Crossposted from DemocraticDiva.com
Perhaps the most disheartening aspect of the last GOP presidential debate was following it on Twitter and seeing feminists I respect declare Carly Fiorina the “winner” and express admiration of her fierceness and command of information (bad information but, whatever, I guess). While I do agree that Fiorina handled the question about Donald Trump’s buffoonish comment about her face deftly, I had to shake my head at tweets by feminist academics lavishing praise on her performance when these same feminist academics would fail a freshman student for dissembling as much as Fiorina did. Being a glib liar, and especially about things that tremendously affect vulnerable women (like Planned Parenthood) is not worthy of anything but contempt. And it’s not remarkable either but some feminists continue to be “enthralled” by Carly Fiorina even as they are (rightly) alarmed about how anti-women many of her stances are.
In an interview, Ms. Ryan said that as a feminist she was of two minds about Mrs. Fiorina’s candidacy, at times drawn to her and at times repulsed by her positions and what many critics say were her exaggerated statements about a Planned Parenthood video. In addition to opposing abortion, Mrs. Fiorina opposes raising the minimum wage, federally mandated paid maternity leave and the Affordable Care Act, policies that disproportionately affect women.
“I am constantly pivoting mentally with her,” Ms. Ryan said, adding that she had not at all been torn about opposing Mrs. Palin or Mrs. Bachmann. Mrs. Fiorina, she said, is “contrary to the conservative female narrative, the way she looks, the way she presents herself, the no-nonsense businesswoman thing.”
In an interview, Ms. Marty, the Cosmopolitan writer, said she had been disappointed by the caution of Mrs. Clinton’s campaign so far and was intrigued by Mrs. Fiorina’s brassy candor and fearlessness. Still, she said that under no circumstance could she ever vote for someone who opposed abortion rights.
Ms. Marty said that for liberal feminists, cheering on Mrs. Fiorina was like eating at McDonald’s. “You know, inherently, it’s not something you should be eating,” she said. “But when there’s nothing else around, it’s what you go and take.”
Personally, I feel as if I’ve been to this rodeo many times before, starting back when I was about ten years old and first became aware of Phyllis Schlafly and her crusade against the Equal Rights Amendment and pretty much every other modern advancement that freed women from dependency on men and marriage. Schlafly, who is now in her nineties, was (and still is) the godmother and embodiment of a shrewd, no-nonsense dame who defied the stereotype of women as weak, while also pushing the idea of most other women being hapless ninnies.
Fiorina is just emulating that same tired shtick, as have many, many other right wing women (oh hi, Ann Coulter!) in Schlafly’s wake. I guess it can be tempting for feminists to admire it and wonder wistfully why prominent women on our side aren’t acting so boldly and fearlessly! That is, until you remember that women (and it’s helpful if they possess considerable advantages and privileges) are given wide latitude to be as aggressive, and downright mean, as they want to be so long as they dedicate themselves to upholding existing power structures while shitting on other women and low-status men. They do so while coopting feminism and generously helping themselves to female-empowering sounding rhetoric (for “deserving” women). It’s a funhouse mirror feminism perpetuated by women taking no real risks to themselves. This is enthralling? Hardly.
It’s not that Fiorina and her counterparts escape sexism (no woman does) but the seeming Faustian bargain they make with it tends to accrue to their personal benefit more often than not. Fiorina’s copious amount of lying and her bad business record are likely to defeat her Presidential aspirations but she won’t be relentlessly tone-policed the way Democratic candidates (both men and women, but especially women) are when they dare to act assertively. I’ll just refresh everyone’s recent memory that Hillary Clinton has been kind of busy lately with pundits haughtily demanding apologies from her over the stupid email controversy because she had the brassy candor to treat it like the ridiculous bullshit it actually was at first. Any similar demands of apologies being made of Fiorina vis a vis her outrageous Planned Parenthood statements? Nope.
Oh, and there’s also the matter of some of the people funding Fiorina’s campaign, who maybe have a vested interest in a “female firebrand” being in the race to attack Clinton. Always follow the fucking money.