A Giant Step Back

Watching the coverage of PUMAs at the Democratic National Convention is painful, particularly as I read well-reasoned and thoughtful analysis like Susan Faludi’s New York Times op-ed, knowing full well that she won’t get much of a mention on prime time news or CNN.

I’m not a PUMA—I don’t have that much passion about anyone I don’t know—but I empathize with their helpless expression of rage. I understand why they threaten to vote for John McCain, even though he is the devil’s spawn as far as women’s rights are concerned, failing on several very public occasions to treat his wife with even feigned respect.

I voted for Hillary Clinton. Every single man that I know, all of whom I thought of as progressive, both voted for Barack Obama and expressed a significant contempt for Clinton. Some men I know called my house and tried to bully me into voting for Obama, which was apparently not an anomaly. I read Salon with a grain of reluctance after they published an article by one of their editors who was voting for Obama because he is a progressive black man. Indeed, over the course of the election I came to understand the sentiment that Obama is progressive as expressed by my male counterparts as actually meaning Obama is not a woman.

All of this is shorthand for saying that I feel like the world is topsy-turvy. I felt a particular unity with progressives during these painful Bush years, and that evaporated in the Democratic primary.

Like I said, I was never all worked up about Hillary Clinton, but having settled on her early in the campaign, I saw no particular reason to switch my alliance to Obama. John Edwards’ stance on LGBTs sucked, and Dennis Kucinich was pro-life until relatively recently. Obama was no more progressive than Clinton was, and he was relatively untested, while Clinton was publicly burnished during her years as first lady. I didn’t buy the change rhetoric, any more than Obama supporters bought the experience rhetoric from Clinton.

I made my best pick from a flawed bunch of people. Isn’t that what we do every four years around here?

Ah, but no. All of the sudden, with a woman in the lead, an angel burst onto the scene of American politics.

Faludi suggests that the primary was not just an indication of how much work remains for women’s rights. The primary, she says, was a devastating setback for women’s equality, and equally disappointing because younger women—my peers and younger—joined forces with men and decided that gender was no longer a problem.

I felt ill watching Michelle Obama’s tribute to motherhood and wifehood, the public disowning of her own success, the tacit reassurance that in sending another independent woman, one not solely defined by her role as wife, to the White House, the country would not be inviting another presidential run by a former first lady.

Is this what I am expected to welcome, four years of this as the best case scenario? Am I to welcome a choice between a man who calls his wife a cunt, and another who sacrifices the person he married on the pyre of America’s archaic gender expectations?

Call me a nutso dried-up sexless pantsuit wearer if you’d like, but I’m not happy about this at all.




Filed under election 2008

3 responses to “A Giant Step Back

  1. jke4

    Glad to see you call out Michelle Obama’s speech. I am really tired of hearing how she “had” to do it. Perhaps so, but does that mean we have to act like it was a great speech? Salon”s Rebecca Traister’s article on it made it sound like the Gettysburg Address. To me, it was the nauseating spectacle of a woman trying desperately to make herself look smaller, weaker, and stupider. The only tribute to Michelle in it was how very much effort that clearly took.

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