Monday, October 25, 2010

Yes, feminists should defend Christine O'Donnell


[H]ave the attacks on O'Donnell been "sexist and misogynistic"? Sure, they have been glib and mocking — par for the course when there's so much video evidence of her insouciant wingnuttery. And they have involved sex, but only because that was O'Donnell's topic of choice until she discovered a vague and sudden passion for tax cuts.

It's fair to say that within a patriarchal society, any woman that is being scrutinized and attacked by mainstream opinion is going to encounter the same kind of hostility that women with much lower profiles experience all the time, solely on the basis that they are women.

Because a solidarity with women finds its roots in the recognition that patriarchy works actively to harm and subjugate women, feminists should work actively in anticipating that this will be as much the case with specific, well-known women as we already understand it to be the case with every woman -- if not more.

Defending someone on the basis that they are a victim of patriarchy is no different than advocating for someone on the basis that they are working class: it is a position that is maintained on specific grounds; namely, that people who are being victimized, for whatever reason, deserve support.

For example, there are plenty of working class people who are racist, misogynistic, or homophobic who at the same time are victims of globalized capital (and by "working class" I do not merely mean "blue collar"; I mean all workers). Wobblies understand that all workers deserve solidarity in their struggle against employers and other bosses. They should also know that the best way to confront racism, sexism, and homophobia (among other violences) is by organizing along these lines: to extend solidarity to the victimized, and to confront the victimizers in all relations.

Practicing solidarity with women is no different. Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin deserve to be confronted for the various ways they advance authority by illegitimate means. But they have also been attacked by illegitimate means, on the grounds that they are women. And while I haven't followed the O'Donnell case closely, unless we convince ourselves that mainstream liberal culture is not patriarchal, we can expect that the same anti-woman sentiments will find their expression in the course of a heated Senate campaign.

The point is not that Clinton or Palin or O'Donnell deserve special attention in this regard, but that nobody ever deserves to be attacked on the basis of any illegitimate criteria. Wobblies know very well: An injury to one is an injury to all.


Anonymous said...

Oh BS. As a woman I get so sick of people like O'Donnell and Palin hurling emasculating terms at their competitors and then crying poor picked on woman when they are called to the table. She is picked on because she is a complete joke, not because she is a woman. I am ashamed of woman like this, they hurt us all.

JRB said...


Perhaps there are many reasons to be sick of particular women politicians. If "playing the gender-card" without justification is among them, they should be called on it.

I'm glad you are doing that!

brian said...

i saw this video montage what's-his-face put together of early o'donnell clips from his show in the 90s. what was amazing wasn't the comments made by o'donnell, but rather the way the males also on the show dismissed her opinion. usually telling her to shut up or stop talking or suggesting that her problem's could be solved by a good fuck. in other words, the video montage suggested that the reason she is unfit to run for office is because she is a woman.