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Feminism

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Diana of Themyscira.

“‘Wonder Woman’s origin story comes straight out of feminist utopian fiction. In the nineteenth century, suffragists, following the work of anthropologists, believed that something like the Amazons of Greek myth had once existed, a matriarchy that predated the rise of patriarchy. ‘The period of woman’s supremacy lasted through many centuries,’ Elizabeth Cady Stanton wrote in 1891. In the nineteen-tens, this idea became a staple of feminist thought.”

From the recent bookmarks: Jill Lepore previews her new book, The Secret History of Wonder Woman, in The New Yorker. “Superman owes a debt to science fiction, Batman to the hardboiled detective. Wonder Woman’s debt is to feminism. She’s the missing link in a chain of events that begins with the woman-suffrage campaigns of the nineteen-tens and ends with the troubled place of feminism a century later. Wonder Woman is so hard to put on film because the fight for women’s rights has gone so badly.”

Blue Man Group | Examine Meth.

“What, exactly, does it mean to be a ‘man’? It’s a question that sits at the dark, warped heart of the entire series and its anti-hero protagonist. A nerdy chemist whose brains haven’t earned him any power or respect from the world at large, the terminally ill Walt decides that he’s finally going to get that power and respect through whatever means necessary (and whenever possible, using science). The show doesn’t just trace Walt’s arc from Mr. Chips to Scarface, as Gilligan famously described it, or from Walt to Heisenberg; it also maps his journey from being a ‘pussy’ to being a ‘man.’ And while he succeeds in his goals, it’s a transformation that comes at a high price.”

You’re not wrong, Walter, you’re just an asshole! In a well-thought-out and close reading of the show as a whole, Wired’s Laura Hudson discusses “the toxic masculinity of Breaking Bad.” “The series begins with what seems like an odd image: a pair of pants, flying through the air. Much of what follows is about who gets to wear them.”

Also among the many farewells, homages, and critiques of Breaking Bad as it departs: screenshots from the Breaking Bad text-adventure game. Admittedly, this sort of article is basically just egregious click-bait, only one step higher on the content chain than Buzzfeed listicles. (Breaking Bad as a Nintendo Game/Choose Your Adventure Book/series of commemorative plates!) Still, I’m always down for a little Infocom nostalgia.

225-220.

“[L]ives are what’s at stake in this debate, and moments like this are why they sent us here — to finally meet the challenges that Washington has put off for decades; to make their lives better and this nation stronger; to move America forward. That’s what the House did last night when it brought us closer than we have ever been to comprehensive health insurance reform in America.”

After many months of work and a long Saturday of debate (not to mention quite a few flagrant and ridiculous GOP lies along the way), the House passes the Affordable Health Care for America Act 220-215. (Joining 219 Dems was one solitary Republican, Anh Joseph Cao of William Jefferson’s old seat, and he voted after the bill had already crossed the 218 threshold.) And, much thanks to the people who have fought for it all this time, H.R. 3962 passed the House with the public option bloodied but still intact.

Alas, the skeleton at the feast was a successful gambit by the heretofore unknown pro-lifer Rep. Bart Stupak to use the necessity of health care reform to fundamentally alter the status quo on abortion. (Best tweet of the day, btw: “‘Stupak’ sounds like a political action committee for morons.”)

Stupak forces like to say they’re just upholding existing law with this amendment, which already states that federal funds will not be used to pay for abortions. But, in fact, this amendment goes further — it prohibits not only the public option but private insurance companies who operate in the exchange from offering abortion services to people who receive subsidies. Or, in other words, low-income women are going to be S.O.L. for starters, with mission creep ultimately denying more and more women reproductive choice and/or necessary medical procedures. (Stupak to women — don’t miscarry.)

On one hand, the good news is that Stupak’s gambit is pretty much dead in the water in the Senate — even the GOP isn’t warming to it. (And, while maintaining the usual “above-the-fray approach”for now — big surprise, I know — Obama has telegraphed he’s not a supporter of the idea.)

On the other, the Stupak situation shows one of the problems we now have as the majority party. Here we have a scion of the “Family” on C-Street playing shenanigans with critical Democratic legislation at the eleventh hour…and he was joined by 63 other Dems in getting the amendment passed. In fact, many of these look to be CYA votes by ostensible pro-choicers to shore up their moderate bona fides.

Even more troubling, 21 of the final 39 Democratic votes against health care reform voted for Stupak — i.e., they voted to screw up a bill they had absolutely no intention of supporting in the end. (Conversely, twenty Dems in GOP-leaning districts did the right thing — they voted against Stupak and for passage. They are listed here.) Simply put, these 21 are why primary challenges were invented.

Until congressional Democrats learn that bucking their left is just as — if not more — dangerous than prostrating themselves before the right, they’re going to continue to play these reindeer games. (To be clear, in almost all cases, it’s not like these holdouts’ issues with the bill came from the left.) And until these often craven middle-of-the-roaders feel the wrath of the stick as well as the carrot, we are going to remain locked in this dismal feedback loop where important bills are in danger of being endlessly watered down into “moderate” mush. (See also: no Single Payer, no Medicare +5.) And that’s just not change we can believe in.

Aside from the Recovery Act, the House hasn’t held as important a vote all year. And, if certain Dems can’t find a way to support critical Democratic legislation — legislation tempered to meet their approval, in fact — when the time comes, then don’t expect the progressive base to have their back just because they have a D by their name. The time to suffer such fools has passed.

In any event, Round 1 completed. Round 2, the Senate…

Trickster on the Borderlands.

“Ask Muhammad All why he fights one more fight. Go ask Marlon Brando why he makes one more movie. Ask Mick Jagger why he goes on the road. See what kind of answers you come up with. Is it so surprising I’m on the road? What else would I be doing in this life — meditating on the mountain? Whatever someone finds fulfilling, whatever his or her purpose is — that’s all it is.” As a companion to Douglas Brinkley’s recent cover story on “Bob Dylan’s America”, Rolling Stone publishes excerpts from their various interviews with Dylan over the years. (I haven’t read the Brinkley article — it’s not online — but that “United States of Bob” conceit is one Greil Marcus already pretty thoroughly explored in The Old, Weird America (nee Invisible Republic) — listen to “Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream” for a good intro on the subject, or consider how much antebellum history Dylan was able to squeeze into three verses in “As I Went Out One Morning.”)

In other Bob news, and in keeping with the trickster on the borderlands” persona Dylan adopts for much of the zydeco-flavored Together Through Life, there’s a thin line between love and hate in the surprisingly violent new video for “Beyond Here Lies Nothin’,” exclusively over on IFC. “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” it isn’t. At best, you can consider it in keeping with a traditional murder-ballad-type ditty like “Delia’s Gone,” I guess. But those who believe Dylan has serious problems with women are going to find plenty of ammunition here. (And that’s before they even get to “My Wife’s Home Town.”)

A Post-Mortem on The Last Dog.

So…as you probably saw, Sen. Clinton finally, officially left the race on Saturday. In the interests of moving forward, I’ll refrain from commenting too much about her woefully self-absorbed concession speech [text], which has generally been garnering raves out of (I suspect) valedictory courtesy. It might’ve worked better if given at the appropriate time, I suppose, but as a do-over I found it sub-par both in theme (once again, it was all about her) and delivery (she only smiled when discussing herself, and otherwise had that gritted-teeth POW look about her.)

Regarding Sen. Clinton’s much-touted brand-relaunch as a shatterer of glass ceilings and an exemplary avatar of feminism, I’ll point to this earlier post by Alison Benedikt and Anne Applebaum’s essay on Slate: “[T]he last few weeks of her campaign have been not so much feminist as pathological.” For everything else, I’ll refer to my post on Sen. Clinton’s Boromirian tendencies these past primary months. In any case, on to the general election.

Full Circle. | The “VSC.”

“Tonight, Iowa, in the fullness of spring, with the help of those who stood up from Portland to Louisville, we have returned to Iowa with a majority of delegates elected by the American people, and you have put us within reach of the Democratic nomination for president of the United States.” After winning Oregon 59-41 (with 94% reporting) and, uh, doing less well in Kentucky (although I was heartened to see he took Louisville), Sen. Obama returns to Iowa with a majority of the pledged delegates, thus effectively sealing up the nomination.

It looks like Sen. Clinton has decided to hang around a few more weeks nonetheless (in part, it seems, to expose the “vast sexist conspiracy” which caused her not to contest caucus states or come up with a plan past Super Tuesday), but the focus for Team Obama is now clearly on John McCain and the GOP. “‘I will leave it up to Senator McCain to explain to the American people whether his policies and positions represent long-held convictions or Washington calculations,’ Obama’s remarks continued, ‘but the one thing they don’t represent is change.’

Update: By way of The Late Adopter and sententiae et clamores, The Village Voice‘s Allison Benedikt puts the lie to Sen. Clinton’s grappling with sexism of late: “Currently pregnant with the next generation, let me just say this: There is no greater wish that a mother can have for her daughter than that she will exploit poor people, obliterate Iran, and win rigged class president elections, Putin-style. (Mom, I won 100 percent of the vote!)…This War on Women is just like the War on Christmas: imaginary.”

Remembering Rankin.

“Remember, Jeannette Rankin was elected before women could vote. So who says men don’t vote for a woman?” Resorting to a blatant gender pitch once more, Sen. Clinton name-drops Congresswoman Jeannette Rankin, the nation’s first female representative. (She also took hold of the recent Kinsley meme: “‘Do you realize how much longer it takes for me to get ready than my opponents?” Clinton said. ‘I think I should get points for what I do, plus having to spend so much time getting ready.'”)

Just to set the record straight, Jeannette Rankin was a committed pacifist who not only led the “Jeannette Rankin Brigade” to protest the Vietnam War late in her life, but voted against American entry into both World Wars (and was the only person to vote against entry into WWII.) So, their common womanhood aside, I think it’s safe to say Rankin would be thoroughly disgusted by Clinton’s record on Iraq and Iran, and might well roundly reject the comparison.

The Victim-in-Chief.

“One of the most laudable things about Obama is that he always elects to rise above the politics of victimization. One of the most troubling things about Hillary Clinton is that she is never above cashing in on it.Slate‘s Dahlia Lithwick and Melinda Hennenberger explain what Sen. Clinton might say in a “gender” speech akin to Sen. Obama’s remarks on race last week — and why she’d never deliver it. “She won’t give that speech because the whole narrative of her candidacy — and more broadly, her life — is as rooted in grievance as Obama’s is in getting past grievance. Her biggest supporters are the women who see themselves in her and who feel that she is/they are owed this; after all she has/they have endured…She won’t give that speech because she has been on the wrong side of gender bias.

Buddy Systems and Reverse Muskies.

“I was laughing because you know in that debate, obviously Sen. Edwards and Sen. Obama were kind of in the buddy system on the stage.” Having “found her voice” in yesterday’s surprising comeback in New Hampshire, and with the politics of gender clearly coming up aces, Senator Clinton continues with the new winning theme. Buddy system? Sigh…It doesn’t exactly put the b in subtle, does it? Well, this approach seemed to backfire with the “six guys against one strong woman” debate spin of a few months ago. And I can’t say I much prefer Clinton, the skewerer of false hopes and purveyor of the “reality check.” Still, one hopes these blatant appeals to identity politics get dropped relatively soon, and that the Obama campaign doesn’t get caught up in the same game in South Carolina. It’s usually a depressing and polarizing business.

In another interview with FOX News today, Senator Clinton gave her own view of the Reverse Muskie. (By the way, how dismaying is it that this random moment of lip-quavering ended up being the defining moment of New Hampshire 2008? Now we’ll have to relive this bizarre non-story every four years. And it wasn’t even Clinton’s first semi-tear of the campaign — That was on Day 1 of the The Hillary I Know campaign retooling, back in December. It’s a strange world sometimes.)

In any event, her take on the moment: “Maybe I have liberated us to actually let women be human beings in public.” Um…ok, a few things here. First, in keeping with XX Factor’s Rachael Larimore’s recent observation that “Obama is the ‘we’ candidate; Hillary is the ‘me’ candidate,” this is a remarkably self-aggrandizing I-statement. (Let’s see, there’s Seneca Falls, the Nineteenth Amendment, ERA, The Feminine Mystique, the founding of NOW…and the Reverse Muskie? One of these things does not belong.) Second, it must be said: “Liberated” — a word with special import for the older women voters who put Clinton over the top in New Hampshire — seems all too likely to be another unnuanced stab at the dog-whistle, niche politicking that inspired “buddy system.” Third, it would seem the general consensus — not just from the invidious mainstream media but from Clinton supporters too — that, far from smashing down a previously impenetrable social barrier by showing emotion, Senator Clinton just did what everyone’s wanted her to do all along. Part of the reason for Barack Obama’s wide-ranging appeal, and that of John McCain on the GOP side, is that they almost always seem like human beings in public. I really don’t think this is simply because they’re afforded more luxury in the public eye as men. (Case in point, the late Ann Richards.)

By the way, to the men out there: If y’all are feeling left out of the moment, fear not: Chris Matthews may have set us back several generations, but Mitt Romney’s been out there carrying the torch for our own public humanity (as it seems to be defined these days.) Although, thus far — in Iowa and New Hampshire at least — he has not been greeted as a liberator.

Update: “No woman is illegal“? Oh, please. That doesn’t even make any sense.

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