Tuesday, February 05, 2008

On Andrew Sullivan and Feminists

Sullivan has written a stern piece of advice for all silly feminists who still might want to vote for a woman as the Democratic presidential candidate:

There were also, of course, the now famous New Hampshire tears - to evoke sympathy. And the blunt appeal on gender grounds alone. And the refusal to disavow the use of her husband for her own political purposes, even as he told lies and cast racist aspersions about her opponent. And, on the eve of Super Tuesday, the tears again. Can you imagine a male politician breaking down in public the day before a crucial vote - and expecting it to help?

It's time feminists realized that Clinton is a dream gone sour. If you believe in women in politics, in female leaders who lead by themselves, on their own merits, with no strings to pull and husband-presidents to rely on, do yourself a favor and vote for Obama.

One day, there will be a woman worth electing to the White House. But not this one.

There is a name for pieces like this in the wonderful world of blogs, and it's "concern trolling", pretending being on your side and just pointing out unfortunate negatives which you should take into account to do better. All Andrew Sullivan wants is, after all, what is good for feminists and for the Democratic Party, right?

Well, not quite. Sullivan is a conservative and one famously known for thinking that women are biologically unequipped to hold real power in the society. Here he teaches us in 2000 in an article titled "He Hormone":

So it is perhaps unsurprising that those professions in which this trade-off is most pronounced -- the military, contact sports, hazardous exploration, venture capitalism, politics, gambling -- tend to be disproportionately male. Politics is undoubtedly the most controversial because it is such a critical arena for the dispersal of power. But consider for a moment how politics is conducted in our society. It is saturated with combat, ego, conflict and risk. An entire career can be lost in a single gaffe or an unexpected shift in the national mood. This ego-driven roulette is almost as highly biased toward the testosteroned as wrestling. So it makes some sense that after almost a century of electorates made up by as many women as men, the number of female politicians remains pathetically small in most Western democracies. This may not be endemic to politics; it may have more to do with the way our culture constructs politics. And it is not to say that women are not good at government. Those qualities associated with low testosterone -- patience, risk aversion, empathy -- can all lead to excellent governance. They are just lousy qualities in the crapshoot of electoral politics.

Sullivan has made the argument about women's possible biological inferiority more than once.

Which really makes this new piece fairly astonishing: If women can't make it in the "crapshoot of electoral politics" because of their sad lack of testosterone, why would one Andrew Sullivan need to write an anti-Hillary treatise? Nature should take care of her pitiful attempt at grabbing power without the necessary testosterone.

Of course it's equally astonishing that he expects feminists to listen to what he says on a topic in which he has firmly identified his stance long ago. Our Andy doesn't like women at all, you know.

Then there is that last paragraph from the quote:

One day, there will be a woman worth electing to the White House. But not this one.

Note that I'm not saying that a feminist should vote for Hillary Clinton over Barack Obama or the reverse or vote at all. That decision is based on many concerns and the gender of the candidates may not be the decisive one for a voter here. But it is also very important to point out that the idea that one day women will get their chance has been used over and over again in the history, and that "one day" will never come if its arrival depends on people like Andrew Sullivan and on their permission.

Because there is always something else that is more important than women. A war must be won before they can get the right to vote, or a depression must be fixed before women's concerns can be addressed, or a revolution must be finished first or an occupier must be vanquished, or something else equally important must take precedence. Women. Never. Come. First.

I remember an interview with an Afghan man when the Taliban first came into power there. At first his daughters could go to school only in burqas and wearing gloves. Then they couldn't go to school at all. This educated man said that the time to worry about his daughters' education was to be later. First they needed to get the warring over. And so it goes. Always.

In twenty years' time, when some future Andrew Sullivan gives you that very same excuse, remember this post.