What women's rights look like when the two sides come together as one.
What women's rights are when women are no longer manipulated by party rhetoric.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Feminism and its Persistent Blind Spot

Cynthia Ruccia

Not to belabor the point, but I am still stuck on the current blindness of feminism. I know, I know. You might think that at this point I would just GET OVER IT, "it" being my sense of betrayal of the women's movement to its own message. Many are tired of the harping on this hypocrisy. Some are tired because they are so profoundly unhappy about it that they have dismissed the whole issue because it seems too big to fix, too intractable to ever change, too much patriarchal history. Can't say I blame them-------it is almost too huge to contemplate when looked at from that prism. Sigh----I get that. I mean thousands of years of women getting the short end of the stick, it would seem impossible for any of us to make a difference.

But I think that what keeps me going right now are all of those women (and men) who approach this hypocrisy from a peculiar blindness. These folks are choosing not to see the problem at all. Oh, I don't mean the problem of women's inequality. That problem is obvious. Just check out the stats in the right column. Without question, women haven't achieved equality or parity. The numbers are practically indisputable.

No, the blindness that keeps me going is the blindness that refuses to see how diminished the concept of feminism has become, and how that diminishment has totally roadblocked any efforts for women to get ahead. I define getting ahead by those stats in the right column. Weren't we women supposed to start running a proportionate share of things at some point?

I started out my day by reading this article by Andrea Tantaros about what the Republican candidacy of Herman Cain means to the African-American community and to Democratic politics. Although I dislike making any comparisons of the women's struggle for parity to the African-American one, Tantaros's article was instructive. You see, the same blind hypocrisy exists for African-Americans. As long as we're talking about African-American Democrats everyone is ok. What really messes up the system is when black REPUBLICANS get elected and/or have a prominent voice. All of a sudden prominent voices on the left start questioning the blackness of said black Republicans, and their whole argument starts falling apart.

The other thing that has gotten me going is that in my previous piece, I deigned to say something complimentary about Sarah Palin and I was, for the ten millionth time, reminded by someone who considers herself a good person, a good liberal feminist, that she would never EVER EVER EVER EVER support a "woman as awful as Sarah Palin."

These are just two examples of that darned blind spot that feminists have. And that spot is that the woman's movement is there only to uplift women with liberal ideas. Any other woman isn't considered a woman and is considered garbage. Period, end of conversation. This line of thinking has permanently stalled out all women.

What I really don't understand is why we women have to agree about everything. Why do liberal women have to be the be all and end all and every other woman who doesn't toe that line have to be cast out of the sisterhood forever? Women achieving parity has to be about all women, not just select women. Duh!!!!

To me it just seems so obvious. We elect all kinds of men who aren't liberal. We're going to continue to elect nonliberal men. As a matter of fact, this Gallup poll shows that only 20% of the population considers themselves liberal. I repeat, in the face of this evidence, the U.S. is going to have alot of nonliberal people winning elective office. Why shouldn't half of those nonliberal elected officials be women?

There is a difference between electing nonliberals and supporting the idea that half of those nonliberals be women. What's the big problem with that? Why can't we celebrate the nonliberal women who get ahead? Why can't we cheer on the nonliberal and the liberal women who put themselves out there to get ahead? We're not supporting an ideological agenda, we're supporting women's parity!! And it is this particular blind spot that I continue to try to wrap my brain around. Makes me wonder if women have so internalized the misogynist messages permeating our world that they somehow believe that women neither deserve nor are capable of leading. Sigh........

Let's look at it another way. If, for example, we elect a U.S. House with a majority of Republicans, and a U.S. Senate with a majority of Democrats, we may be fighting the same fights, we'll just be fighting them with women on both sides. Why is that not a cause for celebration? The House will be Republican anyways, and the Senate will be Democratic anyways. The gender balance doesn't mean that we change the ideological balance. It might happen that it does, but if that happens, it will be coincidental to the gender balance. Get it now, liberals?

Like I said in my first piece on Women Win Too, the woman's agenda became so caught up in party politics, it has lost its way. We get caught up in the idea that if this woman thinks this or that, she has no business running let alone winning. It is in that idea that the feminists have lost their way. We lost the piece of electing women being one of the most important parts of our agenda, if not truly the most important part. And we have locked ourselves into the different party mantras that we have been brainwashed into thinking must always come first before the REALLY IMPORTANT business for women. That important business is making sure in a representative democracy like ours people should be represented proportionally. And with women holding 17% of the legislative seats in the U.S., I'd hardly say we have achieved representational proportionality.

In the end, I'd like to think that the liberal feminists I know will have the intellectual flexibility to pivot. We started out by wanting women to get ahead, and then we took a turn in the road that has lead us to the wrong place. 17% representation is not what we'd envisioned. 75 cents earned on the man's dollar is not what we had in mind 40 years later. 2.8% of Fortune 1000 CEO's being women in 2011? Hell no. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting to get a different result. Heck, when it comes to the liberal feminists, doing the same things over and over again has not only gotten the same result, it has gotten a diminishing result. Why repeat ourselves? So what if some women have a different ideological stripe? If it's about ideology, ok. But it seems that for now, we can't have ideology and female parity in the same breath. My mentor, the great Mary Kay Ash who created more female millionaires than anyone in the 20th century, always taught us that you can't chase two rabbits at the same time. Our feminist multitasking has us travelling the wrong road.

And so what if we made a wrong turn? We can pivot at any time once we admit to ourselves that we're not accomplishing what we set out to accomplish. How many of us have started talking about something only to find out that a few minutes later we have digressed to a completely different conversation? It happens to all of us. If we women could summon some constructive outrage at how little we've accomplished in terms of parity instead of roadblocking the 80% of women who aren't liberal, we might actually finish the job we started to do.

Or we can remain married to our blind spot. And in that case, we are where we deserve to be.


  1. I agree, Cynthia. I find it interesting that some of my "liberal" women friends will not vote for Sarah Palin but they are married to non-liberal republican men. That has always amused me. And recall, it was the republican women who crossed the aisle to get the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act in place.

  2. Lefty Lib. theology or ideology it really is, and the left-wing Progressives and even liberals complain about right-wing conservatives/evangelicals as being religious freaks and unenlightened. I wish that so-called left-wing feminists could muster the courage to speak out for women, not just uteruses, and that includes treatment in the Muslim world of women and children (ex. for a few brave souls). But then, that would not be multicultural and hurt self-concepts of liberal tolerance for all religions and their practices by self-styled liberals.

  3. Yes, Democrat women have internalized the misogynist message of their male party leadership. Parity in government representation for women is not a Democrat value or a liberal feminist value. Yes they do think we are too stupid to govern and yes they do fear our power. They see women as victims and as people who they can victimize. That is why they use fear mongering about reproductive rights as their sole means of communication to women and then turn around and sell us out for nothing in the Obama care bill.

  4. Bes----isn't it something how the feminists can be accused of what you say. It sure sounds plausible.

  5. you're singing my song Sweetgrass. We all need to be on the same page. I'm so tired of being called names for saying something outside the liberal orthodoxy. But conservatives do it too. Makes me want to hibernate.

  6. Why should I support ANYONE who doesn't think I'm smart, or moral, enough to make decisions about my body? Why would I want to support any candidate that if elected would legislate their religious views, instead of respecting a separation of church and state? And why would I want to support a candidate that thinks it's okay for me to be fired for being lesbian, or get kicked out of my apartment, or denied the legal right to marry the love of my life? If that makes me "blind" then I wear it as a badge of honor!!


  7. Yes, but unite over who? In 2008 the Obama campaign said "We don't need the Hillary voters."
    Candidate Obama proved that to be true when he would not even consider Hillary Clinton good enough for Vice President. Hillary had 19 million democratic votes -- more than Barack Obama -- and even Joe Biden said she was more qualified.

    Not good enough for Obama -- but Obama really wanted Larry Summers in the White House. Summers said women were "genetically deficient" and only was sorry when Summers lost his job at Harvard, never sorry for what he said.

    For decades I gave my time, money, heart and soul to elect Democratic women. In 2008 I realized I wasted my time and money, so have not given since to any democratic campaign. Democratic women "blew it" and would not even push for Hillary for VP. No way could I feel any emotion for the Obama message - "republicans are worse."

  8. I agree. And I would like to see

    Michelle Bachmann for President, with Cain as Vice President. Of course, that
    ticket would blow lots of minds!

  9. There are two words for women who blindly vote democrat no matter what and they are: "Useful idiots".

    Women have been used and used and used for their votes by the democrats. We sit around decrying abusive relationships, yet one of the most prominent abusive relationships women are in is the one with the democrats. Its no different than how African Americans are used by the democrats - its for their votes. Nothing more, nothing less. I may not agree with a lot of Herman Cain's policy positions, but he's right about that.

    I wish a prominent woman would stand up and say the same thing and maybe, just maybe it would start the conversation like Cain did when he said African American voters were brainwashed. Harsh? Maybe, but it needed to be said.

  10. Beth---

    I think you might have missed the point of the article. No one is asking you to vote against the things that matter to you. The point I'm making is that if someone, male or female, cares about women's parity and women's equality, we need to do things differently. And although I used to think the way you do, I have grown apart from that philosophy. I think you have adopted the most extreme of extreme interpretations, and I don't believe for a minute that the fight you are waging is being fought the way you think it is. And to be honest, as long as the parties can keep people hyped up about about the bogeymen on the other side, they control your mind and your vote.

    For me and people like me, women's progress IS our issue. I leave the fight for gay rights to other more able groups. I can't pretend to walk in your shoes, but I still believe that if we are going to be represented by people I disagree with, why not have half of them be women? Are they any worse than the men? That was the point of my piece.

  11. @ Beth
    All right fine. You hate all of us righties and everything we believe in and you think we hate you (which we don't btw). But you might remember that none of the candidates who ran on the Dem ticket last time around or will run this time support gay marriage either. So that makes both sides even on that one. And the left doesn't "think I'm smart, or moral, enough to make decisions" about what kind of light bulb to buy, what kind of car to drive, how and where to educate my own children, how to manage my own health care or retirement, or credit card arrangements etc etc etc. All of that cuts both ways. All politicians like to mind our business for us - it's how they get power.

    The point you are missing is that there WILL be a Republican or Conservative candidate running. Why shouldn't we all push for a woman? Don't you think there was value in seeing the sexism that raised its ugly head when Palin ran? Don't you think Conservative's children need to see women running in their party as well? What do YOU lose by supporting/defending the righty women who run? Maybe you aren't going to vote for them in the general - but why can't you push for them and help defend them in primaries?

    YOU have nothing to lose and women have everything to gain. I defended and fought hard for Hillary Clinton and I'm so far right on most things I make Dick Cheney look like a bleeding heart liberal. Would I have voted for her in the general over McCain/Palin? No. But I think we all gained immeasurably for her having tried, women getting a facefull of misogyny, and another woman will try again - but it will be easier every time because future women will learn both from the mistakes and from the unfair attacks against the women who came before them. The novelty of women running will wear off. Their positions on issues - rather than their hair care routines and pantsuit choices will be discussed.

    Would you honestly rather see another Republican MAN as president than a Republican woman? Because there WILL BE a righty running - like it or not. Why not a woman?

  12. that's well put anonymous about the abusive relationship between the Democratic Party and the women it claims to represent. Hopefully people will wake up to this folly. They're being used.

  13. Thank you all for this conversation. Well measured words, calm demeanors, thoughtful articulation. I was on the left,I turned to the right after 08. I saw little difference between how HRC was treated and how Palin was treated. Except I honestly believe Palin got worse treatment. And women refused to stand up against that hideous treatment because she was a Republican. It was an opportunity to grow..to support each other..to unite. We missed it. We lost credibility. We either stand for all women..or we are puppets of the democrats. Thanks again.

  14. I would caution you to take a look in the mirror before jumping to conclusions about who I support for elected office. I recently told an Obama fundraiser to go jump in the lake when he called asking for a donation.

    I contributed the maximum amount to the HRC campaign. I did so because I thought she would be the best person for the job. I also liked that she is a woman, and would break the glass ceiling.

    I have already started sending money to women candidates who share my views. I want more women in the pipeline, but only if they are going to work to advance women's civil rights.

    Do I think people on the right are misguided? Absolutely. I think you've drunk the koolaid that says it's important to protect the interests of the wealthy 1% over ALL the rest of us! And on social justice issues your leaders in the House just passed a bill that says women cannot spend their own money for insurance coverage that would also cover abortion, and yet have done NOTHING about creating jobs. The House Leadership would rather pander to the religious right than get any actual work done on behalf of the American people.

    If you want and example of how women candidates should be treated I would suggest you read the blog "Shakesville." Melissa McEwan, the blog's founder, is a flaming liberal who spoke out against the sexism leveled at Sarah Palin. She was also clear that she would never vote for someone who holds Palin's views.

    And finally, how can you possibly think the "two sides" could ever come together when you have no interest in supporting women's civil rights? Homophobia couldn't exist without sexism. If you can't see the link then you are not paying attention.

    Oh, and one more thing. I think Hillary Clinton is probably embarrased at the way some of her supporters have acted following the 2008 election. Hillary understands that we don't always get everything we want, but the solution isn't to actively promote our ideological opponents.

    Please feel free to rip this apart ... after all, that's what we do when we want to 'bring people together.'


  15. Beth-----it's not about "ripping" what you have to say apart. It's about an honest discussion of the issues. How can a way forward be figured out if all of the elements aren't considered? I appreciate what you have to say even though some of it isn't my cup of tea (no pun intended!!).

    I don't think that you can assume that people like myself who left the party over the sexism of the 2008 campaign coming from the Democrats have automatically joined the Republicans. I'll never be a shill for any party ever again. I'm a proud Independent and really, from that perch, the world looks a little different than when I was a Democrat. I can see both sides, and what I see are ideologues using highly emotional persuasion on both sides to keep people in line. I find it scary.

    As far as it goes with Hillary, I doubt she is embarrassed about what her supporters have done. Many of us did things that she wasn't able to do in terms of speaking up. I wouldn't be so quick to jump to the conclusion you did about her.

    And lastly, supporting women of different stripes doesn't preclude supporting civil rights. The two go hand in hand. And though you disagree on that point, it is there where the feminist movement has lost its way.

  16. @ Beth

    I don't know if you were addressing me or someone else... But if you didn't read my comment please do. You completely disagree with the right. I get that. I completely disagree with the left on almost everything. I'm not being snotty to you about it. I understand that we will never agree on a broad range of issues. The point I'm trying to make is that people like me, righties, DO exist. We will continue to exist, run for office, and sometimes win. Don't you see any benefit at all to at least MORE of those people being women? Barbara Boxer is my least favorite Dem woman. Assuming I lived where I could vote for her - I would not. I would vote for the Republican running against her because I disagree with her on all of the issues that are most important to me and that impact my life. But I would also be willing to lend my support to her in a primary against a Dem man. I would be willing to defend her against sexist attacks just as vehemently as I would Palin. I happily vote for Dem women in my local primaries.

    I don't understand why saying "we need more women on BOTH sides" is such an crazy thing to encourage? It just makes sense to me - someone is going to run on the left - I'd rather it be a woman. Someone is going to run on the right - wouldn't you rather it be a woman?

  17. Thanks, Cynthia for keeping up the fight.

    Right before I read your post, I lit into NARAL when they asked me for money. After being a loyal member of NARAL most of my adult life, I dropped them immediately when they endorsed a MAN over Hillary in the Primaries!!

    As hard as it is, I agree that we do have to keep the conversation going. I address some of the things you mention above whenever the opportunity presents itself...even though sometimes I feel like a broken record.

    I used to be chained to the Dems by the choice issue...but then in 2008, I saw I was being used. Now I'm Indepedent and free and voting for the women..period.

  18. There are many things we can do to improve the status of women in our nation. Choosing what route for improvement depends upon the individual woman. Your ideas remain controversial, but they are ideas everyone needs to hear. instead of aiming for equality right now, I think you should try to convince women that we do not have equality and convince women to pursue equality. Convince women not to adhere to party ideology or smear campaigns. Once more women are convinced, then we will have an easier time setting aside the ideological blinders and working together for equality.

    I think you should keep your goal but change your tactic. Have you considered writing books? That way, you could get your views to a larger audience and make some money at the time. Books will also enable you to add considerable more depth and detail.