Saturday, July 28, 2007

Letter the Washington Post Didn't Publish re Hillary's Cleavage

My friend Friedrike Merck suggested that I create a section on my website called "Salon Refusee", in which we could archive the many letters-to-the-editor that we write but they don't publish. Perhaps I will someday, but meanwhile, here is my latest letter that didn't get published:

To the Editor, Washington Post :

Re: “Hillary Clinton’s Tentative Dip Into New Neckline Territory”, Robin Givhan, Washington Post, July 20, 2007

When women of my age and Hillary’s began to achieve “firsts” in what had always been exclusively a man’s world, we were told to dress for success in the female equivalent of men’s dark business suit, stiff shirt, and bow tie. It was a given that we should appear sexless. Heaven forfend our pulchritude should distract the men from their terribly serious work.

That was over 30 years ago, but apparently women’s attire—or should I simply say “women?”-- remains a distraction, particularly if the woman in question is breaking some “first” barrier. The focus on physical appearance, especially sexuality, is a time-honored way to demean women. It’s the verbal equivalent of patting them on the head dismissively.

I acknowledge we had a national conversation about whether Bill wore boxers of briefs. But that seemed to have a note of lightness and fun about it. It made him seem more human. Instead, Givhan’s analysis of Hillary Clinton’s cleavage makes it a metaphor for aspersions Givhan proceeds to cast on Clinton's character.

Nancy Pelosi got the same treatment (“the Armani Grandma”, Newsweek called her) until she showed without doubt that she has the chops for her job.

As will Hillary Clinton when she becomes President.

Gloria Feldt

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The First Ever SWIA Award

I am mentioned 10 times—more than even Jane Fonda or Betty Friedan--by the anti-feminist Kate O'Beirne in her book Women Who Make the World Worse: and How Their Radical Feminist Assault Is Ruining Our Schools, Families, Military, and Sports, which was endorsed--surprise--by Peggy Noonan, Rush Limbaugh, and Laura Ingraham, This must mean I am doing something right. With those credentials as well as being an afficionada of Keith Olberman's nightly "Worst Person in the World" shtick, I have decided to start my own award for the stupidest women in America (SWIAA ™).

O'Beirne, has the hubris necessary to claim the right to worldwide judgment. Humble person that I am, I'm planning to highlight only the stupidest women in America. And because as everyone knows I am inherently biased toward liberals, I'll let Olberman slide this time.

My first SWIAA™ award goes hands down to Harriet Miers. Miers, the former White House Counsel who was George W. Bush's obviously underqualified and clearly doomed token female nominee for U. S. Supreme Court who was quickly withdrawn so he could pick the white male Justice he really wanted. She continues to stand by her man with her mouth clamped shut while Congress slaps her around.

The House Judiciary Committee, on July 25, ruled her in contempt of Congress for failing to respond to their subpoena for information related to the use of blatant political influence in the firing of a whole slew of U. S. Attorneys general. These AG's failed in one way or another to tow the administration's line.

But Miers is the Tower-in-Chief. She is the always good little girl seeking the big boys' approval, the woman who meekly does as asked when George W. Bush or his minions do the asking, the unmarried woman who so needs to be part of the hierarchical rightwing male bastion of power that she subordinates herself to men to whom she is not married but is clearly tethered in unholy alliance. These are men, not coincidentally, for whom abrogating women's Constitutional rights to equality in everything from salaries to sports to reproductive self-determination is just their breakfast cereal.

And what do you bet than faster than Scooter Libby was pardoned, Miers will swing in the wind, with that frozen I'm-a-good-little-girl smile still on her face?

Maybe someday I'll expand this award to men (SMIAA ™), but since Miers inspired me to start this SWIAA ™ list, I'm going to start by recognizing women like Miers who have no sense of their own best interest. Or perhaps they erroneously think their best interest is in identifying with their oppressors. "Ventriloquists for the patriarchy", Jane Fonda has aptly called such women.

Miers deserves my first SWIAA™ so much that I am thinking about naming it after her: the Harriet Miers Stupidest Woman in America Award. What do ya'll think?

Monday, July 16, 2007

Elle Magazine : "The Incredible Shrinking Woman"

ELLE magazine has a terrific section (its title, “The Incredible Shrinking Woman”, came from the original title of my article in it!)on the impact on women of the Gonzales v Carhart decision. Take a gander at he photo of the Supreme Court. It is the perfect visual metaphor—Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the sole woman looking so tiny among the male justices. Here are three links:

My essay entitled “The Time Is Now”
My exclusive Q and A “You Don’t Choose, You Lose”
The full article “The Incredible Shrinking Woman”

Friday, July 13, 2007

Turn Down the Heat on Clinic Protests

It’s the sweltering heat of summer. We can count on seeing ads for escapes to the beach, reminders to wear sunscreen, and the extreme anti-reproductive rights, homophobic Operation Save America's annual attempt to turn up the political heat by mounting a media-circus demonstration at a high profile women's health center that provides abortions. This summer, July 14-22, the target-of-choice is the New Woman, Every Woman Healthcare Clinic in Birmingham AL.

If the location and clinic name ring a bell, there’s good reason. In 1998, Eric Robert Rudolf detonated a firebomb of dynamite and nails at the clinic’s front door, killing police officer Robert “Sandy” Sanderson on his beat and seriously wounding clinic nurse Emily Lyons. In addition to sustaining first, second, and third degree burns covering the front of her body, Lyons lost her left eye and her right was seriously damaged. A hole the size of a fist was blown in her abdomen and her left leg was shattered—just for starters.

There's something else we can count on too during these heated summer encounters. The doctors and women's health groups subject to these demonstrations, along with their allies in pro-choice organizations such as NOW and the Feminist Majority that flock to defend women from OSA's intimidating harassment, will be joined together with their adversaries in the Kabuki theater of irreconcilable opposites locked into predictable but intractable battles.

"Both sides"--to use the media's favored way of telling that story of those who line up for or against women's right and moral capacity to make their own childbearing decisions--are urged on in their performances by reporters terrified to appear to take a stance yet eager to have a controversy to report on.

The only way to stop the Kabuki dance that resolves nothing is for the community around all of these player to decide enough, stop, we're changing the story. Three groups bear a special responsibility to cool things down.

Community leaders of good conscience, regardless of where they stand on the abortion issue, must see themselves as part of the story, whether they want to be or not. It is they who must set the standard for what constitutes freedom of speech versus what constitutes harassment, intimidation, possible incitement to violence, and definite interference with providing and receiving health care services. Do not accept these demonstrations as just normal free speech because they are most certainly not, neither in intent nor practice. Give groups like OSA their platforms for expression to be sure, but not at a location where women can be hurt--and especially not a place where their own allies have killed and maimed in the past. Every city council should pass two resolutions: one to set a tone of civility and the other to establish alternate ways for dissenters (and they are dissenters—fully 2/3 of Americans want abortion to remain legal and safe) to express themselves away from the health care facility. And there must be zero tolerance for violence against the women, the doctors and other staff, or the facilities. That’s terrorism, plain and simple. Name it and confront it.

Clergy, regardless of where they stand on abortion, must join hands preemptively, before the demonstrations start, and declare their own open microphone day to decry violence and intimidation of women. Pro-choice clergy have an especially important role to publicly support the women who are making decisions they believe as fervently are moral and responsible ones as their detractors scream are otherwise. Pro-choice people of faith need to create a supportive welcome to the women and courageous staff and volunteers by their public words and deeds.

Clinics are vulnerable to violence and harassment precisely because they are isolated from the rest of medical practice. And how ironic it is that these very same clinics are so often women’s main source of medical care, in particular family planning services that prevent unintended pregnancy and abortion. So the medical community has a role to play too. Abortion should be defined and practiced as part of women's health care, and that would in itself diffuse much of the confrontation.

It’s the heat of summer. Time to go to the beach slathered in sunscreen. Time to take a new look at an old story and cool down the script so that our passion can be spent not on fighting intractable battles but on assuring that women have the health care, information, and social supports to make their own childbearing decisions without fear.

Gloria Feldt is the author of The War on Choice: the Right-wing Attack on Women’s Rights and How to Fight Back and former president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. She frequently lectures on the history and future vision for reproductive rights, health, and justice.
Published by American Forum 7/13/07
© Gloria Feldt 2007