January 30, 2008

Identity politics, feminism, and the election

Posted in Feminism, Politics at 1:02 am by The Lizard Queen

I’ve mostly been quiet on this subject because others have been covering it well, and because it’s difficult for me to voice exactly what I’m thinking. When it comes down to it, I’m torn. I’m still bitter about Hillary Clinton’s Marie Claire interview (evidently I’m far more likely to hold a grudge when it comes to politics than I am in my personal life, which has been an interesting thing to discover about myself), and, quite simply, Clinton’s politics are far more moderate than those of my ideal candidate (as Melissa McEwan put it, Clinton is “arguably the least progressive of the three Democratic front-runners,” which she explains further in the third linked post above).

Of course, my ideal candidate doesn’t appear to exist, and just as I’m afraid that, if elected, Clinton will bend to the will of the right wing more than I would prefer, similar concerns exist for Obama. So, even without the issue of identity politics, I would be torn. (On a tangentially related note, I can’t help but wonder whether Edwards isn’t getting as much press as the other two because he’s not doing as well — or if he’s not doing as well as the other two because he’s not getting as much press.)

But the issue of identity politics is front and center during this primary season. On one hand, I very much like the idea of — as Liss put it — “repudiating institutional misogyny by supporting the female candidate.” I, too, will celebrate and cheer and blub when we inaugurate our first female President. And so, in that respect, I’m excited about the Clinton campaign. Still, what really bothers me is this idea that the fact that Hillary Rodham Clinton and I are the same gender should negate any concerns I have, and trump any other issues I care about. Margaret Cho posted about that idea a few days ago:

I too am insulted at the idea that just because I am a person of color and a woman that I should be expected to automatically vote for Obama or Hillary. Why are white men allowed to look at the issues and judge for themselves and the rest of us are expected to take sides grade school style? That is racist and sexist and dumb. That is like if all the stupid people voted for Huckabee (please God let this not happen).

I’ve been trying to just sort of shut out the campaign noise and look at the issues, but I’m torn nevertheless. Liss captures some of my concerns quite well in the Shakesville post I quoted from before:

When a woman, as Kate did here, talks about Hillary’s femaleness as a potentially deciding factor in whether to support her, it has nothing to do with “Vagina Voting.” There’s absolutely no reason to presume that an intelligent, rational, progressive woman who says she’s leaning toward Hillary because she’s a woman hasn’t already taken into consideration all the political implications of that decision.

And if you are making that presumption—if you hear a woman you know to be politically astute saying, “I’m leaning toward Hillary now because she’s a woman,” and you say, “Well, choose her because she’s got the best policies, not because she’s got ovaries!”—you need to stop and ask yourself why you feel compelled to issue that caveat, despite its manifest insult to the intelligence of any woman at whom it is directed.

It’s absolutely legitimate for Hillary’s sex to be one’s deciding factor, and no less legitimate than citing John Edwards being a millworker’s son who knows what it’s like to be working class as one’s deciding factor. Though, strangely, no one accuses anyone of overlooking all his policies if they honor his background thusly.

I don’t have any conclusions to draw in this post; it’s largely just me thinking out loud (as it were). I do think the issue as a whole demonstrates the ways in which women and people of color still have a long way to go before we’re genuinely accepted as full-fledged members of society.

Which makes me think of one final tangent: how long before we have a non-Christian (at least nominally speaking) presidential candidate? How about a Queer presidential candidate?

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