Inkwell: Authors and Artists
Ted Newcomb (tcn) Mon 24 Jan 11 08:53
Actually I gave my duckies away to my granddaugher:) And once in a blue moon do candles.
Peter Meuleners (pjm) Mon 24 Jan 11 09:09
Fawn Fitter (fsquared) Mon 24 Jan 11 10:17
Ted, I'm not sure if I agree or not. I used to think along those lines, but the tone of this last election was just as sexist as ever, the Intertubes notwithstanding. Actually, I just found a nice post on the blog Feministing about that very topic, recapping a panel on "Women, Power, & Politics" held last night in New York. I'm mentioning it specifically because our guest was one of the panelists, but it's still a worthy read. http://tinyurl.com/4u8ky4d
Ted Newcomb (tcn) Mon 24 Jan 11 11:32
Thanks for that link. No doubt it's still nasty on the ground, after all you are threatening the old boy network, but they should slowly sink into the La Brea tar pits anyway. I'm just thinking that with tools and focus you can cut through the noise.
Ted Newcomb (tcn) Mon 24 Jan 11 11:48
Also have to point out that the whole tenor of this Inkwell has been the most refreshing and positive interaction with powerful women and some of us 'still in consciousness-raising mode for today's lib movement'(?) men. I wouldn't even pretend to get half of your realities. Rebecca, do you find that happening more often these days?
Rebecca Traister (rtraister) Mon 24 Jan 11 13:57
Oh, so many issues and questions! First, Hillary and diminished power/Secstate, etc.. The reference to her state of diminished power was based not exactly on her specific job, but on the fact that, as I wrote, she'd lost the big prize. This would have been true if she'd been named vp or anything else: the potential power of having potentially been the president was gone, and the person who had that power -- the president -- was now her boss. Secondly, and more specific to HRC's experience was the first year in which everyone was writing stories about how she a) didn't have much power within the administration b) had had her wings clipped c) was so cooperative with Obama that it was clear she'd been tamed. This was all based on the fact that when she first took over the state dept, she was in full Hillary mode -- doing her homework, traveling around the world, getting her job down pat, working well within the administration, not making a big splash. It was very reminiscent of when she went to congress and everyone expected her to be a diva and instead she played very well with others and everyone said she'd somehow been tamed. This kind of assessment stems from the fact that we still have a hard time understanding or acknowledging that a very ambitious, competitive, driven woman can ALSO be a team playing, diligent, competent, hard-working colleague. We see women either as nice girls or divas, can't seem to keep in our head that both impulses could exist in one person! But it also fulfilled a fantasy we have about powerful, ambitious women -- that they will be taught a lesson and learn not to make such a racket. We have seen this story played out around Hillary after her health care debacle in the 1990s, after her senate run, and then when she took over the state department. One other note, Fawn: funnily enough, in some quarters, Secretary of State IS looked upon as the consolation prize. Hillary isn't the second woman to hold the position, she's the third: Albright, Rice and Clinton. I heard Geraldine Ferraro once tell a story about a kid asking Madeline Albright, "Can a man be secretary of state?" It's the position that it's okay to put a woman in. All that said, this diminished power storyline has begun to fade as Hillary has become more visible after her year of getting situated. I think that by many accounts, she is doing a fabulous job, that she has a terrific relationship with the president, and also that she is often polled as one of the most popular (sometimes THE most popular) politician in the country. I think it's a terrific job for her, and I'm very interested to see what she does next. I am one of those crazy people who thinks it's perfectly possible that she MIGHT run as Obama's vp in 2012, depending on what they all decide. I think that would be terrific. No matter what, I suspect there's a good chance she will continue to loom large in politics, perhaps even presidential politics, down the road. Ted, as to your observation about the internet, there are lots of people out there who will agree with you. I write in my book about the explosion of a feminist blogosphere, which I think took place in part because there was a new generation of women coming to consciousness about gender imparity, but also because there was this new frontier in which they could make their voices heard. But the other, ugly side of that is the remarkable misogyny that has flourished online. Some of it is extremely direct -- see, for example, much of the tenor of the comments sections on feminist stories at Salon. Some of it is more subtle -- replications of old habits. I write a lot in the book about the left-leaning blogosphere, and how even the new generation of liberal bloggers wind up being an extraordinarily white male bunch. The parity that anonymity and gender-blindness offer tends to fade as soon as gender is revealed. For a while, one of the most prominent liberal bloggers was Digby, who was widely assumed to be male. It turned out Digby was a she, and (to my eye) attitudes about her work changed very quickly. If you look at the blogrolls of many prominent political sites, they are at least three-quarters male. So I don't think you're wrong to be hopeful, but I do think it's not as idyllic as we might reasonably hope.
Fawn Fitter (fsquared) Mon 24 Jan 11 14:18
Third! You're right, I just blithely glossed over Condoleeza Rice. How typical that now that we've had 3 women in the job, the job itself is seen as less important. "We see women either as nice girls or divas" -- ouch. Painful truth.
Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Mon 24 Jan 11 19:02
Heh. It's as though they see the word 'secretary' and think, aha, a woman can do it.
Ted Newcomb (tcn) Mon 24 Jan 11 20:55
<56> "But the other, ugly side of that is the remarkable misogyny that has flourished online. Some of it is extremely direct -- see, for example, much of the tenor of the comments sections on feminist stories at Salon. Some of it is more subtle -- replications of old habits. I write a lot in the book about the left-leaning blogosphere, and how even the new generation of liberal bloggers wind up being an extraordinarily white male bunch." Sorry to hear it's still that bad. Don't know whether to let the yahoos rave on or install controls on comments and posts and screen them out? Sobering comments from all, thanks.
Ted Newcomb (tcn) Mon 24 Jan 11 21:20
The Hillary I loved and wanted to see as President was the one I first met in the '90's. I was delighted she was handling health care and really thought it had a chance then. I was naive to the political realities of that ever happening via a First Lady. That Hillary seemed to get lost in all the compromises that resulted. And on it goes. We see this with good people of both genders. I guess it was more noticeable to me because I was so focused on her. As you point out in your book and comments she has undergone several more sea changes since. Do you think that tension, between being true to oneself and manifesting that persona to others and the compromises that realpolitik demands is more pronounced for women or that they are somehow held more accountable or both? I mean look at a guy like Lieberman who changes with every cocktail party that contributes and nobody seems to care.
Ted Newcomb (tcn) Tue 25 Jan 11 05:30
"There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil, to one who is striking at the root." (Henry David Thoreau) I guess it comes down to focus. Keep striking at the root. "and it may be that he who bestows the largest amount of time and money on the needy is doing the most by his mode of life to produce that misery which he strives in vain to relieve." (rest of quote)
Rebecca Traister (rtraister) Tue 25 Jan 11 10:46
I don't know if the practicalities of realpolitik apply more to women than to men, exactly, but because there have been so many fewer women, and we examine the ones in front of us so much more closely, and because we are so used to the contortions men make before getting elected that we barely even register them anymore, it's so much plainer in a woman. And I would argue, the contortions are bigger, because automatically, she has to get over one massive difference -- gender and all that goes with it -- that already sets her apart from the profile of who winds up winning elections. With regard to Hillary: there is simply no way that the woman you (and I, and so many others) admired in the early 1990s could have run for president. In order to build the political, financial capital it took to make a serious stab at the presidency, she had to go through so many stages of transformation. People will argue that the most serious one was playing the victim to Bill's philandering, which made her less threatening and therefore more appealing. I say the other big one was playing well with others in the Senate, getting billing as a cooperative bipartisan colleague.
Gail Williams (gail) Tue 25 Jan 11 12:47
It sure is a massive challenge, figurative and literally. I remember that old adage that you can predict the winner in most presidential elections simply by betting on the taller man. Historically, we seem to like big leaders. Adding a woman into the mix makes the voting public have to consciously or unconsciously challenge that ancient way of thinking. We do have a couple of generations of women in positions of trust that historically were nearly all-male, most notably the role of MD. Seems like that is very important to women candidates.
Ted Newcomb (tcn) Tue 25 Jan 11 13:10
So where do you think the focus lies next?
Gail Williams (gail) Tue 25 Jan 11 17:09
Speaking of the Web and pop culture, this is cool: http://jezebel.com/5742856/gossip-girl-cares-about-women-in-politics
Fawn Fitter (fsquared) Tue 25 Jan 11 18:24
Oh hey! May it lead to unexpected sales!
Rebecca Traister (rtraister) Wed 26 Jan 11 05:52
Yes, Gail, the taller man! It has almost ALWAYS applied. So what does that mean for a woman? It's a question I actually recently heard professor Melissa Harris-Perry (you all may recognize her as Harris-Lacewell, a frequent pundit on Maddow and Olbermann who just changed her name) ask her class of undergraduates at Princeton. The Gossip Girl thing was remarkable. I didn't understand it at all, but it was terrific, and I have my fingers crossed that it will lead to unexpected sales. Ted, when it comes to gender, the focus lies next with this generation of young women in congress and governor's mansions, on both sides of the aisle. The 30 and 40 something women, some young mothers, like, well, Gabrielle Giffords, Kirsten Gillibrand, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, Amy Klobuchar, Nikki Haley. That's not to count out their elders -- as I've said, I don't think Hillary's done, nor Pelosi, who I really missed seeing behind the president last night. But when you're talking "next," we're looking at this group of women who are really redefining what it might look like to be a leader. And then, after that, is the generation of kids that has a view of who can lead that is utterly different from anything we can likely imagine. The kids who are learning what government looks like, and that their president is black, perhaps their governor, senator or congresswoman is female. Their assumptions about who and who isn't able to lead are formed by the world around us right now. And these are the kids who may run and become the first female president, or the first black woman president, or the first Jewish or Muslim or gay president. And if they don't, they will likely vote for the first Jewish or Muslim or gay president. That's the REAL next.
Julie Sherman (julieswn) Wed 26 Jan 11 06:24
I so enjoy your comments and writing style, Rebecca. I usually find that when I read a book about contemporary politics or the political world, that my attention flags after a few chapters. Your book held me from beginning to end--it was always interesting, engaging and thought provoking. It seems like events occur and then are swept away, out of our collective memory, like they never happened. The part in your book where you compare the reaction of Republican talking-heads to the treatment of Sarah Palin with the non-reaction or shoulder shrugging reaction of similar Democratic people really struck me. Do you think we are just going to have to relive that whole merry-go-round the next time? Has anything changed from the post-mortum of the 2008 election, not to mention the 2010 one?
Rebecca Traister (rtraister) Wed 26 Jan 11 13:18
Thank you, Julie! I have to say that one of my main motivations for writing the book was to not let the story get forgotten. There was SO MUCH history made, sometimes in intricate and small ways, and because I sensed a reluctance to deal with it head on as it was happening, I feared that there would be a reticence about chronicling it, at least until it receded so far back in our memory that we couldn't quite grasp or remember it anymore. So I'm especially pleased by your comment. As for the future: I really do things will be different. Not fixed. Not without repeats of last time, and history in general, but that an awareness has been heightened. For example, if Hillary Clinton were to run again, I think that both she and the country would approach the experience in very different ways -- I think she learned a lot about the power of presenting herself as a woman, and I think the country learned a lot both during (and since) her run about its own reactions to her. I also think that if another woman were to run for president, as I hope is likely -- and perhaps inevitable, from one side of the aisle or another -- in 2016, many of us will have a sharpened awareness, a more extensive vocabulary, and an increased sensitivity about how she is treated. I also think we will all be a little more used to the idea. I think there are media people in place -- in part thanks to the events of the last election, from Maddow to Couric to Sawyer to some of the female comedians like Fey, Schaal and Bee -- to help us interpret. Again, let me stress that this does NOT mean that I think a future ride will be smooth, or without the depressing regressive, sexist behavior we saw in 2008. We just saw some repetition of those things in 2010. I obviously don't think that it's a slam dunk for a woman to win the presidency the next time one tries -- it depends on the woman, and even if she's a great, competent, brilliant one, she might lose for reasons related to her gender. But I do think that we are a country that has changed, perhaps imperceptibly, since 2008. And sometimes imperceptible change is all it takes to push us a little further. And then a little further after that . . . Again, I'm sort of stupidly optimistic.
Pamela McCorduck (pamela) Wed 26 Jan 11 14:47
What you're talking about is what complexity scientists call "the sandpile effect." You steadily add sand to a pile and it grows and grows and grows until bam! Suddenly the pile turns into avalanches and the whole landscape is changed. It happens.
Ted Newcomb (tcn) Wed 26 Jan 11 15:37
"As for the future: I really do things will be different. Not fixed." Being an optimist myself I really like that thought. It's exciting times we are living in. I just take it for granted that several women will be running next election, w/o a pause for thought in most of the electorate. Would like to see that avalanche.
Lisa Harris (lrph) Thu 27 Jan 11 12:58
Rebecca, thank you so much for your time here in Inkwell.vue. We will likely continue discussing this long after you've moved on. Please feel free to come back whenever you can.
Rebecca Traister (rtraister) Thu 27 Jan 11 13:25
Thanks, Lisa, and everyone here for such a lively, smart conversation. I've had a great time! And I will likely check back in if you all keep talking. All my best, Rebecca
Fawn Fitter (fsquared) Thu 27 Jan 11 19:54
Do please come back! It's been great hearing from you!
Ted Newcomb (tcn) Thu 27 Jan 11 21:14
Wishing you every success.
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