Sunday, June 15, 2008

susan campbell

The long-time Courant columnist (who has a pitch-perfect sense of humor, and is incisively thoughtful and smart in person) often sounds kind of vapid and scattered in her columns. But when she gets mad and personal, I'm in her corner.

I Am Feminist; Hear Me Roar Against A Clinton Mandate

The recent battle over the Democratic nomination for president was an event awash in a storm of confetti and balloons — and some seriously fruity rhetoric.

That's fine. All's fair, but I am still flummoxed by some of the missives fired from a certain segment of Hillary Clinton's camp, my fellow feminists, whose cry early on was that their candidate was the obvious choice for women voters because she's a woman, and whose cry now is that if they can't have their woman, they won't take Barack Obama.

Wait! Can you hear it? The deafening silence? That's decades of modern American feminism grinding to a halt.

My take on feminism is this: If you believe in the radical notion that women are people, too, then you know that means we think outside the box. You know that no job is the special provenance of any gender. Our genitalia does not limit our choices, whether it's how we earn our living, the compensation we receive for said work, or how we choose our political candidates. It means lots of little things, like if we go to buy a car and the salesperson only wants to talk to us about the new car's color, we turn around and leave. It means big things, too. We suffer no fools — not gladly or otherwise — when it comes to the respect we deserve. And it means we fearlessly examine and then choose our political candidates, regardless of their — or our — gender.

(In the same vein, can we stop thinking that African Americans are hard-wired to vote for Obama?)

It is beyond bothersome that in the recent foray, people who chose Obama over Clinton were sometimes — as in the case of Sen. Ted Kennedy — accused of betraying women. In a confusing essay over which I am still puzzling, comedian Roseanne Barr suggested Obama "bow to the woman," settle for the vice presidency and prepare for a run at the better job a few years down the road. Robin Morgan revisited her wonderful "Goodbye to All That" essay, in which she decried the sexism rife in the coverage of Clinton's campaign.

Morgan had a point, but only up to a point. There were some stunning missteps in the media's coverage of Clinton's campaign. One-time serious journalist Carl Bernstein reported that Clinton's ankles are too thick. This is an odd bit of reportage coming from an aging scribe who — it must be said — could stand to lose a few pounds himself. No one danced on the grave of Clinton's campaign as early and as gleefully as did MSNBC's Chris Matthews. Was I the only person who thought Matthews sounded — oh, what's the word ... shrill, is it?

And no one — to my knowledge — designed an Obama nut cracker, yet you can purchase one in Clinton's wide-stanced image for $21.95. Add $5 more, and you get special "Hillary nuts," because making fun of strong women can be fun and profitable.

That brand of plastic crap says everything about consumers who buy it and nothing about the candidate. Hillary Clinton is a big girl. She's smart, and she's tough, but I didn't vote for her, and I have no intention of turning in my feminist decoder ring.

She was not my candidate, but not because of gender. Suggesting we all move lock-step to support only the people who look like us robs grown-ups of their ability to make their decisions based on a candidates' promise and past practice.

Fill in the blank: "Because I am a woman, I must ..."

Wait, I know this one: Because I am a woman, I must think for myself because I don't trust the yahoos to do it for me.

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