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.


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Deconstructing The Feminist Argument ala Madeleine Albright

Cynthia Ruccia

Madeleine Albright Mitt Romney



I love Madeleine Albright. Let me list the ways----

She was the very first female U.S. Secretary of State serving from January 1997--January 2001 having been nominated by President Clinton and confirmed by the U.S. Senate in a unanimous vote of 99-0.  No woman up to then had reached such high heights in government. She also was a woman who, unlike other women who make it to the top, brought other women along with her to the best of her ability. Her quote "there is a special place in hell for women who don't help each other" has become iconic. And of course she was an early and ardent supporter of Hillary Clinton for President.

As the Democratic National Convention (DNC) gets underway today, we are all inundated with the sights and sounds of everything Democratic wherever we turn. TV, newspapers, cable, blogs, internet news aggregators, everywhere. In my prior piece I talked about how it wasn't going to be easy looking at my former party as it celebrates. Today, I took my first steps into the belly of the beast. I rolled out of bed, checked my email and was treated to my idol saying "I can't understand why any woman would want to vote for Mitt Romney." The article went on to say that only Ann Romney and the 5 daughters-in-law have any reason to vote for him.

I have a hair trigger these days listening to those kinds of thoughts. Not because I'm a big supporter of Mitt Romney, but because of the sentiments that underlie such words. I've grown to feel that those are the words of the unthinking and/or the people who just need to say the right thing to show their group identification. Not my Madeleine Albright. Surely not her.

I got to thinking about her words. Read the whole piece to get the flavor of this argument. So I pulled on my running clothes and hopped on my elliptical machine to warm up to Morning Joe, a show which pisses me off sufficiently to get me warmed up fast. And lo and behold there she was, Madeleine Albright. I thought that this would be interesting. Maybe she's just gotten older and is starting to lose it, a thought that makes me sad. But she is in full possession of her faculties as you can see in this video as she discusses mostly foreign policy. Why she even praised George Bush!! (Although some of you would take her praise of Bush 43 as a sign of senility!!)



So I just decided that this might be a good time to review and deconstruct what passes for the "feminist argument" these days. Before I go any farther, I want to repeat that all comments are welcome. However, if you choose to come onto this blog to excoriate me for expressing myself, I'm going to delete your comments. I don't mind having a real conversation about it, but I'm not dealing with name calling, insults, nasty abortion talk, character assassination, shaming, arrogance. If you want to comment politely, I'm happy to have a conversation. Ok?

Let's go----

The first premise of the argument is that anyone who doesn't support the prochoice position is anti woman. You know I've thought about this position alot because I used to feel that way. I felt that way until I met alot of prolife working women AND mothers (who work harder than any working women out there) along the campaign trail when I was running for Congress in the 90's. Instead of demonizing them, I took the time to listen and converse with them. I discovered that these women were very modern and wanted alot of the equality that the feminist movement espoused. It became very difficult for me to go along with the rhetoric that these women and their husbands (those who had husbands) were only interested in dismantling all of women's rights and turning us back into babymaking machines who existed at the behest of their husband's demands. That was and is the picture that had evolved of prolife women. I hardly ever met anyone like that who was prolife. And I've met LOTS of prolifers----more than most of you.

I understand that the abortion fight was really once the centerpiece of the second wave feminist movement of the late 1960's and the early 1970's . It originally wasn't the only centerpiece. The movement espoused a wish list of equality that women weren't getting. That list included equal pay for equal work, equal representation, the ability for women to rise and take their place as the CEO's as their talent warranted without being marginalized for being female. We wanted more legal protections against rapists and domestic violence.

Initially we fought for all of the above and more. And we won alot of things. We see more women being admitted to college than ever before, the laws regarding rape and domestic violence are much more favorable to women getting justice. Women have entered the workforce in record numbers. That women work today is unexceptional. We are living lives, we boomers, that our mothers couldn't even imagine.

Women held out alot of hope that as we entered the workforce it would only be a matter of time until we arose and took our place at the table as CEO's and everything in between. As a result, we were willing to give that process time.

The abortion battle is well known. It was an important battle (I am prochoice for everyone who doubts that). Women's control over their reproduction was vital to achieving the independence necessary to break through in the other realms. Birth control was becoming readily available for the first time in history. The feminists decided as a tactic that it was time to focus their fight on legalizing abortion and so they did. It was a bruising ugly battle whose scars haven't left us over 40 years later. The results of this battle divided women, a division that exists up to this very moment. There are alot of resources explaining this battle. Just google "abortion battle history" and you will get over 16 million links.

But today, all those years later, the battle lines have changed. First of all, birth control is ubiquitous like never before. And so is the morning after pill. And abortion is legal and can be obtained. Maybe not everywhere, but many medical treatments aren't available everywhere and people need to travel to get what they need sometimes. We've had a number of Republican presidents since Roe-v-Wade, and none of them put in the energy necessary to make abortion illegal. Neither will Romney if elected. Why? Because it isn't worth spending political capital on.

The kinds of fears that Albright talked about in the article cited have become a bit antiquated when it is about reproduction. Most Republicans avail themselves of birth control methods the same way that Democrats do. The idea that anyone would support anything that Todd Akin said is akin no pun intended---LOL!!) to saying that all Democrats think that a baby aborted in the eighth or ninth month should be murdered even if viable. I mean come on. Why is Todd Akin any nuttier than those Democratic women running around dressed as vaginas to make a point? It's truly a stupid argument that really doesn't do anything but get people all riled up for no constructive reason.

If you want to talk about the Republican platform versus the Democratic platform, let's just say this. Those platforms are written to satisfy party stalwarts and that also includes satisfying the extremes on both sides. The platforms get written and then everyone ignores them until the next election. The Republican platform has had identical language on it as far as abortion goes for many years. And none of those presidents during any of their terms has gone back to check it out to make sure that they are following the platform. The story is the same with the Democrats. It's a hollow argument.

As for the equal pay for equal work law, well it would be nice. Truly. I'm showing my Democratic roots by saying that. However, that piece of legislation has become a red herring. Why? Because the whole idea of the legislation isn't politically viable, everyone knows it isn't politically viable, and it is put out there not to pass but to provide a litmus test to Democrats to show that they are pro women all the while knowing that it won't pass. The reasons for the unviability of this legislation are too long to go into here. You could take the cynical approach that the Republicans are the roadblock. That may be so. But why didn't the Democrats pass it when they had the chance? It was because it either wasn't important enough to our 83.2% male legislature or because it still wasn't politically viable. To use something unviable as a litmus test to prove your prowomen credentials should leave all of us, including Madame Albright scratching our heads.

The incredibly vile language on both sides about abortion and the enemies of their position exist for one and only one reason-----to get votes. Period. These old arguments about women, their rights, and especially their reproductive rights are manipulative, cold, inaccurate, cynical. Please understand that I am referring to the USE of these arguments to corral voters.

So why would voters in the face of things allow themselves to be corralled? One HUGE reason is groupthink or group psychology. If you are in a group and want to stay as a member in the group, you have to adopt group mores. If you go outside the thinking of the group, you will either be punished or shunned. Party people are guilty as charged. Both sides. I see certain phrases or turns of phrase used to make people go---yes, that's OUR side, our way of thinking. If you're a Democrat you only need to say "tea party" or "anti abortion" or these days "Todd Akin" to show that you know the code and that you are safely within the mores of the group. I've seen people do it over and over again. The other side is no better, using words like "socialist" or "values"  or "Nancy Pelosi"to corral their own.

I see that the feminists have lost their way in all of this. The groupthink is all abortion battle related, and that sad fact has not only stalled the feminist movement, it has made their rhetoric weird in the face of the facts of today as mentioned above. It is said that soldiers are always fighting the previous battle in the present fight. The feminists have become guilty of that as well.

If 2008 showed anything, it showed us that some unfinished pieces of the feminist agenda that were left on the table while the abortion battle was fought. The piece about having equal representation, a woman president, women CEO's at all levels and in all professions. This piece needs to be moved to the forefront. While we are still being dog whistled to fight last century's feminist battle over abortion, women are losing ground. Women and men on both sides of the aisle see that women deserve their rightful place at the table. That battle cannot be fought and won while our army is fighting the last war.

One last thing before I go. The Republicans highlighted some highly accomplished women on their side. The cynical would say that it was a cynical ploy. But really, however those women got there, they got there because of their accomplishments. We need to stop marginalizing the women on the other side because they aren't in our group. They ARE in our group. They are in the group of women who aim for the top and go for it. We need those women on both sides to finish the feminist agenda.

In the end, to finish the feminist agenda's work, we need to elect lots and lots of women all over the place and build our female bench. It would be strikingly helpful to stop the antiwoman rhetoric, both sides, and focus on finishing up our work. I'm not holding my breath that that rhetoric won't be front and center at the DNC. The feminists still get an "incomplete" when it comes to their work. I'll be writing more once the DNC is done about what we can do in 2012 to elect more women.

So Madame Secretary Albright, I love you!!! I really do. You are one of my heroes. But your feminist rhetoric isn't necessary for you to be part of your group. You are a role model for all. Please use your platform to uplift the accomplishments of all women as you always have. If you as a Democrat can find praise for George Bush 43, you have proven that you can think outside the box. Reach out a hand to the accomplished women on the other side and please stop the antiwomen rhetoric. It hurts all of us.









32 comments:

  1. I too respect and admire Madeleine Albright. But my patience is growing thin with women who seem to spout groupthink and talking points every time they open their mouths.

    Only Ann Romney and his five daughters-in-law have a reason to vote for him? What an incredibly stupid thing for a smart woman to say. No doubt she thought it was clever. Not very.

    There are a great many conservative women in this country who will joyfully vote for Mitt Romney. I am a fiscally conservative, moderately liberal Independent who will be one with them.

    Personally I think only Michelle Obama and his two daughter, were they old enough, have a reason to vote for him. And I wonder if she wasn't enjoying being FLOTUS much, at least the perks, if she would.

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    1. my patience as well kenoshamarge. But i'm working on it because we've got a long row to hoe....

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  2. Dr. Albright made a reasoned case for the Romney/Ryan ticket to win at least six women's votes. The speakers in Tampa were seeking, at most, about thirty million.

    Surely, there is a fair middle ground?

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  3. In re: to Kenshamarge: My patience with this is worn through.

    I see pics of women with "Slut's Vote" pins and vagina costumes. I am totally Pro Choice and always have been. I've contributed to all those orgs. the rest of you have and are no fed up with because they are just a crass arm of the Dem. Party when they are not-for-profits now with hands in the public trough and touting Obama as the savior of women. And the constant yammering and hollering by politicos and women in the Dem. party on abortion. I, as an Indy, former Dem., see the Dem. party as a sub label: The Party of Abortion. In my being, I find this all unseemly, at best. It's no fluke.

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  4. At least R&R are not misogynists. Far from it, especially Romney. Look at his political history as govenor of Mass. Women were very valued. All women should appreciate that!

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    1. objectively Romney had a very good record appointing women when he was governor. If your cause is female parity, you'd do better going with Mitt. If all you care about are reproductive rights, well, you're deserting your fellow women somehow. That cause is kind of yesterday

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  5. “There is a special place in hell for women who don't help other women." When Madeleine Albright said that she didn't limit it to Democratic women or only women who are pro-choice. If she's correct, her space is being reserved for her.

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    1. sigh---I've felt that way too. Sometimes the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing with some folks....

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    2. Great point! Thanks for bringing it up. I am thumping myself on the head for not thinking of it.

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  6. Sorry, I agree with Ms Albright....I can't imagine any woman voting for Romney.

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    1. Being able to put yourself in someone else's shoes and imagine what life looks like from their perspective isn't easy if you allow yourself to be totally consumed by tribal politics. While I will happily be voting for Romney, I can see why some women would choose Obama instead. I value my independence and was brought up that living on the government dole was something to be avoided at all costs. But I can see how a woman who is comfortable relying on the government for food, shelter, and health care might be nervous about electing someone who believes in helping people become more self-reliant. I think in the long run she'd be better off with Romney, but I understand why she would vote for Obama.

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    2. Great thought provoking article Rucc!

      @ samanthasmom - You are the voice in my head. I'm just too tired to "defend" my vote "as a woman" today. Funny how Dem women never have to do that...

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    3. Then perhaps you need to restart your imagination since it is absolutely obvious that millions of conservative women will be voting for Romney. And they can't all be the dunces Dems like to portray conservative women as. That alone would/should make any woman, who cares about women not a specific party, think twice.

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  7. Great piece!

    But it still doesn't answer the question: Why WOULD any woman vote for Romney? Forget abortion. Why on earth would any woman favor Romney over Obama when it comes to advancing the cause of women. What is it about Romney's program and plans for America that make you believe women will advance under Romney? And recall - its not just white women who have to advance but all women - white, non-white, gay - you name it.. All of them have to advance (as you say so eloquently.) What has Romney ever said that makes you think this would happen? and that can explain why you would support him? I don't see why Albright's comments are out of line - even forgetting abortion.

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    1. anonymouse (I can't understand why people are willing to say whatever but not brave enough to identify themselves)----

      sigh----you clearly haven't read anything I wrote. This piece is NOT about who to vote for. Vote for whoever you want. This is a piece about feminism and its future. Try going back and reading it again for the first time.

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    2. Romney has a much better track record with including women than Obama has. I think he will be more focused on job creation, and those jobs won't just be the kind of jobs that more typically go to men. Women need work, not welfare no matter what their sexual orientation or skin color. I think he will be a better "education president" than Obama, who brought the superintendent of one of the worst school systems in the country to DC to set policy for the rest of the country. Children of all backgrounds need better school experiences. I can't believe Obama ended the voucher program in DC. I think Romney is serious about energy independence - something promised by Jimmy Carter. Energy independence will take away a lot of the incentives to meddle around the world. There are a lot more reasons, but I'll let others chime in. (And I don't think he'll lift a finger to doing anything that would change Roe v Wade. He certainly didn't as governor.)

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    3. Cynthia, sorry if this took the conversation off track, but I've been getting the "How could any woman vote for Romney" all day. Feel free to delete.

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    4. don't worry about that samanthasmom----I've been getting those as well. Must be the blogging group at the DNC.

      You bring up a good point about women however. I think that when the economy picks up women will be more able to pick themselves up. Things are just a little scary at the moment.

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    5. Again samanthasmom - you are the voice in my head.

      Albright didn't diminish my opinion of Romney or the women who might vote for him - she only diminished my opinion of her - and that is an unnecessary shame. If all of these people are so curious why women would vote for Romney how about asking some? I find this overly theatrical "Oh dear - I can't imagine what KIND of WOMAN could pooosibly vote for ROMNEY..." both offensive and boring. Yes we're all morons whose husbands tell us who to vote for and we are all part of the pro-life brigade who want poor people to starve, women to stay home and be pregnant, and children to have no shoes - or whatever. Great - now can we all just be left alone?

      Either ask us why and then let's have an honest discussion or if you aren't really interested at all because you are just trying to bully and shame us - at least quit speaking FOR us.

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    6. good point Thia. I guess that I hadn't thought about the thought police at work today on behalf of our brains from the DNC. As samanthasmom referenced, we've been getting those kinds of comments today too on exactly why would women vote for Romney. As noted, my piece wasn't even about who to vote for. Anyone can vote for whoever they want. My piece was about feminism and its future. Must be because I put Romney in one of the labels that I'm getting that kind of traffic. And they are all cowardly anonymice. Can't even tell us who they are.

      This so reminds me of the wicked tongues at work in 2008 who raked us over the coals for daring to mention the rampant sexism and how DARE we use that as a rationale to not vote for Obama.

      They sounded stupid then and they sound even stupider now. It is entirely sexist imho to ask us to be as blind as they are to the vile sexism coming from their end of the party. Sorry folks, but I'm not going to be your bitch on this subject.

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  8. With respect, Cynthia, I'd like to suggest that your deconstruction misses the main thrust of the feminist argument. Yes, reproductive rights are hugely important to many women (and men). Yes, court and cabinet appointments matter. Yes, the Paycheck Fairness Act will remain a litmus test, at least until the day a modern Republican woman shows the courage that Charlotte Reid (R-IL), Florence Dwyer (R-NJ), Katharine St. George (R-NY), Frances Bolton (R-OH), and Catherine Dean May (R-WA) showed in 1963. (Trivia question: what recent cabinet secretary crossed party lines to vote for Kennedy's Pay Equity Act? Donald Rumsfeld, freshman congressman from Illinois!) Fine, some women in office put party loyalty above feminist principle, but then why shouldn't women in the voting booth follow their example and vote them out?

    But, as I said, all this is the small stuff. The crushing feminist argument can be phrased as a familiar question, and for a landslide of American women it has a pretty simple answer.

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    1. here we go again Josh----micro (you) macro (me). Not saying one is better than the other, but they are two different arguments.

      women deserve their rightful place at the table. You are right about one thing and that is that women are a big part of the problem.

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    2. Very true. Reproductive rights are also important to men. Men don't want to be saddled with supporting children they never wanted with women they hardly know. So I don't believe that the men who run government will actually make abortion or birth control illegal, that would be inconvenient for THEM since we know it is a challenge for political men to keep their pants zipped.

      Reproductive rights is still important and I give money to both Planned Parenthood and NARAL. But currently the reproductive rights problem has been solved to my satisfaction. Equal participation in government, media images of women and women's ownership of media, equal pay for equal work, equal job opportunity, equal educational opportunity, equal access to relevant health care are all more pressing women's issues.

      I also agree the manipulative, shaming, mocking DNC forces have been reactivated and I also find that transparent and disgusting.

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  9. Imo, the reason that "choice" and govt-funded abortion is the only plank that the Dems actually support (beyond lip-service) is because it's the one that is really convenient for men.
    Historically the communist movement (where the Dems seems headed more and more) have always considered it the woman's duty to be sexually available for the male members of the party.

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    1. votermom----your POV is one that is conveniently forgotten. This position allows men to be the good guys. Not all men are like that, but enough of them are that you make a difficult, radioactive, but valid point.

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    2. Definitely not all men are like that.
      But having abortion easily available, as well as contraception (not all of which prevent stds) make it that much harder for young women to resist being casual-sex providers for men. Young women today are more objectified than ever because of the "hook-up" culture or whatever it's called.

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  10. I think Romney has a chance this time. He is truly a moderate, not a conservative; his policies would improve education for women, minorities, all Americans. His business ideas would be a true benefit for AA's, Hisps, and women as well as white males in business start ups etc. I also do not think minorities are afraid of him being president because he is a moderate. They may not have the motivation in this election that they had in the last one; especially since history isn't being made. But I also think much the same will happen if Obama wins too. That's because Presidents don't build economies; the may set business environments that assist or hinder but they do not build economies, We do. We build that!

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