en(gender)ed podcast: Episode 120: Susan Bordo on sex and femininity in politics and its intersection with sexism and misogyny
During the last month, there has been a great deal of intense conversation on my Facebook page. The threads have included hundreds of comments, and I haven’t been able to respond to all who asked me to clarify a position of mine or asked a particular question. I thought it might be useful, therefore, to put together some of my more substantive comments and posts from over the past month. They are not systematic, by any means, and shouldn’t be taken as such, but (with the exception of the 1998 Chronicle piece) are spontaneous, unrevised responses to evolving events.
“I did try & fuck her. She was married. I moved on her like a bitch. But I couldn’t get there. I just start kissing them. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything—grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.” Donald Trump
This piece for the Chronicle of Higher Education was published in 1998, and it NOT about all sexual misconduct, just about harassment. It obviously doesn’t address a fraction of what’s going on today, but it does show–I believe–what I mean when I say the current conversation is ignoring context, nuance, and the complexities of power:
We have made a great mistake in equating sexual harassment with sexual gestures and overtures.
The biggest obstacle any woman has faced and will continue to face in aspiring to the highest office in any country, at any time in history is that she is not a man. I know—duh. But the reality is that we haven’t yet begun to comprehend, let alone address, everything that flows from that seemingly simple fact. French philosopher Simone deBeauvoir remains the expert on it. In every era, in every culture, she pointed out, Man is the norm, and Woman is defined in terms of her difference from that norm. She may be reviled, she may be revered, but she is always judged by standards that are “special” to her sex, while the fact that men have a sex, too, goes unnoticed.
Here’s a banal but telling example: the suit was as much a uniform for the male politicians that Hillary Clinton competed against as it was for her. But for Clinton, the “pantsuit” was mocked (or cherished by some pro-Clinton feminists) as a special signature item. And here’s a non-banal one: while we accept it as “normal” when male politicians shout, interrupt, hog the stage, or aggressively interrogate, when Hillary raised her voice it was described as “screeching” and both Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris were told to shut up when they claimed too much time on the Senate floor.