The conversations always turn tense. Always. Is it me? Maybe, but this note-to-self is my attempt to publicly peer a little more deeply into how I might be at fault. Like you, I of course think I’m correct and am inclined to not so much dig deeper to understand myself and others, but to dig in and hold my ground. Smart people often say, “if you find yourself repeatedly at odds with others, the problem might be you.” And so it may be.
One shut down the conversation and there was no further discussion. The other let me make my case, but held firm that I was at fault for not carrying the party propaganda and cheering Clinton on to victory.
OK, now I’m inserting my bias by referring to party propaganda. It may not be propaganda when a party promotes it’s candidate, but it is marketing which infamously skates on some thin ice over the cold, dark lake of lies. This is especially true when power is at stake and history will show us, if we look, that no one who has power is above drowning us in that lake if it means they can hold onto or expand their power. Democrats being the elder of our political system should be suspect. The party should be studied, looked at and investigated thoroughly. Republicans, for their post World War actions that became increasingly focused on supporting money over people, may not need too much study. They’ve hung their laundry on the fence for all to see.
You might be thinking right now, “But your pointing out these bad manners now will cause us to lose the election to the autocrat.” In other words, “STFU. This scares me and I don’t want to look.” Is that true or is it what we have been told so there will be no questioning the decisions of those in power? Is that our fear speaking through that statement and idea? Does that fear have any factual basis or is a manufactured fear to prevent us from making another choice that may not serves the current system of power?
So back to voting for “that woman” that incited this.
My argument for not being excited about championing Ms. Rodham Clinton was that her history had shown that she was not the sort of person I wanted in the Oval Party Room. No, I do not believe she had anyone killed. No, I do not believe there was or is a secret cabal for sex-trafficking children and pizza. Yes, I do think she believes she serves the interests of The People, just like every career politician tells themselves that acquiring, maintaining, and appropriating personal power is in *our best interest. I contend that my non-support (in spite of my actual vote) was because I could see the corrupted thinking she represented and perpetuated.
So, set aside, for now the argument that my attitude somehow could be reflected as support for an autocratic toddler-in-chief, because my question here is: does that mean I am misogynistic because I failed to elect “my own kind”? Am I biased against women as I was told in the past week? It’s not the first time I was told this.
Way back when Ronald Reagan was the nightmare in office and a handful of us were trying to warn everyone that a Donald Trump was coming (see R. Crumb), I argued with my feminist pals that it was absurd to assume that *any women would be better in power than any man. That was a thing back then when we were in our 20s and wanted so badly to see a better world. The assumption that had been infecting so many of us optimists, that women were wired in such a manner that we would naturally make more human-centered decisions, was pervasive. Was that just our movement propaganda? No, I think most of us wanted the opportunities that our mothers and grandmothers had been denied so much that we created a dream of this as truth. Even as we watched, Margaret Thatcher demonstrated the fallibility of that dream, women began arguing that it wasn’t that she was all that bad; she was just overly imprinted with self-loathing and male influence that caused her to behave in the deplorable ways that she did. Sigh. From this era I learned when to argue and when to shut up when sufficient sober. Sort of.
The bottom line is that women are equally capable as men of employing the tropes and actions that support their work for personal power. The problem is not gendered. It comes from culture and is driven by class. While they may “mean well” the end results are that people suffer and because we looked the other way, we now see the concentration of wealth in so few that to reclaim our power as citizens (as if we ever really had it) seems impossible without some horrible crisis. So we resume our dream in order to ignore the horrible reality: Elect a woman, any woman, and things will get better.
Is it Misogyny to argue against any individual women running for office? This is where the difficulty lies for us all in addressing hard social change. How many really understand what is means to decenter ourselves? Tangled up in our privileges are all these issues of race, skin color, class, gender, physical appearance, physical ability, and cognitive ability. How do we know if we are guilty and how the heck do we repair ourselves if we should admit that we are?
I will admit that these things are really hard for me to see in myself. Most often I see them when confronted by someone, often confronted in angry tones. Sometimes I am confronted by an author, not pointing directly at me, but when they lay it out I can feel startled by the realization and the embarrassment that someone may have seen that in me without calling me out. I am ashamed that I may have offended someone or at the least made them uncomfortable or just more tired. I can understand how this sort of embarrassment would make some people go into panic mode and begin to deny their culpability; it’s very very uncomfortable and it reflects back to me that I may not be as good a person as I think I am, or at least try to be. It’s especially uncomfortable to find that I may not be so good and then not have a clue how to be better. Easier to deny, point at my accusers, isolate myself from any one who might see my shortcomings. Easier to explain why I’m right and you’re wrong.
So, was it misogyny to not be wildly enamored with Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harrris, Kirsten Gillibrand, Amy Klobuchar, or Tulsi Gabbard? Am I anti-woman when I criticize local women who don’t meet my standards for good public servants? I have been told that, yes, I am. (note: I am really hard on men and probably look even deeper into their potential problems). Could it be that I am responding to unacceptable ideologies, or is it that I didn’t see any of the women as macho enough?
Yes, true confession time, I did find myself questioning whether perky fun-gal looking women would be up to the really awful demands of some of these jobs. I admit it was initially weird trying to visualize a cute blonde woman shouting at a general to follow her orders. It took a tiny bit of readjustment for me, but I have known a few adorable cute blonde girls with cleavage and twirly skirts who could kick anyone’s ass. With that memory I could move on to looking at their policies as proposed and what they had done before running. I can’t say for 100% that my 65 years in a society that has devalued girls and women in every respect (outside of baby-making) hasn’t informed my decisions, but I do say that I can admit when I am aware of it as it creeps in.
I’ve tried hard to see and I just cannot find an answer for my accusers, other than that it does not seem to have been about gender for me. The biggest problem for me is with voters who cannot see that the real problem is the systems for gaining power in which we are both passive and active participants. Now that women are more visibly part of these systems it is important to know that we are not exempt.
If we are to cause and foster real social changes we need to stop with the assumptions that any one of us is a better group or class than the others. That sort of thinking is what has caused the problems we are now appear to see so clearly. We need ways to check on the assets that our elected people bring as our employees whose only mission is to serve the common good, not just of those that elected them, but for the greater benefit. We need to stop responding to our own problematic perspectives when they are exposed as if we are that six year old who automatically says, “I didn’t do it.” I need to welcome criticism when it’s given, even harshly, as the gift that it is, as an opportunity to check in with myself to see what work needs to be done.
So to try to answer that original question, “Am I guilty of bias against women running for office?” The answer isn’t so easy. I don’t think I am, but then that’s what what stubbornly guilty people always say.