Monday, April 14, 2008

The trouble with a kitten is that

eventually it becomes a cat.

One of the good [not really good, I know] things to come out of Hillary Clinton's campaign for President is that an awful lot of people are having to wake up to the fact that misogyny is not dead, and we are not living in a post-feminist world.

Even better, some of the younger women, many of whom have been reluctant to listen to us old fogies from the second wave, have noticed that they don't have quite as much power as they thought they did and they're starting to make plans on what to do about that [h/t Molly Ivors].

Good for them.

12 comments:

Michael said...

I agree, totally.

hipparchia said...

about the trouble with kittens?

:twisted:

Steve Bates said...

A lot of online sources quote Nash as writing, "The trouble with a kitten is that / When it grows up, it's always a cat."

I'm going to do some old-fashioned dead-tree research on the matter, but it may take time: I have no fewer than seven volumes of Nash, published from the late 1930s to the 1950s.

Misogyny is far from dead. People who say otherwise are either engaging in wishful thinking or else they are outright lying.

Steve Bates said...

Found it. Your version is correct. (Verses from 1929 On, Little, Brown & Co., p. 104). I don't know if the other version is a variant by Nash himself; it's possible. Your version is the one I remembered, but given my memory, that was no confirmation by itself.

In the process of searching dead trees, I found an old favorite first encountered in my early teens, clipped and posted on my bulletin board, lost in a move and not found again until now. It's called Listen... (the ellipsis is part of the title).

Bryan said...

It isn't just Clinton. Just off the top of my head, I have seen the media do it to Rice, and they did it to the former CEO of HP, Carly Fiorina. They do it all the time, and it gets ignored.

It has just become more blatant, to the point it can't be ignored, when Clinton became a serious contender.

I make no bones about not liking Rice, and Fiorina is a total jerk [and McCain supporter], but that has nothing to do with their gender.

august said...

Hi hipparchia,

I'm going to try to redo a comment that just got eaten by blogger. Roughly -- I've been teaching at women's colleges, and witnessed with some joy the phenomenon you describe. Not to take away from that (or your post), I have a parallel feeling that my students have a great interest in seeing themselves as oppressed and no interest in seeing themselves as privileged (which given the colleges, they clearly are). Which reminded me of some old debates about first and second wave feminism, race, and class. I wish the election was leading to a more productive approach to those issues, but the horse race nature of the thing usually leaves me feeling nauseated (often at the very moments when others seem most energized). That's one reason I (seemingly along among my friends) feel totally uninspired by any of the remaining candidates.

I suppose one could caricature that comment into a very sexist one -- that feminists are racists. That's not what I'm trying to say. I'm just struck by the way a lot of people seem to be talking past each other on all sorts of things. Class may be the most thorny (perhaps McCarthy gets the last laugh...making socialism a dirty word seems to have also made it hard to talk about class interests.

I usually try to refrain from comment about my cat, but I will say this: I wish I had known him as a kitten, but I'm very happy he's a cat.

hipparchia said...

blogger is eating comments again? i'm sorry.

august, i'm thrilled to hear that about the young women you've been teaching. you made my day just mentioning it, thanks.

one thing about college and twentysomethings [ok, it's going to be two things kinda] is that at that age a lot of the world is still black and white, not many shades of gray yet, and away at college, away from the immediate influences of family, it's a good time to try out different and new and more ways of doing, being, thinking, even if some of those ways look a bit extreme or unwarranted to outsiders.

class, wealth, etc... being an adored pet, with all your material and educational wants and needs provided for you, in abundance, is not the same thing as being your own person, fully a human being, and having lots of resources at your disposal. if your students, even with all their privileges, come from homes where the women are merely adored pets, and they look into their futures and see only more of that, they have a right to feel like they're being unfairly caged in.

but yeah, that's only the beginning of those debates, most of which won't fit in google's comment boxes. [ps. cat comment always welcome at this blog]

i agree with you on the horse race. if i want horse races, i'll watch the triple crown. but the horserace aspect is the one the media prefers to hype, so it's what we get fed. i'd much rather see substantive debate and analysis, and thanks to blogs, i can actually find some of that. still there is a lot of whining to wade through sometimes.

i think you're right about mccarthy having a lot to answer for.

hipparchia said...

steve, thanks! glad to hear it, since that's always been the version i liked best. i knew if anyone had the definitive answer, it would be you.

and i was unfamiliar with listen... [and indeed unfamiliar with most of nash's writing outside of a few bits of doggerel]. thanks for the introduction.

on the denial of misogyny, i'll add a third option: some folks just haven't seen it in action, or experienced directly before now. kind of nice to think that maybe there are corners where misogyny doesn't completely pervade the atmosphere.

hipparchia said...

bryan, i was thrilled when carly fiorina made it ceo of hp. grrrl power to the max, and i followed her career avidly. and when a black woman classical pianist with a phd in a 'serious' subject made it that high up in government, in a 'manly' sector to boot, i loved it. but yeah, they both turned out to be colossal jerks, with rice having the distinction of having done a lot more harm to a lot more people.

Michael said...

Hipparchia, I was agreeing we don't live in a post-feminist world and that Hillary Clinton's campaign has brought a lot of misogyny to the surface where it can hopefully be dealt with.

hipparchia said...

i know you were. i only said that because of our earlier round on feminism [which i took as all in fun too].

Anonymous said...

(august here)

In my original comment I'd said more about my students -- about the way gender is on the table in every class, no matter what the topic, that they are engaged in ideas, that they have a keen sense of the intimate relationship between the personal and political (not to say they are activists, but they get it.

(Quoting you)
class, wealth, etc... being an adored pet, with all your material and educational wants and needs provided for you, in abundance, is not the same thing as being your own person, fully a human being, and having lots of resources at your disposal. if your students, even with all their privileges, come from homes where the women are merely adored pets, and they look into their futures and see only more of that, they have a right to feel like they're being unfairly caged in.


I agree. I doubt they come from families where women are merely adored pets (their mothers are usually contributing a lot to their exhorbitant tuitions). And they have a lot to say about gender, body image, and various tools of oppression. One of my favorite discussions (a recurring theme) is about agency -- how can historians understand a person (or country -- if the context is colonialism) as both exercising agency and oppressed.

Still, they are remarkably clueless. Usually they know that they are clueless -- "I don't know anything about China" or whatever. But they also seem to feel that they understand the phenomenon of oppression to such a degree that their own experiences are directly transferable to, say, slaves, Koreans being forced to speak Japanese, peasants banding against their landlords.

I struggle with on the one hand trying to support their feminist instincts while on the other hand trying to get them to see that they don't already know everything. I want to say "Yes, but" in such a way that the "yes" is fully felt (so that the phrase is not dismissive) while at the same time getting them to see that what comes after the but might be relevant to their ways of being feminists. And do it on the fly, in real time.

I can't think of a better place to express this than in the comments to your blog. We're not living in a post-feminist world; we're not living in a world of racial equality of opportunity; we're not living in a world where people are rewarded according to their abilities (to say nothing of their needs). We're not even living in a world where those are generally recognized as social goods. We are, sadly, living in a country where various folks (who should know better) are willing to throw one or the other of those goals under a bus.