Wednesday, January 31, 2007

More on the new SD abortion ban

An update to the news that South Dakota is re-introducing their abortion ban. Yes, again.

The initial press release said that there "would be exceptions" for rape, incest, and the health of the woman - the absence of which was the reason that we were able to defeat the ban last November.

However, its inclusion of "exceptions" is a bit of an overstatement.

It makes it look good, sure. And it will be easy to confuse SD citizens into believing that the exceptions are legitimate, the way they did with the original ban last year, claiming that there was a health exception where there was, in fact....not.

But putting aside the fact that even with these exceptions, the ban would still be bullshit (see this rant for why)...the exceptions aren't even exceptions.
(See the text of the legislation here -- a .pdf file)

From this story on MSNBC, I found out more about how these "exceptions" would actually work. Or, as the case may be, would not work.
Let's outline them, shall we?

The Rape "Exception"
How You Prove You Deserve It: 1) Rapes must be reported to the police within 50 days of the rape.
2) A doctor must confirm that you have, in fact, been raped. And tell the police about this confirmation.
3) A doctor must take blood from the aborted fetus and provide it to the police for DNA testing so they can pursue your case.

Why It's Bullshit: 1) Why would anyone want to report their rape to the police? Unless you're the "ideal" rape victim (stranger-raped in a dark alley, wearing frumpy clothing, completely sober, and with no past history of substance abuse or sexual promiscuity), the judicial system is most likely not going to do anything for you. So-called "date rapes" (which is a shitty term, and does nothing but minimize the seriousness by putting a qualifier on "rape") are rarely ever reported, not least because they would be laughed out of the courtroom. The judicial system cannot handle most rape cases - most rape cases being NOT stranger-rapes of "pure" women.
2) I'm still not sure what "criteria" must be met in order for this doctor to confirm that a woman has been raped. Is it left to the doctor's discretion? Because that could be pretty ugly. Or are there strict, narrow definitions of what must be experienced in order for it to be considered a "legitimate" rape? That, too, would almost definitely be pretty ugly, and exclude a good number of women who have, in fact, been raped but don't quite fit into that little "ideal rape victim" box.
3) You don't want to press charges against your rapist? Too bad. The DNA from the aborted fetus is going to be used by the police anyway. Once they have the DNA, they don't need you anymore anyway, really. You have no choice of whether or not to prosecute. All while having the facade of choosing whether or not to have the rapist's child.

You don't want to report the rape? You can see that the system is (maybe irreparably) broken and don't want to put yourself into it just to be retraumatized? That's too bad. Guess you weren't "really" raped anyway. Because any "real" rape victim would, of course, be more than willing to prosecute her assailant. If you're not willing to report it to the police, you're probably just lying anyway.

The Incest "Exception":
How You Prove You Deserve It: 1) You must agree to report this to the police.
2) You must reveal the identity of your abuser to the doctor, and then to the police.
3) A doctor must take blood from the aborted fetus and provide it to the police for DNA testing so they can pursue your case.

Why It's Bullshit: 1) Again with the problems of reporting it to the police. Why would you want to?
2) Revealing the identity of your abuser can be exceedingly dangerous, especially if the case is unsuccessful. If you're a minor, you either return to the home where your abuser probably still resides (due to lack of evidence that a crime occurred), or you're sent off to a foster home to get stuck in the system. Yet another broken system. Not to mention the shame associated with incest is often unbearable; telling a doctor who it is would be hard enough, and having to repeat it for the case that will be pursued? I know I'd just drop it. I'd try to find a way to get over to Minnesota, or Iowa, or North Dakota. I'd take some anti-ulcer medication or find a nice hanger or find someone to perform a DIY abortion in the style of the old Jane collective. I'd do whatever it took, so long as I didn't have to face the shame or the likelihood that my abuser would not be "brought to justice."

The Health "Exception":
How You Prove You Deserve It: Not one, but two doctors must concur that your health would be "seriously jeopardized" by continuing the pregnancy. These doctors may not be at the same practice.

Why It's Bullshit: This one isn't quite as vomit-inducing as the others. But it's hardly benign. Requiring two doctors to agree is logistically problematic. If you're in a very rural town (as is true throughout much of SD) where there's only one doctor nearby, this could pose a serious problem. If you're in a place where the number of doctors is insufficient for the number of people (also true throughout much of SD), it could take days, maybe more, to get an appointment with a first doctor, let alone a second one. They would, presumably, then need to confer. Adding more days. Then, maybe, after what might by that point be close to two weeks, you'll be given permission to have an abortion. That is, if you can get to the Sioux Falls Planned Parenthood clinic, the only place in the state that provides abortions.
Oh, and then there's the bullshit language in the bill that states that the condition, if a woman were to go through with the pregnancy, would have to be "irreversible." Which could easily rule out, oh, just about everything short of death. So really, the health exception is just a death exception, dressed up all fancy-like.

As Coat Hangers At Dawn put it:
Rape or incest victims get no help unless they are willing to turn themselves, their lives and their bodies over to the state.

So don't be fooled by the double talk, this one is no better than the other one.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Again? Seriously?

remote corners of the world where women are oppressed
If you can ignore the clearly anti-Muslim connotations,
it actually makes a decent point. i.e. That we're not actually better than those Evil Terrorists who we're At War With, ostensibly in order to "free" the women under their rule. (click image to enlarge)

Oh, for christ's sake. Was that really necessary, South Dakota?

I swear, that state keeps breaking my heart. I fell in love, for a short stint, with the voters of South Dakota on election night this past November, because they'd come through for me, for women all over the country, and voted down the abortion ban. And then I fell out of love, when I realized that the strategy we had to employ, the one that alienated a good number of the women who may need abortions, was the only strategy that would have worked in that state.

But now, they've gone too far. Yet again.

Later today (at about 11am), South Dakota legislators are scheduled to announce the introduction of a new abortion ban. This time, with the exceptions for rape, incest, and the health of the woman that the last one left out. The exceptions whose absence allowed us to win in South Dakota in November.
Mike Rounds, the governor who signed the ban last year and got re-elected in November, has already said that he likes the proposed legislation. As have a number of the co-sponsors and supporters of last year's ban. Including Bill Napoli, who, in one of the more depressing outcomes of the election, was unfortunately re-elected.

It's almost, sorta, vaguely uplifting that there is a little bit of resistance, even from past supporters of the ban. They think that South Dakota is suffering from "abortion fatigue," an interesting little term that I do hope holds out. That because of the immense pressure of the last election and ballot initiative, the people of South Dakota would want a break from abortion politics for a while. So these legislators are proposing that the new, more "viable" ban be tabled for a year or two. Which would be nice, since putting it off gives us more time to push it off the table entirely. So, here's hoping. (Even when there's seemingly little reason to hope.)

Le sigh.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

PETA makes my heart cry a little.

I agree with a lot of the work that PETA does. Animal cruelty, clearly, is an issue that deserves a great deal of attention and requires a lot of reform to prevent, and PETA does that.

However. I will never support PETA in what they do. As much as I might agree with it.

They have a nasty little habit of objectifying and degrading women, destroying what dignity we may have, in order to make a point about the dignity of animals. Yes, animals have dignity. Yes, the meat industry (etc) is disgusting and destroys that dignity. But you don't call attention to that fact by becoming the meat industry, by treating women like the meat in that industry.

Their most recent example of this is a video, released around the time of the State of the Union this year. It's PETA's very own state of the union. With naked chicks.
Including the vomit-inducing quote about doing animal rights work: "Often this means taking our clothes off." Oh, and the lovely, "hot chicks are an American tradition!" Disgusting.

The offensive video:

(A few) earlier examples of PETA's misogyny:
naked chick at a chalkboard
naked chick marked up like meat
naked chick with some actual chicks
And, of course, their "Milk Gone Wild" campaign, which makes me throw up a little in my mouth.

[ETA: Jill at Feministe found more of the offensive ads. Ew.]

(h/t Feministe

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

personal space? i don't understand. what's that? -g.w.

I admit. I did not watch the State of the Union last night. I was doing something far more productive: some Smith and Hampshire students (via Vox and CLPP members) had a pretty great dessert/film/discussion to celebrate the 34th anniversary of Roe.

However, I did catch the tail end of his speech when I went upstairs to grab my coat before heading home. I sat down with my friend, and we listened to W. say that the state of our union is strong, and god bless. His standard.

And then, we watched as he turned around and shook Dick Cheney's hand.
And turned to shake Nancy Pelosi's hand.
And then turned back to get her attention again, presumably to tell her something. And...
"Um. Did he just touch Nancy Pelosi's boob?"
"Oh my god I thought I was seeing things! You saw that too??"

And I wasn't the only blogger who noticed the boob grab.

The evidence, thanks to youtube:

You may remember Bush's issues with the concept of personal space from his groping of German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the 2006 G-8 Summit.
Evidence of that sketchiness, via youtube, a la Daily Show:

Monday, January 22, 2007

Blogging for Choice (a roundup)

Some of my favourite posts from Blog for Choice Day from around the blogosphere (etc)...

First, Jill's post is incredible. And emotional. And to the point. And disgustingly well-researched. And just generally awesome.

And then Amanda's introspective + insightful post about her coming into the repro rights/repro justice movement, inspired by her time at the NAPW conference this past weekend. Where she was introduced to Loretta Ross' brand of pro-choice activism - that is, reproductive justice. Which probably has something to do with why her post is so on. Loretta Ross will do that to you.

Dana at Campus Progress: Why I'm Pro-Choice.

Ann's piece at TAP, dissecting the new proposed abortion ban in Georgia. It's similar to the ban in South Dakota, but far more frightening. (Yes, that's possible.)

Scott Lemieux's piece, brilliant as usual, also at TAP, on why Roe was a classed decision, and how "abortion rights" currently mean very little to poor women.

And this one: from QuakerDave.

And lastly, this one from Kyso at punkassblog. "I think, I feel, therefore I am pro-choice." Word.

Blogging for Choice: Why I am Pro-Choice

I went in a little bit of a different direction from a lot of the a-listers (like Jill, Jessica, Shakes' Sis, and Amanda). Instead of a list of why it matters to be pro-choice in general, I went more personal. Why I, as a 21-year-old queer woman, a senior at Smith College in oh-so-liberal western Massachusetts, am pro-choice. So, this is me, blogging for choice.

This year’s topic is simple, yet crucial:
Why are you pro-choice?

Funny thing is, I didn’t even really think about the “why” until last November, when I was out in South Dakota with the South Dakota Campaign for Healthy Families and PPFA, fighting against the abortion ban.

Gretchen, a good friend I made out in South Dakota who works for PPCT, just asked me straight out: “So why are you here? Why are you so invested in reproductive rights?”
It caught me off guard.
I’d never actually thought about it before. Having reproductive autonomy was just something I’d grown up believing was a right, was something everyone should be entitled to. I had to think back, to the development of my feminist ideologies and the history of my political consciousness.

I didn’t really understand the controversy around abortion when I was growing up. It wasn’t talked about, and I don’t even remember hearing about the monumental 1992 March for Women’s Lives.

In eighth grade, an English teacher (who changed my life, as English teachers tend to do), assigned a research/oral presentation project: we had to research a social controversy and then create an oral presentation, presenting both sides and the conclusion we’d come to. I didn’t really have any strong feelings about much back then, so I took one of the suggestions she’d given, and did my project on the controversy of abortion.

Not knowing anything about the abortion debate, I gave equal credence to rabidly “pro-life” materials as vehemently pro-choice materials. Both sides sounded good to me, and I didn’t find much of either side’s critique of the other side. (This was before I was very computer-savvy, and before the internet was the user-friendly monster it is today.) I didn’t come down on either side. I had no idea how I was going to close my presentation, because I couldn’t come to a conclusion. I found some more scholarly, less biased resources on how most Americans are in the “mushy middle” when it comes to abortion, and so I settled there.
It was an easy place to be, and one that wouldn’t place me in the middle of a huge controversy in my class. When I gave “my conclusion” on the abortion debate, I discussed how I didn’t think it should be “used as birth control,” but that in cases like rape or incest, it was only humane to allow it. Basically, I parroted what the “mushy middle” articles said without really understanding the core concepts. Because it was the easy position to take.
Abortion was still not much of an issue through high school. I was all about sex ed, though, and was livid when I was told by the adviser of SADD (which turned into Students Against Destructive Decisions shortly before I became president of it my senior year) that we couldn’t talk much about, let alone distribute, condoms or any real information about safer sex.

So it wasn't until my first Women’s Studies class in my first semester of college that I finally got fully introduced to the feminist perspective on reproductive rights, reproductive autonomy, and, to some extent, reproductive justice. I helped a friend procure an abortion – in the 22nd week of her pregnancy. She was living about 2 hours away at the time, but I found phone numbers and addresses for clinics near her, and when those clinics wouldn’t provide the abortion (it was later than their policies allowed, even though NY state law allows them up to 24 weeks), I found a clinic in another city that would. I put her in touch with one of my friends who lived in that city, someone for her to stay with. It scared me to do this, especially since her parents were very strict and very Muslim, and would have disowned her if they found out, but it felt like the right thing to do.

It also felt like the right thing to do when I and our goalie hitched a ride with my assistant coach’s parents into downtown DC, both of us still sweaty and unshowered, after our final lacrosse championships game (a consolation game, which we lost). It felt right when we were counted in the 1 million+ people that made that march the biggest march that Washington, DC has ever seen.

It felt like the right thing to do when I transferred to Smith and the first org. meeting I attended was for Vox, the student affiliate of Planned Parenthood. It felt right when I went to every Vox meeting and almost every event.
It felt right when I went pharmacy-to-pharmacy last spring, asking pharmacists to sign up to be able to dispense EC over-the-counter (this was before the FDA stopped dragging its feet, and after Massachusetts had passed an EC OTC bill). It felt right when I argued with PPLM’s Grassroots Organizer for western Mass and their legal counsel over the tactic to use to raise money for the SD Campaign for Healthy Families, when I argued against the focus on the lack of exceptions and against the (re-)creation of a bullshit hierarchy of circumstances.
It felt right when I ran in (and won) the election to be Vice President of Vox. It feels right working with my incredible fellow e-board (executive board) members and the rest of PPLM and PPFA, even if I do have disagreements from time to time with some administrative choices (which I won't comment on here).

It felt right when I signed up for the trip to South Dakota, when I got on the plane headed for Big Cock Country™ with another Smithie and a Hampshire student. When I got off the plane and saw the first pieces of luggage -- hunting rifles -- come out, I was slightly frightened, but it felt right. It felt incredible, and indescribable, and so, so right when I was at the victory party in the ballroom in Sioux Falls on election night.

It’s just always felt right to be pro-choice. And so I’ve never thought about why I feel so strongly about it.

When Gretchen asked me, I was at first at a loss for words.
So, naturally, I just started talking. This is what came out (paraphrased):
After all, the right to abortion* doesn’t really directly affect me. Sure, it directly affects my vagina-possessing friends who choose to engage in heterosexual sex, but I don’t willingly involve myself with organs that contain sperm, so it’s not a right on which I would rely on a regular basis.
Yet, my belief in abortion rights is firm, and is one I’m deeply passionate about.
(“I can see that, that you’re passionate about it. But why so much passion for something that you don’t deal with personally?”)
Because I do. And I have. I have dealt with it personally. I have never had an abortion. I have never even had consensual heterosexual sex.

And that right there is the kicker: the word “consensual.” Sure, the “pro-lifers” are mostly in favor of abortion rights for rape victims, but that’s problematic on more levels than I can even pretend to address. But for one: I, as a victim/survivor, should have no greater claim to abortion rights than the girl next to me who had consensual sex. If I have the right to abort, she should have the right to abort too. My experience of violation does not make me any more “worthy” of reproductive autonomy than the next girl. Because autonomy is not, and should never be, dependent on one’s level of sexual violation.
For another, our legal system is already broken when it comes to sexual assault. If these kinds of abortion bans were passed that allowed abortions for rape victims, it would only exacerbate the already hideous system. Right now, victims/survivors enter the legal system and, most often, get their leg broken. If a ban with rape/incest exceptions were passed, these victims/survivors would enter the system with a broken leg and it would be repeatedly beaten and re-broken with a bat, Tonya Harding-style. On a practical level, it would simply be unnecessary cruelty.

Without autonomy over our wombs, we can’t expect to have autonomy over any other aspect of our lives. If you don’t grant us autonomy over our internal organs, we can’t expect that these organs won’t be violated.

And that’s where it gets personal. That’s where I think my deep, deep passion comes from. The attempt to take control of women’s reproductive capabilities is too reminiscent of the attempt to take control of women’s bodies through sexual assault. Reproductive rights and reproductive autonomy is a microcosm of the larger struggle over the control of women’s bodies, a struggle that takes many forms and seeps into so almost every aspect of life.

(*While reproductive autonomy and reproductive justice certainly encompasses far, far more than the right to abortion, we were talking specifically about the SD abortion ban, so that’s what I focus on here.)

Roe turns 34...

(click the image to sign up)

Sunday, January 21, 2007

oh, thank god.

I'm not the only one weirded out and distressed by Pelosi's and Hillary's mommy-pandering of late.

First, there was Pelosi. As she was sworn in as the first female Speaker of the House ever, she surrounded herself with children, to reinforce her role as a mother and grandmother. And talked about how it "takes a woman to clean up the House" and touted the virtues she has as a politician, due to the fact that she possesses a vagina and has more estrogen flowing through her body than 84% of her fellow Members in the House.

Then there was Hillary. As she was getting ready to enter the '08 race, she told The View that it would make a difference to have her, a woman, as a president, not because she's an accomplished politician. No, because she's a mother.

There's a great piece by Dana Goldstein up over at The American Prospect that details exactly why this "mommy schtick," as Goldstein puts it, doesn't actually help female politicians. That playing the gender card, instead of making them more viable players in the political field, actually hurts them and other women in regards to politics. It says exactly what I've been trying to articulate since Pelosi's "I've got feminine wiles and therefore make a good politician and Speaker" mantra started coming out. Definitely worth the read.

Some excerpts:
When Clinton and Pelosi claim political capital due to their experience as mothers and homemakers, they are selling their ambitious selves -- and, indeed, all women -- far short. Women don't deserve to be in politics because we're more compassionate or nurturing than men. We deserve to be there because we are human beings, and especially because we are human beings who, regardless of our choices about if and how to become mothers, continue to live under a social and political system that denies us many of the same options men have enjoyed for generations.

And this closing, which I love:
Perhaps it's unfair to ask our female politicians to transcend gender when we still live in a world so unfairly structured by it. But the fact is, Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi will be the victims of misogynistic attacks questioning their seriousness, qualifications, fashion choices, and family lives -- not to mention their politics -- no matter what they do. The question is, will they rise above the fray, or let it limit them?

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

on victim-blaming (a round-up)

During my failure to live up to the standards of being a regular blogger, there have been quite a few incredible posts floating around the feminist blogosphere on victim-blaming.
Knowing me and my penchant for chiding victim-blamers, you would have to know I'd link to them.
If I'd been a better blogger, I would've been all over these posts when they were posted, and written things up about them. But alas, I have not been a very good blogger lately. So I leave you with a quick roundup of some of my favourites:

Before I get to the article that set the feminist blogosphere on fire...

Shakes' Sis ripped apart this article from BBC, entitled "Should Women Be More Responsible?" Because, clearly, if women aren't "responsible" enough to keep themselves stone-cold sober in "mixed company," they're asking to get raped. (Julie Bindel's quote in the article, though, is fantastic: "Alcohol has undoubtedly become the new short skirt in the way that people are looking to put the blame and the onus and the responsibility on women.") Shakes' Sis is fabulous, as per usual, even when the victim-blaming shit crops up in the comments...

And then
the article that made the shit hit the fan throughout the feminist blogosphere...
Made all the worse because it appeared on Women's eNews, which is usually a great source for feminist journalism.
Not so with this article, "Underage Women Sidle Up To Barroom Risks. By Liz Funk. Who's already been proven to be part of the feminist police when she ripped on my beloved Feministing back in October.

Her latest article, though, sounds frighteningly reminiscent of self-congratulatory, anti-feminist Gary Miller's article, "Girls Exchange Dignity for Attention".
In fact, she quotes the asshole.
And the article, as re-posted at AlterNet, was originally entitled Sacrificing Dignity for Attention. (Sounds a little familiar, no? Which is probably why it has since been given a new, less offensive title.)

And so the feminist blogosphere rightly erupted with criticisms of Funk's victim-blaming article and its passing the buck of responsibility for sexual assault back to the woman who dared to take advantage of "Ladies' Night" at the bar and get herself *gasp* slightly inebriated.
On the case:
Ann at Feministing; Amanda at Pandagon; Violet at Reclusive Leftist; Shakes' Sis at her place; Jill at Feministe; Lauren, formerly of Feministe, but now of Faux Real Tho; Sheelzebub at Pinko Feminist Hellcat;
Echidne at Echidne of the Snakes; lost clown at Angry for A Reason; Ginmar; Hugo at his pad; and Rox at Rox Populi.

(Shorter roundup: Jessica from feministing and Evan Derkacz put up a piece at AlterNet summarizing the feminist blogosphere's reaction to Funk's piece.)

A ton of non-victim-blaming feminists emailed the editors of Women's eNews, but they claimed they stood by the article, and haven't budged.


Friday, January 12, 2007

a presidency of cliff notes

The new love of my life?
Keith Olberman.
Such an impassioned, articulate, ass-kicking speech I've never heard coming from the mouth of a TV newscaster/commentator.

Keith's Special Comment on Bush's new "strategy" for Iraq:

"We must look like a country run by the equivalent of the drunken pest who gets battered to the floor of the saloon by one punch, then staggers to his feet and shouts at the other guy's friends, "Ok, which one of you is next?"

(Oh, and by the way, Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia.)

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

how the president plans to kill my brother

Apparently, President Bush is planning to kill my brother.
That may seem overdramatic. It may seem extreme.
I wish it were. It's not.

The "surge" Bush is planning has been on the lips of every newscaster for a few days. The White House, earlier today, released some of the excerpts from the speech he will give tonight.

Last week, the BBC had a short article, an early take on the whole thing. What really struck me from that article was this:
"Its central theme will be sacrifice."


I'm still slightly confused as to when sacrifice became an acceptable military strategy. Or when it became a humane thing to do.
I can't find the transcript now, but I saw a guy on MSNBC last week, talking about sacrifice:
If you knew someone was planning to sacrifice an American soldier, would you stand by and let him?
What if you knew someone was planning to sacrifice 200 American soldiers? Would you let him?
What if you knew someone was planning to sacrifice more than 100 times that?

They're saying that the boost will mostly come from earlier-than-planned deployments.
My brother (a medic in the Navy) was supposed to be deployed by the end of the summer.
(He promised me he'd be at my graduation in May.)

Bush, of course, describes his plan "as a blueprint to 'change America's course in Iraq and help us succeed in the fight against terror.'"
It seems he is unable to understand that there's a difference between a civil war that we got caught (and should not be) in the middle of and terrorism.

We are not fighting the war on terror here. We are fighting his daddy's war, and managed to fuck things up enough that we're still there, a few years after "mission accomplished."

So, because things are so fucked up, the answer is clearly to send more troops in.
More troops like my brother.
(Who would, because the Army is overextended and being killed off, be performing a job that he is not trained for -- he's a medic in the navy, like I said before, but in Iraq, he would be pointing a gun at people in the desert.)

The Dems are planning to hold votes to urge the president not to go through with the surge. But thanks to the AUMF, these votes won't actually carry any legal weight. Bush can do whatever the hell he wants with our men and women in uniform.

But you know what?
Fuck you, Bush.
You are not going to make my brother miss my graduation.
And you are not going to kill my brother.

(Action Notice: Emergency actions tomorrow, January 11th, around the country. Find out what's happening near you.
And a mobilization in Washington, DC, January 27th-29th. Learn more here.)

Friday, January 05, 2007

Oh, Nancy...

I should've known it would be like this. That our first female Speaker of the House would face the same kind of sexist/stereotypical bullshit that every other female politician has had to face. That she'd have to succumb to it and play into it.

I held out hope, though, that with a fireball like Pelosi, an unabashed feminist, it wouldn't happen. But that marble ceiling she keeps saying that she broke is still mostly in tact.

What I'm talking about may seem subtle. And it may seem like I'm being one of those oversensitive feminists, overreacting to a simple "figure of speech." But figures of speech still have a great deal of influence on public opinion.

What I'm talking about, of course, is Pelosi's continuous references to "cleaning house" as the new Speaker.
(I'm not the only one writing about this gender-stereotypical crap; Jen at feministing has a piece about the constant focus on her family life - by both the media and Pelosi herself - that's mostly unheard of with male politicians.)

The first I heard was when I came out of my self-induced finals week hermitage to watch the Barbara Walters "10 Most Fascinating People of 2006" special. Nancy Pelosi was the Top Most Fascinating Person. Which was! so! exciting! I was stoked, and Pelosi talked about how the first 100 hours were going to be rockin', and how her first priority was to fix the mess that is the Iraq War.
And then her 2nd priority?
"Draining the swamp in Washington." (referring to the corruption in DC and how she plans to bring integrity back to the Capitol. Ok, good goal.)
BW: "The Democrats can clean up that swamp?"
Pelosi: "Maybe it'll take a woman to clean up the swamp."

I was angry at first. And a little heartbroken. And I was confused as to why she was still pulling that "women are holier-than-thou" in politics thing, after she's made it, after she became 2 steps from the presidency.
And then I realized that even though she was Speaker (at that point, unelected, but clearly speaker nonetheless), she still has to play the game. She still has to defend her place in politics as a woman and play that gender game, fitting herself neatly into the very gendered box of a female politician.

But I didn't think she'd keep using that line. I had hope still that maybe, once things settled down a bit, she'd just start being a politician, not just a female politician. Which is not to say that her gender shouldn't matter in the least - clearly, it does - but I just hoped that the stereotypes that go along with her being a breasted American in possession of a vagina would play less of a role.

But my hopes seem to have been dashed. She keeps going back to that same logic that we used 100 years ago to gain the right to vote; that is, that women need to be in politics to make the menfolk play nice and to clean up after their messes. I thought we were past this. I thought we could accept women as politicians without touting their "innate" superior consciences and morals.
Apparently, I was wrong.

Because then I saw the article on BBC, Women Power Comes to Capitol Hill. It was a happy little article, about how there was a huge number of women running for political office this year, and an unprecedented number of women who won. It talked about how the percentage of women in Congress rose 1.5%, which may not seem like a lot, but when it's been stagnant and hovering around 15 since the "Year of the Woman" more than a decade ago, that's a lovely accomplishment.

And then, Nancy Pelosi.
There was one good part that I loved, about how her achieving the status of Speaker of the House was "breaking the marble ceiling" (which may or may not be true; one woman's, albeit incredible, achievement does not a marble ceiling break...crack, maybe, but not quite shattered..). How it was "similar to the "glass ceiling" in the business world, only harder," and how Pelosi "has the bruises to show for it."
I liked it.
I was impressed by the article. And by the marble ceiling/bruises quote from Pelosi. Very nice. Plus, it had a really incredible picture, which I love:

Men still outnumber women in both houses of Congress

And then, there it was again, the subtle (or not-so-subtle) gender norms/stereotypes and gendered division of labor seeping into political rhetoric:
"Ms Pelosi has vowed to restore civility and ethics in government, saying: 'It takes a woman to clean house.'"

Seriously, Pelosi?

I'm not angry, like I was when I saw the Barbara Walters special. Because I know she has reason to do this, and I know she does still have to play that gender game. But it makes me sad.
It makes me sad to see a woman as wonderful as Nancy Pelosi stooping to these levels of gender stereotypes in order to make herself a viable politician. It makes me sad that politics is still so, so gendered, and that in 2006, women still have to prove their right to be in the political arena. Still have to rely on the "greater purity" of women, on our better ethics, our morality, in order to be legitimized in the public opinion. Still, after all these years, have to base our right to exist in the public sphere on our ascribed role in the private sphere.

It makes my heart sad.
But I don't know how we can move beyond this shit, short of an unprecedentedly successful nationwide consciousness-raising campaign.
And so it'll keep on.
But for how long?

How long is Nancy Pelosi going to have to rely on the "house cleaning" phrase in order to be accepted as Speaker?
How long is Hillary going to have to tout her superior morality, her womanly forgiving heart, in order to be accepted as a candidate for the presidency?
How long is it going to be that women have to rely on a huge push on the part of numerous donors and sponsors and organizations in order to increase our number in the federal legislature by just 1.5%?

In the words of the suffragists, almost a century ago:
How long must we wait for liberty? How long must we wait for justice?