Sunday, June 08, 2008

Why I don't get it.

But I have trouble understanding how any woman, including those who didn’t support her, cannot empathize with the sadness of women who supported her at Clinton’s loss.

Answering for myself...first, because there is little about Clinton that bears any resemblance to feminism, unless by "feminism" we mean "white, middle-class, imperialism," which I do not.

Second, because of the things that were said by the Clinton campaign and by some of her more vocal supporters over the course of the campaign. When the racist comments came out of the Clinton campaign, that is when her campaign, for me, stopped being revolutionary. There is nothing revolutionary about trying to step on someone else in order to get to the top. I have trouble seeing past the racism of the Gloria Steinems and the Robin Morgans. And very often, what I hear from the white women I know who supported Clinton, is that there *was* no racism in the campaign.

So yes, I have trouble understanding this sadness, because in order to understand it I have to frame the whole situation as one in which racism isn't a big deal, as one in which women of color simply do not exist.

Second, in order to understand this sadness, I would also have to frame the whole situation as one in which biology is the only thing that matters. Electing a woman president is only radical if the woman herself is radical. I don't care how many yahoos you find who say that America isn't ready for a woman president. It wasn't radical to appoint Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court, either (and you know who were, for the most part, the ones having a conversation about whether or not it was? WHITE PEOPLE! Black lawyers were fit to be tied as White people put this man up and argued it was a strike against racial injustice to appoint him!).

And while HRC and Thomas are clearly worlds apart, you cannot selectively pick and choose among Clinton's accomplishments and leave out the yucky bits. Yes, she gets points for some of her wonderful work on behalf of women, but she also loses points for her war vote and for many of her foreign policy positions.

For my part, I cannot understand why seeing Obama as the nominee would bring any feminist anything but joy. Had Clinton won, this feminist would not have felt that women as a group had made a step forward. But because Obama won, I feel that all of us Americans have moved forward, and this has a lot to do with the kind of campaign he ran and the kind of presidency I believe he will have.

Edited to add: two other posts on this issue that I really like:
ProfBW's and BFP's.

21 comments:

Octogalore said...

Guess you missed the third comment to that post.

Also, are you claiming Obama's radical? Guess you missed the post below that post.

Finally, the war vote stuff? That argument's been refuted a million times. Apples and oranges. He wasn't in the Senate at the time, didn't get fed the misinformation Clinton got fed, claimed he'd have voted for the war if he had been, and later did vote for funding for the war.

apostate said...

In other words, a woman has to be perfect to earn your vote. A man? Well, he can just show up.

Never mind that he's to the right of Clinton.

Anna said...

Geez...and here I thought I voted for Clinton because I really liked her health care plan. Little did I know it's because I subscribe to Robin Morgan-style feminism?

you cannot selectively pick and choose among Clinton's accomplishments and leave out the yucky bits.

With all due respect, I would suggest you're doing that with Obama.

And why is it outside the realm of possibility that I could feel sad about the end of Hillary Clinton's candidacy and happy about the prospect of President Obama? Because that's how I feel.

Trinity said...

Thank you, Anna. Thank you.

PF, I don't know if what you want here is dialogue with former Clinton supporters or not, but if you do want a productive discussion about this, I really think some of the language you use here isn't conducive to it. (And I'm still wondering why exactly I gave you a lengthy comment to your last post on this and rather than answering that, you made another post.)

Anna is right on; you're suggesting that some people subscribe to feminisms they've repeatedly repudiated here. You're also suggesting that there is one political opinion that is properly feminist. Personally, I think "feminists think X" is less likely to get people to say "Oh, I'm not thinking with my feminism here, am I" and more likely to get people saying and thinking "Fuck feminism; I'm tired of being told what my opinion should be and why I hold it."

So... again, I don't know what you're saying here, really. Could be you're just venting at either

1) the people who've decided they'd rather vote McCain than Obama, which I also think is ridiculous

or 2) the people who have suggested there was no racism in the Clinton campaign. I haven't seen this among people I know, but I'd not be surprised if someone said it. Heck, many someones.

But if you're venting, why then are you trying to figure out what motivated us to support Clinton? Why is the logic behind my vote so deeply important to you, but when I, Octo, Apostate, etc. tell you what that logic is you have nothing to say?

I get that you ptobably think my vote is simply racism oozing out my pores. And maybe it is; privilege CAN blind people. But if that's all you have to say, why act as if you want people to tell you why we voted as we did? If we were (and note "were"; in my view, the egregious behavior that probably would have changed my vote happened AFTER I VOTED ANYWAY) being foolish, that's the end of that.

Cassandra Says said...

Agreed with Octo, Anna and Trin. Why ask people what their motivations are when you're just going to go ahead and assume you know already?

You know, I have nothing against Obama himself, but his supporters are starting to piss me off. Why is it so hard to grasp the idea that some people might have supported Clinton because they preferred her platform, or her record, or her personality, just like some people prefer Obama for those same reasons? In terms of political positions there's really not that much to choose between the two - neither of them are that progressive, and both have good and bad points. So why the rage and disdain because some people prefer the candidate that's not the one you prefer? And I don't just mean you, PF, I mean a whole lot of people (and some Clinton supporters have been doing it too - the "well if X loses I'll vote for McCain crap has been pulled by people on both sides, and both sides are being incredibly childish and stupid in doing so). Why the insistence that someone who prefers the other candidate must be an idiot who is Doing Feminism Wrong, or must not have thought things through (or clearly they'd have come to the same decision you did)?

This whole primary process has indeed made a lot of feminists look bad, but not for the reasons you seem to be suggesting. It's making us look bad because of the apparrently irresistable tendency so many people have to assign the worst possible motives to anyone who doesn't agree with them. Can we not all cut each other a little more slack?

Danielle said...

I also voted for Hillary because I agreed with her health plan. I don't know about "imperialism".

I got over my sadness because I think Obama's also great. (And, he's pretty hot, too).

Plain(s)feminist said...

I'm a bit confused by the comments so far - actually, no, I wasn't looking for dialogue with Clinton supporters. That doesn't mean dialogue isn't a good thing or that I won't have a dialogue, but the point of my post was specifically to answer the question Octo asked in her blog post, and I said this in my opening line.

Incidentally, the reason I posted this over here was because I did not think the tone was appropriate for Octo's thread. I thought it was more appropriate for a separate post in my own space, particularly since, as I have said, I wasn't looking for dialogue. I have already apologized to Octo for not letting her know that I wrote this here - that was stupid and thoughtless on my part.

Anyway - Octo, yes, I do think Obama is radical, but less in terms of liberal-conservative politics and more in terms of the way he is handling politics as a whole. The whole campaign, thus far, has been radical, in that he has done things no other candidate has ever done and handled himself in ways that most people thought candidates simply could not do. I think this bodes well for the country. (And no, I didn't miss any posts on your thread, FWIW.)

Hillary's war vote has not been disproven. I think you must be referring to the point that Obama, because he was not yet in the Senate, was not there for that vote. I frankly don't think he would have voted for the war, but regardless, we can't know for sure what he would have done. However, the fact is that Hillary *did* vote for the war, and please remember that *all of us* got the same misinformation that she did and many of us still managed to do a little of our own research and to determine that it was a crock and then to get out on the streets and petition and urge our representatives to vote against the war. Do we really want to argue about this? I did not support her, in part, because she voted for the war.

Apostate, I'm just really surprised that you would respond here at all.

Anna, my response, as I said in the very first line, is *my* rationale for why *I* don't see Clinton's loss as a sad thing and why I have trouble empathizing with other women who do feel sad about her loss. I saw several Clinton supporters passing around / posting / forwarding the Steinem and Morgan pieces when they came out because they thought they were great. I did not see Clinton supporters coming out to challenge the racism in these pieces. Now, maybe you and a lot of other women *did* challenge the racism - I wish you had been more vocal at the time, because frankly, I think that would have done a lot to heal the divide. What I saw, though, was a lot of feminist Obama supporters blogging about sexism against Hillary, but not many Clinton supporters taking racism very seriously. Most of those Clinton-supporting blogs that I read said that racism was no longer socially acceptable but that sexism was alive and well. I believe that you said this, as well, Anna.

Trin - I've answered some of your points already. Again, I'm not seeing where I said to anyone, "what is your motivation?" I'm talking about what I personally have experienced from Clinton supporters who call themselves feminists. I'm also talking about the Clinton campaign itself.

Re. my not responding to your comment - this blog is barely functioning, at this point, and no, I have not been responding to comments in many cases. I liked what you said in your comment, and I didn't take issue with any of it, but from my perspective, your position is not the dominant voice of Clinton supporters over the last several months. Now, maybe that's because the media has co-opted the message, but what I've seen as the dominant message has been that expressed by Gloria Steinem and Robin Morgan.

For example, last week, on the day of the final primary, there was a letter to the editor from one of the founders of the DFL Women's Caucus, which said that Clinton was the superior candidate and Obama was a spoiled male candidate - a child - who needed to be spanked. I shit you not. This is what is coming from inside the Party. And Steinem and Morgan are speaking from perceived leadership positions in feminism. Meanwhile, Clinton is not releasing her delegates, and took her sweet time to concede. I am not seeing a groundswell of Clinton supporters arguing against these things.

But then, Trin and Cassandra, perhaps we agree on this, that these behaviors are divisive.

And finally, Cassandra - I can understand preferring Clinton's personality. I cannot understand preferring her platform, because her platform is hawkish and classist from where I sit, and I think her foreign policy is dangerous. It is true, though, that the differences between the two candidates are, at the same time, rather small. But they are still important differences, obviously.

***

I am troubled at the way this whole thing has played out. I am hearing people who voted for Bill Clinton twice and who thought he was a great president then, who are now buying into the whole "murdering Clintons" crap that I'm sure you all must have heard, that was begun during Bill's first term as part of the hate machine against a Democrat in the White House. I'm hearing a lot of people speculate that the Clintons would have Obama assassinated if Hillary were on the ticket in the VP slot. This is greatly disturbing, because what it suggests is that the right wing has effectively used the tension and division among Democrats to further split us apart. But it also suggests a deep dissatisfaction with Democrats who wax conservative in order - this is the perception - to win votes: had Hillary not taken such conservative stances as NY State Senator, she would have had far more support within her own party.

I am also troubled at the way that Ferraro and others within the party are painting Obama's victory as some sort of reverse racism. I think that this kind of rationale shows a serious disconnect between white leadership and people of color in this country. I also think it spells disaster for the future of American politics, and that it makes people of color and anti-racist whites even more suspicious of the whole electoral process. (Of course, having Obama as the nominee counters that somewhat.)

I am speaking in general terms here and not pointing fingers at any of you, but this is a trend that I have observed: I am also extremely frustrated at the commonality with which White Clinton supporters have tended to write about sexism without seeming to really understand how deeply racism has played into this past political year - they tend to weigh the two and to conclude that the sexism has been worse - while WOC, whether they are Obama supporters or not, have tended to write about both sexism and racism in very insightful and nuanced ways that address the scope of both.

Final thing: Please don't assume that I am implicating you in anything. If you don't recognize yourself in any of these comments, then I am not talking about you. That doesn't erase my experience, just as the fact that *I've* never said, "get out of the way - it's our turn, now" to any older feminists does not mean that they haven't heard this from Obama supporters.

Ate said...

Thank you for this.

I've being reading about the fact that (some) WOC don't empathise with the feeling of loss over the end of Clintons campaign... and bfp saying it was offensive or was a failure to show solidarity with WOC.

And I wasn't getting it.

I was never a Clinton supporter and I'm incredibly happy that Obama has won the nomination and think it is a wonderful and positive step in U.S. politics. Yet I still felt sad that Clinton had lost because it was a woman that had lost and because there was a cloud of sexism around her loss. I couldn't get my head around why mourning that was offensive to WOC.

But now I do. Something about what you wrote clarified it for me.

I can understand why for me to say 'it sucks she lost' might feel like a slap in the face because it sounds like i'm saying 'it sucks that someone who had policies that were negative for POC lost, it sucks that someone who had people supporting her campaign making vocal racist remarks she didn't stop lost'. And i can understand why claiming that feminists should support Clinton is offensive. Not only because Clinton hasn't always been wonderful for women - though I think she has done some amazing things - but because it says that being a woman is more important than your colour. That we should ignore the racism because of the sexism. Which is bullshit and bullshit to demand that of someone who is a woman and of colour.

I guess maybe it was harder for me because I was never a Clinton supporter, so my mourning is purely symbolic. Not specific to Clinton but because I think it would be amazing to see a woman as President. I also think it will be amazing to see Obama as President.

I hope I make sense. This got longer and more convoluted than I intended. I just wanted to say thanks for writing in a way that made all of this clearer in my mind and helped me understand.

Plain(s)feminist said...

Thanks, Ate. I'm glad my post was helpful. And here is the post that BFP wrote on this, for anyone who hasn't seen it.

Anna said...

Most of those Clinton-supporting blogs that I read said that racism was no longer socially acceptable but that sexism was alive and well. I believe that you said this, as well, Anna.

I'm actually quite certain I've never said anything like that.

I get that it makes it easier for you to dismiss anything I have to say about this if you tell yourself that's what I said, but nothing like that ever came from me, and I certainly don't think that's the case.

Octogalore said...

"it sucks that someone who had policies that were negative for POC lost"

Really? I thought the person who didn't advocate universal health care (the lack of which would negatively affect POC) won.

Snark aside, PF, apology accepted.

I'm a little confused about why if you didn't want (but aren't actually rejecting, thanks for that) dialogue with HRC supporters, why respond to me in the first place, and why address parts of it to HRC supporters. I disagree with most of what was said, but I respect your ideas and thinking and would think that you would not have bothered publicizing them if only to the choir.

Many HRC supporters did indeed address racism. Shakes Sis, Zuzu when at Feministe, folks at Salon, and many others.

I still cannot fathom the difference in terms of who is "radical" as a way to excuse not empathizing with some women feeling a loss (esp as those women simultaneously say they celebrate a POC nominee).

For example, Obama voted present 129 times [New York Times, 12/20/07] on a wide array of issues, including choice, privacy for victims of sexual assault, and school violence. These cannot all be excused as, eg, prearranged with NARAL. In fact, the Obama campaign claimed that Sen. Obama's present votes were part of a legislative strategy but failed to mention that Sen. Obama was the lone present vote on a number of key issues.

Sen. Obama was the only State Senator to vote 'present' on a bill that sought to protect the privacy of sex-abuse victims, and the only state senator to not support the bill. [HB854, Passed 58-0-1, 05/11/99]

Sen. Obama was the only State Senator to vote 'present' on an adoption bill that imposed stricter requirements for parental fitness, and the only State Senator to not support the bill. [HB1298, Passed 57-0-1, 5/6/1999]

Sen. Obama voted 'present' on a bill that would increase penalties for the use of a firearm within 1,000 feet of a school. The bill called for the mandatory adult persecution of a minor at least 15 years of age being tried for using a firearm within 1,000 feet of a school. [SB759, Passed 52-1-5, 3/25/1999]

Sen. Obama voted 'present' on a bill to prohibit the presence of adult sex shops near schools, places of worship, and day care facilities; bill allows local governments to regulate the presence of adult sex shops. [SB609, Passed 33-15-5, 3/29/2001]

During Sen. Obama's 2004 Senate campaign, the Illinois NOW PAC did not recommend the endorsement of Obama for U.S. Senate because he refused to stand up for a woman's right to choose and repeatedly voted 'present' on important legislation.

As a State Senator, Barack Obama voted 'present' on seven abortion bills, including a ban on 'partial birth abortion,' two parental notification laws and three 'born alive' bills.

Note: I am not threatening to vote for JM. I am simply confused by why "he's the real radical feminist nominee" could be a legitimate reason to deny empathy.

Finally: I am surprised by your response to Apostate. You refuse a substantive response to the information she provided, and suggest she should not even be here.

The words "preach" and "practice" come to mind.

Plain(s)feminist said...

Anna,
I was certain that you *had* made such comments, but I just went through all the posts and comments I could find at Dakota Women, and I see that you did not. My bad. I apologize.

You should know, though, that pretending people said things they didn't say so that I can dismiss them is just not how I operate.

Plain(s)feminist said...

I thought the person who didn't advocate universal health care (the lack of which would negatively affect POC) won.

Or, you could say that Hillary's forced participation in healthcare would be bad for all poor people, including POC. Obama's plan is pretty damn near universal.

I'm not going to debate with you the votes you list, except to say that I think that the "present" votes were likely for the sake of political expediency. I'm not thrilled with that. So, yes, both candidates have skeletons in their voting closets. I am still more upset about Hillary's war vote and some of her other votes than about these. But even more than that, I am upset about the blatant racist comments that her campaign and that Hillary herself made. I understand that you don't see them as racist statements and that you think she was misunderstood. I don't. I think such comments, including the suggestion that a nominee might be assassinated, were planned and carried out with Karl Rovian efficiency. Because Hillary, and her campaign people, are way too smart to make those kinds of mistakes in presentation.

Re. Apostate - It's funny you mention "practice" and "preach." As you know, Apostate deleted an entire post and comment thread because she didn't like the criticism she received. After erasing our words, she then claimed she had been silenced by these critiques. So, frankly, I don't understand why she would then comment on the blog of someone whose voice she erased and whom she apparently feels is one of those who forced her to take down her post. I know that wasn't about me, specifically, but it's like, don't tell me I'm unwelcome on your blog and then come to my blog and expect to have a conversation with me.

And further, I doubt she was looking for a substantive response. Had she been, she might have left a less snarky comment, or a more imaginative one. I'm tired of being told that I'm sexist if I don't support Hillary, which I have heard MANY times over the last several months. Newsflash: Feminism doesn't mean automatically voting for the woman. It does mean voting for someone whom you believe will help all women. I think we all did that.

And anyway, who doesn't already know that Hillary's voting record was more progressive than either Edwards or Obama? Not really new information. The fact that this information is not changing anyone's mind about Obama must mean that there are other issues involved. Speaking of which, I updated my initial post to link BFP and ProfBW, who express some of my own feelings about this fairly well.

Octogalore said...

If the Kennedy comment had been planned ahead of time, it wouldn't have been said. If she's as smart as you say, which obviously I think she is, she'd know how it would have come across. It was a miscalculated attempt to jog memories. She's gotten death threats and I hardly think that's where she was going.

RE Apostate, I don't think you can call deletion of an entire thread silencing of your particular words. People delete comments, threads, whole blogs sometimes, for personal reasons.

I remain unsure of why you feel we elected the one who will best serve women. I'll be happy to work seven months of the year free, which is what I'll be doing with his tax plan, if that's the case. Not holding my breath, though.

Kristin said...

PF-I don't feel sad about Hillary losing the nomination either. I felt extremely apathetic throughout most of the primaries. I voted Obama because I thought he might be more likely to win the general election, but frankly, I was troubled by sniping on both sides of the Obama-Clinton divide. I really want to focus on Beating McCain now.

That said... I thought your post was interesting, but I would have to agree with Octo's skepticism about the whole Obama as Radical thing. I just don't buy it. Yes, he's done some unprecedented things in terms of organizing--his use of the internets and of localized campaign organizers has been impressive. But none of it adds up to radical politics. Both candidates were far more hawkish than I was comfortable with (Remember Obama's promise to bomb Pakistan until we find bin Ladin?). And both, yes, are rather unapologetic capitalists (Hillary's work for Wal-Mart and Obama's ties to the coal industry, but, really... What does one expect in the US? Not radicalism.).

They're both moderate conservatives, and let's face it... After the Bush regime, a moderate conservative was the best we were going to get.

But, yeah... Look, I'm just glad the primaries are over. I'm glad we actually *have* a candidate now so we can get about the business of beating McCain. I thought both candidates erred in rather unforgivable ways during the campaign. I'm glad we got a candidate who seems to inspire people and who has the kind of charisma that can bring lots of new people on board--I really hope he can win. And, damn, I just wanna call it a day.

That said, I really really really liked PWB's post. Haven't read BFP's yet...

Kristin said...

oops, transposed my letters, meant PBW's post.

Plain(s)feminist said...

If the Kennedy comment had been planned ahead of time, it wouldn't have been said. If she's as smart as you say, which obviously I think she is, she'd know how it would have come across. It was a miscalculated attempt to jog memories. She's gotten death threats and I hardly think that's where she was going.

I certainly don't think she expected the death threats or even much of the negative reaction. I *do* think she planned the comment. She spoke what a lot of people were thinking: that as the nominee, he might well be assassinated. What I think she didn't count on was that, for *her* to say it as a competitor would not come across well at all.

RE Apostate, I don't think you can call deletion of an entire thread silencing of your particular words. People delete comments, threads, whole blogs sometimes, for personal reasons.

That was the post on NARAL - she was quite clear about why she deleted that post. There was a whole lot going on in that thread that I don't think is useful to bring up here, but the point is, that is my only history with Apostate. Going into a conversation, when someone treats the people in a discussion that you have been part of in that way, that's a bad place from which to being a new conversation. It's not helped by leaving snarky comments, either.

I remain unsure of why you feel we elected the one who will best serve women. I'll be happy to work seven months of the year free, which is what I'll be doing with his tax plan, if that's the case. Not holding my breath, though.

When I think of what it means to serve women, I am looking at it with a broader scope than just at issues about sexuality, abortion, etc. As one example, I'm thinking of the impact on poor women and women abroad - so, foreign policy that may pre-empt war, for example, would save those women's lives and probably their children's lives. I do think that focusing only on what have been the sort of classic "women's issues" is a White-centric way of looking at the problem. (Global feminists have been saying this for some time.)

I certainly think his healthcare plan will take into account that forcing people who don't have the money to pay for health insurance is a bad idea, which hers did not. In the end, I think that Hillary will be given a post in an Obama administration, and that she will have a lot to do with shaping healthcare legislation, and I think that's great, but I think it will be a better plan from having both of their input.

(I don't know what you mean by saying that you'll be working seven months of the year free. If this is about being in a higher tax bracket, I'm slightly sympathetic, but not all that much, LOL.)

Octogalore said...

PF -- I guess we'll have to disagree about the Kennedy thing. I think the results of such a comment could have been predicted pretty easily if it had indeed been planned. (BTW the death threats to her came before the comment).

If you look carefully, or even not that carefully, at the list of HRC's actions benefiting women and children, you will see that they are not in fact white-centric. This link, from Donna Darko, illustrates how these accomplishments compare to BHO's: http://www.diversityj.com/HillaryObamaComparison.html.

The seven months did have to do with taxes and the 20% increase I'd be dealing with, yes. I can imagine that many will interpret this as greed and believe I should be overjoyed at reconfiguring a life that was built from a different combo of hard work and privilege than I'm sure is surmised. And if I knew that 20% was going to be put directly towards helping those less fortunate, that would be exactly my reaction. I don't, however, have a lot of faith in the powers that be, whatever "change" is promised, to achieve that.

I will however accept the slight sympathy, any little bit helps.

Plain(s)feminist said...

Octo,
Thanks for the link; I will check it out.

I don't think you're greedy, and thanks for not taking offense at my small sympathy comment. Now that I am finally working full-time after many years of part-time work, I'm in the position of wanting not to lose my new income to taxes. But I do think those of us who earn more should pay more, both to taxes and to charitable institutions.

jessabean said...

I voted for Obama because I personally think he's better for the position than Clinton. Their platforms are very similar, so it came down to more subtle things. He's absolutely inspirational. His wife is AWESOME. He handles adversity with grace. His background gives him a unique perspective on foreign relations--he may not have had as much experience working with international politicians, but he's lived overseas and grew up among Asians and sees them as PEOPLE.

No, I'm not sad at HRC's loss, because I personally think the better candidate won. They both campaigned hard, and she lost. She's a politician; she knows how the game works. She's also a strong woman that doesn't need to be treated like a victim.

Do I think that those women who are sad at her loss have no right to feel that way? Not at all. But I hope that the sadness doesn't fester into misdirected bitterness at Obama. Because issues-wise, he and Clinton are [mostly] fighting for the same thing.

And Obama DOES embody a major breakthrough for people of color, and as such should be an inspiration to all progressives. I sincerely hope that come November we are all dancing in the streets together when he wins the presidency!

Octogalore said...

Thanks, PF.

To be fair to Obama I should correct the above stat -- my broker told me today it would be a 13%, not a 20% increase. So working until June and a week or so into July for free. Wish I could say I'm breathing a sigh of relief, but not as bad as I thought.

Luckily for him, Obama's more creative than I am at avoiding taxes (oops I mean philanthropy): http://articles.moneycentral.msn.com/Investing/MutualFunds/HowTaxBoostingObamaCutsHisOwn.aspx.