Friday, October 3, 2008

Politics and Sensibility: More on Morgan


Sex Politics and Sensibility: More on Morgan
by Kristen Loveland

Robin Morgan wrote an anti-Palin piece a couple of days ago entitled, "When Sisterhood is Suicide," which initiated a debate both on Girl with Pen between Deborah and Courtney, and at Feministing between Deborah, Courtney, and the wide feminist world. Deborah loved the content of the piece, but Courtney argued that its sarcastic, snarky tone was alienating. First, let me say that tone matters. I watched the debates last night in a Brooklyn bar with nary a McCain supporter in sight. In that setting there wasn't a doubt about it: Biden won. He was calm, substantive, and authoritative in his knowledge, and never once attacked Palin personally. The Brooklyn crowd laughed at Palin's folksky "darn its." "Gosh darnit gee golly joe," mocked the guy at the end of the bar. Folksy and "nice" and not snarky, Palin's tone may have been endearing to some crowds, but it wasn't to mine.

So tone matters-- but audience matters more. Who was Robin Morgan addressing in her piece? I didn't get the sense that she was trying to reach across the aisle, that this was the opening salvo in a conversation that would end with some congenial beers at the local bar between Morgan and Joe Hockey Mom McSixpack. This is Robin Morgan, after all.

I don't even think she's talking to a younger generation of feminists, to my generation. Here's why:
Sure, we wanted to vote for the right woman. Sure, we’ll have to wait a bit longer for her. Meanwhile, in Obama we can have a chief executive who reflects our politics, and who—especially since he may have both houses of Congress behind him—just might turn out to be one hell of a great president.

and:
Do not cut off your womb to spite the Democrats. (Also do not sit this election out or play write-in-vote games. And tempting though it may seem, do not blow a vote for the Green Party.)

Morgan sure is rabble-rousing, but she's rabble-rousing to a generation that came of feminist age in the '70s, when the sides were more clearly cut ("us" vs. "the patriarchy"), to whom such angry, snarky speech will hardly be unusual or unwelcome, and who embody the imagined fears of Democrats everywhere. But are these fears real? I've yet to meet a Hillary supporter who has said she will vote for the Green party, or God forbid, Palin, because Hillary didn't get the nom. As a young feminist who is cocooned within a certain generational worldview, I'd really like to know if this phenomenon does exist. And if it does, please watch this.

What I found most effective about Morgan's piece was that she destroys her mantra: Sisterhood is powerful. Sisterhood, after all, is very much a straw man that ignores the realities of how fractured the idea of "woman" is. It's all in her title: When Sisterhood is Suicide. The 1970s idea that all could be solved through coming together and sisterhood ends up being as cynical an idea as McCain thinking he could net a bunch of Hillary supporters by choosing a Woman as VP. First, we realized that there exist racial, sexuality, and economic issues that cannot be brushed under the rug in the name of sisterhood. Now, we realize that there are ideological and policy issues--the right to our bodies, the right to an experienced Vice Presidential candidate--that cannot be ignored in the name of sisterhood.

So is Morgan's rant destructive? Yes. But is it alienating? Well, it won't do much for my generation of feminists, who prefer a more conciliatory and reasoned tone. Then again, there's never been much fear that we're heading the Palin way. And some conservative commentators might love to wave this piece around as evidence that those crazy Feminazis are at it again and don't understand Palin's version of "nice," non-pay-equity, non-choice feminism. But if it does stay within its intended audience, then it could be very effective.

Of course, given the internet, the chance of it hitting only its intended crowd is... next to none.

11 comments:

Deborah Siegel said...

Kristen, I so appreciate your POV! Thank you for clarifying some of the reasons Morgan's piece felt alienating. It was interesting to me to read the comments over at feministing too -- I'm off to post your link over there...

Courtney said...

What she said!
Thanks Kristen. You put it far more eloquently than I.

Kristen said...

Hey you two, thanks for starting the conversation. It's a great one to have-- What is after all, the best way to approach the question of the Palin?

blamm said...

I have no idea how many Clinton supporters around the U.S. plan to vote for McCain or at least NOT for Obama. But I had a very disturbing conversation about this with one friend, a feminist in her 30s, who was talking about voting Green and made it clear she would not vote for Obama for president. So I can say that this appears to be a genuine issue.

blamm said...

I should add: my friend was VERY passionate in her support for Hillary Clinton and very bitter that Obama was taking away a nomination that belonged to Clinton.

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