The Baffler, February 27, 2019
Dianne Feinstein, Amy Klobuchar, and the liberal feminist sideshow
We should start with the affirmation that thereās no woman among us, from the most marginalized and exploited to the most loathsome and powerful, who has not been negatively impacted by sexism. (Thereās not a man who hasnāt, either, but I donāt want to talk about men right now.) Throughout her career, Dianne Feinstein has faced sexist impediments, as has Amy Klobucharāand because sexism, like all prejudices, is presumptive and baseless, thatās unjust. When Voxās Laura McGann defends Klobucharās poor treatment of staffers by claiming āthe same kind of behavior that damages women can benefit a man,ā she is correct. When Jennifer Palmieri writes in Politico that āwe still hold women in American politics to higher standards than men, which puts added pressure on female bosses,ā she speaks the truth. Kate Harding is probably even right when she tweets that āthis country hates older women,ā though the point is not very well illustrated by a long-serving elected official whoās also a multi-millionaire.
Because people like Feinstein have spent decades declining to take climate change seriously, we no longer have time to point out that sexism exists and stop there. Sexism is bad, always, of courseābut if you came to me with news that someone used a gendered insult against Betsy DeVos, Iām going to respond like a dad whoās tackling a major home plumbing problem completely beyond his skills: āIām kind of busy right now, pal!ā It is the time for ruthless political prioritizing. Hand-wringing over insults against oligarchs and undue āpressureā on bosses is low on the agenda; we have more important tasks before us than fashioning a world thatās comfortable and accommodating for those particular demographics. You might even say part of the agenda is making those demographics uncomfortable and thoroughly un-accommodating them, though sexism would be an unacceptable (and impractical) way of doing so.
Itās also not actually a defense of Klobuchar to say that she was acting like a man, though this has been the tack taken by many. āWe do not expect a man to put others first,ā McGann writes. āAssertiveness, decisiveness, and command of others are all considered positive qualities.ā Considered positive by whom, I must ask; voters whoād be impressed by a candidateās refusal to āput others firstā sound to me like Donald Trumpās base. But liberal feminists are stuck in the mindset that if a man gets away with it, a woman should, tooāor, worse, that acting ālike a manā is what feminism is all about. These commentators seem used to calling a phenomenon āsexistā and getting heaped in praise on social media for the catch, all while ignoring the need to address how that sexism should be remedied. There are more worthwhile questions to ask than āis the coverage of men and women identical?ā We already know itās not. But we have to devise more constructive ways of combating sexism, because going off like a car alarm whenever we spot it isnāt working.