oblivious to women that they seem tone-deaf about how insulting these “appeals” are. just off the top of my head, i can give several reasons that they’re insulting and misogynistic: (1) the appeals assume we’ll flock to someone, as if we were a bunch of chickens who will mindlessly run with “our group” (they seem to assume that’s mostly other women) whenever they throw out a few crumbs. (2) the appeals assume that the only issues we care about (and we all care passionately and mindlessly about them bc we’re women) are reproductive rights and equal pay. at the very least, the appeals assume that those issues dwarf all other issues for most women. (3) the appeals assumes that we don’t already know the candidates’ positions on these (or, presumably, other) issues. we’re just dumb girls, after all. (4) the appeals assume that we all think alike and that we will all agree with Obama’s stands on these issues (and his past actions with respect to them) as soon as we take the time to learn about them or have some man explain them to us.

    with appeals like these, i’m not particularly worried that most women who’ve supported Clinton will unite behind Obama. it will help our leverage if ppl get the word out about boycotting Obama (and the Dems in general?), not just on blogs but to ppl who don’t read blogs.

  28. C D Ward says:

    apostate says:
    . . . when Gore lost quite a few votes to Green, what changed with the Dems? Nothing.

    For one, they became much more vigilant about suing to remove third party candidates — Nader in 2004, specifically — from the ballots of as many states as possible. (Putting your DNC dollars to work for a better America, I’m sure they’d tell you.)

    Anyway, I wanted to drop in a quotation — from a very inside-the-beltway Democratic operative — that’s in much the same spirit as this entry:

    If you want to pull the party — the major party that is closest to the way you’re thinking — to what you’re thinking, you must . . . YOU MUST show them that you’re capable of not voting for them. If you don’t show them you’re capable of not voting for them, they don’t have to listen to you. I promise you that.

    I worked within the Democratic Party. I didn’t listen, or have to listen, to anything on the left while I was working in the Democratic Party, because the left had nowhere to go.

    – Lawrence O’Donnell (as quoted here)

  29. misspeach2008 says:

    I “infiltrated” an all male college in the early 70′s, made my way up the corporate ladder in a male dominated industry, and gave a few years of my life to teaching young women that they were “worthy” of respect. I thought I could retire from the battle, but this election has shown me that I can’t just yet. I will be doing my best to send a message that we’re still here and still waiting by working for John Kerry’s opponent in the MA primary. I hope others will find an appropriately dastardly way to channel their anger. And I can live with a John McCain presidency if it wakes the Democrats up. If not, we’ll have four years to regroup.

  30. julia says:

    Violet, your brillance shines again!

  31. FemB4Dem says:

    Wow! Yes, wow! You are so right. I have been e-mailing with a bunch of very smart, professional women, and I’m trying to drag them, kicking and screaming, to where you and I now are. This is our moment, we have the power, we have to use it. As I have been telling women:

    This fight is now so far beyond Hillary and Barack, for our daughters and nieces, for their daughters and nieces, we cannot simply let the fight die with a whimper. We cannot let history write this epitaph for us: women had the power, it was their time, but they decided something else was more important than their own rights, and their own selves.

    Ignore the blackmail about the Supreme Court (it’s actually not even persuasive, read Froma Harrop’s recent column), get out and start making noise however you can. Write letters to the editor, get involved with PUMA PAC, do whatever to let the country know we have had it, and we will not vote for Barack Obama. Period. When they lose this election, the dems will come crawling back and beg forgiveness. If they win it, we might as well all step back to that metaphorical coffee pot and ask Obama “cream or sugar?” It’s the only role we’ll play in his administration, and in the foreseeable future.
    CognitiveDissonance is right — if you live in a swing state, hold your nose and vote for McCain. Obama says my state is purple and he intends to win it. So, I too, will be voting for a republican for the first time ever. Drastic times call for drastic measures!

  32. votermom says:

    What a great post!

  33. Shane says:

    Great post.

    What I find so interesting (and depressing) about it all is that a lot of the anti-feminist/sexist arguments used now are old ones dressed up in ‘hip’ new clothing. To take one example, throughout the history of feminism a common strategy by its opponents has been to declare it irrelevant. According to this view, there were problems in the past, but they’ve already been taken care of and no more change is needed. Needless to say, this is a very problematic and dangerous view, albeit one that keeps on resurfacing.

    The 1950s is probably the best example of this discourse in American history. Among the many arguments used to discredit feminists in this period was that when suffrage had been won after World War I, women had gained all the equality they needed, and that any feminist challenges to the new status quo were unnecessary. Those who did see problems with the system as it existed then were happily condemned as neurotics or otherwise inadequate women. (Lundberg and Farnham’s 1947 misogynist work Modern Woman: The Lost Sex is possibly the most blunt example.)

    Its here that the parallels with the present are most visible. On the surface, this past argument seems distant, but all that’s changed is the language of reference: the underlying message is still almost the same. Rather than being ‘neurotic’ as in the postwar period, women (and men) who insist on sexism remaining a pervasive part of our society that needs to be genuinely challenged and questioned are now just being ‘ignorant’ or ‘racist’. Look for example at the various high-minded discussions in The Nation and elsewhere this year about how the divide between Clinton-supporting feminists and Obama-supporting feminists is really just a new generation gap, where the Clinton supporters are outdated relics of the 1970s (dismissing the vital work of second-wave feminism in the process), and only Obama supporters are properly ‘nuanced’ enough to recognise that sexism really isn’t that important an issue after all, and that a female president wouldn’t really be any sort of departure from the past, and besides, she’s probably a racist.

    Besides the obvious attempt to cast all those who prefer Clinton as old, the implication of this imposed divide is to see non-conforming feminists as fighting battles that have already been won, just like the postwar ‘neurotics’ who knew that the image they were expected to accept of their society being a place of equality was a lie. As much as the people who push these arguments would deny it, there’s a very dismissive undertone–its really saying ‘fine, you keep going on while we get with the program, we don’t need you’. The phrase taken for granted covers it almost perfectly—feminism is seen as outdated or dead. What these people fail to remember is that feminism has been declared out for the count before, and by sources that then seemed just as ‘authoritative’ as those voices I mention do now.

  34. buck says:


    come to the light :-)

    the only way a viable third party will ever emerge in the US is if enough people move away from the two-party system on principle, irrespective of whether it will or will not make a difference. even at the risk of enabling a negative outcome in the short-term.

    please do check out the documentary on ralph nader called “an unreasonable man”. you will never look at the democratic party the same way again. it was instrumental in helping me make up my mind.

    i feel there are enough progressives in this country to really shift the game if they coalesce.

    although your blog has been on my daily reading list for over a couple of years now, i have always lurked without any comments or participation (i did try to get it on the pharyngula blogroll this one time a few months back). so i don’t want to give you the impression that i’m some ambulance-chasing green party recruiter. i just realized i may seem that way with my second comment here, so i want to apologize in advance.

  35. AM says:

    Violet, your comment:

    “In fact, if I were coming new to feminism now and was basing my impressions on what’s in the blogosphere, I would be utterly repelled. I barely even recognize blogular Third Wave feminism as feminism. It’s more like kabuki theatre, an inexplicably baroque and self-involved performance, all posture and signal. It has almost no relation to the real world and the real life of feminism I’ve lived.”

    really hits home with me. Very apt description. The word feminism very early became a portmanteau word, a large bag into which everything could be thrown, things to be pulled out when convenient, especially by woman demeaners, always ready to define us. It’s become useless.

    In the late 60s and early 70s us grassroot types fought for the term Women’s Liberation Movement (too clear, had to go), which got weakened to Women’s Movement. The word feminism is an academic’s dream because they can expound on it endlessly. You, and a few other Hillary supporters are recapturing women’s liberation movement.

  36. octogalore says:


    It’s a problem within feminism and with women — we put ourselves last. If we get fucked over, we can quickly adapt to doing what’s best for a larger group — that often doesn’t really include us in a nonsuperficial way.

    I read my copy of “American Lawyer” yesterday. The one with Eric Holder, an Obama surrogate from a big law firm, on the cover. Holder is up for a big position should BHO win. The article discussed their connection and the numerous prominent black leaders who had connected to support BHO. One of them joked that black people of a certain stature all knew each other.

    I found this really impressive, albeit as a HRC supporter and non-Obama-fan. We’ve talked here about why women don’t coalesce to this degree (which inspired me to discuss that further here). Obviously, any mention of this idea is grounds for other women to defensively scream out: “But BHO IS a feminist choice!!” Well, but why are fewer black people sure that voting for HRC is an anti-racist choice?

    This is the kind of challenge we will have for any kind of organization. I hope we can be creative and find ways to surmount it.

  37. bells says:

    The first step is to switch from being a registered Democrat to being an Independent – and to let the DNC know that you switched and why you switched.

    The second step is to stop supporting their causes. I have always given money to Democratic campaigns. I now will only donate to Democrats who were Hillary delegates up until she released them when she suspended her campaign. And when I get solicitations I am writing back about the misogyny in the campaign and the DNC’s failure to defend one of our own.

    I live in a state where Obama will win without question so my actual vote will not make a difference. But I think that if Obama wins after this campaign against women, we will be powerless going forward.

  38. Violet says:

    I’m loving all these comments, but this one by Shane I really hope everyone reads:

    Its here that the parallels with the present are most visible. On the surface, this past argument seems distant, but all that’s changed is the language of reference: the underlying message is still almost the same. Rather than being ‘neurotic’ as in the postwar period, women (and men) who insist on sexism remaining a pervasive part of our society that needs to be genuinely challenged and questioned are now just being ‘ignorant’ or ‘racist’.

    Absolutely. The trouble with being old or historically literate (or both) is that you recognize the tricks when they come around again in a new guise. Feminists have ALWAYS been described as neurotic/racist/bourgeois (that last was the tag back in the early 20th century, when feminists refused to just accept that Socialism Would Fix Everything). It’s whatever tag will serve to mark them out as misguided and selfish.

  39. orlando says:

    As a non-American, can someone explain to me why the Republicans are so in thrall to the scary religious right, while the Democrats can continue to ignore women? They seem parallel situations to me(I remember Amy in The West Wing upbraiding Josh: “If women stopped voting no Democrat would ever be elected again”). Shouldn’t the GOP be able to ignore the fundamentalists on the grounds that they have nowhere else to go?

  40. Violet says:

    Excellent question, orlando. What I think is that with the scary religious right, it’s also an issue of politicizing them and motivating them. What the Republicans did in the past 25 years was create a situation that had not really existed before, with religious rightwingers becoming heavily politicized and motivated to get out and vote Republican. The rightwing churches now are like political cells for Republicans. So the GOP keeps feeding that beast almost like it’s their own get-out-the-vote machine.

    It didn’t use to be like that. In the 1960s heavy-duty Christians were just as likely to vote Democrat (my own grandparents are a perfect example). Or if they were really really really religious, not vote at all.

  41. bob c says:

    So, so glad to see you made it back to us, Dr!
    Orlando’s question is an important observation. It would seem that politics is more like a businee that does not see itself as a provider, but rather as a manipulator, with voters just being akin to profit-centers to be used for self-gain. We need (maybe) a TEMPORARY catagory on our ballots, *none of the above, try again*.

  42. gwen says:

    Non-American here, and therefore possibly seeing things from an insufficiently focused point of view. I do get the point about leverage – I cheered the comment about “We won’t vote for Obama unless he promises to ratify the ERA and CEDAW, repeals the partial birth abortion ban and the global gag rule, puts teeth back into Title IX, etc., etc.” I hope you do that and, if not, I get staying home or voting for an Independent candidate to demonstrate the power of women voters. But this:

    I don’t care how many Obamabots or DNC’ers that scream about Roe v. Wade or Iran or anything else. If those things come to pass, our democratic congress will be directly responsible for them, not me

    Right. I’m sure that’ll be a great comfort to the Iranians, thanks. I’m sorry to be so angry – I am – but the argument that you guys, electing the most powerful person in the world, should be willing to trade the *lives* of the rest of us in exchange for sending a message to your own party is. I can’t find the words for it. Hi, there are women over there too? Hi, the current state of your government is fucking things up for all of us, right now, all the time, and the only reason I’ve been arguing that that fact isn’t a reason to be as virulently anti-American as possible is because I know – I thought I knew – that you guys knew how awful and sad it’s been and were going to do something about it at the earliest chance you got. There isn’t really a tactful way to put this. Your current government is in favour of torture, doesn’t seem to actually comprehend the concept of human rights, and is corrupting human rights discourse throughout the world with its ‘example’. I understand that you don’t want to compromise on American women’s rights in favour of, well, everyone else on the face of planet. That’s nice, it makes sense. Don’t vote Obama, then, if the party has really sold you out to that extent. But if you vote Republican, wow. I’m probably done with the ideal of America, such as it was.

  43. Shane says:

    I’m not American either, but I guess the argument here (and I think its a compelling one) is that the Obama candidacy is breaking down the barrier between Democrats and Republicans even further than before—and that is something with lasting domestic and international consequences if it isn’t actively resisted. Opposing that isn’t just an ego trip. Its also where those people who think he’s a closet radical are so wrong: what indications he has given have been those of a not particularly progressive candidate who has every intention of pandering to the right rather than trying to move the nation left. You know something’s severely wrong when the McCain campaign is paying more attention to Clinton supporters than he is because he’s focused on trying to attract evangelical voters.

    I’d like to think an Obama presidency would mark a real change in foreign policy, but I have my doubts. Obama has repeatedly said in interviews that he wishes to base his foreign policy on that of presidents such as Ronald Reagan and George Bush Sr, because surely Iran-Contra and El Salvador fit the definitions of good statesmanship. Perhaps those comments were just pandering, but they perfectly fit a campaign narrative where bipartisanship is what’s really needed to fix the nation, never mind the fact that ‘bipartisanship’ is a propped-up illusion that has been an excuse for virtually all the wrongs of the past fifteen years.

    I’m not saying your comment is a big example of this, but those who don’t intend to support Obama are also tired of being blamed for everything (abortion being outlawed, right wingers taking over the Supreme Court, global destruction etc:) if they don’t go for him, as if the loss (assuming he loses) is their fault and their fault only… Which has been the message of the media and Obama campaign’s (the two have often been synonymous) interpretation of the Democratic primary too—Obama never loses voters because of some preferring Clinton’s policies or because of areas he can improve in. Its always the voter’s fault. In this view, Obama is already perfect, and its the voter’s problem for not appreciating his awesomeness.

    Besides being stupid, this view is also very dangerous, because politicians are the last people you should be demanding nothing of. I actually suspect its an extension of the tendency to blame EVERYTHING on Hillary Clinton, no matter her actual relation to events.

  44. kurt says:

    wow. wow. that was a great post!!! i am adding you to my list of blogs i read everyday.

  45. hysperia says:

    YOU GO WOMAN! I’m a bystander to this election (Canadian) but I’ve been frustrated beyond words at the fear that seems to pervade discussions about who everyone should vote for, as in, if not Obama, then McCain and OMG. The lever will NEVER be used if women are too afraid to consider it, never mind using it.


  46. gwen says:

    I’d like to think an Obama presidency would mark a real change in foreign policy, but I have my doubts.

    And that makes a great deal of sense to me as a reason not to vote for Obama, if it’s true. From the picture we here in Europe are getting, anyway, that isn’t my impression; but you may know something I don’t and as an American it’s your decision in any case and nothing anyone could fault you for. My objection is to the view that even if John McCain means further catastrophe for the world – eg war in Iran – and Barack Obama means a somewhat less catastrophic regime it would be better to vote for McCain to send a message to the Democrats. I think that’s appalling and, as a well-wisher of America, I hope it isn’t the basis on which the majority of Americans will vote come November.

  47. gwen says:

    Obama never loses voters because of some preferring Clinton’s policies or because of areas he can improve in. Its always the voter’s fault. In this view, Obama is already perfect, and its the voter’s problem for not appreciating his awesomeness.

    I agree that that’s a very dangerous narrative, by the way, and that it’s absurd for politicians to pretend to be put upon just because they have to work hard for votes. And, as between Obama and Clinton, the argument that that’s what happened holds up very well and I can see why people are angry about it. But as between McCain and Obama – isn’t the point there just that if you vote for McCain, uh, you’re responsible for whatever McCain does? I don’t see saying that as an unfair attack – it’s just what democracy means. In the same way that, in the UK, a vote for the racist and neo-fascist BNP that is intended only to ‘send a message’ to the Labour government – as happened in lots of places in our last local elections – is still a vote for racism and neo-fascism. Of course if Labour turn out to have been racist and neo-fascist all this time – and they aren’t turning out particularly liberal or leftist, certainly – then one could argue that it makes no difference, Labour politicians are just as bad as BNP ones. Which as I understand it was your other argument about John McCain, which makes sense though I don’t know about the evidence. That’s a seperate argument, though.

  48. Kat says:

    What bothers me most about the McCain-Roe-War script is that it assumes a grotesquely inflated set of powers for the head of the executive branch — which is precisely what the other branches of government, the fourth estate (yeah, right, I know), and certainly the “alternative” media should be challenging.

    If “war in Iran” is truly in the balance, for example, then we need to take to the streets, and now. An American president doesn’t have that kind of constitutional power. And this is precisely what disturbs me, on some deep level that some others seem to sense too: at the heart of it, the Obama consolidation of the big money and the Democratic party, in conjunction with the worshipping masses and the decimation of any critically thinking media in this country, is a bait-and-switch from the fundamental issues. Media ownership and the shut out of anything approaching real journalism (I can’t even bear the NPR radio news, and that’s absurd). Accountability for the Bush administration and its officials. The narrative that swirls around the office of president now, one that almost feels more like monarchy — or maybe just celebrity — than that of a constitutional republic. The hyped mainstream discourse. The cancer of money in political life. The framing of problems such that we think our so-called health care system is anything but criminal.

    The rot began with the Obama campaign being all about itself, self-referential, self-congratulatory, and vacuous. Since that was never stopped by anyone in the party or the media establishment, the green light was given to make it all about phase two, the potential phenomenon of Obama as President. Still, the hard questions are not being asked and no one’s feet are being held to the fire. I wonder how those going the route of party purity think that situation will play out over eight years.

    Methods of resistance are going to vary, to be sure. I’ve seen some people saying they would vote for McCain, some say they would vote third party, some say they would abstain and go down ticket, some say they would do a write-in. See: big, messy, diverse movement. Honestly, I’m not sure what my strategy will be, but I am not voting for a man about whom I know so little. Recent conversations between Obama and right wing religious figures only heighten that feeling. I am not sure what an Obama administration (which I suspect will come to pass, there’s too much money greasing the political wheels for it not to come to pass) will mean, but at some point, I’m going to be asking of his supporters — aren’t you responsible for what Obama does? I’ll be curious what they’ll say. I suspect the largest portion will have no problem with anything whatsoever, anything at all, that Obama does, so they won’t really grok the question in the first place. Which is exactly the problem.

    If I’m being pressured or threatened to vote for the lesser of two evils, then I’m still being pressured by people who want a vote for evil. That is certainly a legitimate strategy — and yet, those advocating lesser evil still have responsibility for that lesser evil. That’s what gets me about the argument of vote-for-the-D-or-you’re-morally-bankrupt: it stops in its tracks the minute you give them what is required, your dutiful vote for whatever D, every time. It asks no further questions, demands little scrutiny, and gets you off the hook. You’ve done your duty — you’ve stared at the ceiling and thought of the queen. Your conscience is clear(tm).

    Right now, leverage is key. Some shred of opposition, checks and balances, accountability… that’s crucial right now. I know I’d rather at least attempt the leverage route than cave to the lesser of two evils without a fight.

  49. Infidel says:

    “…stared at the ceiling and thought of the queen”

    Now in Inja’s sunny clime,
    where I used to spend my time
    a serve’n her majesty the queen

    Is there an America?
    Who will lead it?
    When it comes to the nitty gritty how you get there by default you’ve already done the dance.
    Hillary was no saint. None of them are. None of us are.

    Fear is a democratic president with a democratic house and senate. Fear was a republican president with a republican house and senate.

    Do I fear a woman in charge because I am a man? Do I fear a black in charge because I’m white?
    Do I fear money in charge because I’m poor?
    Do I fear power in charge because I’m insignificant?

    …Naah! The history of our democracy is that it has always been messy, misogynistic, racist, and corrupt- but it has always blanched at the light of exposure, always tried to hide its foibles, IT KNOWS WHAT IS WRONG, and because it knows what’s wrong it highlights human “rights”.

    How slow is an unacceptably slow process? Given that never is unacceptable, how many years? 200, 400, 600, a millenium. All a white male can do is complain that he’s unfairly advantaged, who’s gonna listen to that?

  50. valentine says:

    Violet, you have nailed it just like RD. I too also just assumed Repubs were bad. My first vote was anti-Reagan for exactly the reasons you have stated. I can remember the little jr. high paper we had circa 1974 or so— it was like this little movement that came right after being a girl scout and segued into the Vietnam War protests. You made me remember and you just explained everything! Thank you!

    we were all pro-peace, pro-equality, non-discriminatory and we all effing grew up together, no? Well—– I have seen turncoats in this election in the form of Brazile — she is anti everything being a Democrat stood for to me.

    You know. Moving to Mexico is a good idea.
    This is the most insane election I have ever seen.

  51. Branjor says:

    Fantastic post, Violet, spot on. I do have one little quibble though. You said that Hillary lost the primary. The fact is that she got more popular votes than any other primary candidate in history, including Obama. And if the votes and delegates of Florida and Micihigan are counted as per DNC rules, she also had more pledged delegates than Obama (with neither having enough to put them over the top). Hillary dodn’t lose the primary, she WON the primary. They are just refusing to give her the nomination.

  52. ea says:

    I posted this early in the week at The Confluence, I believe. It was in response to a woman asking for input regarding her discussions with her daughter, who is a first-time voter. The mother was considering not voting and faced consternation from her daughter who countered that she had always taught that voting was a duty and a privilege, etc. (Okay, I just put words into someone else’s post, but the basic idea is the same.) This very edifying thread, maybe the best I’ve read in my months-long adventure in bloglandia, prompts me to put it here. I invite those residents of countries that have parliamentary systems to comment, correct and clarify as you see fit. Note: the following has been edited from the original version.

    I’m sure you are aware of the oft-quoted Maragaret Mead comment regarding a small group of people changing the world. My approach to politics for most of my adult life has been that you have to vote for the change you want. How is it possible to change anything if you keep doing the same thing again and again? Personally, I favor a multi-party parliamentary form of government. Parties and factions exist, representing sets of beliefs or values with which voters may align themselves. Voters vote for parties, and parties choose their leaders. Generally, most governments are coalition governments, meaning that two or more parties/factions work together to have enough votes in the governing body to actually get anything done. They have to work together. On one piece of legislation, the successful coalition might be center-left, on another center-right. The point is you don’t get into the partisan stalemates than routinely occur in the U. S. Congress or one party selling out their constituents, as it were, to get something passed. Okay, so I’ve simplified a bit here (and possibly idealized), but I see this as a key moment in time. I strongly support the PUMA movement and hope it ultimately manifests as a major political party. Personally, I am a registered Green. More choices, more voices. Having options increases participation when people have a chance to genuinely say, “This is what I believe.” I encourage your family to research party platforms and find where each is comfortable.

    Having a political identity for some people is a major part of their personal identities. For others, not such a big deal. Until I became a Green, I was independent. Maybe that is the way to go, especially if one is a “vote for the person, not the party” being. I have voted for Greens, Dems, Repubs, and Socialists during my life. Had I been in a different district in my voting state the last general election, I would have made Green/Dem/Repub choices on the same ballot!

    My tag line–

    I am not now and have never been a member of the Democratic Party

  53. Jane in CA says:

    Wow, incredible post! If I thought they’d read it. I’d send it to every guy I know who dismisses my contention that I am voting for McCain by telling me I’ll “get over it” by November.

    Regarding changing the party: if only 33 percent of democrats (out of the more than 50 percent who say they will either vote for McCain or not vote at all) change their party registration to Independent, the Democrats become the minority party in blue California. I may be wrong, but that just might get the DNC’s attention. Emphasis on the word, “might.” The deliberate blindness and willful destruction of the party does not seem to weigh heavily on party leaders like Dean, Reid, Pelosi, et al so far.

  54. SophieL says:

    Excellent post. Thank you. I do think we need to get organized. We need to spread the word to those who don’t inhabit bloglandia.

    Some things I have done:
    - Continue to make my periodic donations to Hillary via her Website (not the Obama button).
    - Not made contributions to the DNC or Obama.
    - Decided to vote downticket only (unless something happens to change my mind between now and November).

    Some things I will do:
    - Send money to the guy in MA running against Kerry.
    - Send links to this and RDs site to friends in my address book.

  55. Tabby Lavalamp says:

    ea, you wanted input from people in countries with parliamentary democracies. I’m Canadian, and I can tell you this… “Generally, most governments are coalition governments, meaning that two or more parties/factions work together to have enough votes in the governing body to actually get anything done” doesn’t happen here. The last two governments have been minorities, but for most of my life, one of two parties has held the majority and didn’t have to work with anyone. The current Conservative party is a minority government, but the opposition Liberals have been so scared of going back to the polls so soon after they screwed up the last election, they haven’t been willing to oust the Tories on any non-confidence votes (if a minority government loses a non-confidence vote, they have to call an election).
    Then there is my hellhole of a province, Alberta. Thanks to oil money and electoral boundaries that favour rural voters, we’ve had the same right-wing “Progressive” Conservative party in power for over four decades. The public wants that oil money to keep flowing, so they will continue to vote in a party that doesn’t have our long-term interests at heart.

  56. hipparchia says:

    my national feminist party idea didn’t exactly float.

    i do like the idea of pumapac evolving into/ leading to the puma party.

    but my favorite idea for 2008 is still for hillary to run as an independent.

  57. Dakinikat says:

    Terrific post!! This explains a lot about what the MSM and the Obamamites just do not get about why we just won’t play nice and vote for the nice young man. I have no idea if I’m every going to make nice for the Dems again. They’ve allowed many issues significant to women to be put down, watered down and ignored. It’s time we stand up and say no more!

  58. Cate says:

    Thank you Violet for an astonishing article. You have provided such clarity to an issue that has troubled all of us for years – I just didn’t know how to put it into words.

    Another issue I would love to hear your thoughts on is why are so many women seemingly against women’s rights?

    Charter Member PUMA Democrat

  59. sassysenora says:

    the argument that you guys, electing the most powerful person in the world, should be willing to trade the lives of the rest of us in exchange for sending a message to your own party is. I can’t find the words for it.

    i think i understand your anger. but your comment deeply disturbs me. why should women (or the poor or others who were ignored or dismissed by the Obama campaign) give up their right to demand that their party represent them? why are you blaming the people who have been marginalized and are now fighting against their own marginalization? why isn’t your anger focused on the Democratic Party who wants us to sacrifice our own freedom, power, equality, and liberty in order to promote the agenda that we share with them (e.g., no war, better health care)? we want to have both but are now forced to choose between those two worthy goals. why is your anger directed at those of us who want both and not to those who are asking us to choose between them?

    would you sacrifice your ablility to support your family, to have at least a small amount of influence in national politics by having your vote counted, to be treated with respect by the people you’ve supported for your whole adult life, to be less afraid of rape and violence in order for your country to have a marginally better foreign policy? would you sacrifice your sister’s and daughter’s and granddaughter’s opportunities to have the above and to be respected and treated fairly? maybe you would or maybe you wouldn’t but don’t you see that it’s wrong to ask that of anyone? especially when the Democratic Party is only asking that of women and other marginalized groups?

    why are you angry at us instead of at the Democratic Party?

    i also don’t understand why you would think that such a sacrifice would be good for the world in the long run. if you think women here are important in affecting foreign policy, we’d be giving up our ability to influence future policy in order to elect someone who may be marginally better now. would that really benefit those in other countries in the long term?

    i’m sorry if this post was hostile. like you, i’m beside myself that anyone would ask that of me or would not see how unfair or myopic the suggestion that women should willingly give up their equality or their influence was.

  60. Ellen D says:

    If I play poker first I establish that I never bluff. If I say I’ve got it, I’ve got it and will use it.
    After you establish that you can bluff and get away with it.
    GO PUMA!

  61. zella says:

    Excellent post! Just one thing wrong with it- politicians have an unfortunate tendency to make pledges, just to get themselves elected. Once in office that leverage disappears.
    In this case, women, have in the Obama camp’s opinion been making far too much of a fuss over nothing, (what’s a little rigging after all, 48 or 57 states-who cares? ).
    Hillary’s women, being for the most part, they consider, both racist and elderly, will be relegated into a very distant corner of his political agenda. So too will be Latinos, blue-collar workers and all the rest of Hillary’s mob.
    Howard Dean is on record as expecting a 13% decrease in the traditional Democratic vote, this he believes will be balanced by a shift in Republican voters towards Obama, (blacks, college kids, evangelicals); newly registered 18 year olds, and newly registered voters among such favorable demographics like Haitians, single mothers,and so on. The idea is to build up a centrist nuDem alliance.

  62. Anna Belle says:

    Fantastic post, Dr. Socks, and I fully intend to pimp it on my own blog today. I’ve been writing about this very thing with a focus on Roe v Wade because that is the haka that so many desperate O-bots are using to scare women into voting for Obama. I’m drawing a correlation between the politics of fear, which the Dems have adopted as a technique from Republicans, and the actual record of Democrats on a slew of abortion-related issues over the last 8 years to show that Democrats have actually been becoming Republican during Bush’s terms. Democratic women have no obligation to support a party that has failed to protect their rights or advance their causes, even if Republicans are ostensibly worse. I don’t believe they are any worse any longer given the events of the last 8 years, and longer if you think about it.

    Anyway, my posts are a series on The Specter Of Roe v Wade, which is also the title, because that is exactly what it is, a phony specter meant to scare us. It isn’t working on me, because I recognize what leverage looks like.

    PS so glad you are back up and running!

  63. ea says:

    for Tabby Lavalamp,

    Thank you for reading and responding. I appreciate another perspective.

  64. gwen says:

    to sacrifice our own freedom, power, equality, and liberty in order to promote the agenda that we share with them (e.g., no war, better health care)?

    If that were the deal, it would be obvious that no such sacrifice had to be made. And – actually, what I need to say first is that of course, I have no right to suggest you make any sacrifice at all. I was irrationally angry when I made my first comment – I plead listening to John Bolton set out his vision for American foreign policy on Newsnight about twenty minutes before I commented – and I realise it had a hectoring tone that it shouldn’t have done. Whatever the trade-off between potential goods, to the extent that it is a trade-off at all, it isn’t selfish of you to make it in your own best interests, even if those aren’t necessarily the same as ours abroad. And I’ve no right to suggest otherwise, so I apologise for that.

    What I don’t understand, though, is how this particular trade-off works to your own best interests such that it would be sensible to sacrifice, say, an ethical foreign policy in exchange for the kind of freedom, power and equality for women that would be promoted by John McCain. It would be different if McCain were a passionately pro-woman candidate who had an awful foreign policy – then there’d be clear choice to be made between women’s rights and foreign policy andit’d be fair enough to think the right choice for women would be the promotion of women’s rights at home over the ethical foreign policy. What you’re suggesting, though, seems to be the sacrifice of both women’s current freedoms and the ethical foreign policy in favour of a long-term political leverage over the Democrats which may or may not be secured by that sacrifice. I don’t see how that’s worth it to you, quite apart from my own despair about four more years of Republican foreign policy and ‘diplomacy’ to contend with.

  65. sassysenora says:

    What I don’t understand, though, is how this particular trade-off works to your own best interests such that it would be sensible to sacrifice, say, an ethical foreign policy in exchange for the kind of freedom, power and equality for women that would be promoted by John McCain.

    thank you for your reply.

    i disagree that Obama’s candidacy would lead to “an ethical foreign policy”. first, i don’t think a president has that much power compared to the power of congress. second, obama himself has either been vague or flip-flopped about many of his foreign policy positions. third, some of his postitions are down-right scary and even more expansionistic and heavy-handed than Bush’s policies.

    see, e.g.,

    wrt misogyny, i’ve never seen a candidate for any office who was as sexist or misogynistic as Obama himself. looking only at his own statements, i’ve been appalled at the level and pervasiveness of his sexism and misogyny. his campaign staff have been worse than Obama himself. his supporters and the MSM have been even worse than Obama’s campaign staff.

    during this whole campaign season, he was silent about the misogyny that benefitted him and hurt Clinton and all women. his silence, like the silence of the DNC, encouraged the misogynistic attacks. unless you ascribe to Obama a level of ignorance that should disqualify him as a candidate for the POTUS, he knowingly and calculatedly used this misogyny to advance his own campaign. he must have known that it would hurt women economically, socially, professionally, and personally yet he remained silent and encouraged the attacks.

    McCain is not a feminist. i know that. i am frustrated and saddened beyond belief that i will probably be forced to choose between Obama and McCain. (i could essentially sit out the election by voting for a third party but, because of the winner-take-all electoral system in the US, all i’d really be doing then is supporting whichever of the two carries my state.) but McCain did not allow his supporters to call Clinton a f##king wh#re, as Obama did at least twice (in Obama ads for the Nevada caucuses and at a rally by one of his MSM fans). he did not implicitly approve “bros before hos” shirts to support his candidacy. he did not say that Clinton’s foreign policy experience was limited to drinking tea at ambassadors’ homes, suggest that she became unhinged once a month or was subject to hormonal mood swings that might make her unfit to be POTUS. he did not say many other vile, misogynistic things that Obama himself said during his campaign. many people, myself included, think that Obama has already set women back at least 30 years.

    further, Obama’s campaign said that they don’t need women (or the working class or Hispanics). i don’t understand why you believe that supporting such a candidate will secure women’s current freedoms or advance our equality. Obama has already shown that he’s willing to sacrifice our interests to further his candidacy. if he’s elected, he will have even less interest in supporting women’s freedom, power, or equality. how will this in any way protect women’s interests?

    supporting McCain will do 2 things: 1. in addition to showing more respect toward Clinton and women in general, McCain has shown more interest in winning over women voters than Obama has shown in either winning or keeping them. i hope that we can influence McCain to move to the center, especially with regards to health care, discrimination against women and minorities, and foreign policy. 2. if women (or Hispanics, Jews, or other traditionally Democratic voting blocks) desert the Democrats for the Republicans, the Dems may change their policies in order to win us back. that tends to be how the parties work here. it has happened several times in recent history. e.g., if NASCAR dads swung the last election, both parties court them in the next election.

    if you have better ideas for influencing either party, i’d love to hear them. we’ve tried writing, phoning, and emailing the Dems. we’ve volunteered for them and contributed money or (more recently) pointedly not volunteered for them and not given them money. we’ve tried working both inside and outside the party system. they don’t care. Obama and the DNC have made it clear in both their statements and their behavior that they neither need nor want women, Hispanics, the working class, or older voters.

  66. Helen says:

    There’s no reason to believe Obama being elected will result in ethical foreign policy. There is evidence for the reverse.

    There’s no reason to believe Obama would champion women’s rights. There is a sickening amount of evidence for the reverse.

    I’m getting tired of hearing that we’re throwing away some guaranteed good on principle. No one is. We’re saying the emperor has got no clothes. If you look at his record, it’s all there.

  67. cellocat says:

    We all know this is a terrible choice (between Obama and McCain). This posting is the first time I’ve seen something written that gave me hope that in fact there is a silver lining. For that I am so grateful. Thank you, Dr. Socks.

    It is true; the Democrat Party has no reason to listen to us unless and until it figures out it needs us. This is a time of danger and opportunity (same thing, right?) When a woman leaves an abusive relationship she is exerting her power and choice. It is also the moment when she is most likely to be killed by her abusive partner.

    We must stick together, no matter how large and messy the coalition. We must stick together now to protect, defend, support, inspire, and encourage each other. Our unity is of paramount importance. Our unity will not mean 100% agreement on the issues, but can accomplish a sea change in the political scene and in our society in general.

    Thank you all for this community. Sometimes it is hard out in the physical world where I am alone in my intention not to vote for Obama among my friends and family. I am so glad for all of you.

  68. Betty Boondoggle says:

    It would be a good idea, as well, to reach out to the LGBT community (not that such and feminists are mutually exclusive). Obama has no great track record in dealing with them either, his pallid lip service to bigotry in African-American culture notwithstanding.

    Which is to say, women aren’t the only group he’s taken a big dump on and we would do well to band together.

  69. octogalore says:

    Helen — great suggestion on looking at BHO’s record. I’m going to calendar this for 12:01-12:02pm today. My only question is — what do I do for the remaining 30 seconds?

  70. Helen says:


  71. Linda says:

    great post! thanks for saying it so well

  72. Keri says:

    Actually it reminds me of the beginning of the third wave back in the late 80′s- first fired up by the antichoice legistation passed in the mid-late 80′s and set into overdrive by the trashing of Anita Hill. Before the elitist class took it over in the mid 1990′s, the early third wave was made up dominantly of a multiracial group of 20 sommethings who were mixed in sexual orientation as well (and unlike the 2nd wave that struggled with sexual orientation, the early third wavers just accepted it as a natural thing) who strongly admired and had taken as role models the 2nd wavers. The one thing the founding 3rd wavers had in common, no matter if they were attending college or not- most were from poor to lower middle class backgrounds- the more committed a feminist activist you were, the more likely you came from out of a lower middle class or poor background. The elite 20 something women who took over the third wave as “postfeminists” “academic feminists” gave no more than lip service to feminism in the late 80′s-early 90′s and were quick to disparge 2nd wave feminist activists and third wave feminist activists, they were the “cool” feminists into so called “girl power” The founding third wave activists like myself went into the work world and took on adult responsibilities. We did feminist activism when we could (thank goodness for the internet- it brought us back a forum for our activism.)

    (Those, like myself, who were able to go to college and get an undergraduate degree- Bachelor’s, etc… were only able to do so because of the Pell Grant program. My family was far enough below the poverty line that I qualified for a full Pell Grant and the Work Study program. The Pell Grant qualification process was a invasive, degrading circus of red tape one had to endure every year.)

    A big difference between the elite third wavers who took over and the lower economic class founding third wavers was the founding third wavers had a profound sense of connection to the 2nd wave, we both needed each other, we felt. We also felt our connections to all feminist activists who came before us- I remember 2nd wave feminist professors reading aloud at Women’s History celebrations- Soujourner Truth’s speech, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s Declaration of Sentiments and how fired up and connected we felt to these first wave activists, then going back even further to Abigail Adams and Mary Wollestonecraft- all the way back to the Beguines as far as European feminism goes, there was a continous thread from one generation to the next. Asian feminism showed a similar threading- especially in Turkey, Japan and Vietnam (that was another difference between the 3rd wave and 2nd, much more a matter of course seeing and connecting to non European feminisms, not as “other” but as a global thing. But we came to this natural acceptance via the work of the 1st and 2nd waves, they created the ground we walked on. They made it possible for us to be this way. That is something the founding third wavers were and are concious of. It’s how I came to feel a connection to Hillary, she is a 2nd waver, she did part of that laying of ground, and wants to continue to do so.)

  73. AM says:

    Your analysis is totally accurate and long needed in my opinion, which is based on working from 1970 to 2004 in a women’s bookstore, watching the waves of consciousness appear in book form and furthering our movement, and then being increasingly dismayed as the 80s and 90s rolled by and activist feminism disappeared behind obfuscatorial academicians, inane career driven self help books, and fist f***ing debates.

    One thing I remember from the early days of the Second Wave is that the most successful, radical things happened with a combo of upper class and working class women. My thinking at the time was that those two classes knew where bottom and top were, like first and last children in a family, while middle children were lost in the middle, first going this way, then that way. Upper class feminists seem to be a empty class now.

    A book that came out in 1993, and I pushed it every day in our bookstore, is:

    Working-Class Women in the Academy: Laborers in the Knowledge Factory by Michelle M. Tokarczyk and
    Elizabeth A. Fay (Paperback – May 1993)

    It is a collection of articles by working class women on their experiences upon entering academia. I recommend it strongly. It’s an eye opener.

  74. dotcommodity says:

    Dr. Violet:

    I just recommended your writings to Open Left which is finally noticing that Democrats didn’t used to be such a small tent party and are casting about for a less myopic view (unlike dailykos etc,) and looking for feminist guestposters…that might help knit back a sundered party…

    No doubt you are too raw for them, but I love your thinking.

  75. donna darko says:

    No, don’t enable them.

  76. Annie Oakley says:

    Excellent post. I’m so glad I found your site.

    “Every time they say “unite the party,” what they’re really saying is, “please give up your leverage. Please just put down that gigantic lever you somehow got hold of and walk away.”

  77. hysperia says:

    Hmmm. Reading and reading through your very interesting posts and comments. Having already made my “why don’t you go Cynthia McKinney” argument on a later post, what I see here that makes me curious is, why does everyone think that Obama is going to have a foreign policy that is seriously more ethical than John McCain’s. I just don’t believe it. Obama has stood on his “No to the Iraq war” voting record to good effect. I certainly can’t fault him for it. But he did do it when there really wasn’t much at stake. Now, when there is a lot at stake, he caves on FISA and the Fourth Amendment. How much do ya wanna bet that things are going to get really complicated on Iraq later, when there’s much more at stake? I just don’t think he’s gonna do, or maybe even be ABLE to do, what he has said.

    Another things is, I do so much agree with the earlier commenter who said that the Greens won’t be a viable third party until there’s a movement behind them. Now would seem to be a good time to create that movement. But truly, I also think that a real movement of women, a coalition of the “politically dispossessed”, could push Obama’s ass as well. Or McCain’s.

    In my truly humble opinion, they’re all bought and payed for by global corporate capital. They’ll only do something against those interests if they have little choice. N’est-ce pas?

  78. Gary McGowan says:

    I just want to ditto Perry’s comment at the top.

    Thank you for your good work, Violet.

  79. Janis says:

    Hysperia, one comment — Obama has no “No to the Iraq war” voting record. He gave one tepid speech against it, and since then he has voted IDENTICALLY to Clinton. He voted in favor of that war every chance he got. He has absolutely no “No to the Iraq war” voting record at all.

  80. bev lez says:

    Great post! I am a young female who always considered myself a progressive. Not anymore, because apparently being progressive means to dump all over women. I have always been a loyal democrat but not anymore. I have registered as indy and will happily without guilt or remorse cast my vote for a Republican this election. It is correct that we women need to take our power and voices back and the only way is to say NO to the DNC, the MEDIA and BHO. It is true, if we “fall into line” as the MEDIA the DNC and BHO are predicting it will have severe consequenses for years to come for women.

    I cannot in good conscience condone the violently abusive act that Mrs. Clinton and all women had to endure this primary.

    WOMEN MUST SAY NO!!!!!!!

  81. descanso says:

    Great post. You nailed it, Violet!

  82. Matthew says:

    Great post! Awesome job.

  83. thebword says:

    WOW! Fantastic! I’m looking forward to reading everything you write.

  84. mlb says:

    Funny how my girl part was referred to as a “burrito”. And, now I see blue donkey = burrito and how I am forced in with NoBama. ?? Hillary is the rightful winner. DNC your disgusting men need to be ousted. NO MORE CIGAR jokes! Just because my name is MONICA.

  85. bmc says:

    If you really believe it, vote for McCain/Palin. This former Democrat has made my choice–for WOMEN. Can’t have Hillary; Dean and Obama sealed the deal to oust her. Leverage means consequences. If women continue to vote Democrat when they’re excluded from the party, women should leave the Party. Your vote is your voice. Use it.