February 7, 2009 / Uncategorized

Loose Ends


propaganda-3Here are a few stories that caught my eye this week…

The First Couple stepped away from the White House pressure cooker for a short visit with Washington D.C. schoolchildren. Among the topics addressed was the perennial favorite “what do you want to be when you grow up?”  According to “The Swamp” (the outlet for the Chicago Tribune’s Washington Bureau), one little boy informed Mr. Obama he would like to be the President of the United States.  The future former President responded encouragingly: “I think you might make it.”  One of the girls volunteered that she would like to be First Lady.  “It doesn’t pay much,” the First Lady commented. I don’t know if the self-described Mom-in-Chief delivered that remark as a quip or a lament.  If only she could have followed up with an explanation of how role models can expand – or circumscribe – girls’ ambitions (including their future earning potential) it could have been a real learning experience…

Labor Secretary nominee Hilda Solis was criticized for her husband’s business tax issues. That’s right – not her tax returns, not their joint returns, but his business tax filings.  Because we all know it is a wife’s solemn duty to review and correct all paperwork prepared by one’s husband or his fiscal agents, right?   The real lesson here is that no matter how accomplished you are, if a woman accepts the descriptor “wife” there will be some people who will view you as a subordinate of your husband, and as such his sins accrue to you.   Message to American women:  if you want to pursue a career in public life, DO NOT GET MARRIED.

RH Reality Check featured a moving post by Samara Ginsburg on her personal experience as a young woman who is thin and has large breasts (at age 14, she went from an “a” to an “e” cup in the space of three months).  It’s a damning portrait of society as experienced by a woman whose body was routinely treated as public property solely because of her physical characteristics. It is well worth reading – for me, it brought back memories I had forgotten about the experience of my best friend in high school, who at 14 transformed physically into a Loni Anderson type (per the time period of this recollection) and could no longer walk down a single block in Manhattan – accompanied by adults – without being multiply groped / hissed at by strangers.  She quickly forfeited her freedom – she stopped going into NYC – to preserve her safety and sanity.  Watch out for the comments section, though – while there are plenty of good ones, a number of people show up who are the spiritual clones of the villains depicted in the post.

The Los Angeles Times mocked the Second Lady for calling herself “Dr. Jill Biden” when she is merely the holder of a sad little doctoral degree in education. The Vice President may have to step in and “tone down” his wife’s title if he and themissus are to travel to Germany, we are told, because several Americans have been investigated there for “title fraud” (no indication is given as to why Mrs. B would be singled out, since she would be there visiting, not conducting business). “My feeling is if you can’t heal the sick, we don’t call you doctor,” commented Bill Walsh, who is a copy desk chief for the Washington Post’s A section and thus uniquely qualified to follow his feelings.  Amy Sullivan, a religion writer for Time who was consulted for reasons unknown, offered that she “smiled” when she heard Joe’s lady announced as “Dr. Jill Biden” at an event two weeks ago.  “Ordinarily when someone goes by doctor and they are a PhD, not an MD, I find it a little obnoxious… but it makes me smile because it’s a reminder that she’s her own person.”  Yes, it’s very amusing:  just like a terrier wearing a fez, she thinks she’s people!  Smooth Joe Biden, the silver-tongued Second Man himself, has offered his own explanation for his gal’s preoccupation with getting a doctorate:  “She said, ‘I was so sick of the mail coming to Sen. and Mrs. Biden.  I wanted to get mail addressed to Dr. and Sen. Biden.’  That’s the real reason she got her doctorate.”   So we learn that Mail Inferiority Complex – a form of wifely hysteria, perhaps –is what drives Our Jill, the poor, confused dear.

Is it just me, or do you detect a “theme-of-the-week” here?  I’m leaning towards “the multiple ways traditional stereotypes continue to constrain the lives of girls and women.”  What are your thoughts?  Were there other stories this week that could be added to the list?

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  • Anna

    I think what is equally as compelling are the stories that are NOT told. The women who did great things and the public took no notice. Or, the women who were publically battered by an elected official and the press nor our political leaders seemed to care not a wit. The fact that a Cheerios ad that some men perceives as sexist by portraying men as less-than-manly gets media play while decades of ads that potray women in absurd ways gets no media mention.

    Meanwhile, somewhat off topic, Justice Ginsburg hopes to be back in court in 3 weeks when the Supreme Court convenes. She never missed a day of work when she had colon cancer and they caught her pancreatic cancer (obviously a very virulent form of cancer) very very early ironically, due to her history of having had colon cancer since she goes for routine screenings. Normally, pancreatic cancer is caught only after someone is symptomatic and by then it is too late. Let’s hope she can overcome this as she has stated her clear intentions a while back when some speculated about her being the first who might resign, that she plans to remain on the court for a long time to come. Bravo to Justice Ginsburg and wishing her well.

  • tpt/ny

    Excellent points.
    I know nothing about Hilda Solis; but now she joins Gerry Ferarro & Hillary Clinton. There is something sexist about this. Daschele went down because of himself; not his lobbyist wife.
    Tell Michele “1st lady position PAYS NOTHING” because the 1st Lady of the USA / a town / a state are the “ULTIMATE VOLUNTEER”!!!!
    During the campaign I wrote this everywhere I could.
    When Obama made fun of Hillary’s experiences as 1st Lady as “having & attending Tea’s”; I was OUTRAGED!!
    As a community volunteer myself I say:
    As Americans the LEAST we can do to repay “ANY” 1st Lady is to allow her (or him) to put their VOLUNTEER WORK ON THEIR RESUME’!!!!!!!!!!!!
    One day I heard Hillary describe her “1st Lady work” as volunteer.
    I was Thrilled!!

  • mamabroad

    The article about Dr. Jill Biden is petty. To make fun of someone calling with a doctoral degree calling themselves Dr. is petty. To write about it is obnoxious. I hope that wasn’t a big story. How pathetic are those readers.

  • TB

    I’m wondering how others feel about this:


    Sarah Palin endorses a man for governor over an eminently qualified woman from her own party. Will we react to her for betraying women the way many have towards Pelosi, Brazille, etc?

    If not, why not? I’m getting the feeling that Republicans are not being held to the same standards as Dems here at TNA. I think we need to be consistent. In her first real test, Palin has shown herself to be no champion of women. Kaye Baily Hutchison would make a better governor than Perry!

  • TB,

    I’m a little puzzled by the focus of the comments at that Dallas News link you posted. As with frequent comments in a major Alaska paper, they sound like an organized bot-ish campaign against Sarah personally, and few of the posters seem familiar with the actual issue (Texas Governor’s race).

    I haven’t seen Sarah’s actual statement about the Texas Governor’s race, but whether we agree with her or not, imo we should defend her against such personal attacks.

  • TB,

    Actually, all these people are Republicans: Palin, Perry, and Hutchison. Perry is the incumbent Governor (which, other things being equal, makes him more ’eminently qualified’ than his challenger, Senator Hutchison, who has never been a Governor sfaik).

    The article says that Palin’s statement did not mention Hutchison by name. Are Hutchison and Perry really the only two serious contenders in the primary?

    Why do you say this statement about Texas’ Governor’s race is Palin’s “first real test” of supporting other women? To know that, we’d have to look at any other endorsements Palin has made over the course of her career, as well as other ways of supporting women.

  • TB,

    Thanks for your comment.

    I researched this and apparently Gov. Palin has not yet officially endorsed a candidate for Gov in TX. Hopefully she will endorse a woman. Stay tuned.

  • purity1

    TB, I heard about Palin. I was disappointed too. Then I thought…has Hutchinson announced her run, yet? It seems that perhaps if Palin is going to run for President she will need a TX governor backing her.
    I didn’t see that KBH had announced…….

  • purity1

    This blog piece is great. The first anecodote – about wanting to be First Lady, reminds me so much of everything in media prior to the women’s liberation movement. Everything geared toward women was a systematic attempt to keep women down.
    Boys were encouraged to be pilots and girls “stewardesses.”
    It is my opinion that the term “First Lady” needs to be dumped.
    It presumes that only a female can be married to a president.
    Language is very powerful in shaping our sense of self.

  • tpt/ny

    Excellent point “purity1”.

  • Amy,

    I hope you’re right, though quite a few people are reporting it as an endorsement, including Hutchison. WSJ is picking it up from the Dallas Morning News.

    add h and ww stuff

    The Fort Worth Star-Telegram calls Hutchison an “all-but-announced gubernatorial candidate.”

    A WSJ article and its comments give a different angle. Hutchison is 60 and some GOPs are urging her to stay in the Senate instead of “splitting the GOP” by challenging the incumbent Perry, and (if she won) leaving her Senate seat up for contest. Perhaps Palin agrees with them and is trying to head off such a split.

    h stuff but no w’s

  • TB,

    I think you’ve brought up a good point: a problem with a standard like ‘always support the woman candidate regardless of issues or past behavior.’ If we promote that sort of standard among ourselves, then it becomes a weapon to be used against women who are already successful in politics, and who ever dare to endorse by issues rather than by gender. Could even Hillary meet that standard? Well, no: she firmly said Palin was not the right choice for the US. Even among Democrats, has Hillary never endorsed a man over a woman?

    HuffPo has a headline “Palin Endorses Texas Gov. Perry Over Female Challenger” on the same Dallas Morning News article.

  • Ali


    Thanks for the excellent links. Samara Ginsberg’s piece was heart wrenching. The description of the constant sexual assault and harassment that she received as a young woman and into adulthood is infuriating. And the reality that this kind of behavior, even in this day and age, is accepted is extremely disturbing. I want to pass this one on to others to read, because so many of my friends and family say that women and men are equal now. Most people don’t even think about the issues that Samara describes.

  • On the big spending programs, here is more ammunition in favor of education:

    “There are crucial areas, support for higher education, that are things that are in the House bill that are very, very important to the president.
    There’s no question — no question what we’ve got to do is go after support for education. And there are huge problems facing state and local governments, and that could lead to a vicious cycle of layoffs, falling home values, lower property taxes, more layoffs. And we’ve got to prevent that.”

    h…w’s stuff

  • TB

    How do we feel about the GOP causing the cutback in new education spending? Aren’t those mostly women’s jobs not being saved if that cut in the stimulus package stands?

    Why do I still get the feeling that anytime the Republicans are doing something that hurts women, the silence here at TNA is deafening? We should be fighting for the jobs of women teachers and educators, not JUST female politicians.