Saturday, November 8, 2014

Good for Women or Good for Feminism

An old saying has it that pain focuses the mind. To which someone once responded that, indeed, pain does focus the mind… on pain.

One recalls that Freud, when suffering from cancer of the jaw, famously refused pain medication because he believed that it would muddle his thinking.

Meantime, trauma does not focus the human mind any more than does pain. Some few people do draw lessons from trauma. Others, faced with failure, choose to double down.

First in the latter group is obviously Paul Krugman, a man who cannot understand how the American electorate did not vote the way he wanted them to vote last Tuesday.

To Krugman’s subtle mind the people who cast votes in the election were simply wrong. It’s good to be so confident in the correctness of your opinion that you can disregard the verdict of a democratic election.

Normally, success breeds respect. For Krugman success that does not look the way he wants it to look breeds contempt.

Among the stories we will follow in ensuing months, we will want to see whether victorious Republicans will be more respected in the media and among the intelligentsia. Most people respect success. No one flocks to failure. It will be interesting to watch.

In one corner of the American left feminists are wondering whether the election was good for women. Surely, it was not good for feminists. Michelle Nunn, Allison Grimes, Kay Hagan, Wendy Davis, Martha Coakley… even Sandra Fluke lost. (Tell me that the Fluke loss did not brighten your day!) Now Mary Landrieu is about to go down to defeat also.

The Wendy Davis debacle in Texas was clearly the most prominent example of ideological overreach. Texas Democrats chose to run a candidate whose claim to fame was a pro-abortion filibuster. Perhaps they imagined that all women are feminist zealots, concerned only about one issue. They might have believed that the formula had worked around the country in 2012 and thus would continue to work.

Apparently, they went to the well once too often.

Last Tuesday was the day that the war on women trope ceased to work. I think it fair to say that Hillary had a very bad day. Not only did Hillary campaign for these candidates, but they were all, in one way or another mini Hillarys.

As for the prominent women who won, they are decidedly not feminists. For some feminists this is very bad news indeed. In their mind what’s good for feminism is good for women. In their minds, a woman who is pro-life or even who wants restrictions on abortion access is anti-woman.

Jessica Grose draws a different and more reasonable conclusion. She begins by calling out one feminist who refused to see reality:

A headline on the Cut announces that the midterm election results were “Bad News for Women.” Under it, Ann Friedman argues that even though there were several “prominent victories” for Republican women this week—including combat veteran and hog castrator Joni Ernst in Iowa, black Mormon Mia Love in Utah, and youngest woman to ever be elected to Congress Elise Stefanik in New York—because they do not support abortion rights and are pro-gun, that means their wins are not a boon for women.

In begging to disagree, Grose points out that the feminist approach is narrow-minded to the point of demeaning and diminishing women. Who knew?

In her words:

It should be obvious, but “women”—half the population—are not a uniform voting block with uniform ideas about what is best for them. Though Friedman claims that Ernst was “a woman candidate whom most women voted against,” NBC’s Iowa exit poll shows that’s just not the case: Ernst and her opponent Bruce Braley split the female vote evenly, 49 to 49 percent. Though I personally find Ernst’s far right views terrifying (she believes in fetal personhood and wants to abolish the EPA and the Department of Education), “women” in Iowa do not agree with me, and she’s their representative, not mine.

Fair enough, Grose is labeling Ernst an extremist. And yet, these are still welcome words. Grose is respecting the Iowa voters, especially the female voters who disagree with her. This is vitally important.

Considering the extent to which political parties tend to demonize the opposition, to believe that those who do not agree are subhuman, a gesture of respect matters enormously. Honorable people may disagree without being shunned and slandered.

Without the ability to respect different opinions the marketplace of ideas will cease to function and democratic deliberation will become impossible.

Grose puts the debate in perspective. In so doing she rescues the reputation of women from the feminist juggernaut. She views women as complex human beings who might reasonably disagree, not as one-issue ideological zealots.

She writes:

… though the right to choose is incredibly important to people like me and Ann Friedman, it’s not as important to a good portion of the female electorate. And even women who do care deeply about reproductive rights don’t necessarily like being treated as one-issue voters. 

To buttress her point, she adds two anecdotes:

After the election, a woman I think of as a deeply feminist Colorado resident—she has devoted her life to fighting sexual assault—posted on Facebook that she was glad to see Democratic Sen. Mark Udall lose his race. “The ads angered me,” she wrote of Udall’s TV commercials like “Backwards,” which focused on women’s access to abortion and contraception. “As a woman, all I care about is my private parts? I have nothing else on my mind, like, I don't know, everything else?” Another woman who voted against Udall, who is a self-declared feminist and fan of Gloria Steinem, told CNN, “I want grandkids. I want security. I don't want to worry about paying the bills…[Udall is] pandering on the choice issue, trying to scare women. I don't scare anymore. I'm beyond that.”  

It’s good to see women winning back their self-respect by rejecting the feminist caricature of womanhood.

As for Colorado, some reports have it that Udall did even better among unmarried women than did President Obama in 2012. To know how significant that is, we would also want to know how many single women turned out to vote and how many married women did the same.

You may or may not agree with Grose on the issues she holds to be politically important. But surely we can all agree that her reaction to the election results is intelligent and sensible, a giant step in the right direction, vastly superior to the reaction of those who have chosen to double down on failure.


Ares Olympus said...

I would say success in politics is the least of successes at least in terms of deserving it, that is to say, the majority may or may not have good sense, but in regards to respect, I agree, politics is about winners and losers, whether by skill or fate, and winners have earned the right to test their ideas, and losers have earned a right to a minority report before surrendering.

To me the real trouble for the democrats is whether they ought to follow the tradition of the republicans after Obama was elected in 2008, like saying their number one goal was to make Obama a one term president, and so block anything that he supports, and this strategy has worked.

And who knows, maybe Democrats tried the same thing on G.W. Bush, so its all just good old fashioned revenge, and each side has their rationalization why what they do is okay, because the other side does it more. And that's how we got here, with a polarized congress that can't agree on anything except to do nothing.

Joni Ernst's calling to abolish the EPA is a good case in point. On the one hand, if an agency is in crazy over-reach, it makes sense to place some congressional mandates that can limit the scope of their activities, but abolishing the EPA is a sort of "total war" that says eliminate anything you don't like, because you can. Maybe it's just rhetoric, just sounds macho or whatever women need to sound like to compete with men, not intended to be literal?

But the thing is besides cowtowing to the Coal industry and their divine right to pollute at no cost, there could be room for compromise, EXCEPT for the fact that refusing to compromise is what allowed the republicans to sabotoge Obama and blame his ineffectiveness as a reason for their deserving power.

So far the only article I've seen is this one, pre-election.

I'm all for the Republicans putting the pressure on limiting the EPA, but if the EPA's actions are in part based on legitimate goals, then the republicans should offer their own legislative solutions to reduce our need to burn vast quantities of coal for our economic survival.

Are the republicans up for Nuclear power? I tend to think if we want civilization in 50 years, we'd better make use of nuclear power, and hope eventually renewables can close the gaps in cost and quantity.

There are many reasons that a little hating on coal is a good thing, and CO2 might be the least of them.

Sam L. said...

"To Krugman’s subtle mind the people who cast votes in the election were simply wrong." Paullie "The Beard" Krugman is channeling his inner Thomas (I'm Not From Kansas) Frank.

"Among the stories we will follow in ensuing months, we will want to see whether victorious Republicans will be more respected in the media and among the intelligentsia." Won't see that. Not gonna happen. They HATE GOPers.

"In one corner of the American left feminists are wondering whether the election was good for women." I'm pretty sure they think not--because they are the women they care about. The rest are apostates, anti-feminists, traitors to their sex.

Grose essentially says/agrees that women are much more than their vaginas. I'm guessing she will be blackballed at the next meeting of The Feminists.

Sam L. said...

One of the troubles with government agencies is that they are conceived to solve one problem. If they solve it, they are without a mission, so they find something else to solve. And another. This is why the agencies grow.

Anybody out there read "The Weed Agency", by Jim Gerraghty? I recommend it.

Ares Olympus said...

Sam L, I think you need to distinguish between problems and predicements. Problems are solved, predicaments can't be solved once and for all, and so can only be managed.

Hunger is a predicament, crime is a predicament, education is a predicament, storing nuclear waste for 10,000 years is a problem, but I suppose that's a predicament too, since our radioactive waste will outlast civilization so far by a factor of 2.

I accept that capitalism doesn't see problems or predicaments, but opportunities to make tons of money, if only citizens can be properly reduced to think like consumers.

Dennis said...

I wonder if feminists ever wonder why few women win elections and a significant number of those who do are not the kinds of women the feminists insist they become? I see and hear that women are over half of the population, but a small minority of those elected. Did you ever wonder why?
I suspect for the feminists it is an example of bigotry, but the bigotry is in their own thinking. How can one believe that voting for someone just because they don't have a penis is the ultimate in discrimination. Consider the fact that this emphasis on only women's issues is in itself the reason women lose a lot.
When one runs for office their hope is to be the representatives of their constituencies which I would suggest encompasses men, women, minorities, various people at differing levels of economic standing, et al. Their constituency is much larger that just women, who are not a group that has some predefined characteristics or those predefined categories that Leftist seemed to want all of us to fit in.. Becoming a women's advocate, after voters begin to think about the issues that affect their lives, does not bode well for equal representation. This in itself is why a lot of Leftist women, outside "blue states" lose.
I would posit that once women figure out that they are responsible for representing all their constituencies, including men, they will do a lot better as candidates. Free birth control pills may excite young women voters, but does noting for those who have to pay for them and the many women who no longer need them. The same is true for much of the feminists wish list/demands.
It used to be said that women think and act locally and men think and act globally. If one wants to change that then one is going to have to think outside that very limited "box" that feminism entails.
Yes, as a male I voted for women, but only those who have shown the wherewithal to represent me and in the long run isn't this what a representative government is supposed to be for its citizens.

Sam L. said...

Ares, I'm not understanding your comment.

Ares Olympus said...

Sam L, you said: One of the troubles with government agencies is that they are conceived to solve one problem. If they solve it, they are without a mission, so they find something else to solve. And another. This is why the agencies grow.

This analysis presumes all classes of problems are solveable just once and its done.

Maybe it would help if you offered a specific case. What sorts of agency has a single mission that can be solved?

I would agree "mission creep" is a problem in all organizations and institutions, like public schools expanding to full day kindergarten, pretending its to help the kids, while more realistically it's just there as a daycare for working parents.