Allison Kilkenny: Unreported

Rich white man declares victory for feminism

Here is Ross Douthat explaining why a billionaire, anti-choice zealots, and right-wing extremists hijacking U.S. politics is a victory for vaginas everywhere.

When historians set out to date the moment when the women’s movement of the 1970s officially consolidated its gains, they could do worse than settle on last Tuesday’s primaries.

I’ll give him points for a hilariously hyperbolic opening. Make your case, sailor.

It was a day when most of the major races featured female candidates, and all the major female candidates won. They won in South Dakota and Arkansas, California and Nevada. They won as business-friendly moderates (the Golden State’s Meg Whitman); as embattled incumbents (Arkansas’s Blanche Lincoln); as Tea Party insurgents (Sharron Angle in Nevada). South Carolina gubernatorial hopeful Nikki Haley even came in first despite multiple allegations of adultery.

But mostly, they won as Republicans. Conservative Republicans, in fact. Conservative Republicans endorsed by Sarah Palin, in many cases. Which generated a certain amount of angst in the liberal commentariat about What It All Meant For Feminism.

The question of whether conservative women get to be feminists is an interesting and important one. But it has obscured a deeper truth: Whether or not Palin or Fiorina or Haley can legitimately claim the label feminist, their rise is a testament to the overall triumph of the women’s movement.

Yesterday, I wrote about media pundits’ propensity to portray the extremely old and familiar as fresh and exciting. They do this to sell papers, drum up website hits, and to appear insightful and necessary. Maybe a handful do it out of boredom, or stupidity, believing what they are seeing really is something revolutionary.

In reality, there is nothing more sexist than assuming any woman’s political victory — regardless of the type of woman — is a progressive step forward for the feminist movement. Women are people, and people are a diverse bunch. It still matters what kind of woman wins the election. And the kind of women that won these races are either preposterously wealthy, staunch anti-feminists, or a healthy combination of both.

What happened on election day is an old story: rich, mostly white, right-wingers won. Oh, and they also happen to be girls. Hooray.

Basically, it will take more than Douthat calling this a victory for feminism to make it so.

California

Meg Whitman, the billionaire former eBay chief executive, won the Republican nomination for governor after spending a record $71 million of her money on the race. Quite simply, Whitman bought her victory, and this has nothing to do with the bonds of sisterhood or feminine strength. This is corporatism in a skirt.

In fact, Whitman herself seems to hate the notion of feminism. At least, she certainly doesn’t want anyone calling her such an offensive term. When asked if she is a feminist, Whitman replied, “I am a big believer in equal rights for all people … in a level playing field.” But she said, “I’m not a big label person.”

This could be NOW’s new slogan: Taking action for women’s equality since 1966…or whatever…we’re not big label people.

Arkansas

I know when Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony were taking on the male-dominated establishment, what sustained them was the thought that one day Blanche Lincoln (D-Walmart) would squeak out a victory despite being a corporate whore.

Apparently, it doesn’t matter than Lincoln is a turncoat Blue Dog Democrat, who voted with Republicans to allow warrantless government surveillance, the invasion of Iraq, and shot down the public option. All that matters is the stuff between her legs, which sort of goes against the whole notion of “feminism,” but nevermind. A girl won!

Nevada

And then there’s Sharron Angle. I’ve written about her support of the right-wing extremist fringe, but Douthat skims over such silly details for the sake of preserving his narrative i.e. Things Are Super Awesome For Women Right Now. He’s going to jam this premise down your throat even though women earn around 79% of men’s median weekly salaries, and Congress just passed a healthcare bill that dramatically diminishes a woman’s right to choose the fate of her own body.

Angle proposed a bill that “would have required doctors to inform women seeking abortions about a controversial theory linking an increased risk of breast cancer with abortion.” (The abortion-causes-breast cancer theory is a myth, and was spread, in part, to discourage abortions). But I hear lying to scared, pregnant women for the sake of controlling their bodies is all the rage right now in the neo-feminist movement.

South Carolina

Other than the novelty of having survived not one — but multiple — allegations of adultery, Nikki Haley is extremely typical of the right-wing fringe. She has a 100 percent rating from the anti-abortion S.C. Citizens for Life group, and she calls on her website for the deportation of illegal immigrants. Oh, and if any of her white supremacist base, who may confuse her for a “raghead,” were concerned, don’t worry. She converted to Christianity.

Modern Republicans have grown wise to the fact that they’re never going to defeat feminism. Try as they did to shame, humiliate, and dismiss feminists as a bunch of ugly, barren spinsters, who refuse to shave their legs and can’t land a man, the propaganda campaign didn’t stick. Now, they’re left with only one option: hijack the movement.

In the same way President Obama’s victory was a sign that affirmative action is “no longer necessary,” so the victories of a handful of women (be they billionaires, right-wing extremists, turncoats, or militant anti-choicers) herald the dawn of a new feminism: one that is staunchly anti-woman, and represents only a class of wealthy, pro-Business, right wing extremists.

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I Hate Maureen Dowd

Posted in Uncategorized by allisonkilkenny on October 16, 2008

[This is the piece I wrote for the 2008 Hysterical Festival. Enjoy!]

This piece I wrote is about Maureen Dowd. In case you’re a fortunate person, who is living a life unmarred by Maureen Dowd, let me explain who she is. Maureen is a New York Times columnist. She is 56-years-young, but she still uses her glamour shot from 20 years ago as her photo in the New York Times. Sexy.

Maureen Dowd

Maureen Dowd

Tearing down Maureen at a festival celebrating women may seem like a conflict of interest, but it’s not. I am defending womankind from Maureen Dowd.

Here’s why: she is a terrible writer, a fact hidden from some people because she is also a well-educated woman, who throws around polysyllabic words and crams Classical references into every metaphor even if they don’t really belong there. If the sentence could be: Becky finished her lunch and went to the store, Maureen would write: Rebecca vanquished her brunch and sauntered to the boutique.

She’s pretentious AND she’s not funny despite the fact that she’s sort of the unofficial humorist for the Times, a job I imagine no one assigned her, but which Maureen has nonetheless taken up as her crusade.

I think the New York Times should spend its Maureen Dowd pay allowance on either a real journalist or a real comic, but they need to get off the fence and stop wasting everyone’s time with Maureen Dowd’s creepy half-jokes. Whenever I read one of her awful puns, it feels like some old man is trying to put his cold hand up my skirt. I feel cheated by her terrible sense of humor and her Wikipedia-researched columns.

Here’s the good news: I’m not alone in my hatred for her. A simple Google search of “Maureen Dowd is awful” brings up a ton of great reading material.

For example, Maureen is so slit-your-wrists terrible that students at Oxford had to invent a new term just to deal with reading her work. They call it “The Immutable Law of Dowd” and it includes 3 laws that describe all of Maureen’s articles. The first law is that her writing contains all personality and no substance.

Which brings me to another reason why I hate Maureen Dowd: She won a Pulitzer Prize…but not for her coverage of some tragic war or issues of poverty or famine. Maureen Dowd won the Pulitzer Prize for her coverage… of the Monica Lewinski scandal.

Reading her Lewinski coverage is like reading a child’s explanation of what happened. Here’s her series of Pulitzer Prize-winning articles in a nutshell: Horny dude meets desperate, chubby girl, evil best friend betrays chubby girl, and sex-addict prosecutor ruins everyone’s day. Granted, the Clinton-Lewinsky so-called “scandal” was ridiculous to begin with, but Maureen Dowd’s awful writing should not have been so thoroughly praised. It only encouraged her.

Maureen is also the Queen of bad puns. Just a quick example because I really want you to take this journey with me. When describing Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin, Maureen borrowed from the musical My Fair Lady and massaged the lyrics with hilaaaarious results: “The rain in Spain stays mainly in the Arctic plain.” Pulitzer Prize winner: Maureen Dowd.

And this stuff goes on for an entire page, like twice a week. In fairness to Maureen, I don’t like puns in general. Like when someone tells Sarah Palin to stay the PUCK out of their city, what they really mean to say is stay the FUCK out of my city. Like an adult.

The second Immutable Law of Dowd is that it’s easier to whine than take a stand. The reason Maureen Dowd portrays political figures as shallow caricatures is because it’s easy to paint a whimsical alternate universe than it is aggressively attack reality. In short: Maureen Dowd is an unfunny coward. This second law ties into the third and last Immutable Law of Dowd: It’s easier to be cute than coherent.

I don’t want to fill the room with negativity, and anyway, that isn’t what this is about. What I really mean to say is the following, and really, the whole point of everything that came before it: I hate Maureen Dowd as much as I love and miss Molly Ivins.

In fact, this piece is less a hate-filled diatribe against Maureen Dowd and more a tribute to the late, great Molly Ivins: the scrappiest, most honest journalist and columnist I have ever had the privilege of reading.

I can think of no two women that better illustrate the battle of good versus evil than Molly and Maureen. If we lived in a super hero movie, Maureen Dowd and Molly Ivins would fight with knives on a mountaintop. And in the final moment of the final scene, Molly would tear off Maureen’s head, hold it up triumphantly and shout to the villagers below, “YOU ARE FREE!”

Unlike Maureen’s weekly abortions, Molly wrote brilliant columns and never sullied her readers’ minds with anything less than kick-your-teeth-in wit and fearlessness.

While Maureen’s greatest accomplishment is her Pulitzer Prize for reporting on a blowjob, Molly always said her greatest accomplishments were: having the Minneapolis police force’s mascot pig named after her, and being banned from the Texas A&M campus.

While even Oxford students can’t figure out where the hell Maureen stands on anything, there was never any doubt where Molly stood on the big issues.

She hated George W. Bush’s guts. She once said: “Everyone knows the man has no clue, but no one has the courage to say it. I mean, good gawd, the man is as he always has been: barely adequate.”

She also hated Pat Buchanan. Pat once delivered a famous “culture war speech” at the 1992 Republican Convention, where he railed against “liberals, and supporters of reproductive and gay rights.” Afterward, Molly remarked that the speech, “probably sounded better in the original German.”

When talking about the difference between Maureen and Molly, I really can’t say it better than Molly said it herself: “There are two kinds of humor. One kind that makes us chuckle about our foibles and our shared humanity. The other kind holds people up to public contempt and ridicule.”

Well, I don’t want to chuckle at my government, but I do want them to feel contempt and ridicule. So while I hate, hate, hate Maureen Dowd, I love Molly Ivins, and this is my tribute to her.

It’s up to you to decide which one is the angel of ball-bashing journalism and which one is a shallow, painted clown. But I’ll leave you with the words from the ladies themselves:

This is the last paragraph of Molly Ivin’s last column:

We are the people who run this country. We are the deciders. And every single day, every single one of us needs to step outside and take some action to help stop this war. Raise hell. Think of something to make the ridiculous look ridiculous. Make our troops know we’re for them and trying to get them out of there.

And this is a line from one of Maureen Dowd’s latest columns:

I don’t think Sarah Palin meeting with Henry Kissinger is a sign of the Apocalypse. It isn’t even a sign of the ApocaLIPSTIC.

The decision…is yours.