Tuesday, January 08, 2008

"Testicle lockboxes" and other 2008 Love Stories (*Updated*)

Now that's one helluva title, eh? I first heard this charming expression on the December 7th broadcast of Bill Moyers' Journal. I should hasten to add that Moyers was merely quoting, among others, the execrable Rush Limbaugh:
I mean on Rush Limbaugh, he talks about Clinton's testicle lockbox. MSNBC's Tucker Carlson says there's just something about her that feels castrating. One of his guests, a former spokesman from the Republican National Committee, Clifford May, says that if Clinton is going to appeal to women for support on the basis of her gender, at least call her a vaginal-American.
Hey! Remember the 90s? Yeah. Me too. You know, I realize this might be a huge leap for some of you Konservatives out there, but it's actually OK to find fault with Sen. Clinton without dragging out your inner caveman. Gawd, this is so retro...or so I thought. I mean, we're all aware of Limbaugh and Tucker and their "schtick." No surprises there. Who listens to these pilonidal cysts anywayz?

The internets. The misogynistic anti-Hillary vids and social-wotsitz are full of poisonous, violent, sexual imagery about the Jr. Senator from the State of New York. Moyers interviewed Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a professor at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, and Prof. Jamieson has unearthed an entire 'underground' (or rather, 'innertubez') network of impossibly hateful online-stuff. On Facebook, par example:
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: [...] the graphic images, the images that are manufactured to be placed in these [anti-Hillary Facebook] sites are such that you wouldn't want to be associated with them in any way, nor would I. And they contain such things as graphic representations of what a donkey should do to Hillary Clinton. They contain language suggesting various sexual acts in relationship to Hillary Clinton. They reduce Hillary Clinton to various sexual body parts. They engage in characterizations of her in relationship to her policies.
[...] BILL MOYERS: Here are some of the entries from Facebook, you know? "Hillary can't handle one man; how can she handle 150 million of them? Send her back to the kitchen to get a sandwich. She belongs back with the dishes, not upfront with the leaders." It goes on and on like that.

[click "Read on, MacDuff!" to continue reading]
First off, do not make the mistake of interpreting Jamieson's research as an endorsement of Sen. Clinton. Both Jamieson and Moyers go out of their respective ways to state that they're not endorsing anyone. Jamieson is an old hand (pardon the ageist expression) at this media studies stuff, particularly following media portrayals of women in leadership positions (e.g. her 1995 book on the subject). As such, she is able to put some of these interwebz attacks in context (to Moyers):
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: Well, and at one time there was actually an argument that if women became educated, they would become infertile. There was also, for a long period of time, serious penalties for women who tried to speak in public. And the residue of this is a language that suggests that women in power cannot be women and be in power. And as a result, as Hillary Clinton certifies herself as being tough enough to be president, competent enough to be president, these attacks say then she can't be president because she's not actually a woman. And you can't trust someone who is that inauthentic. So underlying this and underlying the vulgarity and underlying the assertions of raw sexual violence is deep fear about a woman holding power.
But I'm not sure that it's only about that with Hillary Clinton because Hillary Clinton has been attacked as long as she's been in the public sphere. She came into national public awareness with the candidacy of Bill Clinton.
Some of this coincides with attacks on liberals and Hillary Clinton as a liberal woman. Some of this coincides with original attacks when she was in the White House and what was framed as exercise of unelected power. And one of the questions that-- I find interesting is this hypothetical. Let's say if Elizabeth Dole was this far along in the polls for the Republican nomination. Would she be subject to the same kinds of attacks? And I think the answer is no.
Moyers went on to play some of the more 'benign' (PBS-safe, non bestial etc.) clips of these viral video attacks. You can watch them at the PBS website (piece with Jamieson begins at 4 min 11 sec). Some are just plain goofy--Hillary's the devil--the hornz! Or, Hillary's a witch! The cackle!

Wait...Witch? Don't you mean...um. Yeah. "How do we beat the bitch?"
BILL MOYERS: This is why some women whom I know and respect say, as much as they admire Hillary Clinton for her role all these years, they would rather see her not run next year because it's going to open up all of this animosity, vilification, and vituperation.
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: One of the complications of this is we're moving into new linguistic territory. And we haven't found a way to discuss this. When a woman stands up and asks Senator McCain, "How do we beat the bitch?" and there isn't a clear statement by Senator McCain that that's not the way one characterizes, you know, my opponent on the Democratic side. And there's not a public commentary that surrounds it the way there was a public commentary about the statement by Imus or about the comedian from SEINFELD. Essentially what we say to the culture at large is that
must be appropriate discourse to apply to a female candidate running for office — or at least this female candidate.
BILL MOYERS: It's okay to talk this way.
Look, I can't say, in all honesty, that I was surprised when this McCain-supporter clip first hit the media. Or to hear the "B" word used in this context. I just spent some time in Florida and that word was flyin' around a lot viz Sen. Clinton. Ditto for any epithets relating to the damage or "busting," if you will, of a certain prized pair of organs. (She's a socialist! She wants to turn us into a nanny state!). Yes, Hillary Rodham Clinton has attained a certain bugaboo status down South that has nothing to do with, well, anything she's actually done.

She is a caricature--a face at which they can throw their darts/stick their pins/throw their poo.

Sidebar to the passionately anti-Hillary progressives out there--and you must trust me when I say this--they are not pondering the finer nuances of her positions on the Peru Free Trade Act or the Kyl-Lieberman Amendment when they fling their poo. Quite the contrary. Believe me, they know nothing of this incarnation of Hillary Clinton.

No. This is the manifestation of 15+ years of utterly fucked-up authoritarian/follower, call/response B.S. Call it Konservative Konditioning, but I'm afraid it's just pure reflex now.
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: The way we find that these kinds of characterizations of Hillary Clinton have been out there is to look to other forms of media throughout the 1990s where we do, indeed, find them. Hillary Clinton as dominatrix, for example, is one of the ongoing themes and one of the parodies on Rush Limbaugh.
Which brings us back to Rush. Poor, helpless 1990s-Rush. Back then, you know, before Media Matters and the internetz, the only way a Canadian like me could learn about Rush was through the comedic writings of Al Franken and Michael Moore. And yea, I did read Franken and Moore, and I was suitably horrified, not just by Rush's shenanigans, but those of his callers & compatriots in AM Radioland. From Moore's 1997 "Downsize This" (Chapter 20, "My Forbidden Love for Hillary"):
Bill and Hillary are attending the first baseball game of the season. Just before the game starts, Bill picks up the First Lady and throws her out on the field. "No! No!" cries an adviser. "Mr. President, you're here to throw out the first *p*itch!" --Joke heard on right-wing talk radio.
Talk radio has ...made Hillary its favorite target, bashing her up one side and down the other for a list of sins that, if they weren't filled with so much inciteful violence against her, would be hysterical. Callers like to describe what they would do to her if given the chance.

What does Hillary Clinton do every morning after she shaves her pussy? She sends him off to work in the White House. Why has Hillary Clinton banned miniskirts in the White House? Because she doesn't want anyone to see her balls.
Classy, eh? Well, here's where I'm still attempting to square the circle, as it were: Moore wrote about this stuff in 1997. But this Godfather of the Modern Lefty Polemic wrote about this in a chapter entitled, "My Forbidden Love for Hillary." What's more (punny!), Moore actually referred to her as a "Shit kickin' feminist babe." Can you imagine Moore serenading her thusly in this election year? The Senator Clinton of 2008? Yeah, neither can he. In fact, just last Wednesday, Moore published a letter about his lost love (Jan 2, 2008):
Those of you who are longtime readers of mine may remember that 11 years ago I wrote a chapter (in my first book) entitled, "My Forbidden Love for Hillary." I was fed up with the treatment she was getting, most of it boringly sexist, and I thought somebody should stand up for her. I later met her and she thanked me for referring to her as "one hot s***kicking feminist babe." I supported and contributed to her run for the U.S. Senate. I think she is a decent and smart person who loves this country, cares deeply about kids, and has put up with more crap than anyone I know of (other than me) from the Crazy Right. Her inauguration would be a thrilling sight, ending 218 years of white male rule in a country where 51% of its citizens are female and 64% are either female or people of color.

And yet, I am sad to say, nothing has disappointed me more than the disastrous, premeditated vote by Senator Hillary Clinton to send us to war in Iraq. I'm not only talking about her first vote that gave Mr. Bush his "authorization" to invade -- I'm talking about every single OTHER vote she then cast for the next four years, backing and funding Bush's illegal war, and doing so with verve.
Blah, blah, blah, you know the rest of the progressive rap sheet on Sen. Clinton. So Moore went on to speak less harshly of Teh Hope! Look! It's Hope! Obama, but, like Nader, he eventually kinda endorsed John Edwards. Look, it's probably a mug's game to talk endorsements and progressive "cred." So Edwards has Nader, Moore, Sarandon and Robbins. Obama has Kucinich, most of Hollywood, Oprah and her Book Club (Hey, she was right about that Poisonwood Bible thing!). Clinton? Hmm...that ol' peacenik McGovern endorsed her, and so did RFK Jr. Not to be sniffed at, you know.

Le Sigh. They are all flawed candidates. Can I speak personally for a second? Ok: I'm deeply uneasy about all of them. I warn you, though: while some of my discomfort is the result of years of reading and serious-pants-discussion, some of my reasons are just downright "gut level," but not, I repeat NOT the result of Konservative Konditioning! (if anything, they're the result of too much Simpsons-viewing). Ok. Deep breath. You can do this, kitty...year of blogging dangerously, and all that sherry-infused-New-Years-crap. Here goes:

I confess, I used to idolize Clinton in the early days post-Reagan/BushI. She was exciting, I was in Grade 13, and never heard anyone talk like her before. Fast-forward to the Senate years and...oy. So disappointing. Clinton's voting record on trade, war funding and Iran have been almost ALL wrong, and I really have to grep my memory for exceptions. I did like how she put a hold on that creepy anti-choice FDA nominee, von Eschenbach and gave Rumsfeld the dressing down of a lifetime at the Abu Ghraib hearings. And the woman can do research--that I have seen in some of her committee performances. You know: for what it's worth, 'n all.

Obama likes to talk about how good his judgement was pre-Iraq, but his Senate votes re: Iraq have been virtually identical to Clinton's (save for the one regarding confirmation of Gen. Casey--Clinton was ag'in him). Sure, I will grant you that Obama's a phenomenal speaker, but he has an annoying habit of...uhh...not actually saying anything. I still don't know WTF the man is really for, do you? (And P.S.: small point, but what kinda narcissist writes their memoirs at 34 years old? I wannu know!).

For his part, Edwards has really been talkin' the talk since he got his Golly-Gee-ass handed to him in 2004. The capital-L-Labour talk hits all the right buttons. And you gotta love Elizabeth--I mean it, you really gotta love Elizabeth. Unlike her hubby, she's not afraid to come right out (pardonnez-moi) and advocate for equal marriage. Not afraid of no Coultergeists, neither. No sirree. And for all the MSM flak she's taken for being a 'loose cannon,' the woman is totally fearless about speaking extemporaneously on just about any topic. I luvs it. Elizabeth should be running.

But. Try as I might, I'm just not "feelin' it" for John boy. I give him top marks for admitting his mistake on the 2002 AUMF for Iraq. But the dude was on the intelligence committee back then. How could he have missed it? Even dotey ol' Bob Graham was motoring around the country with his hair on fire, trying to warn his fellow donkeys.

And...this is kinda cynical of me, but perhaps I've heard Edwards' speech too many times to buy it. I think it's called: Sonofamillworker, which is one word, btw. Ok there's more than one speech--there's the 2004 version and the 2007 "Remix." Other petty campaign notes? It helps to point at an actual millworker in the audience, if available, but any guy in a STP trucker hat will do in a pinch. Really. He's probably just happy you came. Just don't engage him if he asks you about how you might actually back out of these horrible-yet-entrenched trade agreements with a recalcitrant Congress and absolutely zero policy apparatus. Note to John: direct questions to Elizabeth. Or, if you've got a lotta time to kill, just talk about your favourite movie or something...wait, what's that again? Did we settle on Dr. Strangelove? I can't remember.

Ok, I'm done pissing and moaning. Seriously, it's a good thing I have the luxury of turning up my nose from above the 49th, eh? I honestly don't know what I'd do, if I were 'merican. I mean, we could go whole vegan-hog and dismiss them all if you'd like, as they did on Democracy Now. Turns out the top 3 are all evul warmongers suffering from American exceptionalism syndrome. So what else is new? What do you do if you're an American? Stay home? Wait for Nader? I mean, the guy's gonna run as soon as Edwards flames out. (Seriously: what do you expect him to do when that happens?)

I don't know what I'd do. But I do know I have one thing in common with Michael Moore: I miss 1992 Hillary. And I luuurve 2008 Elizabeth Edwards. Ladies & Gentlemen: Hail to the 'Vaginal Americans!'
Oh. At least for now, Barack can be their Attorney General. Or Toast Master General. Or maybe they can put him in charge of the lockbox. Oh, get your mind outta the gutter, ditto heads: I just mean he's got a thing or two to learn about Social Security ;)

Photo Credits: circa-1990s photo of Hillary Rodham Clinton via "Downsize This," by Michael Moore, 1997. Photo by Dennis Brack (Black Star). Elizabeth Edwards via "First Wives Club Contenders"

UPDATE [Jan 8, 2:37 PM]--Wow, I didn't see this story before I wrote my post:
Edwards offered little sympathy and pounced on the opportunity to question Clinton's ability to endure the stresses of the presidency.

"I think what we need in a commander-in-chief is strength and resolve, and presidential campaigns are tough business, but being president of the United States is also tough business," Edwards told reporters Laconia, New Hampshire.

Earlier in the day, Clinton became emotional when speaking to a group of voters in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
Grrr! Not cool, Johnny. Not cool :( Amanda Marcotte and Antonia Zerbisias have more to say. From Ross K (the comments at Antonia's place), it looks like one of Edwards' campaign managers ("Mudcat" Saunders) got a dressing down from teh awesome Rachel Maddow. FWIW, neither Marcotte, Zerbisias, nor Maddow are in any way, shape or form declared for HRC.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This was very suspenseful. It started to make me nervous when I realized you were going to declare. Gah! Kitty declares!

I was so afraid of where you were going. I had to take a break for a while and come back to it. (Fed teh kittehs.)

I don't disagree with much in your assessment, Kitty, except that I was already too something to fall for Hillary in 1992. Obviously I wanted Clinton to win (given the alternative), but the two of them always reminded me too much of certain kinds of Canadian Liberals (and I mean the cap). I will give the woman credit for having an incredibly thick skin. As Moore says, I can't think of anyone who has survived more and worse from the rightwingnuts and still looked pretty good doing that. Unfortunately ...

You know that I have a soft spot for Sonofamillworker. Don't we both also have a soft spot for Sonofadoorman? And GrandsonofanIrishcop? I mean, given that they're all locked into a system that is inevitably going to annoy us at some point (death penalty? Patriot Act? Maher Arar? Lockheed friggin' Martin???), I think it's fair to take those other, y'know, gut feelings into account if we're playing this game, since we know that any one of them is gonna break our hearts if we follow the logic too far.


I dunno. I do think that Edwards is better. And look! Elizabeth likes him! See?

1/08/2008 8:13 AM  
Blogger Godammitkitty said...

*hugs* Thanks for persisting, and reading the whole-dern-thing, skdadl.

I guess I only "declared" insofar as I have a working time-machine and can somehow pair 1992 Hill with 2008 Elizabeth. Back to the Future, flux capacitors, and all that ;)

Sonofadoorman et al: totally fair point. I guess what I was trying to achieve was to fill a void--every other candidate gets moments where they "get" to be human beans, and I've been feeling tired of the Hill-as-castrating-robot stuff, from the left & right, both. Of course, her policy and legislative flaws have been pretty well documented (as I said, I have to strain pretty hard to find exceptions). I just felt it was time to confess that I actually felt some warmth for this person, and at the end of the day, she's probably neither of these two caricatures--no more a "warmonger" than the other two, and no more the "Lady Macbeth" ;)

I kinda hesitated about my "narcissist" dig against Obama, but it's always bugged me when people resort to "Ooooh...that Hillary's always wanted to be president!" like, so? The other candidates haven't been grooming themselves for all their adult lives? Ambition cuts both ways--they have to have it, but some candidates 'wear it' more naturally than others, IMHO, and I'm not convinced that they make it in MSM-friendly women's sizes. Ah well.

In the end, I obviously want the Dem nominee to win, be it Obama, Edwards or Clinton. I'm not fooling myself that it'll erase decades of B.S. and human rights abuses, economic hitmen, etc. but I don't agree with those who say there's no diff. I know you're not saying that, skdadl, but I hear/read it all the time in the too-cool-for-school blogosphere (and indy radio/press).

"any one of them is gonna break our hearts if we follow the logic too far."
Agreed! I think we're on the same page there, skdadl. And what a year it's been for le heartbreak, eh? As I said...le sigh :(

1/08/2008 3:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

About caricatures: I think you're right that it becomes all too easy for people caught up in electoral contests to start doing that unthinkingly, and for anyone who is hoping for one of the Dems, that is probably a mistake.

EW actually just wrote a kind of starchy reply in comments at her place to someone who was dissing Obama (as I've been known to do), EW making something like the point you do about the unwisdom of the caricatures. Of course, getting a Dem elected matters to her in a way that is never going to be quite us (which is why I keep mouth shut in those discussions).

Yes, le heartbreak. Chocolate? Kleenex? Lace-edged handkerchief?

Today, though, there is an answer to some of the heartbreak. Read Linda Keen's letter to Gary Lunn -- ooh, what a spanking! It will make you feel so good.

1/08/2008 5:52 PM  
Blogger Godammitkitty said...

"Today, though, there is an answer to some of the heartbreak. Read Linda Keen's letter to Gary Lunn -- ooh, what a spanking! It will make you feel so good."
Yes! Saw that post of RW.I's and, of course, at M. le Pogge :) Very encouraging!

1/08/2008 6:52 PM  
Blogger Prole said...

A long time ago, it used to be something to be proud of "if you study hard, you could grow up to be president!". Funny candidates now are being criticized for it.

I can't wait until primary season is over. *btw I'm an Edwards supporter because my guy didn't run, but I'll vote for no matter who gets the nomination, even Hillary.

1/10/2008 12:37 AM  
Blogger Godammitkitty said...

Hi Prole! Sorry I didn't see your comment until now--thanks for stopping by! Love ACR.

"btw I'm an Edwards supporter because my guy didn't run"
Who was your guy? Was it Feingold? Gen. Clark? Just curious :)

1/12/2008 3:57 PM  

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