Politics: Women, Power & the Next Four Years

by Kit-Bacon Gressitt

President-elect Barack Obama is naming names — well, no, someone is deftly leaking them. Regardless, given the brilliant and well-accoutered rivals, intimates and mutual admiration society members from whom he’s selecting his cabinet nominees, the country is likely to enjoy the perks and quirks of some very interesting minds.

Being of the female persuasion, I’m particularly keen on the minds of the women whose names are making it up the flagpole.

Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) as Secretary of State is a nice plug to chaw: The thrill of her former presidential campaign supporters is surely matched by the horror of those who would have voted for anyone but Clinton for president had she won the primaries — even Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, who tripped through the campaign on her syntax.

Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano as Secretary of Homeland Security is really satisfying. Dang it — a woman in charge of security! Although I can hear it already: Those who despise her for representing Anita Hill during U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ confirmation hearing, along with those who despise her for her gender (juxtaposed with her accomplishments), will have a rip-roaring time delineating various imagined security shortcomings they believe inherent in her body parts and apparel. Tucker Carlson, Marc Rudov, Mort Kondracke, Sean Hannity, Chris Matthews, Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly all come to mind, with their penchant for misogyny posing as punditry.

Napolitano, Clinton and all other female nominees had best gird their loins for the onslaught of PMS, nagging wives, witches and bitches, cosmetics, cleavage, vaginas, aging and ball-buster slurs masquerading as political commentary.

I know it would be equally unprofessional and sophomoric, but what a lesson for those boys (and the girls who try to win by foolishly playing their game), were they to be similarly critiqued for their prostate problems, midlife crisis acquisitions, erectile dysfunction, increasingly hairy ears, comb-overs, male hair dye, androgen deficiencies and those little dribble spots on the crotches of their designer slacks. Think I’m being mean? Check out the video compilation by the Women’s Media Center.

Chicago businesswoman Penny Pritzker escaped the sexist critique, although her name was briefly floated for Secretary of Commerce until it dropped like a sinner to her knees. She was quite successful as Obama’s national campaign finance chair, but she withdrew her own name for cabinet consideration — perhaps due to her historical subprime lending involvement.

Still in the running for targets of pundit prurience: Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, one of a multitude of pro-choice Catholics I’d like to point out to Father Jay Scott Newman. And there's also economist and professor Laura D'Andrea Tyson, President Bill Clinton’s chair of the Council of Economic Advisers (the first female in that position). Both women are on media shortlists for a variety of cabinet nominations yet to be claimed.

And then there’s … um, ah … hmmm, either a dearth of leaks or a dearth of women in contention for the rest of Obama's cabinet posts. If the mass inside the Beltway were not so prone to verbal vomitus, we could believe the lack of names of additional women being seriously considered was a failure to disgorge. Sadly, that’s a tough one to swallow.

So, while we wait, perhaps fruitlessly, for additional female nominees’ names to leak forth, I’d like to get back to Alaska’s Governor Palin for a moment. Because we’re in nomination mode and because Palin is in “What’s next for me?” mode and because she apparently doesn’t read much and, hence, is unlikely to read this. How about congressional Republicans create a special position just for Palin: Minority Mascot? It puts her safely out of the running for president (I could find nary a mascot who succeeded a team leader), saving the Republican Party from untold embarrassment; it panders to those who took Palin seriously; it feeds her craving for on-camera face time, as long as she declines the head gear; and the William Morris Agency will have a better opportunity to gauge her ability to speak extemporaneously.

Extemporaneously, that’s like when the speaking of things that is, which people who love this great country of ours, when they are finding themself wanting to hear the hopefulness that we all hope to feel also, is the way to say those things of importance that which they hope to hear, there, without a teleprompter. Yeah, OK!

I’m sure the other nominees will know what it is.

©2008 Kit-Bacon Gressitt

(Editor's Note: This piece is cross-posted from Kit-Bacon Gressitt's personal blog, Excuse Me, I'm Writing.)

(The photo of Sen. Hillary Clinton campaigning in Georgia is from earlier this year; the photo is by Nrbelex via Flickr, using a Creative Commons license.)

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Anonymous said...


restaurantrefugee said...

Though I would love to see her in Washington, I am quite confident that Gov. Sebelius is staying in fly-over land. She is too valuable in that post and remaining a governor increases the likelihood of her running for national office in 2016.

The thing that most concerns me, however, is the lack of depth in double chromosone talent pool. We can all rattle off a few women at the top but where are the next generation?

p.s. this is my first time here and I like your place.

kbgressitt said...

Dear Restaurant Refugee,

Welcome to iVory Towerz. I'm relatively new here myself -- still discovering lots of good content -- dig around and you will be rewarded.

My daughter, whom I used to drag to political events until I became too uncool, phoned me from college election night to cheer the outcome. This and the post-election involvement I see around the same-sex marriage issue, give me hope that young women are recognizing their political power. But you are right: We need to support their development, encourage them to challenge the status quo, to grasp equity -- something that remains frustratingly elusive.

Take care,

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