Monday, January 07, 2008

Young women voting for men (Obama).

Someone wrote that I should be cheered up by Obama winning Iowa's democratic primary.

I'm not.

Here are the three reasons why I'm not:

1. First off, let me say this: people put way too much stock into a totally unrepresentative sampling, and then it influences all the other primaries. I hate that.

2. Young women in Iowa voted for Obama, rather than Hilary.

3. More white people in Iowa voted for Obama (~ 70%) than black people - less than 50% of black voters in the Iowa primary chose Obama.

Yesterday I watched the (all white, on this occasion) commentators talking about why this is.

Apparently people can easily understand why black Americans wouldn't vote for a black man (the main reason among black women, they say, is fear that he would get shot).

What I don't like is that young women didn't vote for Hilary.

I agree that Hilary's campaign has not made a point to 'reach out' to younger voters, and that this was probably a mistake.

I also think, although no one has talked about it much, that younger women are mostly sheltered from the sexist realities of grown-up life. I know I was. I really didn't experience anything consistently disruptive to my success until after grad school.

It doesn't really help that organizations like NOW devote most of the pages of Ms. magazine to international abuses of women's rights. They also do things like putting out anniversary issues patting themselves on the back for all the progress they've made. It sends the erroneous message that most of the work is already done, that sexism in the U.S. is mostly gone, been taken care of.

I beg to disagree.

David Gregory said on Tim Russert's show that he thinks Hilary has transcended the whole gender issue.

I think he's wrong.

Let me say again that I think Hilary is great. I respect her more and more as a strong role model, the kind I'm sorely lacking for in life in general. And I think she'd be a great leader.

But in talking about Hilary, I've seen a subconscious sexism among my friends, the same thing I've seen when talking about female professors.

They don't say she's incompetent, stupid, lazy, or that she would do a bad job.

They say they don't like her.

What nobody seems to be able to articulate too well is why they don't like her.

Here's what I think: this is a classic example of subconscious sexism. There's plenty of evidence that we expect women to play certain kinds of gender roles, and that being liked is more important for women's career success than being competent.

In short, I think people are harder on Hilary because she's a woman. What's most insidious about this is that no one makes the gender connection in these kinds of judgments. That's the thing about prejudice: if you're not aware of it, you're probably influenced by it.

All of that said, I like Obama just fine. I'd be happy to have any of the democratic candidates, truth be told, and I'm terrified of all the republiscum.

But it's interesting. The more I see Hilary trying to 'soften' her image, and doing more interviews, the better I like her.

I feel the reverse about Obama. He's a bit too polished. I don't like his tendency toward overblown rhetoric. I don't trust it. I don't like how it's beginning to sound like unrealistic, evangelistic, pulpit-talk. And it seems to be getting worse the longer he's on the campaign trail. He's playing to young voters because he's preying on young people's idealism, and while I see what he's trying to do and I would love to buy into it- I don't. I know from personal experience that Hilary's battle-hardened pragmatic approach is where Obama will end up, whether in the White House after learning the hard way, or later on when he's a bit older.

So no, I'm not really happy that Obama won in Iowa. I'm just a little bit disappointed that minorities are being kept down by their own prejudices- against themselves.

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At 1:51 PM, Anonymous MrsWhatsit said...

When I asked my husband why he didn't like Hillary, he couldn't say. He said, there was "just something" he didn't like about her. I suggested what you've said here, that it is subconcious sexism, and he said he didn't think it was but that of course, if it was subconcious he couldn't say for certain it wasn't. To say that I was sad about this is an understatement.

I am torn between Obama and Clinton to tell you the truth. I have seen Obama and I know he has done some fantastic things in Illinois during his time there. But, I really want to see a woman president. It'll probably all be decided by the time of the primary in my state, though...

At 4:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, women who won't vote for Hillary are sexist? We don't "like" her because we're hobbled by our societally-enforced prejudice?

To be fair, I agree that people are being harder on her for being a woman, in that she is no less corrupt, despicable, fake, waffly and ambitious than the other candidates, but seems to get more flak for it. And it's true that in many cases 'ambition' and its ilk are not as likeable on a woman, and I could be the first to tell you stories about that from a first person perspective.

But that's where the point stops. You know why I don't 'like' Hillary? For starters, she stayed married to an asshole that disrespected her in front of the entire planet. Whether it's her being a sucker, or naked ambition, sorry but DO NOT WANT. She also has the charm and charisma of a wet blanket, and in the US this is unfortunately a popularity contest. She was FOR the ridiculous Iraq war, and she still defends it!! She is yet another piss-ass Dem who won't stand up to any of the nonsense going on these days. Oh, and Whitewatergate. Is that enough for you or am I still being sexist?

On the other side of the things, you have Obama, who has actual viewpoints, and a wife I can relate to. He wrote a good book that spoke to me. He's charming, he's well spoken, and so far he's hitting all the right notes on having the occasional opinion, as opposed to Hillary-which-way-is-the-republican

Don't insult women by saying we won't vote for Hillary because we're too stupid to realize that we are shackled by sexism. A lot of us have good reasons, and they are many of the same reasons that right now are disqualifying just about everyone except Obama. The rest of the pack are equally disgusting on every front.

At 6:17 PM, Blogger EcoGeoFemme said...

I like Clinton. I'd very much like to see a women be president. I also like the idea of a minority president. But I will vote for the most left leaning candidate available at the time of my primary.

At 6:38 PM, Blogger ScienceGirl said...

I've been asking people why they don't like Clinton for awhile now. The answer (from a guy) that stuck out the most was "she reminds me of my nagging mother." Perhaps sexism is not so subconscious after all.

At 6:57 PM, Anonymous Dazzlecat said...

I too am also torn between hilary and obama. I am a woman and a person of color. My choice would be to see them run together for president/vice president.

People are saying that women, and/or people of color, should not be casting votes based soley on gender or race.

But as a woman of color who has never seen a woman or a person of color in the top 2 seats (president/vice president) in this country, that is a HUGE reason. Because the second that happens, the glass ceiling in so many other areas of this racist, sexist country will begin to disappear.

At 6:57 PM, Blogger Chuck said...

Here's a reason to dislike Clinton: Her main goal seems to be the pursuit of power for its own sake. Whether it was moving across the country to find a senate seat to run for, or her attempts to influence policy as first lady, she is seen as someone who will do anything to rule.

This is not to say that everyone else isn't power hungry, but they at least try to find a cause to justify their drive.

Then there's the fact that conservative commentators have been slinging mud at her for a good 15 years...

At 8:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear YFS
I'm sorry. It was me who made the Obama comment. I remember that you had made some positive comments about him in the past and I was just trying to spread the joy. Really, I didn't mean to give you one more thing to feel bad about.

You make some good points about HRC. I've been torn, back and forth between she and Obama. Actually, I think there is nothing subconscious about it-she is suffering from sexism. Witness the most recent hullaballoo about her "cracking" "meltdowns" whatever you want to call it. There is a narrow comfort range for women expressing emotion, and HRC seems to have violated the narrow boundaries. First she was cold, then she had a meltdown.

As much as I like her, I see that there is just too much baggage with her and her husband. People just can't get beyond it. It is damn unfair, totally irrational, but very very real. I hope that one day soon we can have a woman President. I had hoped it would be now, and it would be Hilary Clinton, but I am afraid it is not to be. Hope and Obama are all I have to cling to.

Anyway, here's a post that resonated with what I am feeling and what you said. Reading it may bring you comfort-that other people feel the same way, or it may frustrate you because the way HRC is going down is so obviously wrong. It did both for me. But still, somewhat insightful.

At 8:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, just found your blog a few days ago- I am also a young female scientist.

But, I just have to weigh in and say that I am not voting for Hillary Clinton in the democratic primary because years ago, when congress voted to allow this clearly disastrous war in Iraq to begin, and all the democrats rolled over and voted to give G. Bush supreme powers to decide to invade Iraq whenever he felt like it, she voted for that right along with all the rest of them. Really, it was completely inexcusable, murderous, and morally bankrupt of all of them.

So. Since then, I have promised that I will never vote for a democrat in a primary who voted for this war. Including Hillary Clinton. Post-primary, I'll vote for whatever yellow dog they manage to put on the ticket, but not now, no way.

Also, I have this gut feeling, that with Obama's outsider-ness and naivete, he might actually stop the US government's recent passion for torturing people. With Clinton's worldliness and complete understanding of the dangers and evils in the world, I have a gut feeling that she may NOT stop torturing people to keep us all "safe." And you know what? We're not safer. Now, we're just torturing people.

So that's why I don't want to vote for Hillary Clinton, gender aside. The violence that I can't abide, I'm afraid she can.

At 6:11 AM, Blogger Mike Taylor said...

This seems pretty startling to me. You seem to be saying that women should vote for Clinton because she is also a woman. On that basis, should men vote for Obama because he, too is a man? Or, for that matter than white people should vote for Clinton because she is white? No, that can't be what you're saying. But I can't see the difference.

At 7:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am as liberal (at least socially) as you can get. And I'm male. But allow me to articulate what I don't like about Hilary. Number 1, and I'm sorry it isn't fair but its just reality, I don't like that she is absolutely hated by enough people in this country that I don't think she has a chance in the general election. And another 4 years of a republican in office is more than I can take. Number 2, she strikes me as being very insincere. I think that is what people are trying to say when they say there is "just something" about her they don't like. I think she will say just about anything to get elected. I didn't like her performance in that debate with the whole thing about giving drivers licences to illegal immigrants. I don't like her support of the Iraq war, and the fact that she voted recently to declare the Iranian Special forces a terrorist group, in support of Bush and all of his fascist cronies.

That being said, I also don't like Guiliani for many of the same reasons. So don't try to tell me I'm sexist. It would be great to see a woman elected president, but I just don't think this woman is the right one. Of course, I'd rather see her than any of the Republiscum.

At 8:03 AM, Blogger Kate said...

Great post. Two particularly good points, I think, are the ways we shelter young women from the realities of sexism (or maybe they internalize that if they aren't achieving, it's their fault?) and the ways that American feminism focuses so much on international abuses of women's rights, rather than the very real abuses that are ALSO happening here every day. I'm glad you clarified those things for me, because it adds to my arsenal :).

At 4:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm most bothered that there is so much more talk, both in and outside the media, about Clinton's marriage and whatever that has to do with her ability to run a country. Yes, it happens with the male candidates too, and it's equally ridiculous, but it just doesn't seem to come up as often. I think it's absurd to think that forgiving an affair, or at least dealing with it inside a marriage, implies she lacks self-respect. (Now, arguing that no self-respecting person would run for political office is another story.) I think that if she *had* divorced her husband she'd be accused of being reactive and lacking negotiating skills.

Maybe the affair is "baggage", but everyone has baggage. In the press, however, John Edwards' son dying in a car accident is not touted as "baggage" but rather something that makes him "realistic". I don't see how the loss of a child is any easier to recover from than marriage problems.

I'm not voting for her now because I'm not a registered Democrat. I'd choose her over almost any Republican candidate, if it came down to it.

At 6:41 PM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...

that is kind of sad.

I see your point- the whole 'stand by your man' shtick didn't do it for me, either.

On the other hand, I think your use of the word 'charming' to describe a quality you like about Obama says a lot.

I agree that having them run together would be the perfect ticket, as far as I'm concerned.

I think you're wrong about this. Hilary tried hard to get her healthcare proposals accepted. There are issues she genuinely cares about, and I think she wants to help people and the country.

To everyone who said they won't vote for her because they think she can't win- what kind of logic is that??? That's doublethink.

I agree, voting for the war is a decision I don't like or completely understand.

The only way I can wrap my head around it is to think about WWII. Lots of people didn't want to go to war because they didn't believe the evidence was real.

I wish I knew better how people in Iraq really feel. Maybe that was Hilary's thinking?

But I agree on the torture issue. I love how shows like 24 glorify it as a technique for wringing information, as the clock is ticking away, from known bad guys. Unfortunately in the real world it's not so clear who's actually got any information to give.

Mike Taylor,

Lighten up, man. It's a little more complicated than that.


Last Anon,
You're absolutely right. But politicians aren't supposed to have baggage. And Edwards doesn't seem to have a chance of winning. I don't think anyone believes he's particularly realistic, do they?

At 9:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

(Same anon as at 4:07)

No, Edwards was just the first example I could think of, of "shit happening that didn't translate to baggage". Because while I'm not sure people bought the "realistic" thing, they at least didn't turn against him for it.

At 8:39 AM, Anonymous Cleveland said...

As a native New Yorker (and a generally left-leaning female voter), I can safely say that I will never vote for Hillary. I would love to see a female president. It's something that's long overdue. But having Hillary in the White House would be a disaster, and I would vote for most of the Republican candidates before I would vote for her. One commentor on here used the word "insincere," and that captures Hillary perfectly. She will use whatever snarky tactics she can, to get to the top. The NY senate seat was a carefully crafted maneuver, for the sole purpose of this eventual presidential bid. She has done absolutely nothing for the people of upstate NY (which is everyone outside of NYC). She has changed her position on every issue in the book, according to the latest opinion polls. She has no right to call herself a feminist or a female role model, after remaining married to a philanderer. Again, a choice which was purely politically motivated. Don't be surprised if she has Bill bumped off, at the last minute, for a sympathy boost in the polls. Okay, that may be a bit extreme. But you get my drift. And don't even get me started on the carefully crafted "emotion" of this past week. I encourage people to be smart enough to realize that while having a woman president would be great, it's more important to have the RIGHT woman.

At 10:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon1 again.

By 'charming', I mean a person who appears to give a crap about others, who has strong personal relationships and the ability to engage broad support, and who will have the necessary charisma to function as a world leader. Your implication that I can't find women 'charming' is bull. Many of Hillary's problems are specific to her and not to women as a whole. I tend to vote on substance but most Americans frankly don't, and therefore this elusive 'likeability' issue is going to be the key determinant whether or not it should be so.

I think it "says a lot" that you focused on the personal comments I made and not on the political ones, i.e. that Hillary continues to support a pointless war, has been notably associated with corruption, and shows little intent of deviated from a non-starter party line. The Iraq issue alone is an absolute dealbreaker, far beyond anything I might think about her spousal relationship.

It's going to be a very long 10 months if every time I open the papers or read the internet, I have to hear other women condenscending to me about why I won't vote for someone with whom I have virtually nothing in common with, just because she's a woman. I would love nothing more but to vote a woman - except for Clinton and Condolezza Rice. Sorry, but it's never going to happen and it's a cop-out to use terms like sexism.

At 10:56 AM, Anonymous bsci said...

Anon 4:07, I'm most bothered that there is so much more talk, both in and outside the media, about Clinton's marriage and whatever that has to do with her ability to run a country.

I think Hillary caused this on herself more than anyone. She is running on experience and she says her years as first lady are a key part of her experience to lead on day 1. Every time I hear her citing her experience over Obama even though he's actually spent more time actually crafting legislation than her, I like her less. The only other way to look at her experience message is that experience is just a way of saying he is too young and that really turns off younger voters.

That all said, I'd vote for Clinton over any of the Republican bunch and she's probably be a good president.

At 10:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

obama and hillary are very close on the political spectrum. in fact, i cannot tell the difference sometimes. if that is the case, then why not choose the female candidate? i like hillary a lot, because she is a woman who has risen through the ranks. she has experience, which is how science often works (papers, grants, teaching, and # of trainees count towards experience). i think a lot of people are afraid of hillary because of what she stands for. she comes off as being a Bitch, because she is capable.

At 3:42 PM, Blogger Krysta said...

I enjoy your blog, and I especially loved this recent post.

At 1:16 PM, Blogger Kea said...

Wow, this post is spot on. We have a woman prime minister (Helen Clark) in my country, which naturally has a political climate completely different to that of the U.S. But on a personal level I know exactly what it feels like to be disliked simply because I don't fit into acceptable gender roles. Keep up the good work.

At 12:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The truth is white men have been in power and they would rather give that power to a black man, even if they are uncomfortable with it than give power to a woman. I have been in the country long enough to say that there is more sexism here than racism, but it is played so subtly that people don't see it. I do not believe that the white men who voted for Obama is because they were charmed by his charisma. Big BS. Like "mrswhatsit" the subconscious sexism is so strong - because they know a woman will be more reasonable, compassionate and fair and may not play the same political games! (atleast not the ones they know). It saddens me that women don't see it and but they keep whining about making less salary, having less power, etc.

At 12:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Men are so afraid of having a women as a president even though Hillary is the best qualified. The young women today are voting for a man because they do not understand what we have endured to get ahead in life and our positions. It is really too bad because I know a lot of women who are planning on voting for McCain if Hillary does not make it. It is our time and again men are having control.


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