Msnowe's Blog

How I Learned First Hand (literally) What Biden Should Not Do Tonight.

Posted in Biden, Debates, Palin by m.snowe on October 2, 2008

So last night, at a not so unreasonable hour, M.Snowe got on the subway at Union Square. Settling in to the normal routine of zoning out and ignoring those sitting around me as well as those who walked into the train with me, I failed to notice as someone attempted to get my attention walking through the subway doors. When he sat down next to me, I finally realized, it was a former coworker. He had moved to a different department and therefore a different floor of our building, so naturally, he was dead to me, aside from the occasional morning or afternoon sighting by the entrance to our building. What I could tell you about this man was that when I was working with him, he was intelligent and always on top of his work. While a hint of condescension was always distinguishable in him, it was never so much a bother for me not to respect and appreciate the work he did, which was thorough and on point. He is a middle-aged gentleman, with a mostly bald head and the slightest tuft of hair on either side, and he wore glasses. He might serve as a stand in for a Biden-like figure in terms of build.

He inquired how I was, and I asked the same of him. He then went on to tell me that “You probably don’t know this, but I was fired from_____________. ” Well, this certainly hadn’t reached our floor, because as in most cases, the juicy gossip was too diluted by the time it traveled up the elevator to us. When he observed the raised eyebrows in response, he continued, explaining that his boss had either left or been pushed out of the company, and he was summarily told, without rhyme or reason, that his position was no longer needed. He stressed that they gave him no reason or justification for his termination. At this point, M.Snowe was disheartened and generally felt bad for the poor treatment Mr. Ex-Coworker had received, rather unfairly, from the looks of it. But something didn’t sit right. When Mr. Ex-Co extended his greetings, he had said, “well, what are you doing down here at this hour?” as if it had been 1AM instead of just 9 or 10PM. But that was nothing out of the norm, for sure. But Mr.Ex-Co was much more relaxed-looking than I remembered him, perhaps because he no longer had to present himself as a professional acquaintance. He said some other things that didn’t make the stale subway air any more breathable. But then, as he got up to go when we reached his stop, he rose and wished me the best, and I him. I was wearing a skirt, one that I had worn to work, which was professional and cut just above the knee, leaving just the knee plus a little bit more leg exposed while sitting on the train. As Mr. Ex-Co got up from the adjacent seat, he patted my leg with his hand, intentionally, and for a time period far too long for comfort. Keep in mind at work we were not close and I can’t remember any time when he even shook my hand. At that point, all the respect, all the sorry feelings Mr. Ex-Co had been carefully cultivating were thrown out the train simultaneously as he exited. M.Snowe began to wonder if sometimes, the professional setting we’ve created is just a clever ruse that makes people think sexual condescension no longer exists, or only in extreme cases. Just because people behave themselves, doesn’t mean the environment is completely free from bias and harassment.

Maybe (or even probably), M.Snowe is making way too much of a simple pat on the knee, but it was exacerbated by the fact that it was exposed skin, not trousers he touched, and for far too long. Maybe all that Catholic school education has gotten back at M.Snowe by making her too much of a prude while she simultaneously rejected the general idea of organized religion….who knows. But one thing is certain: a lesson can be learned, first hand if you will, from this that will help Joe Biden tonight… so listen up Mr. Biden: despite the fact that you are intelligent, qualified, etc., don’t condescend, and don’t appear sexist. Because as soon as you do that, even if it’s completely unintentional, people will forget all of the good work you may have done. You can unmake years of hard work with a swipe of the knee, or pat on the head. Don’t forget how idiotic Bush Sr. looked when he tried to “teach” Geraldine Ferraro about foreign policy in their debate, and how the crowd cheered her when she called him out on it. Senator Biden: be charismatic as you can, be strong and fight for your points when you can, but don’t imply that Palin is dumb (even though she might be) and don’t imply that you can teach her something (although you probably could). Also, don’t ever, under any circumstances, talk or gesture to appearances. Like any good debater knows, once you hit the physical realm, you no longer have the power to make good theoretical arguments. Stick with theory, avoid physicality–because in theory, we’re all created equal. It’s when you come down to earth, you realize we’re definitely not treated that way.

got problems with the election? : thatsyourtrouble weighs in

Posted in Barack Obama, John McCain, Palin, thatsyourtrouble by m.snowe on September 12, 2008

M.Snowe would like to share some very astute summations (below in blue) from her coworker/friend, thatsyourtrouble. This was birthed from a lively email debate…

Sorry for the ramblings below, but your blog helped to crystallize some of my thinking here:

Even I was a bit surprised that some have actually been using the term “catfight” to describe Clinton/Palin disputes that are not even occurring. I tried to measure this with my sexismometer, but all of a sudden it seemed to be broken.

The gender politics angle of the Palin nomination is very interesting. It is of course the duty of those on the left to defend her from sexist attacks but to oppose her on the content of the McCain platform (or her own opinions on the issues, if we find out more about what those are).

But what are we to think about her instant popularity among many conservatives and independents? We should not assume that a male candidate could not have attracted the same enormous support, but regardless of whether her gender is an essential component, her own unusual and particular identity is the key.

Her story as a regular person who has achieved tremendous success without the elitist taint of Ivy League education is a large positive factor in the populist tradition. Furthermore, the story of her own life as a woman and mother who has lived her pro-life principles is extremely validating for “values” conservatives of both genders. Conservative and apolitical women will support her fervently because they can stand up for women by doing so. They may even identify as pro-life feminists, but Palin has none of the “negatives” that traditionally accompany feminism in the conservative mind. Her feminism consists in her ability to accomplish anything she tries to achieve (and to do so while raising a family). Thus they agree with her stand against the old-boy network and her ability to break the glass ceiling. She does not embody a challenge to any “traditional” values, and her somewhat unusual (and yet still traditional) relationship with her husband is extremely reassuring in that it shows that she has no fundamentally “anti-man” views that most conservatives associate with feminism. Furthermore, her pro-life credentials obviously cannot be doubted. I would argue that her physical attractiveness is also extremely important. The Rush Limbaugh conservatives truly believe that feminists (feminazis) turn to this ideology in part because they themselves are physically (and thus spiritually, one suspects they believe) ugly, and I suspect that Palin’s physical attractiveness (and youth) are as important to mobilizing enthusiastic support in both men and women as a child star’s cuteness is to eliciting sympathy from a movie audience. I think that even in this allegedly more enlightened age, the attractiveness/likeability connection continues to be as huge a factor in politics as in life. Kay Bailey Hutchison would not have elicited enthusiasm, partly because she is not new to the scene and a rising star, but also because her physical appearance makes her less likely to be liked. The same can apply to male politicians, I’d say, though the bar is set far lower and the effect is probably much smaller.

So in the end Palin is an instant hero(ine) to female voters because of her impressive personal accomplishments while also validating the views of conservative women and (perhaps especially) conservative men. At the same time she also claims the status of a maverick; her maverick status and McCain’s probably reinforce each other in increasingly positive ways. Furthermore, she is threatening only to “old boy network” male politicians, and men and women alike will generally cheer the success of anyone (especially someone who is as instantly charming as Ms. Palin) who has unseated the undeserving establishment (of which the old boy network is an example).

The backstory of the Democrats and the fate of Hillary Clinton helps further, because Republicans and independents can feel that they are standing up for women while the Democrats dissed them. Furthermore, Palin’s place on the ticket allows Republicans and independents to be enthusiastic about an historic candidacy of their own—ground that was formerly necessarily ceded to the Obama people. This eliminates the enthusiasm gap, and, for any Republicans or independents who think about race, it probably wipes away any race-related guilt.

Of course, there are some wonkier conservative voters out there who will worry about Palin’s lack of experience, but comparison to Obama’s lack of experience makes this easier to overlook. Some will also see the pick of Palin as a cynical ploy, but the feel-good story seems to be winning the day. It’s still possible that external events could knock Palin from her current popularity, but unless that happens, I think this gives the Republicans an advantage that the Dems will not be able to overcome.

Metaphors for Stagnation (not change)

Posted in Palin, sexist metaphors, women by m.snowe on September 9, 2008
This morning M.Snowe decided to flip through some network news programs (against her better morning judgment that usually dictates sticking to the ipod). The stories on all three major networks (as if you would even consider FOX part of the repertoire!) were extremely Palin-centric. This was to be expected with the current hype, and was part of the reason it was turned to in the first place. Despite all the reading, M.Snowe was looking for some television news stories–to see how they were covering it all.

There’s nothing like that unedited commentary you sometimes get in the morning from precaffeinated television pundits. The stories are always hokey, and this morning was no disappointment–the reporting centered on the projected bump in women supporters for the McCain/Palin ticket–a jump of 20% among white women voters. This seems astronomically high, but let’s just pretend it’s true. Also, it was surmised that this bump was solely due to the addition of Palin to the ticket (although historically, after a convention, the polls get a natural bump, and we’re not talking about Palin’s daughter’s new baby bump here, either).

Then, the accompanying story focused on Clinton’s response to the Palin pick (because you always have to check what each of those bitches is saying behind the back of the other)–and more than one pundit or newscaster had this comment to make: That Clinton was viewed as not being tough enough on Palin. In other words, they blamed Clinton for not attacking Palin more fiercely and personally, and said that her inability to attack Palin was lingering luke warm sentiments for Obama, a.k.a. bitterness of her own failed campaign–a wily attempt to intentionally disrupt his campaign.

Somehow, the campaign has shifted from focus on McCain and Obama to Palin and whomever looks like the best democratic stand-in, be it Clinton (either one of them) or Biden, or someone else to hit the scene. And this can’t be blamed completely on the media–people have had months, even years of analyzing McCain and Obama. They’re looking for new material–and boy have they found some. This might be perfectly benign, but the force with which the media coverage has become misogynistic, or at the very least rice-paper-thinly-veiled sexist is downright distressing, and anger-inducing.

Example: When multiple newscasters/pundits described the relative quiet of Clinton on the topic of Palin’s controversy, one phrase was commonly shared amongst the new stations. Each interviewee said that if the two criticized each other, it would be a “cat fight.” When men like Obama and McCain bicker over policy, it is a “political debate,” or at worst maybe a “mudslinging.” A normal cat fight, in the literal sense, is two cats shrieking at the top of their lungs and alternately backing away and scratching at each other. No real damage is usually done, and no real winner takes the spoils–all is for naught, and the cats stalk away to fight another day, with all the people in earshot mildly annoyed by the raucous. They barely raise a paw, compared to being mauled by a bear, or bitten by a shark (or a “barracuda”). Although the accusations of Clinton’s indifference or purposeful avoidance of attack are ridiculous, this characterization also implies that a fight between the two, if initiated, would be irrelevant. Also, M.Snowe hates to have to point out the obvious, but the pundits, in their use of “cat fight” are, at the very surface, making sure that the audience remembers these two political figures do indeed have pussies. When was the last time you heard an Obama/McCain argument escalate into what the pundits labeled a “cock fight?Hmm. Thought so. No one ever accused McCain of wanting to scratch someones eyes out, but that’s where we are now.

Also, from the most recent New Yorker, we get statements like this from people at the Republican National Convention:

A republican delegate “had been wearing a pin that said “Catholics for McCain,” but swapped it for one that said “Hottest VP from the Coolest State.”

“She’s tremendous. I’m gonna scream, ‘Marry me,’ if I can just get up the nerve.”

Juxtapose these statements with the ones Clinton received during her campaign, like the signs that said “Iron my Shirt.”
Both types of messages are the same: We are not comfortable with where you are politically, so let’s bring the debate down to the level we can handle: either critique your body, your supposed lack of femininity, or abundance of it. One scholar of gender and racial studies said that your subjection can be measured by a simple mirror test. When you look in the mirror in the morning, how do you identify yourself? If you just see you, or see yourself as a human being–then you are relatively unaware of social class and racial bias. But if you identify a race, or class or sex with your image, it is that constant acknowledgement of difference that follows you throughout the day, and is reinforced by the people and social practices/behavior taking place all around you. It’s a sad but true statement that women (similar to other races and sexual orientations), when they look in the mirror, are constantly reminded they are women first and people, second.