Fairy-tale politics

If you missed the talk on politics and fiction that Rick Kleffel, Karen Joy Fowler, and I did on local KUSP radio last month, here’s the link.

And because it’s politics time in the U. S. of A., here’s a superb essay by Rebecca Solnit (thanks to Ron Hogan at Galleycat) on the whole man/woman thing, addressing the problem of Men Who Explain.

Solnit doesn’t mention la Palin in her essay, written when The Bespectacled One was still just a governor dressed in Walmart clothes, but I was struck by the interesting reverse of this Men Who Explain dynamic in an NBC interview with the Palin/McCain duo, when McCain literally sat back and let her blather on.

Perhaps I should have been pleased with this demonstration of how a presidential candidate trusts a woman to be his spokesperson, allowing her to become a Woman Who Explains. However, it did not look to me like a partnership, where McCain was actually interested in what she had to say. It looked like a man showing off his clever daughter—or his trained pet.

Palin side-stepped being labeled a “feminist” in that particular interview, claiming she didn’t like labels (although she seems willing enough to slap them on others.) But feminism isn’t just about the right to equal pay. It’s about the right to equal respect. It’s about a fairy-tale time when a woman like Solnit can feel free to light into a pompous ass. It’s about a time when there’s a woman standing on the podium who doesn’t terrify me when I think of her in the job of chief executive.

I was never much of a supporter of Hilary Clinton, who is too slick a politician for my taste, but by God, it didn’t scare me silly to think of her in charge of my childrens’ future.

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  1. LaideeMarjorie on October 28, 2008 at 11:12 am

    I am a feminist and a human being-ist and the choice of Palin as the possible next-in-line to the Leader of the Free World has set us all back further than I can express.

    It’s a damn shame.

    May we all wake up on Wednesday morning next to voices raised harmoniously in the words “President Obama”.


  2. Strawberry Curls on October 28, 2008 at 3:24 pm

    “It looked like a man showing off his clever daughter—or his trained pet.”

    This quote truly cracked my up as it nailed exactly my feelings about the whole thing, and says it so much better than I could ever have managed.

    “It’s about a time when there’s a woman standing on the podium who doesn’t terrify me when I think of her in the job of chief executive.”


    “I was never much of a supporter of Hilary Clinton, who is too slick a politician for my taste, but by God, it didn’t scare me silly to think of her in charge of my childrens’ future.”

    I did support Hilary and for that exact reason. She could lead, she knew how to work the Washington system (think LBJ) and something might have gotten done under her leadership.


  3. rielphaek on October 29, 2008 at 6:51 am

    Well that’s too much politics fer me. I’ll just check back after the election.
    Unless anyone wants to discourse about religion, which is the one true faith?

  4. Jessara on October 29, 2008 at 7:12 am

    John Cleese says she’s a parrot. He says a great deal more about her, devastatingly.


  5. Bett Norris on October 29, 2008 at 2:48 pm

    That was a refreshing essay by Rebecca Solnit. I am sure almost everyone can add a personal anecdote. Here is mine.

    My first novel is set in the Deep South during the decades of the civil rights movement, and concerns two women and their own involvement with it. It is essentially a love story, a romance, set against this backdrop. The love story happens to be a relationship between the two women.

    A Man at work, who is prone to just such pontifications and pronouncements as set forth in the Solnit essay, made a remark about how I might think that this book wouldn’t sell in Red States. It did, and does, and that remark is so insulting to many conservatives who have no problem embracing the concept of civil rights and universal enfranchisement and even the idea that love may indeed exist between two women.

    Later, after the book had begun to sell, in fact after I had received my first royalty check, this Man Who Pontificates asked me why I thought I could write a book about history. I am sure my mouth fell open. I recovered enough to say, a degree in history and political science helped, but writing fiction requires a certain amount of talent aside from research skills. MWP let his mouth hang open for a moment, and strolled away.

    Let me say I did not enjoy that moment. It made me angry. I did not feel any satisfaction at having given him some room for thought. I just felt low, and mad, and wondered when I will ever stop feeling like that when these things happen.

    Bett Norris

  6. Merrily45 on October 29, 2008 at 2:56 pm

    One of my experiences along these lines – of course I’ve had several – was when I was in charge of the move from our old library building into the new one. One day when I was walking along with a male colleague, I bumped into the fellow from the moving company, who looked at my male friend and asked, “How many elevators are there in the new building?” My friend said, “Ask Merrily, she knows much more about the building then I do.”
    I piped up and said, “There are three, three public elevators and a freight elevator.” At this point the mover turned back to my friend and said, “so how many elevators are there in the new building?”
    I was sorry tempted to say “What, you think a female can’t count elevators?”
    I still wish I had. Merrily

  7. Kerry on October 29, 2008 at 3:32 pm

    Thanks for the link to a fascinating essay. My personal not-favorite Men Who Lecture incidents are those in my department involving senior men explaining, with all due seriousness and at great length, how there is no sexism in our department, and how our ratio of 4 women to 25 men is simply a random event.

    Sure. Uh huh.

    Please, please, please, let me wake up in a week not feeling I need to move to Canada . . .

  8. mspeed44 on October 29, 2008 at 9:21 pm

    AMEN, Sisters! Who in their right mind thinks Palin is a leader? Thanks for the link and for letting some of us in the outer regions know we have soul sisters, kindred spirits out there!!

  9. Cleone on October 30, 2008 at 12:08 am

    I am really disappointed when people whose work I admire and respect make postings like this one. Sorry, Laurie, I love your books but this just sounds mean-spirited. “Bespectacled One?” “Blather on?” The woman is governor of the largest state in the union, and has more executive experience than the presidential candidate on the other side, or didn’t you notice? You may not like her politics, but she deserves to be treated with courtesy. I wouldn’t dream of calling Barack Obama names, even though I am not going to vote for him and I disagree vehemently with his politics. I was too well brought up, I guess.

    mspeed44, I am in my right mind. I think Sarah Palin is a leader. Does she have growing to do? Sure she does. No one is saying otherwise. But I admire the heck out the way she has handled herself through this whole mess, and I think she’s a quick learner. Should something happen to Senator McCain, I believe she’d do just fine.

    Now let’s see if a dissenting view gets approved here. I’m betting it won’t. I hope I’m wrong.

  10. azdolphin on October 30, 2008 at 7:45 am

    As Bett suggested, here’s another anecdote… Several years ago, a friend of mine had moved. She needed some additional items to set up her television, stereo, and VCR (okay, at least a few years ago!). She went to Radio Shack, where, of course, we all learned is where you go when you need to do these things. After being treated as “less than” for about 15 minutes, she finally blurted out, “What is the problem? Do you need a penis to shop in this store?” One of those lines you just need to hold dear to your heart.

  11. LaideeMarjorie on October 30, 2008 at 9:54 am

    Cleone Says:

    “Now let’s see if a dissenting view gets approved here. I’m betting it won’t. I hope I’m wrong.”

    Oh, now you see, it’s one thing to agree or disagree around here, but one should never think that Laurie wouldn’t be willing to hear another opinion. After all, she has the respond option set to ON on her blog. I think Laurie is a person of strong opinions and, whether I agree or disagree with her, I admire her confidence in expressing them as well as in her listening to others.


  12. 2maple on October 30, 2008 at 10:40 am

    Cleone….my opinons are are a lot closer to yours than not 🙂

    My disagreements tend to be on some of the social issues…but economy rules these days… but I have been rather shocked at how the press has taken the classic legal trial tactic if you don’t like or can’t attak the message, then attack the messanger…with a vengence. ( interesting that my daughter’s hjunior high school class seminar on the election started out with analyzing bias in the media…)

    Can someone educate me (without being flayed alive here, please) why all femanists have to think the same way on everything…what happened to the idea of just being able to be what you want to be? … and if that’s a job or career being able to be valued the same? Am i missing something…or is it that her idea of what she wants to be isn’t yours (which is OK), so that’s not being a feminist (which to me doesn’t make sense)?

    OK…I will duck and wait.

  13. vicki on October 30, 2008 at 7:25 pm

    I’m mostly staying out of politics this year because I have a lot of non-political things on my plate right now–and I’m not exactly out-of-my-mind happy about *any* of the choices. But I’m enjoying some very good writing and expression of thought here, and that’s something I can appreciate even when I don’t ultimately agree with every thought expressed. 🙂

  14. Laraine on October 30, 2008 at 11:19 pm

    I am basically tired of a political environment in which people do not look at truth because they are so busy being partisan. The truth about Sarah Palin’s behavior has been that she violated Alaskan law and ethical principles, has used ridicule and vague generalities, partisan buzzwords and outright slander rather than voicing any sort of dignified and forward-looking leadership. Whether I was a Republican or a Democrat or an independent or a citizen of Mars, I would hope to have sufficient honesty to take a hard look at an individual’s behavior and know that how they act when campaigning is how they’re likely to keep acting in office. I deeply dislike that we’ve become so divided in the culture wars that Ms. Palin so clearly enjoys, that we’ve had eight years of George Bush, who won by employing the same tactics Ms. Palin is using, and yet so many women who abhor what has happened to our country in the last eight years are willing to embrace a bully in a skirt using the same tactics on the same trajectory.

  15. Cleone on October 31, 2008 at 12:32 am

    When I composed my post yesterday, I was more than a little hot. It wasn’t long after I hit the “submit comment” button that I regretted my last paragraph. Laurie, I hope you will forgive me for being snarky about your willingness to be criticized. As I said last night, my mama raised me better.

    Laraine, you said: “I am basically tired of a political environment in which people do not look at truth because they are so busy being partisan.”

    You and me, both. What I find ironic in your comment is the fact that you clearly do not see yourself as partisan. Yet in the very next sentence you say: “The truth about Sarah Palin’s behavior has been that she violated Alaskan law and ethical principles…” Really? What Alaskan law has she been convicted of violating? I am not aware of any. What ethical principles? Surely you know that an allegation or accusation is not proof. Senator Obama has been accused of many things, as well, and not all those things are true, either. Sadly, I believe some of them are, but you will not find me saying something is factually true when there is no hard evidence to support it. And I will repeat here – an allegation is not proof and thus is not necessarily true.

    Further, you say: “I would hope to have sufficient honesty to take a hard look at an individual’s behavior and know that how they act when campaigning is how they’re likely to keep acting in office.”

    Sigh. I started and deleted a reply to this a couple of times, but ultimately, it’s going to boil down to “Palin said, Obama said” and neither of us will change the other. Suffice it to say that Senator Obama’s behavior not only during the campaign but also during his public life convinces me I would prefer he not be my president. And when I compare the characters of the two presidential candidates, there is, to my mind, no contest.

    I strive very hard to be honest with myself about my biases. Am I always successful? Probably not, but at least I know I have them.

  16. Kerry on October 31, 2008 at 9:46 am

    From MSNBC.com, 10/11/08 (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/27105917/)

    “ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Sarah Palin unlawfully abused her power as governor by trying to have her former brother-in-law fired as a state trooper, the chief investigator of an Alaska legislative panel concluded Friday. The politically charged inquiry imperiled her reputation as a reformer on John McCain’s Republican ticket.

    Investigator Stephen Branchflower, in a report to a bipartisan panel that looked into the matter, found Palin in violation of a state ethics law that prohibits public officials from using their office for personal gain.” Further, the article reports (to be fair to all sides) . . .

    “Branchflower said Palin violated a statute of the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act. Lawmakers don’t have the authority to sanction her for such a violation, and they gave no indication they would take any action against her.

    Under Alaska law, it is up to the state’s Personnel Board — which is conducting its own investigation into the matter — to decide whether Palin violated state law and, if so, must refer it to the Senate president for disciplinary action. Violations also carry a possible fine of up to $5,000.

    What has surprised me is how little play this got in the media.

    No candidate is perfect — they are human, after all. For me, though, enough critical issues divide the two sides that my own decision has been an easy one since McCain was nominated. As much as I may admire some of his qualities, he holds too many political positions with which I disagree vehemently to earn my support. Palin’s are even further from mine, so it’s truly no contest, regardless of any other considerations.

  17. Kerry on October 31, 2008 at 9:48 am

    Ooops — there should be a closed-quote at the end of “Violations also carry a possible fine of up to $5000.” Sorry about that! So she unlawfully violated a government ethics act, but may or may not have violated state law.

  18. Laraine on October 31, 2008 at 2:12 pm

    For much of my political life, I’ve worked hard to be clear-eyed and clear-minded about how I use my vote. I’ve ‘grown’ through various phases of political opinion and understanding, changed parties twice as I matured, and have on more than one occasion dropped support of a candidate as I stayed open and thoughtful and learned more about their character, record, and platform. Once or twice, a couple decades ago, when I lived in states that allowed it, I voted ‘straight ticket’, but have since eschewed this as being a lazy and uninformed way for me to vote. I now examine each candidate for each office on the ballot on their merits, to the best of my ability to do so. During this run-up to the election, I started out strongly in favor of one candidate, took a closer look and decided they didn’t have the goods to lead our country out of the morass it is in; changed my support to another candidate, who turned out not to make it to the final race. At that point, I had to take a good hard look at the two ‘finalists’, and their running mates, examining their platforms, their history, character and records, and my fears and doubts about BOTH. I suppose, as I’ve now decided who I am going to vote for, that I could be labeled ‘partisan’ . . . .

  19. 2maple on October 31, 2008 at 2:44 pm

    I dropped any party affiliation a couple of years ago when the national parties came into our small regional community of about 6,000 since the out come of that particular election would tip the balance of power in the state senate…and started sladering the opposing candidates. One happened to be a good friend with whom I had spent long hours in school committee meetings; and both were good men. The entire community knew these men and were disgusted. This is the land of town hall government where town’s are small and at hte local level, people apprectiate those who are willing to step forward to serve whatever their party. The real irony was that the election came out a dead tie…and after several rounds of re-counts wos decided on a coin toss 🙂

    Funny thing, at the national level, I am actually voting for candiates in both parties…

  20. Laraine on October 31, 2008 at 8:31 pm

    BTW, meant to say, I have found the whole discussion of ‘feminism’ in this election fascinating, and not always thrilling. I think any ‘real’ feminist (as if my definition equals real!) knows better than to say “a real feminist looks, acts, and chooses like I do.” There are gay feminists who wish to marry, and conservative feminists who would rather they don’t, but that doesn’t invalidate either’s feminist convictions. I don’t think many mature women of my acquaintance have ‘attacked’ Ms. Palin for her political ambition–many of them have voted for women leaders in various arenas and in either party–but does that mean that they HAVE to like her, or to agree with her choices re: her family? When it comes right down to it, I don’t vote for someone I like, but for the individual I feel will do the best job in the role. If I vote for ’em and also like ’em, yaaay. If I don’t and don’t, that’s my privilege, too.

  21. Cleone on November 1, 2008 at 12:43 am

    Thank you, Kerry for posting parts of that article, which I also saw and read in my local newspaper some days ago. Thank you particularly for including this line:

    “Under Alaska law, it is up to the state’s Personnel Board — which is conducting its own investigation into the matter — to decide whether Palin violated state law…”

    Which bears out my point. Those interested and who missed the original article can find it here: http://www.foxnews.com/wires/2008Oct10/0,4670,PalinTroopergate,00.html

    …and don’t worry, it’s not a Fox News article, it’s from the Associated Press. There is a lot of information there that Kerry naturally did not quote.

    I think it may certainly be possible that the Palins overstepped in this case – but if you read the entire article, you will learn that Todd Palin, particularly, was very concerned because a man who had Tasered a ten-year-old boy (his stepson, Governor Palin’s nephew – he admits doing it, so this much is true) had then made threats against Todd’s family. I bring up the Tasering incident because it tells me something about this trooper and his judgement and perhaps his temper. I think I would be quite concerned, perhaps even a bit panicky, if such a person knew where I lived, knew what my kids looked like, and made threats against them. I think I might work very hard to get this person removed from a position of power – which a state trooper certainly is – and get him away from my family.

    Please note that I have no idea if either of the Palins actually overstepped their bounds – an investigative panel that some have said is politically biased thinks so, but that in and of itself is not, to my mind, proof. But I am realistic, and know that it may be true. I know it also may not be true. I am trying to weigh all sides of the issue. But I have come to the conclusion that under the circumstances, I can forgive Todd Palin if he was, in fact, overzealous in trying to protect his family.

  22. Kerry on November 3, 2008 at 9:06 am

    The Palin situation is an interesting one. As far as I can tell, she was, in fact, convicted of violating a statute of the Executive Ethics Act; she may or may not have violated state law as well. At least, that’s my read. Either way, what has surprised me since early October is how little coverage this issue has received. I wonder if the same pattern would hold were it Biden who were being investigated?

    I think Laraine makes a great point, and I think it applies to Hilary Clinton as much as it does to Palin. We can certainly be feminists and not support all female candidates, can we not? And we can disagree with a female candidate without challenging her dedication to feminist principles, can we not? Unless, of course, she repudiates those ideals, which is certainly every woman’s right and privilege. Heck, I understand there are even (gasp) African Americans who aren’t voting for Obama.

    Where did nuance go in public debate? Or was it ever there?

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