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Don't Hush, Sweet Charlotte

11:51 AM, Mar 10, 2008 • By NOEMIE EMERY
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Last Sunday, our friend Charlotte Allen wrote a gentle spoof for the Outlook section of the Washington Post on the general subject of feminine ditziness, suggesting that at times members of her and my gender could be ineffectual, overemotional, sometimes irrational, and, now and then, "dim." Readers swooned, feminists shrieked (Katha Pollitt in a riposte on the Post's website), and Post higher-ups raised the white flag of contrition, unaware, so it seems, that exactly two days later--on Tuesday, March 4--the paper itself had run two major stories that proved every point Allen made.

On page one, a feminist warhorse, still mourning the death of the ERA many years earlier, told a room filled with unoccupied chairs that the reason men voted for Barack Obama was solely to thwart women's hopes. "Would they like white man instead of a black man? Of course. But they'll take a black man over a woman. I never thought, in 2008, that we'd still be dealing with this." Well, neither did we, and that wasn't the worst of it. Obama was being...polite. He had the gall to pull Hillary's chair out when the debates started, "immediately establishing the upper hand in their interaction," and putting the uppity girl in her place. "You can bet that's a calculated move," the feminist said, "and it's absolutely demeaning." Any day now, he may hold the door open, and things will really get ugly. Are there no depths to which men will not go?

"One Way or Another, Women Will Decide it," went another big story--this time on A7, with pictures--with more of the deeply oppressed. One is a nurse who has suffered a lifetime of grievance, from her father who refused to let her shoot pool as a child, to doctors who expect some respect from the nurses, to her husband, who soaked the "Hillary!" sign she put up in the garden when he watered the lawn with a hose. Then there is the body-piercing artiste from South Austin (a typical voter if ever there was one) who weighed in with her unique take on events:

The tattoo gun vibrated in Wendy Ramirez's hand as she leaned over the man's arm, gracefully etching the outline of a woman's torso onto his skin. For 18 years she has worked in this male-dominated field, having to endure such comments as "Little girl, you don't know what you're doing."..."Many men don't respect women," she says.

There is the black woman, torn between loyalties: "When Hillary Clinton announced she was running, I was like, hands down, that's it. I'm voting for her. Then I see this stream of light that is Barack Obama, and at first I was like, what is he, crazy? I felt pressure on both sides," she says. And there's the white lawyer, who's strictly for Hillary: "A friend of mine, a black man, said to me, 'My ancestors came to this country in chains; I'm voting for Barack.' I told him, 'Well, my sisters came here in chains, and on their periods; I'm voting for Hillary.'" Evil slaveholders made women have periods! Who knew?

Then, there's the piece that ran in the Nation (main home of Ms. Pollitt), written by a cluster of feminists (Gloria Steinem among them) who met to make sense of it all:

Two days after the Texas debate…a group of old friends broke out the good china for a light breakfast of strong coffee, blueberry muffins, and fresh-squeezed orange juice….it was a casual gathering, but one that settled down to business quickly…How, we wondered did a historic breakthrough moment for which we have all longed and worked…risk becoming marred by having to choose between "race cards" and "gender cards"….What happened, we wondered, to the last four decades of discussion about tokenism and multiple identities and the complex intersections of race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, and class?

Well, gee, we don't know, girls, except that maybe all this talk of "identities" created a climate in which valid critiques of the tactics or policies of individual candidates became a lethal assault upon every non-white or woman who ever drew breath?