Thursday, March 31, 2016

Not Just Any Woman


I normally don't post unrelated pictures on blog posts, but I like this one from a Sanchong sidewalk enough, but have no context for it, that I'm putting it here anyway. Enjoy!

Well, I was going to do a travel post about a trip I took, like, a year ago to the East Rift Valley, and another about a hike I took to the sulphur spring at Dayoukeng, but my cat tipped a glass of lemon seltzer into my laptop (after chewing up my Apple headphones and puking on the floor) and for the time being it - and all of the pictures on it - are out of commission and the cat is still somehow mysteriously alive.

Seems the laptop will be fine, but I can't pick it up until tomorrow.

So, you get more of my insane political ranting instead. Lucky you!

In recent weeks I've compared Hung Hsiu-chu to Donald Trump when talking with friends. Both say crazy batshit things that alienate key demographics and even their party's base in some respects. Neither seems to be particularly intelligent enough to lead. Neither has the requisite experience to do a good job in a major leadership role. Neither seems to have very well-thought out plans and policies (Hung's platforms are possibly more detailed than Trump's but she's so freakin' nuts that it's hard to tell, honestly). Both harness hatred and rivalry (Trump against foreigners and 'the liberal elite' and Hung against protesters, activists anyone who isn't pro-China) to inflame a group of far-right ideologues.

But I'm not quite sure this comparison is the best one to be making in light of Hung's election to the KMT chairmanship, about which all I can say is "have fun KMT, I am happy to watch you continue to destroy yourself". In fact, I feel like it's now more relevant to compare Hung to Hillary Clinton.

Wait, wait, back that truck up, you're probably thinking. Clinton may be a neoliberal establishment stooge who voted for the Iraq War and the bailout and who supported a controversial and horrifying bankruptcy bill as senator that she'd opposed as First Lady because she needed the Big Business vote, but her social platforms are liberal - at least they are now - and she looks to many people like a centrist!

But I don't mean that they are similar in terms of ideology. They're similar in what their rise says about the female electorate. It's very easy to say that because women don't necessarily support candidates like Hung or Clinton, that they don't care if a candidate is female or not. It's so easy to say that in fact, a lot of people say it.

That's not the case, however - at least not for me and not in my observation and from talking to women I know (if you hadn't figured out by now that I am neither a political scientist nor social researcher, well, now you know). We actually do care about female candidates and actively want more female candidates to vote for. I don't agree that "it doesn't have to be this year" in the US - I would love for it to be this year! I just wish we had a better female candidate.

We don't feel this is sexist - just as many people define racism as prejudice + power: if you have the power to escape systemic racism, or have enough privilege that it doesn't affect your entire life, it is impossible for someone to be racist against you, even as they may be prejudiced, one can define sexism the same way. You can be prejudiced against a man, but not sexist against one unless that man is one of the few who live entirely within a matriarchal, female-dominated society, because men have historically had more power and privilege than women. It is not sexist to want more representation of historically under-represented groups. At least, that's how current theory goes, and I tend to agree but don't want to get too bogged down in semantics. Wanting more female political leaders and supporting women who attempt to break into those roles is not sexist. Some may disagree, but this is what I've observed not just in my own views but among other women I know.

It's just that we want female candidates who actually reflect our values - being what most people would call "on the far left", but which I feel either is or should be the center, I don't have a lot of friends who feel that establishment or far-right female candidates do so.

And not because Clinton is straight, white and rich - if a good female candidate is straight, white and rich (and not, say, a minority, LGBT person, or from a poor background), I'll still vote for her. I don't quite support Clinton because she votes against my values. She votes for things I don't like. She is a little too realpolitik. That's it. It has nothing to do with her not being 'different' enough.

Feminism isn't dead, and it hasn't morphed entirely into this "we don't care about gender, we're beyond that, it's no longer important to support a woman just because she's a woman" Third (Fourth?)-Wavery. Actually I - a Sanders supporter - do want to support a woman in part because she's a woman. I actually do want solidarity with other women. I just want it to be a woman who also resonates with me as an all-around candidate. That's not the same as not caring if a candidate is female or not.

It's true that being a woman isn't enough to win female votes, but that just doesn't equate to not caring at all if a candidate is female. Hung is so far-right that being female didn't even enter into the equation when considering her as a supportable candidate (which I didn't for more than half a second). My consideration of Clinton, however, did include her gender. I want female candidates, because I want more representation. Just because in the end I chose not to support her does not mean I don't care if a candidate is female.

The same can be said in Taiwan. Just because women don't tend to support Hung doesn't mean women don't care about having a female candidate. They just want a better candidate, and many want one who is also female. And sure, you could say that the KMT has taken a step forward in progressivism by having a visible female leader for once - quite literally for once, this is the first time ever for a very patriarchal, regressive party - but this would be a much more viable argument if the KMT had elected a female leader who was also, say, a Taiwan-local-KMT centrist. They didn't.

Just as the Democrats are taking a step forward by supporting a female candidate, but they could have really turned heads and struck a blow for progressivism by supporting, say, Elizabeth Warren instead - or, knowing she isn't interested in the job, someone like her.

So, please, establishment, as much as you don't want to, as much as you hold out, as much as you'd like to pretend we "don't care", we do. Give us female candidates. Their gender does matter.

Just give us better ones. Please.

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