The universe, however, does not want to keep my blood pressure stable. Granted, it sent me Bob Herbert's column for my birthday. But that was only on the heels of the single most upsetting op-ed I've seen about what a female president would mean to this country: Lorrie Moore's from the Sunday NYT.
As a fiction writer, Lorrie Moore is one of my biggest heroes. I did my critical MFA thesis on her and based a good chunk of my graduating lecture on her work -- in both cases, focusing on the way she brilliantly balances humor and pathos, which I admire more than just about anything in a writer. When it comes to fiction, Lorrie Moore is the living end, as far as I'm concerned.
Problem is, when you write an op-ed for the Times, you're supposed to take off the fiction-writer hat and put on the non-fiction one. Moore doesn't seem to have done that, judging by lines like this:
In my opinion, it is a little late in the day to become sentimental about a woman running for president. The political moment for feminine role models, arguably, has passed us by.I'm sorry, WHAT? I... I read that wrong, right? You didn't mean what I think you meant. You couldn't have.
Okay, I'm breathing. I'm having faith. Let's just see where you go with the rest of the piece.
Perfect historical timing has always been something of a magic trick — finite and swift. The train moves out of the station. The time to capture the imagination of middle-class white girls, the group Hillary Clinton represents, was long ago. Such girls have now managed on their own (given that in this economy only the rich are doing well). They have their teachers and many other professionals to admire, as well as a fierce 67-year-old babe as speaker of the House, several governors and a Supreme Court justice. The landscape is not bare.WHAT THE EVERLOVING FUCK? How the hell did we get to a point where, as a commenter at The Carpetbagger Report put it, "somehow we [seem] to be 'over' having a woman President without ever actually having a woman President"?
I have admired loads of female teachers and professionals in my time -- including Lorrie Moore -- and I think Nancy Pelosi and Ruth Bader Ginsburg are just swell. But to this middle-class white girl, the landscape is still looking PRETTY FUCKING BARE. I, for one, am still waiting for that train you claim has left the station, Lorrie. I am still waiting to have my imagination captured by a woman who wields more power in this country than fucking Oprah. I am not over it.
I'm getting all sputtery trying to organize all the ways in which we are so completely, astoundingly not past the need for more female political role models, so I'll just let Shakesville's Heartthrob of the Day Bob Herbert sum it up for me:
We’ve become so used to the disrespectful, degrading, contemptuous and even violent treatment of women that we hardly notice it. Staggering amounts of violence are unleashed against women and girls every day. Fashionable ads in mainstream publications play off of that violence, exploiting themes of death and dismemberment, female submissiveness and child pornography.Not to mention, as Liss recently put it,
If we’ve opened the door to the issue of sexism in the presidential campaign, then let’s have at it. It’s a big and important issue that deserves much more than lip service.
There's a big goddamned difference between telling little girls they can grow up to be president someday when there's never been a female president, and telling them while holding up a picture of Madame President.For as much as I want to see the racist and sexist campaign bullshit come to a swift end, I can't abide the new meme that now we all need to ignore race and sex and focus on "the issues." Race and sex are not separate from "the issues" in this contest; for as long as Clinton has a vagina and Obama has brown skin, they will be smack dab among the issues with enormous relevance to the upcoming elections and the future of this country. To interpret a race that includes the first viable African-American and female candidates in history any other way is ... well, fiction.
And on the one hand, that means that either a President Clinton or a President Obama will represent a gigantic leap forward for all of us who are other than white men here. Which is amazing and thrilling. Although I am, right this second, planning to vote for Clinton (yes, I KNOW all the Good Progressive Reasons not to vote for her, so please, for the love of Maude, just believe that I've given it some thought), if Obama gets the nomination, I will freakin' skip to my polling station to vote for him with a song in my heart. And, just as I would voting for the first woman president, I will almost certainly blub. It will be a historic moment. It will be an enormous symbolic change, if nothing else, and I happen to believe those are meaningful. It will feel terrific.
But it will fucking well not mean we have moved beyond all that whining about sexism and are ready for something a little more now, as Moore would have us believe.
[I]nspiration is essential for living, and Mr. Obama holds the greater fascination for our children.You're kidding me, right? I'm pretty sure she just managed to say Obama's her candidate of choice because he's simultaneously above all that pesky race crap and totes exotic! Just the way educated, liberal white Americans like our black men!
Mr. Obama came of age as a black man in America. He does not need (as he has done) to invoke his grandfather’s life in colonial Kenya to prove or authenticate his understanding of race. His sturdiness is equal to Mrs. Clinton’s, his plans as precise and humane. But unlike her, he is original and of the moment. He embodies, at the deepest levels, the bringing together of separate worlds. The sexes have always lived together, but the races have not. His candidacy is minted profoundly in that expropriated word “change.”
Meanwhile, Mrs. Clinton’s scripted air of expectation might make one welcome any zeitgeisty parvenu.
Seriously, for as boneheaded and wildly inappropriate as that Clinton advisor's comment about some white people regarding Obama as their "imaginary hip black friend" was -- and it absolutely was -- it was also not entirely off the mark. It was a dumbassed, offensive thing for a Clinton staffer to say because it denigrates Obama's hard work and all the people who plan to vote for him because of his policies, his positions, his leadership skills, and a dozen other well-thought-out reasons. But I can totally see where it came from, because there are indeed a bunch of privileged white people out there -- Lorrie Moore is far from the first I've encountered -- who look at Obama and think, "Mmmm, zeitgeisty!" Which is every bit as offensive as someone overstating the impact of such condescending jackassery on Obama's popularity.
For fuck's sake, can we please stop asking people like Lorrie Moore, Gloria Steinem, and David Crary whether racism or sexism is more virulent in this society, and maybe try asking a woman of color? 'Cause I'm pretty sure you'll hear that we are not actually post-anything yet. We are in no way beyond the need for a woman president or a president of color -- a fact that's perhaps best illustrated by the ongoing insistence that it's an either/or proposition, as if women of color are some sort of mythical creatures.
If you're sick of Clintons, sick of anything that reminds you of the last 20 years in American politics, and/or sick when you think about Hillary's Iraq vote, triangulation, etc., then go vote for someone else with my unequivocal blessing. But do not EVEN fucking tell me the "political moment for feminine role models" is a thing of the past when I can still count all the female politicians with national prominence ON ONE GODDAMNED HAND.
Please stick to fiction, Lorrie Moore. This op-ed demonstrates that it's your forte on so many levels.