Archive for the ‘Feminism’ Category
There appears to be a growing cottage industry that is addressing whether Obama is merely a pragmatist, in the narrow sense of the term–that is, one who places strategic considerations first–or whether he is philosophical pragmatist. In my view, Obama is indeed a philosophical pragmatist. If you are interested in understanding what makes Obama tick and how he might maneuver politically, this question is worth your time. And for your convenience, there is now a site dedicated to discussing the issue of Obama’s pragmatism. (See “Barack Obama’s Pragmatism.”)
In several blogs on UP@NIGHT and on other sites, I have mentioned that Obama’s mother studied with the granddaughter of John Dewey, perhaps the most famous pragmatist of the twentieth century. Of course one would not want to make too much of this connection. On the other hand, it is not meaningless, especially when Alice Dewey addresses Obama’s pragmatism in the context of his idealism. The passages below are from an article in the Star Bulletin (Hawaii), “Strong Women Lead Obama.”
At his homecoming rally Friday, Barack Obama paid tribute to his late mother, a single mom who sacrificed to ensure he received the best education. His next stop was to visit his 85-year-old grandmother.
These two strong women each were pioneers in their fields and helped shape the presidential candidate’s outlook on life. “Like his mother, Barry is a pragmatic idealist,” said Alice Dewey, an emeritus professor at the University of Hawaii and family friend. “If you have ideals and want to accomplish things, you’ve got to be pragmatic about it.”
…. “Ann’s work was almost entirely in villages,” said Dewey, her friend and thesis adviser. “Barry found his feet in the streets of Chicago. It was urban, but it was the same thing, get out there to talk to people, listen to their needs and try to put together something that will work. Like Ann, he was thinking, how do you help the folks who need it?”
If these statements were coming from someone other than the granddaughter of John Dewey, and from someone who was not academically trained, I would be inclined to equate “pragmatic” with “strategic,” and to view the phrase, “try to put together something that will work,” in the same light. And surely this is part of their meaning. But given that Alice Dewey knew that she was being interviewed for a newspaper article and not an academic audience, and that she used the phrase “pragmatic idealist,” which sounds like an oxymoron to most of those unaware of the tradition of philosophical pragmatism, I suspect that this was her way of telegraphing that Obama is not merely a strategic pragmatist. He is something more. Perhaps a philosophical pragmatist. (Yes, she could have meant that he was merely a smart idealist, but the passage discussing what “works” counters this interpretation.)
Ultimately the evidence for Obama’s philosophical pragmatism will have to come from his words and deeds. For those interested in pursuing this connection, check out the web page on Obama mentioned above and click “links.”
P.S. For those who read Spanish, you may be interested in a piece that appeared recently in the most important paper in Lima, Peru on Obama, pragmatism, and John Dewey. “Obama contextualiza decisiones” by Gregory Pappas.
August 29, Immediate reaction to Palin: McCain has officially lost it, in more ways than one. He is now taking the phrase, “Hail Mary,” to mean “Hail Any Woman.”
According to the much used Wikipedia, “A Hail Mary pass or Hail Mary play in American football is a forward pass made in desperation, with only a small chance of success. The typical Hail Mary is a very long forward pass thrown near the end of a half or end of a game where there is no possibility for any other play to score points. This play is unlikely to be successful, because of the general inaccuracy of the pass and the defensive team’s preparedness for the play makes it likely that it can intercept or knock down the ball” (italics added). “Hail Mary” article from Wikipedia here
The choice of Palin reveals McCain’s historic tin ear. He is seeking to put an inexperienced politician a heartbeat away from the presidency because he believes that it will help him with the women’s vote and his base. This is after he has made experience the mantra of his campaign, and we are all aware of his age and health history. He had promised to be extraordinarily careful in his selection of a VP due to these factors. (I mean she really is inexperienced, both in domestic and foreign affairs: 21 months as a governor of a state that has a population 1/3 that of the Borough of Manhattan, and service as a small town major.) Country First, John? Not this time.
Palin’s choice is insulting to women, and especially to Clinton’s women supporters, because it assumes that they would vote for any old (or young) woman. Hell, it’s insulting to men. To think that anyone who really supported Hillary would take (oh my, I just forgot her name) Palin as a substitute is astounding. Is it possible that McCain is so desperate and befuddled that he believes being a runner up in a beauty pageant is somehow going to compensate for political stands inimical to women’s welfare? (Okay, Palin might be strong among Evangelicals and right wingers–Palin’s position, no abortions even in cases of rape and incest–but is McCain really worried about the Evangelicals? Looks like he might be. And if he is indeed still worried about his base, given the incredible shrinking Republican Party, this is not so good for John.)
For a picture of beautiful Wasilla, the town Palin was mayor of, and the scoop on the ethics violations for which Palin is under investigation, see Mudflats. It’s quite a read.
Another reason must now be added to the list of:
#14. Palin will prove to be an unbelievably bad choice for VP, especially after McCain promised to be very careful in his selection due to his age. Given the sheer political nature of this choice, he will have to give up his slogan, Country First. Can you imagine Palin eyeball to eyeball with Putin? How about eyeball to eyeball with any senator, except for Ted Stevens, in the Senate? ( Just think for a moment about how the debate with Biden is going to go.) Hey, John, your answer to every problem is not to pick a pretty woman. Just because Cindy helped put expensive shoes on your feet….
UPDATE: Breaking News. According to Steve Doocy of Fox News, “She does know about international relations because she’s right up there in Alaska right next door to Russia.” YouTube Link.
UPDATE, 8.30.2008 Wow. This is going to be some ride. It seems that Palin is immature and quite willing to laugh while a radio host calls another woman, Alaska Senate President Lydia Green (who is a cancer survivor), a cancer and a bitch. See article here. A tape of the broadcast appears to exist. I am sure we will hear it soon. (According to the article, Palin laughed several times at tasteless comments about Green.)
UPDATE, 8.30.2008 Okay, here is a Link to the interview. Btw, the crack about the seat refers to Green’s weight.
UPDATE: After Republican convention, September 5, 2008. In spite of the initial positive reaction to Palin because: 1) she gave a reasonably well delivered speech (written by professional speech writers) at the convention; 2) sympathy for what many in the public perceive as a piling on by the Press; 3) hunger for reform and change (which her positions do not actually represent); and 4) the apparent progress for women in a woman VP pick (in spite of the fact that her policies and convictions are inimical to women’s welfare), I am holding to my initial reaction in this blog. It is clear that the McCain people will try to keep her away from the Press for as long as they can. But there will be a debate with Biden and at some point there will be questions about her unavailability for questions. Also, most people simply don’t know about her stands on the issues, for example, no abortion even in cases of rape and incest, and that she has lied about her record, for example, regarding the Bridge to Nowhere. Let’s see how all of this looks six weeks from now as McCain/Palin tries to push themselves as the change team in an economy still on the ropes and for which they are only offering traditional Bush/Republican bromides. (The flip from the experience team to the change team at this stage in the game is a Hail Mary. The Dems are just waiting for them. Wait till you see all of the ads with McCain saying just what Bush has said about the economy.) And let’s see how people feel about Palin being a heartbeat away from the presidency after they see how little knowledge she has of the world.
It is time that feminists who have supported Clinton for the right reasons step up to the plate and criticize her for unacceptable remarks and practices. The women’s movement has been deeply divided over the Clinton candidacy. Yet what started out as a legitimate disagreement about the merits of the candidates and their agendas has turned into a test of one’s feminist credentials. But the test is perverse. It is not a test of feminist principles and values. It has become a test of loyalty to Clinton, in spite of the fact that she is undermining basic feminist values.
But perhaps one shouldn’t speak of the “women’s movement.” After all, aren’t there almost as many feminisms as there are feminists? However, it is safe to assume that feminists of different stripes share at least two basic principles: 1) one’s dignity and sense of self-worth should not depend on one’s gender, and 2) opportunities for achievement should not favor one gender over another. Almost all feminists have been willing to substitute “race” and “ethnicity” for “gender” in these two statements. Almost all feminists would argue that to set the oppressed against each other is reprehensible and undermines these principles. We rise or fall together. Isn’t this what feminists have believed? Further, means are inextricably linked with ends. You can’t promote human dignity by undermining it in your practices.
Clinton’s recent comments and strategy have wrenched means from ends. In her quest for the presidency, and now perhaps the vice presidency (or who knows what else), she has behaved as if she is willing to see divisions widen between races and classes. Here is Hillary’s recent comment in USA Today on the topic of white workers.
“There was just an AP article posted that found how Senator Obama’s support among working, hardworking Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and how the, you know, whites in both states who had not completed college were supporting me.”
This was not an accidental throwaway comment. (And Clinton can’t hide behind the fact that she is “citing” an AP story. One is responsible for the news stories that one cites.) Numerous times during this race the Clinton campaign has attempted to make Obama the Black Candidate. What is so extraordinary about this recent statement is just how matter of fact it is. But suppose the positions were reversed. Suppose Obama was losing. Suppose Obama decided that he had to devise a “black strategy” in order to deny Clinton the nomination or gain leverage. Suppose Obama had said,
“There was just an AP article posted that found how Senator Clinton’s support among working, hardworking Americans, black Americans, is weakening again, and how the, you know, blacks in both states who had not completed college were supporting me.”
Think of the implications. Obama would surely be viewed as playing the race card or perhaps the race deck. At minimum Hillary supporters would view Obama’s version of the statement as fostering a divide between white women and blacks, for patently selfish ends. Further, it would be viewed as creating rifts in the Democratic Party that make winning in November more difficult, thereby undermining feminism, because the Republicans will not be good for women’s issues.
Why aren’t Hillary’s feminist supporters taking her to task for these comments? We have heard some criticisms by Clinton supporters. But they are often softened with, “Well, she really didn’t mean it.” Nonsense on stilts. She meant it. Her campaign now depends on a strategy that the statement promotes. She wants to rack up a large white vote in West Virginia and Kentucky. She wants to be able to say that she is the candidate of white workers, especially white male workers. Anyone who doesn’t call this for what it is, is an apologist. And one reason for being an apologist is the fear of failing the Hillary loyalty/feminist test. But this is wrong. It is putting Hillary above feminism(s).
Feminists who have supported Clinton need to speak out NOW, and speak out with vigor. Feminism(s), and what it stands for, is more important than Hillary Clinton.