Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Another Old Feminism icon jumps the shark*

As one with a penchant for wearing my Ms.-issued T-shirt, "Never Underestimate the Power of a Woman," I was thrilled back in the summer of 1984 at the prospect of casting 1 of my 1st-ever top-of-the-national-ticket votes for Geraldine A. Ferraro (left). Ferraro had just defeated an African-American candidate, former Congresswoman and presidential candidate Shirley A. Chisholm, by a delegate vote of 3,920 to 3, to seize the Democratic vice presidential nomination.
Was unsettled soon after that convention by stories questioning my candidate. Was discomfited later in the season, as I watched what, I was forced to admit, did not seem to me anywhere near the stellar performance I'd expected in Ferraro's debate with her GOP opponent, incumbent Vice President George H.W. Bush. Neither matter was enough to change my vote, though.
The chance to put A Woman in the White House trumped any and all doubts in my mind.
Other voters disagreed, however, and in 1984 Republicans trounced Ferraro and her presidential slatemate, Walter Mondale, by a popular vote margin of 58.8% to 40.6%, an electoral vote margin of 525 to 13, and an abysmal states-won margin of 49 to 1.
The experience taught me caution in choosing candidates.
I have voted, of course, for many women since, for in these interim decades there have been many, many women on the ballot. But I have never voted for The Woman when convinced that her opponent was the better choice. In general, I have been pleased with the women who've led where I lived -- U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, to name 2. But by no means have all women leaders pleased me. Still, as this post indicates, I've carried a soft spot for Ferraro all these years, notwithstanding that her candidacy resulted in 4 more years of Reagan-Bush, followed by 4 of Bush-Quayle -- a stretch that helped pave the way for 7-years-and-counting of Bush-Cheney.
No soft spot any more.
IntLawGrrl Johanna E. Bond wrote a while back of her disappointment in Ms. founder Gloria Steinem. Now Ferraro's joined Steinem as an icon of Old Feminism who seems bent on permanently staining her own image in the eyes of New Feminists.
No stomach for repeating what Ferraro's said these last several days; click to read her initial words, and her subsequent defense of herself.
Suffice it to say that a "feminism" that defends women against all, and above all, a "feminism" that reduces everything to a phenomenon to be explained by assigned identities, that ignores intersections among sex and class and race and ethnicity and other attributes, a "feminism" that divides when it ought to unite, deserves no embrace.
Words of division merit only 1 response: denunciation and rejection, now and always.

* "jump the shark" is among my favorite phrases; definition here.