The letter I just sent to Michigan House Speaker Jase Bolger
Dear House Speaker Bolger,
First, I’d like to tell you how flattered I am that the Michigan House of Representatives has taken an interest in my uterus. It’s really sweet to know that you’re dedicated to protecting my womb and its contents from, say, doctors who would try to coerce me into an abortion, because maybe that really is a thing somewhere. And I totally understand how you might like to be able to pass laws concerning my reproductive organs without actually having to hear about my reproductive organs, or Representative Lisa Brown’s reproductive organs, or any female genitalia of any kind. Let’s face it: “vagina” is a pretty gross word. I don’t like it much either, to be honest.
But here’s the thing. I’m not sure that we can really talk about women’s reproductive health without talking about women’s reproductive parts, and I’m thinking that maybe women should be able to participate in that conversation. I’d like to suggest a compromise. Instead of telling Representative Brown to sit down and shut up and let the menfolk do the talking, you offer your colleagues a choice of friendly, utterly non-threatening euphemisms for all that stuff “down there”. To facilitate this compromise, I’ve prepared this list for you:
- Honey Pot
- Vertical Smile
- Pearly Purse
- Tunnel of Love
- Lady Jane
- Gentleman’s Pleasure Garden
- Nature’s Tufted Treasure
- Fancy Bits
- Mrs. Kitty
- The Downtown Dining and Entertainment District
- Naughty Bits
- Goody Wagon
- Cream Puff
- Magic Cave
- Her Majesty
- Hot Pocket
Please accept this list as my thanks for HB 5711, HB5712, and HB5713.
Change We Can Believe In
It will come as a surprise to no one that The New Yorker has endorsed Barack Obama. Nevertheless, the editorial announcing the magazine’s choice of presidential candidate is a worthwhile read, particularly for anyone who is still undecided. In a clear and organized fashion, the editors spell out the real and substantive differences between Obama and John McCain—differences in temperament, differences in character, and differences in political philosophy. They suggest how an Obama presidency would look, and they compare that to what we might expect from McCain. I have chosen this extended quotation, because I feel that it’s so important:
McCain cites Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito, two reliable conservatives, as models for his own prospective appointments. If he means what he says, and if he replaces even one moderate on the current Supreme Court, then Roe v. Wade will be reversed, and states will again be allowed to impose absolute bans on abortion. McCain’s views have hardened on this issue. In 1999, he said he opposed overturning Roe; by 2006, he was saying that its demise “wouldn’t bother me any”; by 2008, he no longer supported adding rape and incest as exceptions to his party’s platform opposing abortion.
But scrapping Roe—which, after all, would leave states as free to permit abortion as to criminalize it—would be just the beginning. Given the ideological agenda that the existing conservative bloc has pursued, it’s safe to predict that affirmative action of all kinds would likely be outlawed by a McCain Court. Efforts to expand executive power, which, in recent years, certain Justices have nobly tried to resist, would likely increase. Barriers between church and state would fall; executions would soar; legal checks on corporate power would wither—all with just one new conservative nominee on the Court. And the next President is likely to make three appointments.
Obama, who taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago, voted against confirming not only Roberts and Alito but also several unqualified lower-court nominees. As an Illinois state senator, he won the support of prosecutors and police organizations for new protections against convicting the innocent in capital cases. While McCain voted to continue to deny habeas-corpus rights to detainees, perpetuating the Bush Administration’s regime of state-sponsored extra-legal detention, Obama took the opposite side, pushing to restore the right of all U.S.-held prisoners to a hearing. The judicial future would be safe in his care.
Back in 2000, liberals dissatisfied with Gore’s centrism liked to say that there was no real difference between the two major-party candidates. In conversations with Ralph Nader’s supporters, the disparity between the type of judge George Bush was likely to appoint and the type of judge Al Gore was likely to appoint was, I argued, a real difference. The same holds true today. I sympathize with the disappointment of Hillary Clinton’s supporters, I understand the frustration of lefties who feel that Barack Obama is insufficiently radical. I would, however, ask these constituencies to take a look at the last eight years, consider the challenges that lie ahead, and ask themselves whether or not the country—and the world—might not be at least a little bit better off if Obama is our next president.
Everything I Need to Know about the 2008 Presidential Election I’m Going to Learn from Us Weekly
Look, I know it. You know it. We all know that I’m voting for Barack Obama in November. Consumption of campaign coverage only confirms my position and, frequently, fills me afresh with rage that is, at this point, superfluous. Time spent reading about the candidates is time wasted. And yet…
And yet, I can’t quite turn away. So, rather than stop reading about the election altogether, I am restricting myself to tabloid coverage. It’s short, easy-to-read, and filled with information I’m unlikely to get from the New York Times or Daily Kos.
For example, the September 15 edition of Us Weekly opens with a photo spread of Michelle Obama. Glowing with praise for her “simple and chic” style, for her rejection of “first lady suits”, the magazine uses a Moschino wrap dress and that Thakoon number Obama wore the last night of the convention as a metaphor for the type of change we can expect from an Obama presidency.
Compare and contrast this with a quotation from Hillary Clinton from “Loose Talk”: “To my supporters, my champions, my sisterhood of the traveling pantsuits: From the bottom of my heart, thank you.” It’s true that, when it comes to fashion, Clinton does not come close to Obama. But the gentle self-mockery shows us that the junior senator from New York is a good sport and a gracious loser. It invites Democrats to go forward with our chosen candidate without forgetting about Clinton. It might even encourage us to think “Majority Leader”—or, even, 2016?
The real story in this issue, though, is the cover story: “Babies, Lies & Scandal”, in which Us Weekly gives Sarah Palin the type of treatment usually reserved for Britney Spears (which is kind of funny, given the McCain campaign’s juxtaposition of Barack and Britney).
The story hits all the Palin highlights, and adds some material you might not see in “the mainstream media”. It begins with Palin giggling along on the air as an Anchorage shock jock calls one of the governors rivals a “bitch” and a “cancer”—that last one being especially charming, given that said rival is, in fact, a cancer survivor.
There’s Troopergate, of course, Palin’s alleged involvement with the Alaska Independence Party, her relationship with Ted Stevens, and the fact that she was for the Bridge to Nowhere before she was against it. (It would have been nice if Us Weekly also mentioned that, as mayor of Wasilla, Palin oversaw the construction of a sports complex on land somebody else owned and resisted the then governor’s plan to make it illegal to force rape victims to pay for their own rape kits, but you can read about that here if you’re interested.) This being Us Weekly, though, the heart of the story is pregnancy scandals.
Although we all know by now that Trig is not Bristol Palin’s baby, Us Weekly provides a handy recap of the rumors, including side-by-side photos of Palin looking quite large in an earlier pregnancy and quite slim while six months along with Trig. The “Anatomy of a Scandal” sidebar also reminds us that Palin did not disclose her last pregnancy until her seventh month. (Us says that she “shocked coworkers”; it doesn’t mention that Palin’s constituents—the people of Alaska—might have been interested in this development.)
I appreciate that Us quotes the former president of Juneau’s NOW chapter saying that Bristol Palin’s pregnancy is “a textbook case of how abstinence-only doesn’t work in practice, even if your mom’s the governor”, but my favorite part of the article centers around Bristol’s baby daddy. Leave it to the journalists of Us Weekly to go straight to Levi Johnston’s MySpace page, which includes such charmingly conservative sentiments as “I’m a fuckin’ redneck [who likes] to go camping and hang out with the boys, do some fishing, shoot some shit, and just fuckin’ chill, I guess” and “Ya fuck with me I’ll kick [your] ass.” Small-town values, indeed. Oh, and he writes, “I don’t want kids.” That part actually makes me feel sorry for the guy, and for Bristol—not just because they’re having a baby they might not be ready for, and not just because they’re going to have a marriage they might not be ready for, but because Palin is undoubtedly going to continue to drag them onstage as a testament to her Republican-style “family values” even as she asks us to respect her family’s privacy.
Sarah Palin. [Sigh.]
A couple of people have asked me when I’m going to write something about Sarah Palin. Honestly, I’ve been trying, but I keep getting distracted by thoughts of the distinctive names she has given her children and by her astonishing hair. I have given some thought to a few of the choices that she’s made as a parent and a working woman, but there’s no way I’m opening that can of worms in this forum. If you want to talk to me about it, give me a call, and, if you don’t have my number already, I’m probably not going to talk to you about it.
However, I feel duty-bound to post something about Palin, on the off chance that anyone who visits this blog is an undecided voter who is intrigued enough by John McCain’s choice of running mate to consider going Republican. So, allow me to suggest a couple of links. Silicon Valley Moms Blog has an opinionated summary of Palin’s record. And, over at The Reality-Based Community, you’ll find a point-by-point refutation of Palin’s convention speech.
While there is some reason to think that the PUMA movement is largely a product of media hype and McCain campaign, there are, apparently, still some Democrats considering John McCain. Because I believe—despite all evidence to the contrary—that, surely, people must be smarter than this, I tend to assume that a lot of people interested in McCain are falling for his “maverick” persona rather than looking at his record. A couple of recent(ish) articles should, then, be helpful to feminists thinking of voting for McCain.
In The Nation, Katha Pollitt analyzes McCain’s position on reproductive choice and decides that, “to vote for McCain, a feminist would have to be insane.” She ends her piece with a quick civics lesson reminding us just how bad a McCain presidency might be for women:
As the Bush years have shown, the President has a tremendous amount of power; Supreme Court nominations don’t begin to describe it. He nominates all the federal judges (302 since Bush took office). He appoints the heads of dozens of regulatory agencies, many of which (HHS, FDA, National Institutes of Health) directly affect women’s lives. He submits legislation and the budget to Congress. He has a veto. Bush, we all know, has filled the government with right-wing Christian hacks and family-values fanatics, with room left over for incompetent cronies. He has done just about nothing good for women. McCain’s record suggests he would not be any different. His opposition to the Ledbetter Act, which would have overturned the Supreme Court’s restrictions on women’s right to sue for paycheck discrimination, tells you everything you need to know about where he stands on economic justice for women.
Kate Sheppard does something similar in an article for In These Times. As she looks at his record on abortion, pay equity, and civil rights, she finds a consistent pattern of votes and quotes that only a GOP loyalist could love.
Spreading the word about McCain’s record is vital, because his campaign is actively courting the moderate women who will be crucial swing-voters. As Sheppard reports, Planned Parenthood conducted a poll of women voters in battleground states and found that 50 percent of women voters don’t know McCain’s position on abortion, and that 49 percent of women who supported McCain were pro-choice. When they were informed of McCain’s position on Roe v. Wade, more than a third of the women who self-identified as pro-choice McCain supporters said that they would reconsider their vote.
In their assessment of this poll,
Planned Parenthood concludes that these findings suggest “that just filling in McCain’s actual voting record and his publicly stated positions on a handful of key issues has the potential to diminish his total vote share among battleground women voters by about 17 to 20 percentage points.”
And, lest we forget: McCain once called his wife a cunt in public.