Friday, June 06, 2008

How Sexist Arguments Undermine The Person Making The Argument

Melissa McEwan over at Shakesville wrote a post about the feelings many people have about the wrongful power of sexism in political campaigns now that Hillary Clinton is out of the US presidential race.

I found one comment which repeats an old, familiar argument many women have heard before once they or some other woman didn't get a particular job.

Here is part of what ScottS wrote:

She [Hillary Clinton] could have started to bring the party together, for real, but she chose to offer a few token words and then move back into the same tired and now officially defeated spin we've been hearing for months now. She made that choice. Is that a choice that feminists want to stand proudly by?"

part 1 of my responding comment:

This statement and the question which follows that are meant to demean Clinton instead effectively demeans Obama and his abilities. These sorts of attacks hurt my confidence in Obama's competence more than anything Clinton or any of her supporters ever said about him.

This way of thinking makes it clear that Obama's supporters acknowledge that he is incapable of bringing the party together. He needs Clinton to do his work for him. With this as an example of what I learned about Obama from Obama's supporters, no wonder I voted for Clinton.

If Obama supporters keep up this line of argument, I will be voting for a Republican presidential candidate for the first time ever because you and others like you will have successfully undermined him. Nice job, Scott.

part 2

To expand on my comment about ScottS's undermining Obama, his argument also demonstrates a long-running sexist pattern where women are denied the top position (insurance agent, for example) allegedly because they aren't qualified for the job but then once they are denied that position those women are expected to fill lower positions and are expected to ensure that the man who does get the job succeeds.

If the allegedly more qualified man fails, it becomes the allegedly less qualified woman's fault. Hence remarks from an Obama supporter who wants to attack people in cars with Clinton bumper stickers [if Obama loses]. The concept of Obama being responsible for his own win or loss is foreign to this way of thinking whenever there is an "unqualified woman" who should have been investing everything she is and everything she has into his success.

That's the end of my comments posted at Shakesville.

For me these issues are bigger than particular candidates. What ScottS's and other comments highlight is an old and discriminatory way of doing business which permeate more than business and politics -- this way of thinking permeates these people's ethical choices and their tolerance of exploiting other people. This old way led to major lawsuits and is something which many people claim is extinct in a post-civil rights era.

The reason these attitudes might cause me to vote Republican is that it is often easier for congress to fight someone who is clearly in opposition to your approach to issues than someone who claims to agree that gender discrimination is wrong but who uses gender discrimination when it benefits him and/or who tolerates this in government policies in order to appease a key segment of his base.

I've heard Obama supporters talk about throwing women a few bones (weak legislation related to gender discrimination or gender violence) to keep them in line. If this is what Obama supports either intentionally or because he needs to keep his sexist supporters happy then he's lost my vote.

Lip service is dangerous and costly because lip service doesn't care about effectiveness. This can give us wonderful anti-violence or anti-discrimination laws while intentionally providing little or no funding to enforce those laws. This can give us high-profile laws that are poorly designed because effective design simply isn't important. PR is all that matters when a politician gives only lip service.

The original claim behind the 1992 State Farm $157 million settlement which was possible because of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 began in 1975. Unfortunately, ScottS demonstrates that for him the gender discrimination model acceptable before the Civil Rights Act is still acceptable to him.

After joining State Farm in 1963, Mrs. Kraszewski worked for 12 years in State Farm offices in California, earning $8,000 a year as a secretary while often doing the work for her bosses, who made roughly eight times her salary on average. She figured her hard work would earn her an agent's posting, but filed her complaint when she was told her lack of a college degree was holding her back, even though few of her bosses were college-educated.

This model where women are given the responsibility but told they are not qualified for the key job is what many people are directly advocating for Hillary Clinton. Not good enough to be president or to win the election but responsible if Barack Obama is defeated in November.

Once one area of discrimination and a refusal to acknowledge that discrimination are supported then all areas of discrimination -- even those someone clearly opposes -- are on a practical level supported by the willingness to look the other way whenever it is convenient or beneficial for those individuals.

The months between now and November will be informative and I will be watching all candidates who want my vote very carefully.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:21 AM   2 comments links to this post


At June 07, 2008 7:51 AM, Anonymous Anna C said...

"If Obama supporters keep up this line of argument, I will be voting for a Republican presidential candidate for the first time ever"

So would you actually vote for John McCain? That really surprises me because it seems as if almost all other liberal bloggers really, really hate him and would never vote for him in a million years. Are the misguided arguments in favour of Obama really enough for you to vote for a Republican? Even bearing in mind his position on the war in Iraq etc?

At June 07, 2008 8:44 AM, Blogger Marcella Chester said...

What Obama's early and core supporters say is important and patterns in their reactions should never be dismissed as "misguided." Dismissing how entrenched many non-liberal attitudes really are in people who claim to be liberal lets those attitudes thrive.

ScottS's demand for Hillary Clinton reflects the liberal version of the "Iron My Shirt" protests which he likely mocked as stupid.

What he and others say in passion reflects directly on who they are as people and can expose ugly truths about what they believe and what policies they will support or undermine.

If Obama agrees with these people or feels the need to make decisions which keep them happy in order to win initially and in order to win re-election, he is as dangerous as McCain or possibly more so because a Democratic congress would have less trouble standing up against the actions and policies of a Republican president than a Democratic one.

I am undecided and for me to vote Obama, he will need to prove to me that he and his administration will be nothing like the angry anti-Hillary Clinton faction of his base.

If he or other key members of the Democratic party expect Hillary Clinton to be responsible for delivering me and others who voted for her in the primary season to vote for him then he will not get my vote. That reflects the "iron my shirt" message which is very non-liberal.


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