Wednesday, September 15, 2004

W. Isn't For Women

A great article by Katha Pollitt of The Nation talks about how both parties stressed manly posturing at their conventions. I don't want to over-quote (you should read the entire article), but I love the way she describes this:

Republicans are real men. Democrats are gay. President Bush is a resolute he-man who will keep us safe from terrorists; Sen. John Kerry is a flip-flopper who wants to take a more "sensitive" approach to the war on terror and who, as Vice President Dick Cheney sneered, seems to think "Al Qaeda will be impressed with our softer side." Conservatives are not just tough, they're compassionate too; as for the Christian right, what Christian right? Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain! That's really all you need to know about the Republican National Convention...

Through clever stage-managing and endless iteration of the discredited Saddam Hussein-Al Qaeda connection, the RNC managed to attach to the reckless and inept Bush presidency the qualities Americans admire in men--optimism, confidence, fun, resolve, determination, single-mindedness, strength, will, foresight. Kerry and the Dems were the opposite--pessimistic, weak, indecisive, effeminate Breck girls and girlie men. You'd think Kerry, not Bush, had been the cheerleader in prep school. In the contest between real men and girlie men, women don't exist. The few female speakers were there to underline Bush's heterosexual credentials: Elizabeth Dole said Bush would protect us from gay marriage; Laura, Barbara and the twins testified to his Dadness. And don't forget Barney, the Scottish terrier. Real men have dogs. Women, gays, Democrats--have cats.

You wouldn't think so, though, if you'd watched the militaristic extravaganza that was the Democratic National Convention: the swift boat band of brothers, the saluting candidate "reporting for duty." I cringed, I really did. It was such a blatant manipulation of imagery, so patronizing, such a kick in the teeth to the Democratic base. Quien es mas macho? Maybe they could just wrestle--or better yet, take a leaf from Zell Miller and have a duel. At this rate, we won't have a woman President until the year 3000, and she'll have to be a five-star general.

I gagged when I saw those "W. is for Women" signs at the Republican convention. Pollitt notes, "Bush has done so little for women--and so much against them--that Laura had to reach all the way to Afghanistan to find some women whose lives have arguably been bettered by her husband." Pollitt goes on to criticize Kerry for saying little about women in his campaign. I, too, wonder whether women realize what is at stake in this election and who really represents their interests. This isn't just about abortion, either--it's about economic issues like the wage gap and Social Security privatization as well. I hope Kerry doesn't keep neglecting the female majority. This election is too close and too important to take anything for granted.

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