Life as an Extreme Sport

A Political Rant

I wrote this up a few days ago, and posted it to my LiveJournal, largely because most of the people I’m either talking to about politics, or who are talking about politics themselves, are on LiveJournal – it seemed the best way to engage in discussion. However, several of those folks asked if I’d make this available publicly, so that they could send their friends to read this. Your wish, my command, and all that. (For those who have read it, apologies – I tacked on some extra stuff at the end, though, about my own perceptions and potential academic snobbery).
So of course, politics is the big thing right now, and since most of my friends are Democrats, it’s all Obama and Clinton. Now maybe it’s just because of the wildly skewed numbers, but I don’t see my Republican friends being nearly so divisive as the Democrats are; they have their preferred candidate, but don’t say things like (or seem to even buy/believe the idea of) “Oh, if Huckabee gets the nod instead of McCain I’m not voting/voting Democrat.”

My Democratic friends, on the other hand, are doing a great job at imitating toddlers, complete with the threat to take their toys (votes) and go home if they don’t get their way (their candidate gets the nod). And I seriously see things coming from the mouths of these supposed liberal/enlightened people that are, while not necessarily shocking, certainly disappointing. Recent example, culled via a friend (and apologies to those who know the speaker, I’m sure she’s a lovely person):

[Clinton] has lost her spark with me. A year ago, if you asked if I would vote for her, I would have said “yeah probably”. Now. Nope. Coming from a woman, this may sound off, but I don’t want our president crying over stupid shit. Yes, women cry over stupid shit, that’s what hormones do, but there is no crying in campaigning. NONE. NO! No crying lady.

Uhm. Where the fuck do you start with that sort of misogynistic bullshit? I mean, let’s just count the levels of stupid offense:

  1. women cry over stupid things because they’re hormonal (remember, this is basically the argument for why women can’t do any job of authority – CEO, president, surgeon, etc – because their hormones make them irrational. Even when I was growing up in the 80s, the assumption was that if a woman was elected POTUS, she’d trigger a nuclear war when she was PMSing. And not to play into the misogyny, but Clinton is post-menopausal from all accounts, so “hormonal” doesn’t even come into play, at least not in the implied way)
  2. most women are not so affected by their hormones, thank you stereotypes – it’s a way of dismissing someone as inferior with the assumption that male is the default norm. Newsflash: if you want to consider biological default normativity, female, complete with progesten and estrogen, is the normative, and male is abnormal. The notion that male is the default has pervaded our culture and thinking because of the paternalistic and misogynistic society this country was founded on and still suffers from, and causes women significant harm in areas greater than just politics/careers – the belief that male is species typical and that female is dysfunctional/abnormal means that medications are primarily tested in men, and are approved by the FDA without knowing how they react in women – and sometimes that reaction is not only different, but dangerous or deadly
  3. what, guys have never cried campaigning? Good to know those male politicians who pony up the tears in certain situations and get public opinion points for being so secure in their masculinity aren’t actually crying. And talk about continuing to further cultural stereotypes – guys can’t cry. Crying’s hormonal
  4. crying is a natural reaction to stress and frustration (which, from what I’ve been told, describes 98% of campaigning); people who don’t cry to relieve stress and/or frustration and other negative emotions are typically considered broken by medical types; we quite literally need to cry to get rid of toxic buildup that happens when certain chemicals (yes, those dreaded hormones – the same ones men have) are secreted

Maybe it’s just me, but I’d rather have a president who has a healthy and expected reaction to a stressful situation than one who’s going to bottle it all up inside, only to explode inappropriately in anger/rage at another time, another situation, another person. The sort of thing that could get our country in serious trouble.

Clinton is damned if she does, damned if she doesn’t. If she shows that she’s a normal, emotive human being, she’s slammed for being a woman (as though this is some reason to scorn a person, some sort of weakness); women are the weaker sex, right? The vulnerably flawed gender? Needs protecting, should stay at home – I mean, if you’re going to buy one massive stereotype, you have to take all the associated stereotypes too, right?

But if she hides emotion, if she reacts surgically, calmly, clinically, if she acts and reacts like a man – then she’s slammed for not being feminine enough. Her hair’s too butch, she’s too aggressive, she’s bitchy, she’s trying to wear the pants…

She just doesn’t know her place.

That’s what it comes down to, after all, and at the heart of it. People are reacting to their subconscious biases, their bought beliefs over what a woman should do, behave like, be – and our stereotypes, the ones that are apparently so deeply ground into even the most liberal of people, don’t have any category for a woman who wants to defy expectation and assigned role. So we tear down, flay alive, castigate at every chance… …all the while patting ourselves on the back for being so progressive to support a black man.

It speaks volumes, and it’s not pretty.

It’s not a good sign that it’s February and I’m already frustrated with people and politics; this goes til November, right? Maybe I’ll be less frustrated after the Democratic convention (I can only hope). I do enjoy talking to my friends about politics; they’re generally intelligent and I enjoy debating the point(s) with them, seeing their views, etc.

But I suppose, because I do so much in/next to politics now, I’m exposed to people whose jobs are policy, politics, or knowing it to teach it. This leaves me really, really frustrated with people who don’t do their homework (research), and thus end up making false claims, or just saying plain stupid stuff. Unfortunately, this seems to be the provision of Obama-fans, which makes me think less of them in general.

I recently had a chance to ask a friend about one area that’s been especially irritating, which is why people are lauding Obama’s, if you’re generous, 10 years of practicing law (where in reality it’s 10 years of teaching, and at the beginning, around 3 of practicing community-based law), and ignoring Clinton’s significant history – teaching for around 6 years, and practicing law for over 20 (primarily focused in intellectual property and patent law, but having the greatest impact in her pro bono work for children’s right and health). In addition to that, several of her papers/arguments have significantly changed how we treat children as patients in this country, giving them room to dictate their own course(s) of medical treatment; academic lawyers/scholars on both sides of the political spectrum call her one of the most brilliant academic law minds in the last 30 years.

The response I received was a simple one: it’s not something people highlight about Clinton. Well, okay – but that doesn’t mean it’s not there, and it’s pretty easy to discover; and anyone in my age bracket should surely remember the Whitewater fuss, that Clinton is a lawyer, and in fact that the Clintons themselves met in law school at Yale.

Listening to the rhetoric of the individual campaigns isn’t going to give you an accurate picture of either candidate; people do need to do the research on their own and discover these sorts of things about the candidates, especially before they make comparison claims like “Obama has law experience Clinton doesn’t”. To not do so just ends up giving a greater impression of ignorance than is necessarily true.

Unfortunately, I don’t know if this is just me being an academic snob, or if it’s a valid complaint. Another friend has told me straight up that it’s both – it is academic snobbery, because most people react to politicians via their guts, instincts, and initial impressions, and with little regard for the actual substance of the campaign or what the platform is, outside of Democrat/Republican/Other. It’s also a valid complaint, because this is a process of choosing the next leader of our country, and while they themselves might not have that much individual leadership power, who they place around them, in their cabinet and government, will end up having a lot of say in much of how this country is run not just for the four to eight years they’re in office, but also for time past that – think, for example, of Supreme Court judge nominations.

Anyhow, don’t confuse this for stumping for Clinton, because I’m not. I quite honestly don’t care who gets the Democratic nod, so long as the person is a Democrat. Because what I’m concerned about isn’t whether the genitals are innie v. outie, or what quantity of hormone their pituitary gland secretes. I’m not even all that concerned about the nuances between their platforms… because I am more concerned, by far, at the idea of having another Republican in office for another 4-8 years, and what that will do to my civil liberties, my rights to determine my own medical care, our international policy, our veterans, our schools, and on, and on. I care about the platform not of the candidate but the party, and I want in office the party whose platform most broadly matches my own. Obama? Okay, it’ll be interesting and probably a bit rocky. Clinton? Should be interesting to see her vision play out. But with either one, I don’t have to worry about who their Supreme Court justice nominations will be, I don’t have to worry about losing the right to self-determination, I will likely find my career enhanced because they’ll lift stupid restrictions put in place by the current administration, I don’t need to worry about religion and God and evolution taking such a center focus – the list is long, and that? That is what’s important.