Yet another post about feminism

Note: This post does not attempt to convince you to vote for any particular person.

Over the last few weeks the political circus has reached a pace so fast and loud that it is dizzying.  Attack ads on the television, blog posts and newspaper articles online, friends talking and arguing with each other. . . it’s all starting to make my head hurt.  I love following politics, especially during presidential election years.  I love listening to the different points of view, considering what kind of people (not class, kind) would vote for which candidates.  I almost always know exactly who I will be voting for within a hot second of candidates announcing themselves, and it only takes me a few minutes longer than that to make my reasons coherent.

I love reading about this stuff, watching the news, listening to NPR coverage of events and results.  I enjoy conversations with people about their points of view, whether or not they align with mine.  I think dialogue is integral to both democracy and true understanding of the issues.  I usually care more about the respect involved in the conversation than the actual point of view shared (with a few exceptions.  Basic human decency and a lack of bigotry are required).  I was raised to have points of view of my own, to discuss them openly, to ask questions, and to try to make the most informed decision that I can.

All this brings me to the point of this post, and the reason that my blood has been boiling more often than not for the last week: feminism.

Yeah, ok, this is yet another post-Steinem and Albright feminist post.

Part of what has prompted me to seriously consider feminism and what it means to me were the horribly badly planned and misguided comments by these two incredible women.  They proved that even the most idealistic and determined advocates make mistakes.  I am terribly disappointed in them, but I also do not believe that they are forever discredited.  This situation is not what really started me thinking though.  What started me contemplating feminism, and how rife with conflict the whole movement is, is Hillary Clinton.

Since the beginning of primary season, let’s say since last summer, I have been trying to understand why people are so anti-Hillary.  While I understand certain reservations about her, the most constant complaint has been “She’s so sleazy.  I don’t trust her.  How could I, after those emails and Benghazi and ohmygoodness I can’t trust a woman who would stay with her husband after a situation like that!”  Instead of listing actual problems with her stance on issues, like they would with a male candidate (and I hear an awful lot on that front about Bernie), people bring up her personal life and actions that have been proven to be in the public sphere because the far right wanted to discredit her.  I don’t know about you, but those don’t seem like real reasons.  In fact, they have nothing to do with policy or qualifications.

They have to do with how people view women.

When, in 2007, it was announced that the Bush administration had used email accounts through the RNC (a probably misguided but not illegal thing to do), there was no big scandal.  The news hit the cycle, and people basically shrugged it off.  They had used the wrong email accounts, emails were lost, and it was in conjunction with the surprise firing of U.S. Attorneys.  There was no major media backlash.  Sure, it was 2007 and the great internet machine had not fully reached the roar that it is at today, but just looking at the coverage from major media outlets and newspapers is proof enough.  It was given a nod, it was a minor hiccup, and it was done.

Now, compare that to how people responded to the Clinton email issues.  As the article I linked to above points out, the brewhaha surrounding Clinton was not about legality.  It was a political stunt aimed at discrediting her.  And as much as I would like to think that people can and would see through that, it appears I am wrong.

People, both men and women, feminists and not, are eager to dismiss Clinton as “scary” and “untrustworthy” and “fake” because of actions totally typical in American politics.  Not that political wordplay is ok, but when men do it it’s not hauled out on the mat for a beating.  When men pander they are rebuked for it, people dismiss them, but that’s that.  The only pandering I have seen that caused anything close to this sort of commotion was Mitt Romney in the 2012 election, when he couldn’t keep track of what he believed in.  And even then it was more comical than a breach of trust.

While trying to process all of this I have witnessed friends falling into the sexism inherent in the anti-Hillary camp.  I don’t care if you agree with her or not, if you would vote for her or not touch her with a ten foot pole.  All I care about is that people treat her with the same respect they would treat a man.  The fact that she is where she is today is incredible.  She is of an age where her accomplishments are extraordinary.  As much as women my age feel like we have to work hard to scramble through life because of men ignoring us, women Hillary’s age had to fight even more.  She is an impressive figure, and I applaud her tenacity and persistence.  The people shouting anti-Hillary rhetoric the loudest are the people who base their opinion in sexism.  Instead of realizing that they don’t trust her because we as a society do not trust outspoken, strong, “ambitious” women, they claim they don’t trust her because of emails.  Instead of acknowledging that her thorough entrenchment in DC politics is because she is excellent at politics as it is done in America, people say she is terribly untrustworthy simply because she is a politician.  And yes, politicians have a penchant for not saying what they actually mean and not following through, but that is a common problem.  She is no worse than the rest for that.

I have read several articles about feminism and Hillary Clinton today, but two of them resonated with me.  One is pro-Hillary, one is pro-Bernie.  Both are respectful, pertinent, and fervently feminist.  Both understand that not everyone agrees with that point of view, yet both refuse to back down from their stance.  But, most importantly, both amplify just how ridiculous it is to be anti-Hillary because she isn’t trustworthy.  She comes across as not trustworthy because she is good at what she does.  Good for her.  She is incredibly successful.

It makes me sad when I see people declaring they will never support Hillary Clinton for reasons that are so quantifiably not reasons.  Say you don’t like that she supported the Patriot Act, say you don’t like the Iran sanctions, say you don’t think her plan for making college affordable is feasible.

But please, for the love of all that is holy, don’t say it’s because of the damn emails.

 

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Patriotism

Patriotism is complicated.

Some people seem to think that being a patriot means you follow blindly. You support your country without question, you show no discontent or criticism, and you soldier on. A united front of sheep.

I disagree with this view. How can you truly love something, be it a person or country, if you can’t see it’s faults? How can you claim to be proud of your country if you refuse to constantly improve it? The most important part of patriotism is seeing when something is wrong. Seeing when something needs to be fixed. One must be willing to admit failure or fault in order to truly love something. Blind following helps no one.

I’m re-watching “The Newsroom”, an HBO masterpiece, and it has one of my favorite opening scenes ever (see it here). It makes me think about all the things I wish were different about America, and all the ways in which our government is set up to allow us to fix it when it needs a tune up. You wouldn’t refuse to take your car to the shop if it stopped working properly because you love it… You would bring it for a tune up, make sure it’s all working, and replace the radiator. Countries should work the same way.

Patriotism is hard.

Patriotism is complicated.

I’m back!

Hello world. I’m back.

We came back from Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Wednesday. After two weeks of rehearsals, performing, and ogling the Paris Police Gymnastics Team… I’m just ready to be home. I wouldn’t trade the experiences I had over the last couple weeks for the world, but gosh being away from home just for a two week vacation is hard. Being away from home for two weeks to be in a show is a million times harder.

I’m not really sure what to say about what happened during our time in Halifax. It was fabulous, it was long, it was hard. There were tears, and laughter, and sunshine, and rain. We went on adventures, we climbed very steep hills, we put our feet in the freezing cold harbor. We looked out over the city on top of the Citadel, we ate in pubs, we danced, and we gave our show everything we had.

Oh, and Adam and I got engaged!!!!!

So really, it was a great trip. Now we are home, I’m nursing the ends of a sleep-deprivation cold, and have to catch up on real life. The to-do list includes finishing unpacking, cleaning the apartment, and finding myself a place volunteering at a museum. But, for now, here are some pictures from our trip!!!

While we were away the Supreme Court ruled marriage bans unconstitutional!

My first very pretty design on a latte…. and it’s even just from Starbucks!

Hanging with some friends watching other groups rehearse at the arena.

Every Sunday needs chocolate cake!

Selfies in full kit are, of course, necessary.

Adam falls asleep pretty much anywhere he can

The sister came to see us!

On top of the Citadel, she’s so pretty.

Sister turned into the paparazzi when we told her we were engaged. Most of the pictures were iffy, but I just love this one at the top of the Citadel looking out over the world.

Mum came to see us too!!

The waves come in pretty hard on McNabs Island in Halifax Harbor.

Mum wanted a picture with Adam too.

My swollen and aching feet in the harbor. The water was so cold it was like icing!

A beautiful view off of McNabs Island!

ACLU

This week I got to go to the ACLU of Massachusetts (ACLUM) Bill of Rights dinner with my whole family and my grandparents. This was exciting for me on so many levels. First of all, I love fancy schmoozy dinners with cocktail hours. I love to dress up, I love wine, and I love chatting (which is surprising and not surprising simultaneously, for those of you who know me… I’m naturally shy and also an introvert, so go figure). The best part about chatting at these events is that I am there as a guest of my grandparents. My gramma loves to introduce her offspring to people, and it’s one of those times where I can see how much she loves us all and is proud of each of us. It’s sweet, and I love being able to put a good face forward for her to show.

Speaking of being trotted out by my grandparents, at one point during the cocktail hour (more like hour and a half!) I took Zayde to go sit down. He can’t stand for that long without pain, and he was starting to look like he was uncomfortable. I wasn’t about to let him sit in a corner by himself though, so I went and had a nice long talk with him. We rarely get to chat by ourselves for long, so it was really nice. I told him how I feel about cocktail hours, but I told him the funny version: “Hi! I’m Beth. I’m the oldest granddaughter. I’m starting grad school in the fall, I play the fife in a world traveling group, and here are my accomplishments all lined up in a row for you.”

Zayde spat water out he thought it was so funny.

Anyway, it was the ACLU dinner, which meant that dinner was scattered with speeches and cheering. Speeches made by those in the upper echelons of ACLUM, speeches made by those the ACLUM has represented… it was amazing. So many inspiring and uplifting stories. Stories where justice and equality won out. Stories full of empathy, fear, and hope.

Oh, and a speech given by the one and only George Takei.

I got to meet Sulu, but more importantly I got to hear him speak about the day his family was taken to a Japanese internment camp. I could hear the raw emotion in his voice, 74 years later. He spoke about why he is such a staunch supporter of the ACLU, referencing the moment in 1978 that the ACLU defended the American Nazi Party when they wanted to openly demonstrate in Skokie, IL… A town where at the time there were many Holocaust survivors living. He talked about how, the day he got the reminder to renew his ACLU membership, the news about Skokie had broken. He struggled with it, tried to figure out how an organization like the ACLU could possibly support people with such heinous and injudicious views as the Nazis. But, in the end, he realized that the ACLU did not support the Nazis… just their right to free speech.

Listening to Mr. Takei (he introduced himself to my family and myself as George, but I just can’t call him plain George. He’s far too incredible, he needs a more reverent prefix!) I kept thinking about how important it is that each and every one of us in the United States has a right to free speech, to practice our religions, to gather in public places. And you know what? It’s HARD to have those rights! You have to want to defend other people’s right to differing opinions if you want to have your own right to your own opinion.

I keep being reminded of the movie, The American President. In it President Shepherd makes a speech, and says “America isn’t easy. America is advanced citizenship. You’ve gotta want it bad, because it’s going to put up a fight.” And gosh darn it he’s right. Being an active citizen of the US is hard. Really hard. In order for us all to be equal, we all have to treat each other as equals. And as shown by the events of the past year (and all of our history) that is not always easy… sometimes we fail worse than others.

But dammit, it’s so worth it.

Musings on “The West Wing” and Idealism with Dad

Spoiler Alert: I describe some stuff from “The West Wing”. If you want to watch the series without knowing what will happen, you have been warned.

A few days ago I had the pleasure of spending the day with my mum. We were working on a craft project. Without her help it would not have turned out nearly as, well, perfectly, as it did. That is not the point of this post, however worthy a topic mother/daughter bonding is.

Over dinner that evening we sat with Dad and watched a few episodes of “The West Wing”. I adore the show. I’ve seen every episode at least twice, and when my sister and I were figuring out a birthday present for Dad last year we opted for the DVDs. He had never really seen the show and it was our filial duty to expose him to the wonders of President Bartlett and Josh Lyman. This spring he has finally started the show… With Mum.

Let us pause for a moment to explain something about my father: he believes in the system. It’s not that he believes that it is infallible, far from it. What Dad believes in is the ability of every citizen to have a voice. He believes in equality, justice, and civic duty. If you don’t vote in his house, you get yelled at and generally guilted. That senator that was elected that we didn’t want? It’s YOUR fault that he won the election! (Ask me how I know? I was in college, forgot it was election day, AND didn’t have a ride to the booth even if I hadn’t forgotten. I’M SORRY MUM AND DAD!) Anyway, Dad really believes in this stuff. He reads the Declaration of Independence to us every July 4th. One year we were in Washington D.C. for the 4th and we went to the National Archives and Dad peered over the original and tried to read it to us (good thing he’s read it so many times he has it almost memorized). While Dad would never say that he “doesn’t care who you vote for, just vote”, he emphatically believes that voting is the epitome of adult responsibility. Well, that and not killing people. The point is, Dad sees wonder in how our system is set up. And he passed it along to me.

Maybe it shows why we both are drawn to history. Maybe it shows why we both became (or in my case, nearly became) history teachers in public schools. Maybe it shows why we both became disappointed in and un-enamored of the public school system. Whatever it shows, Dad and I are political junkies. And “The West Wing” fuels our addiction.

I first found out that Mum and Dad were watching the show when I saw Mum the first time after they started. “Hey Beth,” she said. “I want to vote for Jed Bartlett. Can I?” My response was along the lines of “Welcome to the club, your shirt will be delivered later this week.” Since then I have received updates from both my parents and my sister (who has seen the entire series through and through) about where they are, what just happened, oh my gosh I hate that guy, etc.

Well, two days ago I got to watch the episodes with the government shut down. With my dad. And you know what? It turns out that we watch the show the same way.

Dad hushed me and Mum whenever we started chatting (even though it was usually about the show). He would also take in a deep breath and hold it when something dramatic was clearly about to happen. (“Oh hey. It’s raining with thunder. Something serious is about to happen! Have you noticed how it’s always raining in D.C. when something big is going to happen?”)

Well, the talks going back and forth about the budget and the extension to work on the budget made Dad talk to the T.V. He was righteously outraged that Josh wasn’t a part of the talks, annoyed with Angela for taking Josh’s place, and relieved when Donna got to be in the room. And then Bartlett ended the discussions and walked out. And Dad kind of cheered. It wasn’t really a cheer, because government shutdowns are awful. They’re bad for everyone. What Dad was celebrating was Bartlett being Bartlett. He was celebrating a president not being dragged around by childish and selfish senators. He was celebrating the president standing up for the people and for what he thought was right. He was celebrating the checks and balances of power built into the system.

Now, I don’t know how many of you have seen the series, so let me fill you in. They shutdown the government because they couldn’t agree. There was $100 billion between the White House and the Senate. The White House gave their $50 billion in compromise, and the Senate didn’t. Instead they demanded the White House give more… and more… and more… and more. So the President said no. The leader of the senators, Haffley, was sure the President would give in. Well, by the fourth day it was not clear if Haffley was right. Something had to be done though, so the President decided to go to the Hill, be the bigger person, and try to talk to the senators again. AND HE ENDS UP WALKING THERE! The senators think it’s just a cheap stunt, and they make the President wait 7 minutes out in the hallway. So the press gets pictures of Bartlett sitting quietly, WAITING! And then Josh suggests that Bartlett has waited long enough… so they LEAVE!!! So the Haffley looks like a buffoon and Bartlett wins. It’s great.

Well, during all the mishegas Dad watched rapt. And when Bartlett got up and left he basically punched the air. He kept saying “Haffley is like Gingrich in the 90s! He ended up looking like an ass and Clinton was the good guy!”

Dad’s reaction to the episode made me so happy. I loved seeing that I am like him, and I love seeing him so wrapped up in something. We began discussing why we love the show, and it turns out it’s because it makes both of us want to change careers and DO SOMETHING. For me “The West Wing” makes me want to go to law school, go to D.C., and kick people’s butts. Dad wants to be Toby, I want to be Josh, and Mum? She wants to be C.J. Dad and I laughed at her talking about it, because she wants C.J.’s clothes. But hey. The show has something for everyone.

And what it has for Dad and me is hope and motivation to try and see good in the country.

Another reason I live in MA

Something that will become ridiculously clear to anyone who talks to me or reads this page is that I am pro love and free living. I am liberal. I listen to both sides of the argument before I make a decision or state an opinion, but to my core I am very liberal. It works for me. Because of this I follow some interesting things on Facebook, like The Beer Party. They find all kinds of cool links to articles that make me think, or make me rage. Today? It’s rage.

According to an article The Beer Party shared from Patheos.com the Oklahoma House is trying to take away the right to marry from everyone who is not religious. It’s really a bill to prevent marriage equality, but on the bare face of it the purpose is to prevent town clerks from having to issue marriage licenses to gay couples. Apparently those clerks would have a huge moral dilemma if a couple who was atheist or gay showed up asking for a license. Instead licenses would be issued by an approved member of the clergy. Oy.

Now, I don’t require everyone to be gay, and I understand (entirely objectively, because obviously I’m totally different) that some people are creeped out by homosexuality. I wish they weren’t, I don’t like it, I don’t really understand it in my heart, but there it is. All I request is you give everyone equal opportunity under the law and don’t discriminate. Don’t like marriage equality? Don’t marry someone who identifies as the same gender as you. That’s pretty darn simple. Married gay people represent no threat to you. I don’t want someone else’s morals ruling my life, therefore the law should allow the most freedom for people to choose (i.e. marriage equality).

The Oklahoma lawmakers pushing this legislation think that marriage is a mandate from God. Ok, sure, getting married is a mitzvah. It is in the Bible and the Torah and I believe the Quran (although I’m not well versed in that particular holy book). Representative Johnson, a supporter of the law, thinks that because it is in the Bible the government has no place in the institution of marriage. But, as the article states, there’s a difference between a marriage and a wedding:

“Johnson and other Republicans are confused. For the record, marriage is a legal contract between two consenting adults, and as a legal contract it is governed by the state. A wedding, on the other hand, may or may not be a religious ceremony, depending upon the wishes of the couple.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself. Marriage has always been a contract, since before monotheism and everything. For a very very long time marriage has been a contract. In fact, part of Jewish weddings is the signing of said contract. It is legal. Since we live in a system that legalizes everything for the state, well… The state needs to be a part of it. And because our government is separated from the church (legally. Hi there, Constitution) this law is royally unconstitutional and mean without even getting into all the amendments it violates because of discrimination. It is trying to create a theocracy in Oklahoma, which isn’t technically allowed.

I get very annoyed with this sort of thing for a variety of reasons. First of all it’s just not fair. Second, when I get married there won’t be a religion aspect to it. There will be Jewish touches here and there, but there won’t be a religious ceremony. Why? Because I identify culturally as Jewish, not religiously. I don’t believe in G-d, but gosh was I shaped by Judaism in general. So I couldn’t get married in Oklahoma, even though I’m going to marry a man and I technically belong to a religion. Third… it’s bigotry. It’s wrong. It’s mean. And I don’t like it.

Go read the article, it’s a great one. And someone, don’t let me internet for the rest of the day because I’ll just start raging more.