When Concerned Women were but Slightly Agitated Girls

The birth of one our most vocal opposition groups, as chronicle by a pre-Reagan AP.:


Baptist anti-feminist trains to lead crusade against gays [Ancient AP via Google]

Good As You

—  admin

‘Gay Boy’ makes D Magazine’s ‘Best in Music’

I was glad to see someone took notice of Farah’s dreamy single “Gay Boy.” I hardly expected it to be the peeps at D magazine, but since it won’t be on my list, props to Christopher Mosley for giving it attention.

The song, which came out back in March, was annoying as hell in the beginning for me, but then her lyrics, or talking rather, grew increasingly clever. How many girls did/do we know like this? All in all, it’s a flash of brilliance with lyrics like How could I dance in these heels?/How could I not?

Thanks for the reminder, Mosley.

LISTEN: “Gay Boy” (or if you have trouble, just go here)

—  Rich Lopez

Indigo Girls + Chely Wright Invite You To Girls-Only Christmas Party

Well folks, it doesn't get any lezzier than this: Chely Wright performs holiday tunes with the Indigo Girls, aka Bristol Palin's favorite band. [CBS Early Show]

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—  admin

Bristol Palin Responds To Cho With Odd ‘Indigo Girls’ Logic

Bristolpalindwts Margaretchodwts

Margaret Cho's assertion this week that Bristol Palin's mother pressured her onto Dancing With the Stars prompted a response from Ms. Palin, one that has people wondering if the 20-year old took a jab at Cho's bisexuality.

Though insistent she and Bristol are friends, Cho wrote on her blog that "someone who should really know" told her Bristol was forced onto the hit ABC show, and asserted, "The only reason Bristol was on the show was because Sarah Palin forced her to do it."

"Sarah supposedly blames Bristol harshly and openly (in the circles that I heard it from) for not winning the election," Cho claimed. "And so she told Bristol she 'owed' it to her to do DWTS so that 'America would fall in love with her again' and make it possible for Sarah Palin to run in 2012."

Well, Bristol responded on Facebook last night and, following Cho's suit, reiterated that the women are friends, but remains "taken aback" by the comedienne's comments.

"I will give my friend credit for creativity, and extra points for getting so many 'facts' wrong in so few sentences," wrote Palin. "Let me be blunt: my mom did not 'force' me to go on DWTS.  She did not ask me either. The show approached me."

Palin goes on to declare "politics had nothing to do with [my decision]." She also argued, "I seriously doubt anyone who considers herself a student of American politics truly believes I impacted even one vote in that election."

It's a pretty politically worded letter for a non-political person, and fairly persuasive. Bristol's end note, however, brings the entire thing back into partisan light, and it's distinctly lavender.

Writes Palin, "You say you 'don't agree with the family's politics at all, [but] if you understood that commonsense conservative values supports the right of individuals like you, like all of us, to live our lives with less government interference and more independence, you would embrace us faster than KD Lang at an Indigo Girls concert."

In light of Palin sister Willow's recent anti-gay remarks, it's not surprising people are reading Bristol's missive as a below-the-belt attack, although it's far too illogical to be read as a directly homophobic hit. Why would Cho embrace KD Lang at an Indigo Girls concert? Or is KD Lang just a stock lesbian?

Maybe the line was meant to be "faster than a girl embraces KD Lang at an Indigo Girls concert?" Or, rather, "Faster than KD Lang embraces a lady at an Indigo Girls Concert?"

I'm confused, and I suspect Palin may be, as well.

Towleroad News #gay

—  admin

The Dresden Dolls and Girl in a Coma play tonight at the Granada

Girls, comas and dolls — oh my

The Dresden Dolls and Girl in a Coma are perhaps one of the better musical pairings this year. At least for the gay contingent. GIAC rocks out the lesbian in all of us and The Dresden Dolls’ is a given with its dark cabaret act resurrected by Amanda Palmer and Brian Viglione, much to the delight of  the fans who thought their self-imposed hiatus would never end.

DEETS: Granada Theater, 3524 Greenville Ave. 9 p.m. $29. GranadaTheater.com.

—  Rich Lopez

WATCH: Officials at Okla. high school accused of bullying lesbian students into dropping out

What happens when anti-gay bullying comes not from students but from a school’s administration?

Several lesbian former students say administrators at Del City High School, southeast of Oklahoma City, are discouraging gay students from graduating.

One girl, Kelsey Hicks, says the principal told her to drop out and get her GED because, “You’re gay, you’re not going to do anything with your life.”

Another, Melissa McKenzie, said she was expelled from Del City after moving in with her girlfriend. “He [the principal] said if you go back to your mom’s house, you can go back to school.”

Both Hicks and McKenzie also say they were kicked off the Del City High School softball team.

A third girl who graduated from Del City High School said a school official once told her that being gay is an “unhealthy lifestyle.”

“He had found out that I was gay and he was on my case about every little thing,” she said.

According to KWTV Channel 9 in Oklahoma City, the school district issued a statement saying the three girls aren’t current students and none of them has filed a complaint.

—  John Wright

Guest column by Irene Monroe: Not only “For Colored Girls”

Not only “For Colored Girls

By Rev. Irene Monroe

If you’re looking for Madea (Tyler Perry in front of the camera in drag), or Black-faced versions of Sex in the City or He’s Just Not That Into You, then Mr. Perry’s adaptation of Ntozake Shange’s 1975 womanist choreopoem “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf” will gravely disappoint you.

And if you are also looking for Perry’s high-profile ensemble of African American actresses — Janet Jackson, Loretta Devine, Kimberly Elise, Thandie Newton, Phylicia Rashad, Anika Noni Rose, Tessa Thompson, Kerry Washington, Whoopi Goldberg, and Macy Gray — to perform as “Big Mammas,” “Hoochie Mommas,” and “Welfare Mommas” mouthing off “Madea-isms,” these sister-girls will disappoint you too; they have more depth, dignity and dimensionality to their character development than that.

While the movie, in my opinion, is a must see, it won’t be blockbuster hit. You won’t have to worry about waiting in long lines. I went to view the film at prime time with an audience of six of us — all women — in the theater.

With some critics having already bad-mouthed For Colored Girls as an anti-male melodrama, emasculating black males, who would sit for 134 minutes of that?

But those critics are wrong, and let me give you some reasons why.

For Colored Girls illustrates the universal sisterhood of struggle, strife, and survival that women find themselves in certain types relationships with men.

These characters in the film are you, me, and us all at certain junctures in our life’s journey. And For Colored Girls reminds us about the ongoing “dark phrases” of womanhood that women of all colors of the rainbow, even in our supposedly “post-feminist” era of 2010, continue to confront, like spousal abuse, incest, rape, infanticide, and infidelity, to name just a few.

However, with the film set primarily in Harlem, many will see the film as solely the typical “black faces” of African American women.

But that was neither the intent of Shange’s play, nor is it the intent of Perry’s film.

“Driving along Highway 101 one morning, she found herself passing beneath the arc of a double rainbow. Seeing the entire rainbow take shape above her, Shange realized that she wanted to live, that she had to live; she had something to say, not only about the fragility of her own existence, but about the lives of the other colored girls she knew and loved and imagined,” Hilton Als wrote in “Color Vision: Ntozake Shange’s Outspoken Art” in a recent New Yorker.

Ntozake Shange’s “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf” was written during the height of the second wave feminist movement, giving voice and visibility to an era deluged with white women’s scholarship and sensibilities, and an era discriminated with not only their racial and ethnic biases but also with their class and sexual orientation biases.

Shange was part of the burgeoning black women writers’, poets’, and artists’ era of the 1970s where Toni Morrison published her first novel, and still my favorite, The Bluest Eye. Alice Walker, Maya Angelou, Nikki Giovanni, Sonia Sanchez, and Toni Cade Bambara, to name a few, are some of the early foresisters of the era.

With her signature style of writing — the choreopoem — blending music, dance, poetry, and an amalgamation of what she heard on the street, Shange’s play has influenced this generation of spoken-word and performance artists.

“I like the idea that letters dance. …I need some visual stimulation, so that reading becomes not just a passive act…but demands rigorous participation. The spelling result from the way I talk or the way the character talks, or the way I heard something said,” Shange wrote in Claudia Tate’s Black Women Writers at Work.

Perry directorial style in For Colored Girls captures Shange’s poetic style in each of his characters, with of course a few of his own cinematic flourishes. But none where there was room for Madea to surprisingly appear.

While many may view For Colored Girls as a melodramatic mess of black women’s misery, the play is about women’s empowerment.

The film is about teaching and illustrating to women how to have decision-making power of their own, access to information and resources for making proper decisions, having a range of options from which they can make good choices, having the ability to exercise their assertiveness, and having positive thinking of one’s ability to make changes in their lives as empowered women.

For Colored Girls is not only for colored girls because it offers a pathway to self-growth, finding our authentic power, and discovering the divine in one’s self.

In the closing scene of the film one of the women says, “i found god in myself & i loved her/i loved her fiercely.”

Aren’t we all looking for that woman?

Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  admin

Italy’s PM Silvio Berlusconi Responds to Stripper Controversy: ‘Better To Like Beautiful Girls Than To Be Gay’

Italy's prime minister Silvio Berlusconi has already battled allegations tying him to the mob, accusing him of unfairly wielding too much control of the media with his ownership stakes, and denouncing Islamic cultures. Now he's being assailed for allegedly trying to cover up his pressuring Italian police to release the granddaughter of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who appeared at one of his infamous parties at his mansion. But it's not big deal, says the PM, because having a fondness for beautiful girls is better than being a fag.


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Brandon Hilton on gay teen suicide

Brandon Hilton

It might seem easy to write off gay Dallas-based musician and YouTuber Brandon Hilton as a joke. After all, Hilton’s first several posts on Twitter today consisted mainly of skin care tips (not that there’s anything wrong with that!). But then Hilton fired off the below piece about gay teen suicide, letting us know he’s more than just “an attention whore and failed MySpace celebrity,” as one closeted homophobic critic claims. Now then, with his permission, here’s the full text of Hilton’s extended Tweet:

It breaks my heart to hear about all the recent suicides! 4 boys dead in 3 weeks!

Life is not always sunshine and roses… for anyone. not even for me! we all have dark moments, and we all have pasts that we may or may not ever want to talk about. I was planning to save mine for a biography one day, but that was a selfish publicity idea for later on in my career when the glam died down. I think the need to share my story comes now at a crucial time when kids are confused and lonely, and knowing that one of MY FANS could take his/her own life because they feel alone simply breaks my heart. YOU ARE NOT ALONE!

You may not be gay, you may not know if you are gay, you may not even know anyone gay, but if you suspect someone you know is, dont attack them. please talk to them, especially kids! you have a reason and a purpose in life, and you are FABULOUS!

In elementary school I was never the popular kid, I had a few friends who stuck by me, and still do to this day. It was rough being short and different and shy. I hung out with girls more than guys, and I didnt really identify with anyone else around me. I knew I was different. In middle school a name emerged, the boys started calling me GAY. so I started researching to find out what it was, sure enough the name fit and I owned it, I didnt tell them they were right about me, I kept it hidden until high school, then they came up with a new word for me…. FAGGOT, I hated that word, it pissed me off just to hear it. It was such a hard road through high school, my 10th grade year I decided that I was going to come out and tell everyone who I really was, so I did. It got worse and almost everyone turned on me, I didnt know what to do, so I had a genius idea to threaten them all. this idea got me expelled from high school for the entire year my 10th grade year of school. It was one of the lowest points of my life.

After the news broke my friends slimmed down to pretty much 2 people. only 2 that I felt I could trust, connect with and tell anything to. about a week after being expelled, I realized how bad I had fucked up my life and I felt hopeless. I had family I could talk to and I had 2 friends I could talk to, but I didnt feel like I could talk to them. I decided that my life wasnt worth living if I couldnt be like everyone else and be normal, so I tried to kill myself. and again, and once again, over the course of 2 months. this landed me in a psychiatric hospital under 24 hour surveillance for 2 weeks. It saved my life. In the hospital I met people who were like me, and who identified as gay and who were ok with it. the counselors helped me understand that I was normal and no different from anyone else except for being slightly more fabulous.

I left that hospital with a will to live, and a will to survive and change the minds of everyone who ever put me down. Its been a long road since then, but I can honestly say looking back, and seeing now that I more than achieved my goal, I developed a drive to succeed and ambition, and though my dreams were high, I’m achieving them.

I went back to high school the next year with a new look and a new way of living, words rolled off me like water resistant couches and new friends came in droves, I’m not saying that anyone should go through any of this to find themselves, but I think finding yourself is the biggest way you can change your life. not everyone is born to be an actor, or a singer, or a model, let alone all three. but EVERYONE is born with a purpose in life, and your goal is to find it and fucking rock it!

Being openly gay has been the biggest restriction on my career, and has kept me from already coming out on top of my goals, but I found ways around the doors that closed in front of me, I climbed in through the windows. I’ve accomplished so much in my life in only 23 years that most people will never do or see or have the opportunity to do. I’m thankful that my life was spared and I was able to do the things I have, and I want to give back that inspiration and that wisdom to others to spare them, YOU CAN DO GREAT THINGS, you can do so much more than you’ll ever think you’re capable of, you just have to go for it. every dream, goal or wish is achievable no matter how insane people may think it is. if you fall, pick yourself up and try again. you cant fall forever!

My family didnt always support me, they thought I was crazy when I said I wanted to do all the things I’m doing now, but that didnt stop me. I went out on my own and I kicked down the doors and the barriers and I fought and worked my ass off to make this dream a reality. just imagine what you can do when you believe. I believe in all of you, I believe in everyone. gay, straight, bisexual, black, white and yellow, you have a purpose and a meaning in life.

I havent lived the peachy perfect life that people seem to think I did, I have an extremely rocky and rough past, but all of it molded me into the amazing person I am today. I dont say that in a cocky way, I say it in a confident way. everyone is amazing in their own way, you have to find your beauty and you have to rock it! because EVERYONE is beautiful!

I believe in you!


—  John Wright

7:30 PM ET Liveblog: Rebecca Traister, author of “Big Girls Don’t Cry” – women & the 2008 election

This post is bumped up for the liveblog; new content is below.

The URL for the chat is: http://tinyurl.com/traisterPHB.

It’s been an interesting week at the Blend — chock full of liveblogs — and tonight we’ll have another. We normally speak with politicians or advocacy orgs, but this time we’re going to take a short trip back in history to analyze the 2008 election and women who played a major role during the campaign as all eyes were on not only Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin, but Michelle Obama, Katie Couric and Tina Fey. Seen through this prism, it was an extraordinary time in politics.

This evening we will chat with Salon.com’s Rebecca Traister, who covers women in media, entertainment, and politics. Her new book has just dropped — Big Girls Don’t Cry: The Election that Changed Everything for American Women (published by Free Press, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.).

Rebecca and I have met offline before; she was one of two writers honored in the Online Journalism category at the Women’s Media Center’s first annual WMC Media Awards (your blogmistress was the other recipient).

It will be exciting to jump into the time machine to revisit the runup to the 2008 elections from Rebecca’s perspective. Regular Blenders know that here on the blog it was a veritable rollercoaster of heated opinions, controversies, or scandals of one kind of another. And we can’t forget the Hillary vs. Obama camps and their fervent belief in their candidates.

In a Blend exclusive (and to prep readers for the chat), Free Press/Simon & Schuster has granted permission to bring you Rebecca’s introduction to “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” where she gives a shout-out to The Blend. The book excerpt is below the fold.
Excerpted from Big Girls Don’t Cry: the election that changed everything for American women / Rebecca Traister. Copyright ? 2010 by Rebecca Traister. Excerpted with permission by Free Press, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

Exclusive to Pam’s House Blend:


The first time I entered a voting booth I was nine years old. It was 1984, and my parents had brought me with them so that I could pull the lever for the first woman ever to run on a major party ticket for vice president of the United States. I remember walking proudly with my father and mother and younger brother into the suburban Philadelphia firehouse five blocks from the house in which I grew up, where the poll watchers knew my parents by name because they were two of the very few registered Democrats in our district.

I remember the weight of the curtain closing behind me and my father lifting me up to turn the black lever to make the X appear next to Walter Mondale’s and Geraldine Ferraro’s names. I remember him putting me back down so that he could turn the buttons for the other Democrats, and then telling me to pull the rubber-covered metal bar back as hard as I could, until the machine made a clanging noise that meant my vote had been counted.

When we left the fire station my brother and I climbed into the back seat of our car and my mother turned to make sure our seat belts were fastened; my father looked at us through the rearview mirror. “I hope that someday you’ll have the chance to vote for a woman at the top of a presidential ticket,” he said before starting the car and driving us home.

Almost twenty-four years later, on Super Tuesday in February 2008, I walked into a cavernous school gymnasium in Brooklyn to cast my primary vote on Super Tuesday, for the first time in my voting life unsure of which lever to turn. It was the moment that could bring me closest to fulfilling my father’s wish: I could put the X next to the name of a woman and bring her closer to the top spot on the Democratic ticket. But I had spent months saying that I would never vote for her, that she was not my kind of candidate, not my kind of woman. Even though I was beginning to change my mind, my distaste for her felt entrenched, and perhaps self-defining.

I spent fifteen minutes behind the curtain, shoving levers back and forth. I considered the other name on the ballot, a man who was also not exactly my kind of candidate, but whose potential place at the top of the Democratic ticket would put him close to becoming the first African American president, a possibility just as thrilling as that of electing a woman. I wished that I didn’t have to choose between them. I wished that I could vote for them both. I wished that I could vote for someone else altogether. I mostly wished that it was a different woman’s name in front of me, one that didn’t fill me with ambivalence and vague foreboding.

I would never have imagined, as I stalled and fidgeted in that booth while a line of voters formed behind me, that four months later I would be ducking out of a cordoned-off press section in the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., pushing my way through throngs of people in search of a place where I could cry in private. Behind a soaring column I gulped out sobs of exhaustion and disappointment at the end of the campaign of the woman for whom I had not been sure I could vote, even seconds before pulling the rubber-covered bar to seal my choice.

This book is an attempt to tell a story of change, change that came to me, yes, but also to the country, to the Democratic and Republican parties, to the women’s movement, and to the White House. Over a period of just a few years, it seemed, the United States, its assumptions, its prejudices, its colors, shapes, sizes and vocabulary, had cracked open.

A woman, Hillary Clinton, won a state presidential primary contest for the first time in this nation’s history. Less than a year later a candidate for vice president of the United States concluded her appearance in a national debate by reaching for her newborn baby.

Whatever else there is to say about Sarah Palin or the reasons that her youngest son was on stage that night, that maternal reach was a roaring first in presidential politics. We have seen it once now. That means it is possible to see it again. In the first month of 2009 an African American woman moved into the White House, which was built in part by slaves, as the first lady of the United States. Michelle Obama is only the third first lady, though notably the third in a row, to have a postgraduate degree; she met her husband when she was assigned to mentor him at the law firm where she worked. He is now our first African American president.

These are not small things. These are changes that have piled up fast, creating a world that our grandmothers could barely have dreamed of, that many of our mothers thought they’d never live to see. They’re also changes that our grandmothers and mothers made possible and that will in turn alter the landscape for coming generations.

The events of the past few years provided a prism through which both past and future became briefly clearer.

Though a presidential election is by definition a political event, the cultural shifts made visible and made possible in 2008 took place well beyond the scope of purely presidential history. For a time it was very droll to credit Tina Fey with changing the course of the election and sealing John McCain’s electoral fate with her deadly impersonation of his running mate. But Fey, who had made history some years earlier by becoming the first female head writer of Saturday Night Live, would never have had the opportunity to make this impact had there not been a woman running for vice president.

Fey’s most cutting sketches would not have been possible if another woman, Katie Couric, who had made history by becoming the first solo female anchor of a nightly news broadcast, had not been in a position to elicit unintentionally comedic material from Sarah Palin.

And Palin, who had made history by becoming Alaska’s first female governor, would not have wound up as a mark for Fey and Couric had she not been hired to sop up the tears and the votes of those who had supported Hillary Clinton’s run for the presidency.

Political breakthroughs begat cultural breakthroughs begat comedy breakthroughs begat political breakthroughs. The country was in a steady revisionist conversation with itself, with voters, with candidates, with pundits, with entertainers. It was a wild, dizzying ride. It is a poetic injustice that the drawn-out political marathon of 2008, a contest that at times seemed to drag on for decades rather than months, actually took place at breakneck media speed, and that it was narrated to us faster than we could absorb it. Once it would have taken years of retrospective investigative journalism to inform the American public of everything that had happened during a presidential election. In 2008 twenty-four-hour cable networks and the Internet offered hastily crafted daily tomes. We were fed sloppy synopses and cartoonish characters at rat-a-tat pace. Many of us, struggling to keep up, were happy to just get the Cliffs Notes version. But in the ceaseless cycle of revelation and analysis we lost depth, clarity and perspective on the story that was unfolding around us, as well as on how that story was itself changing and reshaping us.

My goal here is to tell the story of women and the 2008 presidential election, though not exactly the stories of the key women themselves. There are far better political reporters than I who have already begun to fill in the details surrounding why Hillary Clinton didn’t fire Mark Penn in January, why Michelle Obama thought it was a good idea to be honest about everything, why Sarah Palin didn’t just admit that she read the New York Times and move on.

These women are at the heart of this tale, but insider campaign rehash is neither my talent nor my particular concern. The story I aim to tell is the one about the country and its culture, how we all reacted to the arrival of these surprising new figures on the presidential stage and what they showed us about how far we had come and how far we had yet to go.

Yes, there was misogyny, and I will describe some of it, but that is not the revelation of this book. To say that Hillary Clinton faced sexism is practically meaningless. She was the first woman in American history to get within spitting distance of a nomination for president; of course she faced sexism. It’s far more interesting to examine the sometimes unlikely directions from which that sexism sprang, as well as the racism and classism that were often in high relief and aimed at other candidates, and why the manifestations of these prejudices still surprised us.

How ready were American voters for these women, and how ready were the women themselves? How prepared was the media to talk about them? How prepared were their political parties? What did their presence teach us about America’s female voters-those who were hounded for supporting women candidates, those who were hounded for not doing so, those who reported on them and those who were still trying to sort out what feminism meant some ninety years after American women gained the right to vote? In that last regard this book is not simply a narrative history but an argument, one that will not be popular with many who consider the 2008 presidential election as proof that feminism has failed. The political reporter Anne Kornblut has written that the contest was “a severe letdown, with damaging consequences” for women, and that it “set back the cause of equality in the political sphere by decades.” And one particularly dour blogger proclaimed in the summer of 2009 that “2008 was when feminism, the women’s liberation movement, ended up crashing.” I believe the opposite, that this was the year-the years, really-in which what was once called the women’s liberation movement found thrilling new life.

The impulse to declare social movements dead is as old as social movements themselves; the term postfeminist was used as early as 1919, a year before women gained the right to vote. The movement to increase liberties for women survived its first obit but has never lacked for premature mourners, or for critics eager to hold its wake. When people spoke, as they often did, about the state of feminism during the 2008 election, they mostly fell into one of two camps. One asserted that the women’s movement of the 1970s was dead because its goals had been more than accomplished, and that modern women, no longer troubled by inequity, did not assign any larger symbolic value to the election of a female president. The other wailed at the expiration of a feminist dream, averring that the mixed fortunes of 2008′s political women were emblematic of the unabated subjugation of women, and that not only had we not come very far at all, baby, but that perhaps we had slid backward.

Reality lay somewhere between, but also well beyond, these two diagnoses. The notion that we live in a world in which gender inequity has been satisfactorily redressed is about as persuasive as the proposition that Barack Obama’s election proved that racism was a stage through which the country had successfully passed. But failing to recognize the vast distances women have traveled in the past halfcentury, let alone the past several centuries, was just as dishonest.

Progress does not happen in a straight line, as any historian of America’s founding and revolutionary rupture, the abolition and suffrage campaigns, and the social movements of the 1960s can attest. The path toward perfecting our union has long been marked by semicircles and switchbacks, regress, tragedy and surprising forward bounds. Small advances spark resistance, resistance that in return provokes propellant bursts of reactive fury. The 2008 presidential contest electrified and enraged, radicalized and engaged us; it opened old wounds, and in doing so created new investments in the struggle toward equality. It recharged conversations-some ugly, some hopeful-that were perhaps in danger of going unfinished.

The events surrounding the election did not provide a static snapshot of where women or feminism or America was; the events themselves were formative, catalytic, changing the positions and shaping the consciousness of American women and men at every turn.

The campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin, flawed and unsuccessful though they may have been, the arrival of Michelle Obama on Pennsylvania Avenue, the cultural shifts and uncomfortable exchanges these women prompted, the eye-opening revelations about the progress of women in early twenty-first-century America were in fact the most rejuvenating things to happen to the feminist conversation in many, many decades. They created and nourished a new generation of politically engaged Americans and left us with a story worth telling, hopefully far into the future.

. . .

I am a feminist journalist allied neither with the generations of second-wave (or third-wave) activists that preceded me, nor with the online rabble of younger women who are revivifying and redefining the movement as I type. I was born in 1975 to a mother who taught me not by instruction but by example that it was not only possible for a woman to participate fully in academic, professional and economic spheres, but pretty much expected. She did not go to marches or talk to me about the patriarchy; her political activism had been forged during the civil rights movement and she spent more time telling me how she used to drive to Chicago to listen to Jesse Jackson preach on Sundays. An English professor, my mother worked throughout my childhood, but also did all the cooking, cleaning, laundry and child care in our house. My father believed fervently in the intellectual and political parity of women, but not so much in doing the dishes.

In adolescence I found a few friends with mothers whose consciousness had been raised more directly by the second wave; with them I attended the March for Women’s Lives in Washington in 1992; I wore pro-choice buttons on my coat. In college I studied eighteenth-century literature from a feminist perspective and listened to the Indigo Girls.

But having been a teenager in the backlash 1980s and 1990s, when even the girls at my crunchy Quaker high school prefaced their feminist observations with the defensive caveat “I’m not a feminist, but . . .” and having held my first journalism job at a gloriously musty boys’ club newspaper where any story pitch that smacked of gendered discontent would have been laughed out of the room, I assumed that although my interest in women’s issues might shape my personal life, it would not find a public, let alone professional outlet.

By the time the 2008 election season kicked off, I was not only earning my living writing about gender, but I was doing so in an atmosphere in which looking at the world from a feminist perspective had, improbably, become hot. When I was hired by Salon in 2003 it was as a staff writer for the “Life” section, a squishy category that included stories about relationships, sex, children, religion, health: girl stuff. A few of my early pieces touched on gender politics. To my surprise and that of my editors, these pieces generated attention, page views and lots of florid comments. I wrote more about feminism; the comments and traffic kept rolling in. And so I had a new beat, a lens through which I could examine politics, the media, entertainment, and social and sexual conventions.

My approach was not doctrinaire. After covering a thirtiethanniversary discussion of Erica Jong’s Fear of Flying in 2003, I wrote a bratty review headlined “The Feminine Antiques.” I played with verboten words like battle-axe and bitch; I dubbed Florida politician Katherine Harris a “chad harpy” and Ann Coulter a “thin political pundit.” Fascinated by the often ham-handed attempts of second-wavers to make their movement meaningful to a younger generation, I wrote critically about the 2004 March for Women’s Lives in Washington, where older leaders of big feminist groups were unable or unwilling to engage the thousands of eager young women who had shown up to march with them, as well as about the troubled history and shaky future of the word feminism. While reporting a story about incorporating questions of morality into the abortion debate, a piece that questioned the bland language of “choice” to which a generation of activists clung, I found myself on the receiving end of a tirade from Feminist Majority Foundation president Eleanor Smeal; she screamed at me over the phone, asking why I would write something so superficial and divisive when women around the world were dying of fistula.

Women around the world were dying of fistula, but I didn’t believe that that should prevent young people from reassessing signifiers of what had become a badly dated movement. I didn’t want to water down feminism or sex it up or dumb it down or sell it out.

But I did believe that in order to be taken seriously by serious young women, the conversation had to be drained of some of its earnest piety. Talking about gender in the new millennium required us, I thought, to get over ourselves a little bit, to dispense with the sacred cows, to question power and cultivate new ideas and leaders.

My early tenure at Salon coincided with the development of a few online sites created by young women anxious to form a modern feminist community, women whose ideas echoed my own. The most prominent of these was Feministing, founded by a twentyfive-year-old Queens native, Jessica Valenti, who was busting her chops to reach people her age whom she believed were hungry for more coverage about women, power and politics. She was right. As the online world exploded in many directions, each month seemed to bring a new site with feminist content, with names like Feministe, Shakespeare’s Sister, Pandagon, Echidne of the Snakes, Angry Black Bitch, Angry Brown Butch, I Blame the Patriarchy, Writes Like She Talks, Majikthise, Pam’s House Blend, Shapely Prose, Racialicious, Brownfemipower, Bitch PhD, Feminist Law Professors and Womanist Musings. At various points there were about six publications calling themselves The F Word. My musty boys’ club newspaper hired a writer who began to cover business and media through an unapologetically feminist lens. In 2004 the Center for New Words hosted the Women, Action & the Media Conference for feminist journalists, which in its first year drew a hundred people, and five years later six hundred.

Funnily enough, as my youthful commentariat company got broader I found myself becoming a shade less irreverent toward my elders, nodding in agreement with some of the more traditionally old-school feminist figures, the ones whom younger activists sometimes railed against, among them Linda Hirshman and Leslie Bennetts, who exhorted wealthy, educated women to stop dropping out of the workforce to care for their kids, and Ariel Levy, a writer of my vintage whose book Female Chauvinist Pigs questioned the purported sexual empowerment of a “Girls Gone Wild” generation. In 2008 I gave an appreciative talk at the thirty-fifth-anniversary celebration of Erica Jong’s Fear of Flying.

That’s where I was when Hillary Clinton announced her campaign for the presidency: a feminist caught between old and new, senior and junior, retro and nouveau, wanting to poke my elders with a stick even as I found myself agreeing with them, and wanting to celebrate the achievements of my younger peers, even when I found some of their commentary short-sighted and overly self-celebratory.

The prospect of a Clinton candidacy was exciting to those of us who wrote about women and power, not least because it promised to be good copy: the story of a much loathed but highly competent woman boarding the presidential roller-coaster and making an unprecedented grab for the brass ring.

But I could not have predicted the kind of electoral rapture that was about to overtake us all. If I foresaw the fury Clinton would provoke, I had no idea of the loyalty she would rouse or the way her campaign would open so many eyes to the realities of sexism. I had no inkling that there would be both Obamas to consider, that the contest between two candidates vying to be the first woman or the first African American nominee would obsess the nation for the better part of a year. I could not have summoned Sarah Palin from my worst nightmare, nor imagined the way she would inspire women on the right to lay claim to what they saw as their share of the feminist legacy. I could never have guessed how many of the questions that bedeviled the feminist world-questions of generational difference, race, class, sex, sexism, abortion, choice, the place of feminism in a Democratic agenda and humor in a feminist agenda-would get so widely aired to an electorate that may never have considered these issues before.

Whether you were a devoted Hillaryite or a Feminist for Barack, a Republican who wore a “Kiss My Lipstick!” button or a self-identified patriot who could not believe that Michelle Obama wouldn’t be proud of her country, you were thinking about women and power and perception. If you put an “I Wish Hillary Had Married O.J.” bumper sticker on your car or wore a “Sarah Palin Is a Cunt” T-shirt, you were broadcasting messages about gender. If you hugged Michelle in a church basement in Indiana, lined up for a Palin rally in Pennsylvania, voted for Hillary in Guam; if you loved Rachel Maddow’s commentary about the election or thought that Chris Matthews was kind of a prick; if you cheered when Campbell Brown defended Palin’s expensive wardrobe or snarfed your beer when Samantha Bee forced Republican conventioneers to describe Bristol Palin’s decision to keep her baby as a “choice”; if you were a young progressive guy who wished the Hillary supporters would shut up, a Hillary supporter who wished the PUMAs would go away or a PUMA who wished that everyone would just choke on it already, then you were talking and thinking about and making women’s history in America.

Publication information:

Big Girls Don’t Cry: The Election that Changed Everything for American Women

Hardcover: 352 pages

Publisher: Free Press (September 14, 2010)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1439150281

ISBN-13: 978-1439150283

Also available as an e-book.
Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  John Wright