Monday, November 30, 2009

Another Invisible Elephant

I feel like an idiot always pointing out the elephant sitting on the couch and merging with the throw pillows so very well that nobody else sees it. In this case it has to do with the fact that the state of Massachusetts, the Sodom and Gomorrah of all liberalism, has never sent a woman to the U.S. Senate. NEVER.

We don't discuss this, just as we do not discuss the fact that there has never been a female president of this country. Even feminists don't discuss this, except to point out that ofcoursethey'dloveawomanbut...there's something too wrong with the particular candidate.

And it is hard. I admit that. Perhaps Martha Coakley is not the candidate one should vote for. Perhaps Hillary Clinton wasn't the candidate, either. But somehow we manage to discuss all that without really discussing the fact that women are not in power in the highest places of this country. Some feminists argue that focusing on the top doesn't help, that we must focus on the bottom rungs of the society only and help the women there. That way the whole edifice gets turned over.

That would be lovely, except for the fact that the social hierarchies are anchored at the top, not at the bottom. They are like upside-down houses and if you want to dig into the foundations you need to do that at the top of the edifice, odd as it may seem.

Then there's the argument that just voting for women isn't necessarily good for feminism and I agree with that. But note that just voting for liberal guys may not be good for feminism, either, and they should be held to at least as stringent a measuring rod as the women are. I do feel that they get a pass, even from feminists, whereas women are taken apart and checked out with a magnifying glass. Bad choices in the past? Scrap her! No experience? Scrap her!

None of this should be taken as an endorsement for Martha Coakley. My aim is to point out the context in which we discuss female candidates, a context which pretends that the playing field has always been equal and that there is no special value in electing more women in general.