One year after Donald Trump took office and the Women’s March supposedly marked the rise of a new anti-Trump Resistance, it is crystal clear that the Resistance amounts to nothing more than a campaign to elect more Democrats to high office. The only trouble is, Democrats never push for liberal, much less progressive or left, politics once they get into power. The Democratic Party is where the American Left goes to die…and Trump hasn’t changed that.
One of the points many women have made since the beginning of the current national discussion about sexual assault and harassment has been that sexism and misogyny have cost women countless opportunities to achieve their full potential. Probably because this began with Harvey Weinstein, much of the mourning of opportunity costs focused on Hollywood: New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd mentioned her reaction to research she did on the topic: “I got more and more angry as I realized that these women were being systematically excluded based on ridiculous biases.”
It’s an excellent, long-overdue point: Who could possibly count how many brilliant women have been denied high-profile roles as actors and directors and studio executives as the result of the studios’ toxic “casting couch” culture? How much great insight and entertainment have the rest of us, including men, lost because we have been denied the full expression of women censored because they refused to sleep with some nasty executive?
Outside the world of entertainment, might cancer have been cured had more women been encouraged to enter a STEM career?
At the same time, there are many other forms of discrimination that have similar effects, yet they’re so hardwired into the system that we don’t give them much thought.
Most of these tragic cases of human underachievement are the direct result of economic discrimination. There is the guy who would be a great poet if not for the fact that he grew up in rural West Virginia and his parents were poor and uneducated so it never occurred to them to point him towards a career that, had they heard of it, would seem useless and impossible to turn into a viable means of making a living — which, because they were poor, was the only thing they could think about.
There is the woman working as a cashier in the Bronx who might have gone to Yale if she had been granted a scholarship or had been born into a wealthy family, the woman who would have created an amazing computer company had the sexist pigs who compose Silicon Valley’s V.C. class given her pitch a fair hearing, the girl of color sitting in class in a rundown elementary school whose horizons have become a sinkhole thanks to mere demographics.
You can turn this around and look at it from the other side as well. Think of all the profiles you’ve read about an actor who scored his big break due to pure happenstance (as opposed to talent). You may have such a story yourself. If you think about it, though, the random lucky break is not a heartwarming confirmation that the universe provides what you need. Those breaks are few and far-between. The terrifying truth is that most people who deserve them never get them — and that sucks. It reflects the arbitrary and capricious nature of a system that barely pretends to be a smidge of a meritocracy.
I feel luckier than most. Even so, there are many things that I was never able to do simply because I didn’t have enough money: attend the college of my choice, study the major of my choice, join the Peace Corps, take a gap year and travel through Europe, get knee surgery, accept an internship, attend the grad school that accepted me but didn’t offer me financial aid, start a small newspaper, tell a jerky boss to go to hell. I doubt that many people reading this would have trouble composing an even longer list of things they would have liked to do, places they would have liked to see, businesses they would have liked to start, all out of reach due to a lack of funds.
Aside from stifling our dreams and crushing our ambitions, our cult of capitalism denies us the broad-based political debate that might solve many of our most pressing problems. Due to the pro-corporate, right-wing political bias of the mainstream media, all the left-wing ideas that never get expressed in the opinion pages and society are denied distribution, meaning that they never get discussed. For example, antiwar voices are never allowed space in major newspapers, radio news broadcasts, or on television. Surely that rigid censorship has something to do with the fact that the United States has constantly been at war since the American Revolution. When is the last time you heard a politician or pundit argue that we ought to spend more on mitigating climate change than we do on the military?
Capitalism is presented as an ideology that allows people to fulfill their ambitions and make the most of themselves, but in reality it’s exactly the opposite: it constrains people to what they can achieve based upon what’s in their bank account or in their parents’ estate. So the United States has been one of the least socially mobile societies in the industrialized world for quite some time (and it’s getting worse) but most Americans don’t have a clue. This caste system also applies to everyone. Even under a construct of systematic sexism and misogyny, a wealthy woman enjoys far more opportunity than a poor man.
This is not to say that women don’t have every right to rage against men, or to understate the validity of women’s complaints about male misdeeds ranging from contempt to physical assault. The sexual assault and harassment discussion is yet another reminder that the fundamental underlying cause of the problem is power and its inevitable abuse.
It has long been a standard argument of feminists that the world would be a better place if women were in charge.
Certainly more women should be in charge: exactly 50% of the people in charge ought to be women. But we need to look beyond sexism to understand the meta root cause behind unjustly (and foolishly) squandering countless human potential. Whether that waste is directly attributable to discrimination based upon race, gender, or some other factor, it will continue as long as we live in a society whose foundation relies upon the disgusting assumption that only those who can afford it have the right to be everything that they can be.
(Ted Rall’s (Twitter: @tedrall) next book is “Francis: The People’s Pope,” the latest in his series of graphic novel-format biographies. Publication date is March 13, 2018. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)
Hillary Clinton seems poised to become the first woman to be the presidential nominee of a major American political party. It’s supposed to be a major symbolic moment, at least in terms of identity politics. But it feels hollow, largely because of something most commentators hesitate to say in public: if she hadn’t married Bill Clinton, she wouldn’t be where she is now. Why can’t a nation of 319 million people find a woman president who didn’t marry her way into the job? Because the system still won’t allow it.
Originally published at Skewed News:
If women ruled the world, we’ve been told for years, it would be a more peaceful planet.
Now that there’s a real possibility of a first woman president, it is no longer impossible to imagine ladies in charge. Thanks to a new Pentagon rule change, however, there is now less danger of a women-led Earth disintegrating into a devastating peace.
In a powerful statement in favor of gender equality, military officials in charge of the invasions and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq, who are conducting massive drone assassination programs in Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia, engaged in the bombing campaign against Syria, and who are providing most of the weapons and munitions used in the world’s wars have announced that women soldiers will be permitted to join the carnage as full-fledged combat partners to their male counterparts.
You’ve come a long way, G.I. baby.
Under new Pentagon policy, women soldiers and sailors will no longer have to stand by and watch as their male colleagues drop bombs on Muslim villages and wedding parties. They will be able to join in the fun. Similarly, when male soldiers and sailors rob, rape and go on killing sprees, female combat troops won’t have to cool their high heels at some boring forward operating base, expected to bake cookies. When there’s slaughtering to be done, lady soldiers will be invited to join in.
Some logistical questions remain unanswered. When raping local children in nations under U.S. occupation, will female soldiers be issued with rape tools, or will they have to improvise with “hillbilly” sodomizers? On the other hand, women soldiers — who are believed to have greater appreciation for art than men — may prove helpful in the looting of museums and marketing of archeological artifacts.
“It was a powerfully symbolic and sound policy move. While there will be logistical challenges as the Pentagon continues to break down barriers for women, doing so will make the military stronger and will narrow America’s gender equality gap,” editorialized The New York Times, which has endorsed most of the United States’ decisions to start the aforementioned military conflicts.
“They’ll be allowed to drive tanks, fire mortars and lead infantry soldiers into combat,” Defense Secretary Ash Carter said. “They’ll be able to serve as Army rangers and green berets, Navy SEALS, Marine Corps infantry.”
Secretary Carter said the world’s most violent and aggressive military forces will be able to become even more violent and aggressive now that 50% of the population is pitching in. “Our military will be better able to harness the skills and perspectives that talented women have to offer.”
This is a period of greater openness for the U.S. armed forces, which are responsible for provoking most of the world to hate America. In July, the Pentagon decided to allow trans people to serve as soldiers. In August, a 28-year-old army sergeant became the first openly trans soldier. A symbol of trans pride, he has been on more than 400 combat missions in the illegal, undeclared wars against the people of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Both wars are viewed by most Americans as mistakes.
Political and military leaders of all genders agree that when it comes to invading and occupying and oppressing, greater gender participation means greater efficiency, particularly in an era when so few people agree with U.S. foreign policy in general or particular invasions. “I think it’s fair to say that women are a little more collaborative in their approach overall, and a little less driven to conflict as opposed to driven to working out problems,” said Janet Napolitano, former Secretary of Homeland Security. Whether you’re shooting a laser-guided missile at a hospital in Afghanistan or shoving things up prisoners’ asses in a U.S. military gulag, it’s important for everybody to be on the same page about, say, what things and how far up.
At Abu Ghraib military prison in Iraq, for example, women and men played a joint role in the interrogation, torture and murder of Iraqi prisoners. This led to a higher level of depravity than might not have been possible had the job been left exclusively to those blessed with male privilege.
“If they’re qualified to do those positions, they should be able to anything that a man can do in the military,” said a female soldier with 10 years experience in the military. She noted that bombing, shooting, torturing and sending people to concentration camps can be a bonding experience for the entire family. “My husband is security forces as well, so my children see both of us going to work as cops and my son, he’s almost four, thinks it’s awesome.”
Hillary Clinton’s recent attack on fellow presidential hopeful Marco Rubio (R-FL) over abortion (“offensive,” “outrageous” and “troubling,” she said) reminded me of something I’ve been wanting to wonder aloud for some time:
Why doesn’t the Democratic Party call for a federal law legalizing abortion?
Thanks to the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, abortion is legal. Given the 5-4 balance of the Supreme Court barely in favor of that 1973 decision, however, federal abortion rights could vanish following the next vacancy on the high bench, especially if it happens under a Republican president. (Abortion would remain legal in liberal states.)
Four decades of legal limbo is enough.
If Hillary, Bernie Sanders and Congressional Democrats really believe in a woman’s right to control her own body — for the record, I think they do — they should jointly endorse a bill legalizing abortion throughout the land.
It is true, of course, that full-throated support for reproductive freedom carries political risks.
With only 50% in support of abortion rights and 35% against, Democrats would risk losing some of the conservatives we used to call Reagan Democrats, or just swing voters, especially Catholics. Incredibly, you’re more likely to poke someone who likes gay marriage than abortion when you shake a stick.
Of even greater concern to Democratic strategists is losing leverage over their progressive wing. Following decades of marginalization and watching their political views overlooked in favor of Clintonite “Third Way” centrists, the left is disgruntled, voting and giving donations in smaller numbers. One thing that still motivates these liberals to turn out for Democrats is the prospect of a Republican-controlled Supreme Court, followed by the overturning of Roe v. Wade — a threat many social-issue liberal Democrats find appalling.
If Congress legalizes abortion, this motivation goes away — and leaves a party that went along with the wars against Afghanistan and Iraq, passed welfare reform, and enthusiastically pushed through a spate of free trade agreements viewed by economic populists as corporate giveaways that kill American jobs.
This is almost certainly why Hillary Clinton talks a good game on abortion — and that’s where it ends. She just doesn’t care enough to take a chance.
Despite the downsides, Clinton, Sanders and the party ought to press for a federal bill. Bill Clinton and Barack Obama played to the polls, the latter endorsing gay marriage, saying his views had “evolved” only after surveys told him it was safe. Voters are starving for leadership, for politicians who point the way forward, telling us where we should go before we form a national consensus.
Certainly, such a move would solidify support for the party among women by signaling that it is willing to take risks. The bill could go down to defeat. But legislative defeat could become a moral victory, as in Ellen Pao’s unsuccessful sex discrimination lawsuit.
It would also put Congressional Republicans on the spot, forcing them to go on the record as voting against abortion rights — which most American women support. This tactic, forcing opponents to vote “nay” so you can beat them up with attack ads later, is rarely used by Democrats. I don’t understand why. Is the SCOTUS threat really so powerful that it justifies the real possibility that tens of millions of women and girls in conservative Southern states will lose abortion as an option? Aren’t strategists worried that, at some point, liberal women in particular will get wise, and ask the same question I’m posing here: why don’t Dems even try for a federal abortion-rights bill?
If nothing else, it would be nice to see an end to the 42-year-old ritual of protests outside the Supreme Court in Washington, attended by pro-choice and pro-life factions yelling insults at each other.
It’s time for American political culture to get real and grow up about abortion. It’s silly and weird and unproductive for a major nation to remain so paralyzed so long over such a major issue. Women deserve to be able rely upon more than a flimsy court decision.
There ought to be a law — and Democrats should lead the charge.
(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and the cartoonist for ANewDomain.net, is the author of the book “Snowden,” the biography of the NSA whistleblower, to be published August 25th. Want to support independent journalism? You can subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)
COPYRIGHT 2015 TED RALL, DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM
Identity politics, a writer friend reminds me, is where liberalism goes to die.
The oceans are boiling, freelance journalists’ heads are getting lopped off, and there’s not the slightest sign of resistance to income inequality so out of control it would worry Cornelius Vanderbilt. Yet the Internet’s politically-correct “social justice warriors” are dedicating their formidable energies into attacking pissant trivialities.
Anyone who doubts that online slacktivists have their heads so far up their collective asses that they can’t see daylight need only read up on the controversy over Undercover Colors, which is a nail polish that allows women (or men, but they’re not the target audience) to discreetly discover whether their drink has been spiked by one of several common “date rape” drugs.
(My advice to women: if you’re at a party or with a guy so sketchy that you think you may have been slipped a mickey, don’t bother with the fancy polish. Just scoot. You don’t want to be there anyway.)
Better safe than sorry, right?
“Anything that puts the onus on women to ‘discreetly’ keep from being raped misses the point,” writes Jessica Valenti, a once-influential feminist blogger whose hammer-to-the-skull-obvious post-motherhood columns for The Guardian add to the case for automatically censoring any piece of writing by a parent about their children. “We should be trying to stop rape, not just individually avoid it.”
Valenti is serious about this: “So long as it isn’t me isn’t an effective strategy to end rape. ‘Undercover Colors’ polish and products like it only offer the veneer of equality and safety. And that’s simply not good enough.”
Which is true. And stupid.
Like: wearing shoes isn’t an effective strategy to stop assholes from breaking glass bottles on streets. Since assholes do leave shards of glass all over the place, however, walking barefoot isn’t smart.
Installing a car alarm or using an anti-theft device like The Club is an example of “individual avoidance.” One wishes that it were possible to leave one’s automobile unattended free of fear that someone might steal it. But reality dictates that, if you park in a high-crime neighborhood, you take measures to deter thieves. True, it’s a “so long as it isn’t me” strategy. But what else can you do? We’re not likely to see an effective strategy to eliminate car theft any sooner than “an effective strategy to end rape,” a crime endemic in every culture throughout history.
How removed from the real world are writers like Tara Culp-Resser of Think Progress, who also criticized the entrepreneurs who invented the anti-date-rape polish? “It would likely be more effective to focus on larger efforts to tackle the cultural assumptions at the root of the campus sexual assault crisis,” she wrote. “Like the idea that it’s okay to take advantage of people when they’re drunk.”
To my horror, I have known men who bragged about having raped inebriated women. (Since their accounts were devoid of details, it would have been pointless to report them to the police.) They didn’t violate women because of “cultural assumptions.” They did it for the same reason that CEO pigs issue themselves huge raises the same day they fire thousands of employees: because they can.
This reminds me of the complaint against liberals who claim to support public education, yet send their kids to private school. If your local public schools are decrepit or dangerous, it’s unconscionable to subject your children to them if you can afford not to. Obviously, we should fight to ban private schools, and for that matter the capitalist system that separates American kids into pre-poor and pre-rich educational systems — but until the revolution is achieved, it’s every man and woman for himself and herself.
Feminist propaganda can’t stop rape. No marches, no poster campaign, no hashtag bullshit. Men will stop raping women when they no longer can.
Neither I, nor the social justice types, know how to achieve that better society. Until someone comes up with that Big Idea, anything women can do to protect themselves — self-defense classes, carrying pepper spray, even a nail polish — is just common sense.
(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and cartoonist, is the author of “After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back As Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan,” out this week. Subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)
COPYRIGHT 2014 TED RALL, DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM
Hands down, the most asked question asked of political cartoonists is: where do you get your ideas?
To which my first reply is usually some variant of “if you have trouble coming up with complaints about politicians or politics, this probably isn’t the right job for you.” Coming up with ideas, or at least topics, has never been an issue for me or any other professional cartoonist I know.
Like other artists, editorial cartoonists use their outlet to work out their issues in public. Most people get annoyed at the president and other political types. The difference between other people and we cartoonists is that, rather than random grousing over beers, we labor under the illusion that we can actually change things (yes, by drawing funny pictures…so we’re delusional. Whatever.).
Sometimes our cartoons reflect our visceral personal reactions to a news story. This week’s cartoon is an example.
When I first heard news accounts of people in Murrieta, California gathering to block federal government buses transporting women and children detained for entering the United States illegally from entering the town, I assumed the protesters were advocates for the immigrants — well-meaning liberals protesting the shabby treatment, such as being held in prisons for up to two years while awaiting deportation hearings, in inhumane conditions and often without adequate legal representation, suffered by people fleeing economic hardship and rampant crime in Central America and elsewhere.
Upon further investigation, however, I learned that the protesters were actually on the opposite side: right-the feds were cruel to what are, by any sane account, refugees from economic and political violence, but rather that they weren’t aggressive enough in enforcing border controls.
As a leftie, I am unusual. I agree that the border has been left open intentionally, and that it ought to be secured. You can’t call yourself a nation-state without controlling who comes and goes; to the contrary, strong border control is one of the defining features of a functioning nation-state. Also, it’s nonsense to complain that sealing the Mexico-U.S. frontier isn’t feasible. The former Soviet Union had a southern border many times longer than that to control, both to keep citizens in and to keep insurgents from places like Afghanistan out, and possessed fewer resources than the U.S. — yet it successfully managed to keep things under wraps.
I favor a wall, a strong border. But it will never happen. Republicans like the border open because their corporate backers like the depressing effect illegal immigration has upon wages; Democrats know that the legally-born children of today’s illegal immigrants are the Democratic voters of tomorrow. Both parties are in cahoots on this issue.
In the meantime, I can’t view the human traffic across the border, originating in some cases from countries destabilized by American intervention, as anything less than people who need and deserve our help. By all means, complain about the perfidy of a federal government that claims the right to invade sovereign nations on the other side of the world yet pretends not to be able to control who comes and goes from Mexico to California. But please don’t pick on the women and children — and the adult men — who are merely doing what comes naturally: trying to survive.