Privilege to Define Women (Part 1):
Counting Women out of US Politics
"It was right after Michelle Obama's speech, in which the talented, intimidatingly intelligent Mrs. Obama tried to convince the country that she was as mundane as the rest of us, *laughter* and therefore no threat to us."
~Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!, NPR, August 30, 2008 (Emphasis added)
Last week, NOW's Below The Belt column did a wonderful job of calling out the sexism levied both Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin by the media.  Sexist beliefs, however, weren't confined to the frothing pundits. Behind the obvious misogyny of the mainstream news media was a complementary backdrop of retroactive gender roles placed on female politicians at both national conventions.
Over at the DNC, the two most high-profile examples of obligatory feminine subservience were Michelle Obama, who gave up her high-profile career for her husband's presidential bid , and Hillary Clinton, who faced the mountains of resistance to her "contentious"  Roll Call vote for the presidential nomination.
For those of you who don't follow the history obscure political convention rituals, let me describe the Roll Call process to you:
Hillary Rhodham Clinton gets her name placed in nomination on the floor by petition, in the same way that runner-up Ted Kennedy had his name placed in nomination along with Jimmy Carter in the 1980 presidential race. Once the petition is verified, the Roll Call starts. According to party rules, the state delegates are locked into voting the same way as their state voted during the primary election. Starting with Alabama, the state delegates declare their votes to each candidate, matching the votes from the electorate. Election signs for both Clinton and Obama carpet the convention room crowd.Only, that's not what happened. That was merely what Clinton's supporters had asked for at the convention.
The leader of each state delegation gives a brief speech praising either Obama or Clinton before announcing their already-known vote tallies to the crowd. Many speeches later, and to no one's surprise, Obama -having won more primary states- takes the lead in the delegate count. The superdelegates then vote after the state delegates. Unlike state delegates, the superdelegates can change their vote at any time. Predictably, the majority of superdelegates vote for Obama, and with that Obama receives the number of votes needed to clinch the Democratic nomination.
In a piece of planned stagecraft, one superdelegate vote will be left for last. Hillary Clinton, also a superdelegate like Obama, will declare her vote in for Obama. She will then bring a motion to the floor that Barak Obama be selected for nomination by acclamation. Right on cue, the Clinton and Obama Election signs flip around, revealing the word "UNITY!" on the back. Roars of acclamation echo from the crowd.
In contrast, the TV pundits told the world that the roll-call vote was going to be "a bad divorce"  played out in gory Springer-esque style on the convention room floor.
When faced with these two antithetical predictions of the Roll Call vote, what was the DNC to do? Do they trust the words uttered by longtime a loyal member of your own party and icon to many Democratic voters? Or do they believe the frantic hyperbole of media outlets that wanted Hillary Clinton out of the race months ago, and who opposed having her at the convention at all? When caught between loyal Clinton democrats and the fickle MSM, you'd figure that the Democratic Party would brush aside the pundits and go on with a normal Roll Call vote.
But no! In deference to the angry, hypersensitive mainstream media, the angry, hypersensitive dudes in the Democratic party (who, now that Clinton has backed out of the race, cling to artificial shows of unity with an almost fascist glee) had the "dangerous" Roll Call vote watered down, and scaled back recognition of Clinton's historic campaign as much as possible. Clinton, doing her part for the party, declined the keynote address slot, freed her state delegates to vote for Obama (even if it meant voting against the will of voters in their respective states) and signed on to a new Roll Call script:
When did the Democratic National Committee become so Republican-like in their need squelch dissent? Why did they all but dismiss the Roll Call vote? Why are they playing blame-the-victim with Clinton supporters? And why did they force Hillary Rodham Clinton do the hackneyed feminine dance of deference even harder than she was already going to?
First, many states whose populations voted for Clinton threw their votes in for Obama. New Jersey, which Clinton won on Super Tuesday, gave its votes to Obama unanimously. Soon, Obama led the roll call by 1,000 delegates.
Then the dance started: New Mexico, deferred to Illinois, which deferred to Clinton's home state of New York. At that point Senator Clinton canned her own roll call: "I move that the convention suspend the procedural rules and suspend the future conduct of the roll call vote," and she moved to have Barack Obama nominated by applause.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi asked for a second to the motion, and then asked for the ayes. The noise was deafening. She then quickly asked for nays, and the nomination was given to Obama.
Because women are not free to be legitimate candidates in any political arena, Democratic or Republican. A full roll-call vote would have given Clinton's presidential run an added level of historic legitimacy: there would have been an official, final delegate count. There would have been a number -set in stone in front of millions of viewers at the Democratic Convention, and stored on tape for future generations of young women to witness- that undeniably showed just how far women came in 2008. For the first time, women would have had an official score on the presidential scorecard of U.S. history.
Instead, we have a deferential (sorry, "classy") Hillary Clinton refusing recognition of her accomplishment on the convention room floor so that she can dutifully shelve her accomplishments (like Michelle Obama did with her career) to the man heading up the Party's nomination.
But even this show of utter acquiescence by Clinton was not enough for the misogynists, for they fear not just her accomplishments, but her very existence. When misogynists like John Feehery compare Clinton's watered-down Roll Call vote to Vladimir Putin's invasion of Georgia, it's not hyperbole in their minds. These misogynists believe that women should be invisible in the political arena (unless, of course, they are needed to tell endearing stories of their husbands home life).
These are the guys who keep the Lady Macbeth stereotypes alive. Despite Shakespeare's carefulness to NERF Lady Macbeth (by giving her a fragile and unstable personality), she has become an enduring narrative in our culture.  Lady Macbeth is the excessively (and I do mean excessively!) cited poster girl for Patriarchal political pundits. She is used by misogynists both as a threat to oppress women and as an excuse to forbid women from all positions of power, no matter how small.
To the supporters of Patriarchy, it doesn't matter how much Clinton's supporters towed the line, what matters is that Hillary Rodham Clinton transitioned from nonthreatening first-wife into a presidential candidate. They fear that change more than any Communist invasion. 
And if you think the dudely liberal version of Patriarchy is bad, wait until you see Republican Faux-Feminism! To be continued...
 This may be a shock to anti-feminists, but as Kim Gandy at NOW logically points out, "A woman slurred, regardless of her party or stances, is a woman slurred...[the media] should defeat anti-women's rights candidates like Sarah Palin based on their merits and their positions, not their gender."
 Last time I checked, Bill Clinton did not step down from any of his foundations or initiatives in order to campaign for his wife.
 CRCMA - "Contentious" Roll-Call My Ass
 A divorce? Really? Not many divorce courts around here are packed with "Unity" signs and acclamations from the crowd. But then again, I'm from Massachusetts, and people tend to be less friendly up here. Perhaps divorce-by-acclamation is a West Coast thing.
 We'll see if anyone remembers Darth Vader so vividly in 400 years.
 Not that Hillary Clinton is setting any precedent when it comes to ill-placed invasion metaphors. The media reacted the same way to Dr. Martin Luther King's "I Have A Dream" speech. Before Dr. King's speech, Life Magazine said, "the capital had the greatest case of preinvasion jitters since the first Battle of Bull Run."
Copyright June 2008 by F*ck M*sculinity