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SEXIST BEATDOWN: Our Nation’s Greatest Boehner Edition

So! It turns out there was an election recently! And this thing: I’m told it didn’t go so well. Like, “whoops, Boehner is in charge now” levels of not-so-well. Which, you know: Life is, among other things, a process of learning that It Can Get Worse. It’s Worse now. So there you go! Lesson learned! In a way, due to all the lessons we’re learning, I think this is a positive developARRRRRRRGH NOOOOOOOO WE’RE DOOMED, DOOMED!

You guys, I think we all need to heal from Series of Bad Developments-Fest ’10. Therefore, I suggest a good old-fashioned Sexist Beatdown and/or linkdump. So that we can pick through all of this stuff and try to figure out exactly how we got here. With the lovely Amanda Hess of TBD! Join us now, as we sort through the wreckage to find shiny bits we can piece together and sell as hats on Etsy! Or, you know, GChat. Either way.

AMANDA: So I was thinking maybe we could discuss this messed-up election, and all the messed-up things that happened in it, for women?

SADY: Okay! Let’s do that! I admit, I am undereducated on the topic!

AMANDA: You are a huge Boehner scholar, as I understand.

SADY: Yes. The Nancy Pelosi, she is REPLACED WITH A BOEHNER. But, the Boehner: He is not a big fan of health care reforms. Which affects ladies, or at least that segment of us that might eventually get sick one day.

AMANDA: A pretty sizable segment of the lady population, actually!

SADY: And as I recall, he was really leading the charge on the Obama Is Going To Force Taxpayers To Get And/Or Fund Abortions Thing. [ED: First Sexist Beatdown EVER? Whoa!] He is pro-making-it-a-crime-to-harm-a-fetus, which is cutting close to the “fetal personhood” thing that somehow ends with your fetus putting you in jail.

AMANDA: And throwing away the key. Also, I have a not-irrational fear that Gawker will attempt to Prove It Is Not Sexist by aggressively mining for information about John Boehner’s, um, boehner, and the the pubic hair that may or may not reside about it.

SADY: “Dear Diary: Once I had sex with John Boehner, and he cried. Then I wanted a new bicycle so I sold this story to a blog for thousands and thousands of dollars. Oh and he had pubic hair. The End.” (I have no idea how much Dominiak — that’s right, DUSTIN DOMINIAK — got paid for his Gawker story, but I have to tell you, it gives me comfort on my long and lonely nights to think that I could just write Penthouse letters about unlikable politicians and sell them somewhere.)

AMANDA: When journalism implodes, at least we will have that. We’re going to have to get busy though.

SADY: Who wants to walk up to Bush at his memoir signing, snap a compromising picture, and write the sordid tale?

AMANDA: I mean, I think it is a victory for feminists to be able to point to something and be like, OK, so we can say definitively that ladies growing hair on their genitalia is news. Fucked up, no?

SADY: Right. 2010 has been The Year Slut-Shaming Broke. And now we can be like, okay, are you having trouble with the concept? Because I can POINT YOU TO A WELL KNOWN STORY THAT WILL DEMONSTRATE. But also, O’Donnell lost. Which she was maybe going to do anyway, but now I had to feel semi-icky about it.

AMANDA: Yeah. I mean, I don’t feel too icky about it, excepting the general slime of sexism that has permeated this election. It will be interesting to see where this goes, particularly with all of the female candidates jumping onto the extremely dumb “man up” bandwagon.

SADY: Right. I mean, I think the way I feel about sexism in this election is encapsulated by the fact that the only female candidates I heard much about were the ones who were going around telling people they looked Asian for no reason or talking about witchcraft. Meanwhile, the NY Times reported that there were plenty of trans politicians seeking office, including ladies who were trans, and there are actually a record number of out LGBT politicians now? Which is good? And Carl Paladino lost, which I guess means he can go cry about gay brainwashing in his son’s gay club. Until someone gives him a swirlie, which I deeply hope they do.

AMANDA: Yeah, and I mean, all of those women lost. Whitman, Fiorina, Angle, O’Donnell—some of them were in those races, but Christine O’Donnell particularly didn’t stand a chance. But she was pretty and she said dumb stuff, which is why I think she was on Bill Maher all the time, and probably should have stayed there? But like, no Republican actually wants Sarah Palin to run for president, because they know she doesn’t stand a chance of winning that office.

SADY: Right. But when they’re pretty and dim and you disagree with their politics, it’s easy to write yourself a political excuse to over-focus on them. Like, Christine O’Donnell was this bizarre witchcraft Tea Party Michael Scott; she just WOULDN’T STOP being bizarre. But were people actually scared of her gaining power? Enough to make her the most well-known candidate in the entire election? Enough to tell everyone about her bush doctrine? I dunno.

AMANDA: No. I mean, I think people were legitimately shocked that Republicans voted her onto the ticket, since the election cycle was really heavily focused on Republicans losing their shit. (And later, making the rest of us eat that shit, when their candidates actually won). I mean, I didn’t believe that Rand “Segregation? Meh!” Paul was going to be a fucking Senator, and there he is. And the statements he’s made are way, way scarier on an actual policy level than Christine O’Donnell’s were. But there also was this concerted effort on Sarah Palin’s part to make this election about Republican women. Extreme ones. And she succeeded in that, even if most of those ladies lost. (As did a lot of Democratic women).

SADY: Yeah. There were all these articles like, “why won’t women vote for women? Why aren’t women being more feminist about this ‘conservative feminism’ thing?” Like, the understood tendency of women to vote leftward is now being used to frame BOTH the left AND women BUT ESPECIALLY feminist women as bad. Using… other women. On the right.

AMANDA: Right. When a lot of times it seems like these conservative female candidates are actually given license to be more extreme on traditionally ‘women’s issues,’ because they are themselves ladies. It sounds better when Sharron Angle says that incest is no excuse for murdering the unborn, because she is a lady.

SADY: Because if a woman says it, it’s a women’s opinion, for women!

AMANDA: Add that to the bizarre masculine posturing (“Man up!”) adopted to make up for their feminine ladyparts, and you have some extremely anti-women women candidates.

SADY: Yeah. Well. If there’s one way we can make this election any more women-friendly and full of women’s opinions for women, it’s by saying that progressive platforms, or even mildly not-extremely-right-wing platforms, ARE FOR PUSSIES. Like, clearly attacking Hillary Clinton for being insufficiently feminine didn’t work. So now you’ve got to be a woman with the tender, loving heart of a mother and a GRIZZLY BEAR’S HATRED OF PUSSY WIMP MEN.

AMANDA: And also the solemn Christian duty of protecting your cubs from … not having Levi Johnston’s baby.

SADY: Right. I mean, Angle O’Donnell not only called Mike Castle “unmanly,” her supporters publicly alleged that he was secretly gay. There’s so! Much! Gender! And sexuality! Policing! Implicit in this.

AMANDA: Haha. And possibly Asian. Rebecca Traister argued that it’s good to have women candidates on the extreme right, because we need to see women as both heroes and villains. I’m of two minds on that. I agree with her that it’s a positive thing for women to assume all roles in the political system, even terrible ones.

SADY: The Atwood system of politics!

AMANDA: But the way that they do it is in this really specifically gendered way, where these female candidates gain so much by making policies that hurt every woman outside the Mama Grizzly cohort. I mean, that sort of power exists in the real world too, so it’s good to recognize it. But perhaps the media is recognizing it … too much? So many reasonable women were running for Congress this year.

SADY: Yeah. And Traister made this point too. Like, yup! There are some ridiculous-seeming female politicians out there! However, in the long history of ridiculous politicians, not all of them have always been ladies. In summary, let us kneel before the Traister, for she is right about everything all the time.


SADY: And also, let us embrace the broad spectrum of womanhood that is not defined by resembling a bear.


  1. jfruh wrote:

    Just a quick correx: it was O’Donnell’s campaign that bizarrely implied Mike Castle was gay, not Angle’s.

    Friday, November 5, 2010 at 2:01 pm | Permalink
  2. Sady wrote:

    @Jfruh: UGH. Sorry about that!

    Friday, November 5, 2010 at 2:18 pm | Permalink
  3. speedbudget wrote:

    I don’t think politics is ready for hero and villain ladies. Women are still considered the other, exotic even, in politics. I remember the 2008 elections where basically the argument on the right against voting Democratic was ZOMG the Speaker of the House will be in a SKIRT if you do! THE HORROR!!!

    In a climate where women are the exception and are noticeably called out as such (commentary on their suits and skirts and shoes in actual news stories), women are going to be viewed as a single unit by those in power, i.e., men. It’s why McCain’s handlers decided to have him run with Palin. She’s a lady! Everyone with a vagina will vote for her! Because ladies are this unknowable mass, and all alike in their unknowableness!

    So it’s problematic in that climate to have hero/villain ladies. The power class starts to pander to one or the other, without understanding that women *gasp* are like men, in that they have nuanced beliefs and their beliefs tend to (hopefully) shift with time and/or new information. So we get cookie-cutter legislation that’s just supposed to shut us up while the big boys talk and doesn’t DO anything for real women.

    Friday, November 5, 2010 at 2:28 pm | Permalink
  4. Sam wrote:

    While I agree that these conservative women are profoundly heteronormative/Bad For The Womens, it’s important to realize (for discourse purposes, &c.) that, for people who believe that fetuses are people & abortion is murder, it’s not a “women’s” issue. I’m not sure there’s actually a way to argue around it, which is why the pro-life people sound so unreasonable all the damn time (aside from the yelling & doctor-shooting &c.)

    Friday, November 5, 2010 at 2:34 pm | Permalink
  5. Samantha B. wrote:

    I would just add that it’s not so terribly reassuring that the “progressive” side keeps referring to women at the conservative end of the spectrum as “whores.” See: Mystery Jerry Brown aide- . Or beloved “progressive” uber-darling, Alan Grayson-
    It just starts to look like we’re not wholly welcome anywhere even on the putative far left (by American standards.) Which is tiresome and boring! We’re lovely people, really. And I like to feel welcome!

    Friday, November 5, 2010 at 4:38 pm | Permalink
  6. BRITANNY wrote:

    I think there are bigger problems than this happening in this election. What is third wave feminism accomplishing these days?

    Saturday, November 6, 2010 at 12:08 pm | Permalink
  7. AnthroK8 wrote:

    @Brittany #6

    I am sure there were. But that doesn’t mean this particular electoral catastrophe doesn’t merit some conversation on a blog written by someone who gets to choose her own topics.

    Saturday, November 6, 2010 at 2:59 pm | Permalink
  8. groggy wrote:

    @ SAM. Actually, there’s a pretty concrete link between the fetishization of women’s virginity, the restriction of their sexuality, and abortion opponents. It’s not just that the fetus is a life, it’s that giving women control over their fertility permits sex outside of marriage, undermining a hetero-centric patriarchal family model. Why else also oppose comprehensive sex ed and birth control?

    @ Brittany. A lot actually, and besides this election might put human rights of oppressed populations in jeopardy. So I think it’s like, kind of a big deal.

    Saturday, November 6, 2010 at 3:23 pm | Permalink
  9. Aliaras wrote:

    AMANDA: I mean, I think it is a victory for feminists to be able to point to something and be like, OK, so we can say definitively that ladies growing hair on their genitalia is news. Fucked up, no?

    FACT: I used this to point out the existence of slut-shaming as a problem to my boyfriend just last night. So, it works? Yay?

    Saturday, November 6, 2010 at 7:52 pm | Permalink
  10. kristinc wrote:

    Groggy: It’s not just that the fetus is a life

    … it’s that the fetus is a more valuable life than the woman within whom it grows.

    Tuesday, November 9, 2010 at 6:06 pm | Permalink