Carrie Wooten

Our One Good Shot

Filed By Carrie Wooten | February 10, 2007 12:14 AM | comments

Filed in: The Movement
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The comments on my earlier post today have only proven to me how imperitive it is that Hillary Clinton be elected. I was going to post as a comment what I have written below, but I think it would be better served as a new post entirely. I hope that it conveys how truly important this issue is.

I refuse to give up my cry for Hillary because of her husband's past. I refuse to ignore the one good shot women have to get their voices heard. Our one shot at having our issues on the table and not be pooh-poohed by an inherently sexist voice. Our one shot at not having the most powerful man in the world tell us how to understand our bodies, our double-shift, our oppression. Our one shot at a person who has proven she will fight for us. So excuse me if I'm not exactly lining up for an amatuer senator from Chicago or the Nobel-nominated Latino from New Mexico. Neither one of them can comprehend the effect of my status as a woman held down in this patriarchy. That's what the men who have commented have the luxury to not understand. This isn't about who has the least political baggage, it's about my life.


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I don't really think that Hillary is much about the fight against patriarchy... it seems more that she's pro-her-wall-street-contributors. Like just b/c someone's a woman doesn't mean that she'll help out on gender issues at all, or, in Clinton's case, any more than the other Dem candidates. Alan Keyes is Black, Phyllis Schafley is a woman, Jeff Gannon :P is gay. I'm not saying that Hillary is anti-woman, just that she doesn't necessarily understand real patriarchy or do anything more than the other pro-choice candidates.

I wonder about how the liberal movement can do with that kind of divisiveness. Like what about a Latino who says that there's no way a white woman can understand the daily racism that he faces? Or the same thing with a Black man? Should we just all vote for the person who looks the most like us?

But yeah there were some sexist comments on your other post, and even more in general.

Why is it so unbelievable that someone could support a Latino, a Nobel nominee, or a Chicagoan?

"... she doesn't necessarily understand real patriarchy"

By "she" I assume you mean yourself ... ?

I cannot possibility imagine that you really meant that she, a woman, doesn't understand patriarchy. It boggles the mind that you meant to say that Hillary Clinton doesn't understand patriarchy. We are talking about the same Hillary Clinton, right? As in the Hillary Clinton who has devoted her career to dealing with women's issues? As in the Hillary Clinton who is a one of only a few females in a centuries-old boy's club?

No, no. I must have misread what you said, that cannot possibility be right.

Alex, it's not so unbelievable that someone could support those other candidates. I'm not saying they are bad at all. My point is that they don't have the same capacity to rewrite our politics as Hillary does. Why that is so unbelievable to understand the importance of is what is angering me.

The very fact that she is running for President is a bold sign of her determination to combat patriarchy. Do you understand real patriarchy Alex? It seems very arrogant of you to assume you know how she deals with that very real ideology that affects her life much more than yours.

"What about a Latino who says that there's no way a white woman can understand the daily racism that he faces?" - I would say exactly! Of course I cannot understand a Latino's daily battles living in a white-supremacist nation such as ours. But that doesn't make politics divisive - it makes them real. It acknowledges that we all have different struggles that are important to us. Mine being that I refuse to let the great chance of a woman being elected and wholly changing the ways in which our male-dominated society views women as second class citizens slip through my fingers. I refuse to back down from the importance of that.

Why would Hillary Clinton, a woman who has spent the last few decades working in the boy's club that is Washington not understand patriarchy in all it's perverted glory? I'm not seeing what evidence you have that she does not understand those very real things that impact her life on a daily basis. I'm just looking at the issue from a common sense perspective. There is no way that any male candidate can understand a woman's position in this country in the same ways that Hillary or any other woman does. There's something really disturbing about the fact that we have NEVER had a woman president and the fact that none of the men who have commented seem to mind. But then again, why would you since your lives stand to gain the most from that power dynamic? The Presidency as it stands is the utmost symbolism of patriarchy. Hillary Clinton is clearly trying to change that.

Uh, yeah, I have the most to gain from politics in its current form. Gay first-gen latino blogger for prez in.... 3456.

I'm actually going to stick by what I said about Clinton not necessarily understanding patriarchy.

First, I didn't say she didn't. I just said that she didn't necessarily.

Second, I don't think that one can assume that patriarchy is experienced by every woman in the same way. Patriarchy for one woman is different from patriarchy for another. Patriarchy for a rich white woman in NY, while it exists, is different than the patriarchy that affects other women. I'm not saying that I'm an expert on the way that she experiences patriarchy, but saying that a rich white woman inherently understands all patriarchally oppressed people would be extremely reductive of reality.

Third, there are people on the receiving end of oppression, all forms of oppression, who choose not to explore or understand that form of oppression. I don't need to restate those examples. And if she really wanted to transform patriarchy, then why would she advocate mandating that working women purchase health insurance from male-owned insurance companies, effectively creating in one stroke a highly regressive tax and a large form of corporate welfare? If she is serious about dismantling the old boys club, not joining it, then why did she draft such a proposal behind closed doors?

Probably the thing that bothers me most about this form of identity politics, though, is that it is so easily co-opted by those who are against it. It seems that as long as the Right can find one person of an oppressed class who agrees with them, they put that person on TV, in the press, give her/him speaking tours, and do everything to posit that person as the center of that minority. If a woman being president transforms politics so much, why not support Phyllis Schafley for president? Seriously? And why doesn't having a Black president transform politics to the same degree? Seriously?

Yes, I am bothered that there has not been a woman president in the history of the US. And we all know that it's because of patriarchy that there aren't liberal candidates this year who are women. But that doesn't mean that I'm going to get behind a candidate who won't seriously question the Iraq War nor her privilege as a very wealthy person.

It also seems that supporting a candidate just because s/he should or does understand something that all candidates should make the effort to understand, even though s/he doesn't intend to pursue a sound policy agenda, is a triumph of form over substance. You asked me for proof that she doesn't understand patriarchy (even though I didn't say that she didn't, I just said that not every woman will understand it the same way you do), but where's your proof that she intends to attempt to dismantle it? Yeah, she's running. How many people voted for Bush in 2000 b/c they thought he understood the working class and implicitly thought that he would be a good alternative to elitism? Were they right?

Look Alex, this back and forth clearly isn't getting us anywhere. I'm not going to agree with you and you aren't going to agree with me. So this is the last I'm going to say on the issue in response to you.

Sure Hillary can't speak for every class and race of women in this country, but she can sure as hell relate with them on what the double-shift of sex labor division is like and how it feels to be dominated in a vicious male world. I think a hell of a lot of women can relate to that no matter what their socio-economic status. You however, cannot. And neither can a black man from Hawaii or a Latino man from New Mexico. And that is the point. As much as you want to argue with me about Hillary, you cannot deny that she has fervently advocated for elevating the status of women in this country for years, that she is passionate about it, and that just being elected alone would completely change the reality of a woman's possibilities in this country. It is revolutionary that Hillary Clinton is running for President, and what she could do if elected will be revolutionary. To not support her when we acknowledge that she is most certainly qualified, intelligent, and superbly successful, I think, is to miss a great chance at undoing some of the timeless rhetoric of patriarchy. This is an opportunity we can't give up.

Actually, I'm rather enjoying the back and forth. I wish that the two of you would go on with your discussion. Just because you don't agree doesn't make something fruitless. I do find it, however, rather suspect that you're so willing to drop this if you feel that strongly about it...

I would like to say one thing that makes me wary of Hillary - and most of it has to do with Carrie, actually. In your posts Carrie, each time the focus has been "We have to vote for Hillary because she's a woman!" I don't buy that.

I think that if you're going to complain that the presidency has been all men and it's patriarchal - which it is! - than you can't right a wrong with another wrong. Voting for Hillary based primarily on her gender is just as wrong as voting for a man based on his gender. She shouldn't get to run our country because she has a uterus.

It really turns me off to Hillary to hear all the time, "We have to vote for her because she's a woman!" If I heard from right-wingers "We have to vote for [male candidate] because he's a man!", my estimation of [male candidate] would drop dramatically. I don't vote based on gender - I vote based on experience.

And while Hillary has been First Lady and has served one complete term in the Senate, she's never led a government - not a city, county, or state government. While she may have lots of experience in being a women's issues activist, that doesn't make her qualified to deal with terrorist threats, poverty, taxes, LGBT rights, immigration, and a myriad other issues that affect the US daily. It's not ALL about women's issues...

And, the part that most turns me off, is when folks say something like, "There's something really disturbing about the fact that we have NEVER had a woman president and the fact that none of the men who have commented seem to mind. But then again, why would you since your lives stand to gain the most from that power dynamic?" Excuse me? I personally gain if Hillary is kept down? Then you must personally gain if Barack Obama and Bill Richardson are kept down. Why do you hate black and latino people? After all, you're accusing all men who don't vote for Hillary as hating women... It's a silly argument best kept to yourself. It wins you no allies and doesn't help Hillary in the least.

Oh, and I forgot this part - while you say in your post "That's what the men who have commented have the luxury to not understand. This isn't about who has the least political baggage, it's about my life," I believe that not just men have disagreed with you. The first comment on your previous post was from Sheila Kennedy - one of Indiana's best known feminists. She was running the Indiana Civil Liberties Union - known for their fight for the rights of the underprivileged and minority classes - while you were still in diapers.

To lump all this as a gender war - as if only a few men here on the blog were trying to keep poor 'ole Hillary down - is severely disingenuous.

I'm not willing to drop the issue Bil, just that Alex and I could go on arguing until we are blue in the face when we clearly don't understand each other. I was hoping for a fresh comment... which you have clearly granted.

I have never said that we have to vote for Hillary simply because she is a woman... I keep reiterating that, but for some reason it isn't sticking. What I have said is that she is a highly qualified candidate AND a woman, which is an important distinction. And that the flack she is getting is, to use your word, disingenuous. If Hillary were a man, I feel as though she might be getting much more support than she is now... and that is what is concerning me. I haven't heard anyone criticizing those in the black community who are rallying behind Obama because of his potential to combat racism in politics, so I find it curious that I am getting such hostile feedback for saying that the fact that Hillary is a woman is very important. To ignore the importance of that I think is a mistake.

To say that I hate Black and Latino people is ridiculous and outrageous. I don't hate Barack or Richardson, I just don't think that they will impact the unbelievably sexist status of politics like Hillary will. To accuse me of saying that men who don't vote for Hillary hate all women is outrageous. You've accused me of hating all men before simply because I disagree with them or am angry with their privilage. Please don't do that. My point was that those who have the most political power (in this case men) generally are harder to motivate to change the status quo (keeping men in office). There was no "men hate all women!" in that at all. Please don't put hateful and polarizing statements like that in my mouth.

I know not just men have disagreed with me... which is exactly why I said "the MEN who have commented." I was purposefully not including Sheila in that statement for obvious reasons, one being that she is a woman. The point I was making was not about disagreements in general, just that the MEN who have commented DO have the luxury of not necessarilly having to understand how a woman being elected to office would wholly change the possibilities for women in general.

You seem to be construing my posts and language in a way that is making you hostile towards me. You also seem to be "painting with too broad a brush" when deconstructing my statements in a way that is implying that I am racist and a "man-hater." I think that is really unfortunate. Especially when you say that I should keep my opinions to myself because YOU feel that I have stated that all men who don't vote for Hillary hate women. Come on Bil...

The gender war comment is interesting. I don't really quite understand your point. There has been a gender war in politics for as long as we can remember - I certainly haven't started one. I think my responses to the comments about my posts have been purely valid, not half-brained, not RACIST, and not implying that a "few men on this blog are keeping poor 'ol Hillary down." Give me a break. All I have been doing is giving my opinion on the issue, and I refuse to keep my mouth shut, even if you personally feel I should.

The progression of this post was entirely predictable... Carrie posts on something that pertains to women's issues and the men of this blog come out of the woodwork and respond in an overly defensive manner.

I'm not trying to be mean, and I understand my bias (full disclosure: she is my cohabitating partner), but this always happens. I think the problem is akin to two people, one colorblind and the other not (who knows the other is colorblind), arguing over the color of a piece of paper. If the paper is green, the two can argue for hours over what color it "really" is. The non-colorblind person can try and explain to other that the are colorblind, and thus not seeing things correctly, but until the colorblind person internally realizes how their perception is somehow different than their friend's, there will be no reckoning.

This analogy is certainly not without its faults. I am not trying to say that Carrie is the authority on feminism or women's issues, or that all feminists interpret the same thing the same way.

My point is that the men who have commented seem to refuse to acknowledge that their being men could effect their views.

I would urge you to read up on oppression, patriarchy, and the perspective feminists have. Only when you have done that can these discussions be meaningful.

I would also suggest that we all read up on the three people we are talking about. The comments made on this blog lead me to believe that not everyone has done their homework. We may all know the rhetoric thrown around about these people, but have we looked deeper?

Does anyone remember when Richardson was Secretary of Energy under Clinton? That was when whole nuclear espionage scandal took place. The Senate was not pleased with Richardson's actions surrounding the scandal. Senator Robert Byrd told him: "You've ...shown a contempt of Congress that borders on a supreme arrogance... You will never again receive the support of the Senate of the United States for any office to which you might be appointed" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Richardson) .

The Wikipedia article on Obama notes: "In Dreams from My Father, Obama describes his experiences growing up in his mother's white, middle class family" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barack_Obama). I guess it's a tad unfair to criticize Hillary for her socioeconomic status, no?

I would encourage you to read up on Hillary before you hold her to different standards than other candidates. It is clear that people lack a general understanding of who Hillary Clinton is and where she comes from.

I'm glad to hear you're not giving up the discussion, Carrie. No matter who the candidate ends up being they will have to get all (of at least most) of us behind them. As we discuss their pluses and minuses, hopefully the right professionals will take note and help to build the best candidate possible.

I think I know why your denials that you're turning this into a gender war aren't sticking. This is from the original post:

"I refuse to ignore the one good shot women have to get their voices heard. Our one shot at having our issues on the table and not be pooh-poohed by an inherently sexist voice. Our one shot at not having the most powerful man in the world tell us how to understand our bodies, our double-shift, our oppression. Our one shot at a person who has proven she will fight for us. So excuse me if I'm not exactly lining up for an amatuer senator from Chicago or the Nobel-nominated Latino from New Mexico. Neither one of them can comprehend the effect of my status as a woman held down in this patriarchy."

This is most of the post. No other issue other than her gender and her role in deconstructing the patriarchy is mentioned. You give me no reason to vote for her other than her gender.

Do I think that you are racist and hate latinos? Of course not. I was using absurdity to highlight what I think the rational end of your logic is. Again, your argument:

"There's something really disturbing about the fact that we have NEVER had a woman president and the fact that none of the men who have commented seem to mind. But then again, why would you since your lives stand to gain the most from that power dynamic? The Presidency as it stands is the utmost symbolism of patriarchy."

My point is simply that as a white woman, this quote could also be used to highlight implied racism in you as you've implied sexism in Alex and I. Try this version:
"There's something really disturbing about the fact that we have NEVER had a non-white president and the fact that none of the white people who have commented seem to mind. But then again, why would you since your lives stand to gain the most from that power dynamic? The Presidency as it stands is the utmost symbolism of racism."

It is an argument built on straw. You'll never be able to convince the majority that they should base their vote based solely on the candidates race or gender - everyone will also have other concerns: immigration policies, LGBT issues, women's issues, race relations, tax policy, domestic defense, Iraq, etc. While there are plenty of reasons to sing Hillary's praises, the "But she's a woman" part won't win you as many converts as letting her be a woman that matches your opinions on immigration, LGBT, Iraq...

Finally, after requesting at the beginning that I hoped the conversation isn't finished, I think you're over-reacting to my statement that one argument is "best kept to yourself." There is a vast difference between advice and censorship.

Bil, I'm wondering if maybe the reason we are butting heads on this issue so much is because I truly believe that most, if not all men are inherently indoctrinated with sexist notions about women and thus, that the Presidency has been historically in support of, and mired in that sort of ideology? That has been the foundation of my argument that gender in this case (when we agree that all of the candidates are qualified) does matter. What do you think? Do you disagree with that idea?

You know, I'm not sure why we're butting heads on this one. If Hillary ends up the Democratic candidate, I will, of course, support her. She's just not my first choice currently. I think what I'm trying to stress to you is that you have the ability to help change that.

I've presented three arguments as to why I don't think she should be the nominee. And I feel like each time you've come back with "But she's a woman!" It's driving me nuts because I sincerely believe that her gender alone is not the determining factor.

Sell me on her experience, sell me on her record, sell me on a multitude of other reasons why she should be President, but I refuse to vote for her based solely on gender. I wouldn't vote based on race or sexuality either. (See the older posts about Kris Kiser - a gay man who ran against Julia Carson in the primary last year, for example.) I think most Americans choose the candidate that most agrees with their stance on the issues of national importance. While sexism is one of those issues, it's not the only issue. Concentrating solely on that would not win the race for her anymore than concentrating solely on race would for Obama or Richardson.

With comments like "That's what the men who have commented have the luxury to not understand. This isn't about who has the least political baggage, it's about my life." etc that feel as if you're attacking me as a sexist pig for not being a Hillary supporter, it hasn't felt so much like a rational discussion of Hillary's pros and cons so much as a full-throttled attack on the motives of some of us. Notice on your other post you were getting comments from readers who would even be attending the Democratic convention and other feminists - but they dropped off when you turned this into what I called "a gender war." I'm not trying to denigrate - only point out how you lost control of this very learnable experience.

But you have inspired a lot of conversation in the comments. And that's a good thing. While we might have a few hiccups in our back and forth, as long as we keep communicating honestly, we can't go wrong.

Bil,

While I appreciate your comments and advice, I feel as though you are speaking to me like I am a child, which I am most certainly not. I've noticed for a while that you speak to me with an authoritative tone that you do not speak to others with, and that troubles me.

I would truly appreciate if you would answer the question I posed to you, because I think it is very important to one aspect of this debate.

My reasons to vote for Hillary:

She believes that universal health care is necessary and achievable by incrementally changing the system over time and working with both private insurers and the government. She believes that everyone should have access to health care no matter what their race or socioeconomic status, and that the situation as it stands now is unacceptable.

On Iraq, she has vowed that if Congress does not end the War by January 2009, if elected, she will. She does not advocate pulling troops out immediately, but says that there should most certainly be an end-point in sight. She has strongly advocated for proper equipment and health care for soldiers (and their families).

On abortion - she is a fierce supporter of a woman's right to end her pregnancy, but hopes that more serious education will lead to abortion being a rare necessity. She has been advocating for widely available and accessible birth control and sex education.

On marriage rights - she opposed the Federal Marriage Amendment saying "I think that would be a terrible step backwards. It would be the first time we've ever amended the Constitution to deny rights to people." She strongly supports equal rights under civil unions.

She graduated at the top of her class at Yale Law. Spent time working for the Children's Defense Fund (her thesis was based on children's rights). She worked for migrant workers' rights with Walter Mondale. She was the first First Lady to have completed post-graduate work and have a successful professional career of her own. Her biggest success was the Adoption and Safe Families Act which aimed at protecting foster care children with special needs. She worked with Janet Reno in creating the Office on Violence Against Women which worked to implement the mandates of the Violence Against Women Act. On the international scene, she is noted as one of few who spoke out publicly against the violence Afghani women were experiencing by the Taliban.

Since working in New York (where her approval rating was most recently 74%), she has made Homeland Security one of her top priorities. She has worked to build strong relationships with senators on both sides of the aisle. She has been pushing for better health benefits for war veterans. She has addressed the increasingly problematic foreign trade situation by working with Lindsey Graham to provide incentives to domestic American manufacturers. She voted against John Roberts and Samuel Alito in the Supreme Court nominations, highlighting that she did not trust either of them.

All of these reasons and more are ones why I think Hillary is the perfect Democratic candidate. She is clearly devoted to domestic issues, which I think will be key to getting this country back on track. She is not being divisive on party lines, she is trying to work with everyone to better our nation. I think she is doing honorable work and has a clear respect for (and dedication to) some of the most marginalized and forgotten in our country.

On a side note - it has been brought to my attention that some of the readers feel I have been "hateful" and "shrill." That is truly disappointing and certainly not my intention. I don't hate men, I don't believe that men who don't vote for Hillary are "sexist pigs" and it saddens me that people have interpreted those things from my perspectives. I'm truly sorry for that and will attempt to find some way of conveying my beliefs on this issue that don't get me reductively labeled "the man-hating feminist."