Ladies and jerks

An internet age ago (Timeliness is a lot to ask of me—my lunch breaks are only so long!) Senator Arlen Specter said this to Representative Michelle Bachmann when the two were talking over each other during a radio interview:

Now wait a minute! Don’t interrupt me, I didn’t interrupt you. Act like a lady.

Yeah, gross, obviously. And over at Broadsheet, Tracy Clark-Flory makes this perfectly valid point:

Many women interpret “act like a lady” to mean “know your place, little girl.” This comes from spending a lifetime being instructed in various ways to sit back politely, speak up only when called upon and defer to the male ego.

But “act like a lady” is more pernicious than that. It sets up a dichotomy between the “right way” and “wrong ways” to be a woman. The concept is ridiculous on its face—all women are real women—and it’s intensely limiting and therefore misogynist without further elaboration, but all that much more so when you realize there’s no similar proscription for men—”Act like a gentleman” is only ever said to toddler boys being told to let a girl go ahead of them on the slide. Good men are… well, they’re just called “good men,” but almost never gentlemen. Bad men are assholes, jerks, bastards, and lowlifes, but never not men. No one ever tells them they’re doing manhood wrong; no one ever threatens to revoke the status of “gentleman” from a man who annoys them.

And that’s exactly what this is: a threat. Ladies are treated as nearly human, and ladies are afforded special protection from all those dirtbags, creeps, cads, and sons-of-bitches out there, as well as from swearing, raised voices, and the burdens of intellectual endeavor. All those not-ladies? Those women? Well, without a man to protect them, without the deference accorded to ladies, they’re vulnerable to all kinds of repellent exploitations, and no man would sully his reputation by being seen to intercede with a reprobate, malefactor, thug, or weasel on behalf of some dirty, amoral, impertinent bitch.

Specter is threatening to revoke Bachmann’s status as a lady, leaving her open to attack—from him and from others—with the strong implication that she will deserve whatever she gets. And I’m not just talking about having her political views mocked in the press. Ladyhood is set up as a status vital to the survival of women, that is granted, very rarely, by men of power, and can be revoked by any man for any reason at any time.

To tell a woman to act like a lady is not merely patronizing and dismissive, it is an overt reminder of women’s lower status in society and the fact that women require men’s assent to achieve anything and for men to behave in a “gentlemanly” manner at all times to avoid everything from social rejection to physical violence.



All the local stations are calling it. Coakley conceded. Somehow Massachusetts elected a forced-birth advocating, birth-certificate denying, Kennedy-hating teabagger.

I am deeply ashamed of my state right now. Congratulations, fellow voters. If you’re a wealthy, straight, white, able-bodied, Christian man between 35 and 60 who has a recession-proof job, high-quality, low-cost health insurance, and a small enough heart to only care about people just like you, Scott Brown might not be that bad for you.

Anyone know of any expatriate newspapers looking for a good editor?

The Senate race is giving me heart palpitations

Wish I had a moment to say something more in-depth, but since I’m using my lunch break to both eat and post this, I’ll have to settle for a few thoughts.

1. The weather here is shitty—wet, sloppy snow—and that probably helps Brown. Low turnouts are generally good for challengers because their voters tend to be more motivated. They’ll turn out in muck to change the system, whereas supporters of incumbents (or members of entrenched incumbent parties, in this case) feel their candidate is safe without their votes and are more easily convinced to stay home.

2. However, turnout has been surprisingly strong so far, which I think is a good sign for Coakley. It could be that every last member of Brown’s base is at the polls and they alone are enough to make turnout look high for an off-year special election, but I doubt it. What I think is happening is that all the national coverage of Brown’s surge has led a lot of complacent Massachusetts liberals to realize that, for once, the primaries were not the only vote that matters. The same goes for people who were going to stay home because because, you know, Coakley sucks, who’re now realizing that it’s important to hold their noses and vote the ticket if they don’t want zombie Ted Kennedy on their doorsteps tomorrow.

3. It’s important to note that the Globe article is referring to strong turnout in Boston, which is usually very strongly Democratic and always the source of the lion’s share of the state’s votes. In Boston, most people can walk to their polling places. This may make a difference, because the largest Republican enclaves are on the Cape and along the I-495 loop that skirts the city, where all those people who have office jobs in Boston but don’t want to see a person of color in their neighborhood live. If it snows hard enough, especially if the roads get bad, those people might decide to go straight home after work. A girl can dream.

4. If Scott Motherfucking Brown wins this election, I’m moving to France, where I can vote Socialist, spend a month on the Riviera every summer, and drink red wine by the gallon. À bientôt, mes amis.

Goodbye, Teddy

I hope to have coherent thoughts on the death of Senator Kennedy in a few days, but I’m having trouble pulling them together right now.

I will miss him. And although our standard-bearer may have fallen, the best way to heal ourselves and pay tribute to him is to keep fighting. Not in his name, but for his causes. As my boyfriend said, Teddy would probably rather the health care bill be called the “Ted Kennedy Was A Drunken Schmuck Health Care Act” and include a robust public option than have it lionize him but be toothless itself.

Those interested in paying tribute to the late senior Senator from Massachusetts should head to the memorial website his family has set up,, and those in the area who are thinking of attending one of the public mourning events in his honor can find information about the arrangements here.

Thought for the day

Sorry to have gone silent for a bit there. I forgot to mention that I was venturing south of the Mason-Dixon for a relative’s wedding, and I was way too busy to post. But I’m back in good ol’ Massachusetts now, where people aren’t completely taken aback by self-deprecating humor, and I’ll probably start posting regularly again this weekend/next week.

For now, I give you a quick thought for the day: Why is that with so many Congresspeople using federally administered healthcare, a large number of whom are vehemently opposed to single-payer healthcare and all of whom have ready access to a national audience, we have not heard one horror story of the evils of government-run healthcare? To be sure, anyone in Congress is probably wealthy enough not to have to delay or forgo care—if the health insurance plans they get through their elected offices fail them, they can buy supplemental insurance or pay extra costs out of pocket. But if they had to resort to that, why haven’t they said anything? How far would a little anecdata go? Imagine a Representative on the Sunday morning talk shows saying, “I was told I’d have to wait three months to see a cardiac specialist, so I bought supplemental insurance so I could get taken care of sooner. What about all those Americans who aren’t as fortunate as I am? How long will they have to wait to see a specialist?” Or a Senator complaining, “My federal health insurance wouldn’t allow me to see the family doctor I’ve been going to for 20 years. Luckily for me, I can afford to pay her out of pocket, but what happens to working-class Americans? Do they have to give up their trusted medical practitioner?” Middle class people who don’t realize how much cheaper government-run healthcare would be would eat that shit up. (Of course, the 46 million Americans who have no health insurance probably won’t be much bothered by these complaints, since they people who can’t go to the doctor don’t have preferred practitioners and may have been delaying much-needed medical care for years, but the anti-single-payer folk don’t seem too concerned about them anyway.) The fact that not one Congresscritter has come out with such a woeful tale of how big government ruins everything makes me suspect they don’t exist. Which means, of course, that those opposing the government option are even more despicable, because they know themselves to be lying.

Sub-thought for the day: Why do anti-single-payer pro-lifers think it’s evil to “put a bureaucrat between you and your doctor” when they’re talking about providing healthcare to the poor but think it’s great, awesome, super-duper necessary when they’re talking about pregnant women? I’ve been chewing on that one for weeks and somehow the only answer I can come up with is “misogyny.” But that can’t be right…

Roundup: Reasons my mood matches the weather

For those not in Boston, the description that suits both is “foul.”

  • This tidbit on the front page of the Boston Globe‘s website:
  • Cuts reached, Times does not foresee closing Globe
    With the 23 percent pay cut imposed on members of the Boston Newspaper Guild, the paper’s owner, the New York Times Co., said today it has achieved the savings it needs and doesn’t foresee shutting down the paper.

    Now, of course I’m happy that the Globe won’t be closing. But I was never really afraid that it would be closing, because this same little melodrama plays out every year or two. Each time, the Times Co. tell the unions that if they don’t make big sacrifices, the paper will shut down and everyone will lose their jobs. And yet even though the company almost never gets the full amount of concessions it was asking for, the paper miraculously continues to publish! Why, it’s almost as if the parent company were exaggerating the paper’s financial distress in order to cheat employees and weaken the unions! But that can’t be, because corporations are fundamentally ethical and have come to recognize the important role unions play in today’s business world.

  • Dr. Tiller’s clinic is closing permanently. It’s hardly surprising, as there are few people trained to do the procedures Dr. Tiller performed, and, thanks to terrorists like Scott Roeder, fewer still willing to perform them, but part of me was hoping that something amazing would happen to allow the clinic to carry on its vital mission. But in real life, terrorists often win.
  • This dude’s “My Brief Life as a Woman” article. He was prescribed Lupron, which suppresses sex hormones, as part of his treatment for prostate cancer and discovered that the drug induced in him a state similar to menopause. From this he “confirm[ed] my lifelong sense that the world of women is hormonal and mysterious,” including such difficulties as uncontrollable food cravings and weeping jags brought on by nothing in particular. It’s not worth going into any depth about this, but let me briefly enumerate the assumptions required to make this article possible:
    1. His problems were all caused by hormone fluctuations, none from the side effects of Lupron itself, even though I hear it’s a pretty powerful drug.
    2. The symptoms produced by testosterone withdrawal in men in no way vary from those produced by estrogen withdrawal (menopause) in women.
    3. Menopause, far from being a relatively brief transitional phase between two much longer, more stable phases in a woman’s life, is pretty much the state of all women, all the time.
    4. Despite being in a constant state of hormonal change (…is that even possible?) for decades on end, women have developed no strategies for coping with the effects of these fluctuations and are completely at their mercy.
    5. Men experience no hormone fluctuations similar to those of the menstrual cycle or menopause in women that would alter their moods or produce physical changes.
  • I saw this cartoon on the front page of Slate the other day:
    For those who can’t see the image, Osama bin Laden is in a cave reading a newspaper with the headline “Obama Reaches Out to Muslims” and declaring “And we’ll be reaching out to Christians.”
    Ha ha ha! Get it? It’s funny! It’s totally funny! Don’t you get it? It’s funny because A) America is a Christian nation, and attacks on America—even those directed at international symbols of secular concepts and institutions like finance/capitalism and the U.S. government/democracy—are properly understood as attacks on Christianity and Christians, for it is our official national religion with which Muslim extremists take issue, B) the primary purpose of Obama’s Cairo speech was to combat terrorism, C) giving speeches is all the Obama administration is doing to combat terrorism, and D) making a public gesture of basic respect for the 1.5 billion members of the world’s second-largest religion would do nothing at all to prevent terrorism and might even encourage it! Now you get, it right? I shouldn’t even bother typing anymore, because surely you are now laughing too hard to read this through your tears of mirth!

It’s that time of the election cycle again…

Yes, Obama’s first 100 days ended about five minutes ago, but the 2012 campaign has already begun. This unwelcome news was forced upon my consciousness, which had been dutifully trying to ignore it for weeks now, during an afternoon perusal of the Boston Globe‘s homepage. There I saw, under some much less interesting news about former Mass House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi’s indictment for being more than usually corrupt, the following two headlines in close proximity to one another: “Romney takes Obama bashing to CNN, ‘Today Show’” and “Minn. Governor Pawlenty won’t seek third term.”

Two inescapable conclusions must be drawn from each of these. From the first, I conclude that Mitt Romney will never, ever stop annoying the shit out of me, and that that annoying fucker is running for president. Still. Again. Some more. From the second, I conclude that Tim Pawlenty is also running for president, and that Al Franken is screwed. Y’see, now that he’s set his sights on the White House, Pawlenty no longer has to pretend he gives a shit what Minnesota voters think, and he has every motivation to do things that empower or curry favor with Republicans, and refusing to certify Franken’s election does both. So unless the Minnesota Supreme Court rules not only that Coleman has no grounds to continue contesting the election, but also that Pawlenty must certify Franken immediately, the junior Senator from Minnesota probably won’t be seated before Congress breaks for the summer. And with a judicial nominee to filibuster, you can bet the party leadership would be extremely grateful to anyone who could hold the Dems to 59 seats.