Thursday, November 06, 2008

Years after joy

I cry with a hard joy, a rockin' blues joy when our team wins. I cried, shouted, and jumped for joy on Tuesday night.

I was a child Democrat who voted at school for George McGovern in a family that rejected Nixon at his first election, that shifted. In college, my induction to feminism was radical and didn't last except as a metaphoric tattoo. There were age barriers. I was "early," so now I'm "late," "old," though Obama, who is my age, is "young," and the barriers to employment despite affirmative action were fierce. Schools. The way to a job was through a man -- father or husband. The way to a job was through having a family. The way to home ownership was through marriage. I had thought as a younger woman that women globally were a people -- that, in essence, is what feminism practices -- but women, the people said, are also people, not a people.

My favorite women in this election turned out to be the wives of Barack Obama and Joe Biden and their mothers and grandmothers. I joked after Hillary won the popular vote but lost the nomination that I would cast my vote for Michelle Obama. A woman friend, a feminist, who detested Sarah Palin to the point of finding her physically unattractive chided me for the joke. She thought I thought that I could elect Michelle Obama by voting for her husband, that I thought First Lady were an elective, representative post, that I didn't understand politics any better than Sarah Palin, who didn't understand Constitutional democracy. I do understand Constitutional democracy. G-d bless the electoral college. The states will vote. The people voted.

Among other things, the people said they prefer women in the public sphere as the conjugal adjuncts of men leaders. The academic world voted. It said it prefers women as the conjugal adjuncts to men professors. It said it prefers to pay women half or as volunteers, less or nothing for trainings as long and expensive as men's. It said that adjunct wives represent women in the ads and posters of politicians and academics. The newspaper world for me as an editor was similarly family-based.

I happened to see Peggy Noonan and Gloria Steinem, among other important men guests (one who described Hillary as a "soldier" who made 70 appearances for Obama after her loss) on Oprah yesterday. I couldn't help but feel that Oprah let off Republican speech writer Peggy Noonan before she let off Steinem.

I told my younger sister about the show, and she said that it's fine if that's Oprah's opinion, and I said it is not fine, not in any way would it be fine to be Oprah and to excuse the woman who wrote those war and economics and campaign speeches while faulting Gloria Steinem. Steinem has said that women would not be poor if they were paid for caretaking, that women's futures are determined three generations ahead. I said in this economy women are paid by the pound. My sister secretly counts on me to say these things. She reminded me that it is impolite to mention salary details, that naming salaries is rude in polite company.

She told me that her woman friend whose father died of AIDS doesn't believe gay people should raise children. She said her gay man friend isn't having children but is a sperm donor and cares little about gay marriage as a political issue. She said these examples and emotions may determine civil rights.

I said that I remembered being a girl in the backseat of my parents' car in Minneapolis and seeing a black man and white woman cross the street holding hands. The couple were wearing bell bottoms, like me; the man had an afro and the woman had long blond hair, both almost like me.

In our country, we elected a man who is the son of a biracial union. He transcended for enough people the barriers that still exist after decades of struggle and conscientious change. As a parallel, imagine electing the grown daughter of two lesbians. Imagine. But our country has yet to find a woman who transcends for as many people the barriers that still exist despite decades of struggle and conscientious ... attention to details of appearance and fashion and body weight. "Women's concerns," which many people say are elitist or dangerous to democracy itself, may evolve again one day.

Today I salute Michelle Obama for looking beautiful in her dresses and for being curvy. I salute the men's gorgeous faces, their odds, their wives' kind eyes, but mostly, I feel wildly enthusiastic, for the first time in a long time, about change, and about this election's change in particular.

1 comment:

Andrew Christ said...

I like your post here, Ann. Except I get the idea from these words that the personal is always political. I don't agree with that. I think sometimes the personal and the political are the same and sometimes they are not. I don't believe that I take a political stance when I say 'I am a Christian', for instance. And to say 'I am a Catholic' is a political statement only under certain circumstances. For instance, if I'm involved in a fight in northern Ireland.