Sunday, February 17, 2008

You've come a long way, baby

By Libby

Following up on a cranky post I did at Newshoggers yesterday, the title of this post was once a slogan for a cigarette targeted at women, Virginia Slims. It was an ad campaign created at a time when the battle for women's rights was peaking and we were just breaking the chains of prescribed expectations. It looks pretty sexist today but it was kind of a breaktrough then. At that time women were still expected to go to college to 'catch' a good husband and then settle down and become good little homemakers who produced the requisite 2.5 children. 'Good girls' didn't use their education to pursue careers and if they worked, it was with few exceptions, only in subordinate roles within a male dominated hierarchy.

As the slogan said, we've come a long way since we burned our bras and stopped hiding our sexuality and our smarts, but we haven't exactly shattered the glass ceiling yet. So I'm sympathetic to the argument that electing a woman president might help blast that thing into smithereens. However, I don't think complaining about it is useful anymore.

BTD posted a long letter from some very prominent feminists in support of Clinton today. It was really well written but I think they should have cut this graf.
How many of us have heard brilliant and resourceful women in the workplace dismissed or devalued for “detail-orientation” in contrast to a man’s supposed “big picture” scope? How many of us have seen what, in a man, would be called “peerless mastery,” get called, in a woman’s case, “narrowness”? How many women have we known—truly gifted workers, professionals, and administrators—who have been criticized for their reserve and down-to-earth way of speaking? Whose commanding style, seriousness, and get-to-work style are criticized as “cold” and insufficiently “likable”? These prejudices have been scandalously present in this campaign.
Yes, these prejudices still exist but electing Hillary isn't going to magically make them go away in the ordinary workplaces of America and it strikes me that making the case women should vote for Hillary because she's a woman who has suffered from discrimination, is in its own way kind of sexist because it makes gender bias the issue instead of competency. Also, it frames her as a victim instead of a leader.

I would think it more effective to stop complaining and find some way to frame Hill within the context of other strong women who were pioneers in their fields. Something like Hillary -- the Marie Curie of politics. It would certainly be more inspiring than listening to a laundry list of greivances.

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Blogger mikevotes said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

9:39:00 AM  
Blogger mikevotes said...

That's a very interesting point.

But, could you frame Clinton in that way? Would the press let them?

I have a hunch there would be a pushback undercurrent, something like, "she wouldn't even be there if it wasn't for her husband."

Would that allow "a strong woman working against sexism?"

Just thinking out loud.

9:40:00 AM  
Blogger Libby Spencer said...

I don't know Mike. It's just a stray thought and Marie Curie isn't probably the best analogy. But it seems to me finding some kind of positive frame would beat the hell out of whining all the time. She badly needs a slogan of some sort. I am woman, I am strong seems like a better bet than I am woman and I'm a victim.

But yeah, the media is going to smear her no matter what.

1:41:00 PM  

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