Women First

“There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.”

Madeleine Albright

By now, we have all seen the infamous Ms. Magazine cover of Barack Obama in Clark Kent drag, opening his jacket to reveal a T-shirt where the Superman “S” should be. The T-shirt proclaims, “This is what a feminist looks like.” It was a shocking, and yet predictable, hommage to a richly undeserving male by a so-called bastion of women’s liberation; the ultimate poke in the eye after the endorsements of NARAL and NOW for the all-male Obama-Biden ticket enraged us in the general election.

There are so many reasons to be horrified by this cover art, but the one that really strikes me is that the meaning of the word “feminist” is going the way of the word “liberal.” Just as some of those on the leftish side of politics took up the mantle of “progressive” in order to avoid the increasingly negative connotations of the “liberal” label, some female activists are wondering if the word “feminist” should continue to be used to describe us.

I believe, however, that allowing one’s enemies to control one’s language is a huge mistake. Instead of dropping the word “feminist,” we should restate its meaning in the strongest and clearest of terms:

Women first.

For example, this year, two women made history in a spectacular way. Senator Hillary Clinton was the first female candidate to win a primary election, then went on to win more primary votes than any candidate had ever received, male or female. Governor Sarah Palin became the first female Vice-Presidential nominee in 24 years. Yet who did the “feminist” organizations of our time endorse for President and Vice President? On whom did the “feminist” pundits lavish their praise? And whom did Ms. Magazine choose for its cover?

A man. A demonstrably misogynist man, who surrounds himself with people like Larry Summers and Rick Warren, and has only half the women in his Cabinet as the last Democratic President, Bill Clinton.

After witnessing more virulent and naked woman-hatred than I ever thought possible this year, I have realized that “Women First” is what the patriarchy fears. It fears that we will finally throw off our culturally-ingrained desire to erase and abase ourselves for men; that we will use our power of refusal for more than just sex; and that we will take away the advantage that every male child enjoys over every female child simply for being born with an extra scrap of flesh hanging off of his pelvis.

The knowledge of the possible loss of power and privilege is the origin of all the terror that the punditry and both Parties expressed when Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin loomed large on the horizon. No wonder Tucker Carlson said that he wanted to cross his legs every time he saw Hillary – in a very real sense, she would have castrated him and his fellow members of the partriarchy, by rendering his penis less significant in society.

I ask you, if you were a member of the privileged class, would you ever, ever give up one iota of that power without a fight?

We feminists must begin thinking of our quest for full female emancipation as a war again – but not a war between the sexes; a war between those who recognize that women should be first, and those who don’t.

In a war, there are winners and losers, and for several thousand years, women have been losers. This is the year that we must start believing that we deserve to win, to be the ones in power, and to give up our sense of fair play and wishes for peace and equality. The patriarchy doesn’t need equality – it needs to be conquered. Only then will it concede defeat and grant us the power we need and deserve.

But MadamaB, people will say, women have come so far already. After all, some women have got it made in America, haven’t they? Women like columnists Maureen Dowd and Gail Collins, who make their living by ridiculing other women and playing up to men; women like “feminists” Gloria Steinem and Robin Morgan and Donna Brazile, all on the managing board of Ms. Magazine, who eviscerated Governor Palin and pretended that Barack Obama is a feminist in order to gain business and popularity; women like Nancy Pelosi, who sided with Barack Obama early in the primaries, instead of remaining neutral or supporting Clinton; and women like Caroline Kennedy, who helped gild Barack Obama with the luster of her father just in time for Super Tuesday, and while on Obama’s Vice Presidential selection team, managed to overlook the woman who had won only 17 pledged delegates less than her rival and who had won the popular vote.

These are the women who enable the patriarchy, and profit thereby. These are the women who deserve Albright’s special place in hell.

It is to weep, and then, to act.

I would like the New Agenda to gather with other like-minded groups to form a large voting bloc, made of women and men who understand that it is time for women to be first. I would like this voting bloc to demand of both Parties that at least 30% of the candidates put forth in 2010, and every election cycle going forward, be women. I would like this bloc to withhold its votes, time and money from both parties until this is done. I would also like this voting bloc to demand that the ERA be re-passed and ratified by 2012, and to withhold its votes, time and money from both parties until this is done. Other ways we can make her voices heard are boycotts of press outlets and companies that promote misogyny; demanding that history books include and honor the contributions of women; coordinate work stoppages in companies that practice sexism against their employees; and so on. There are so many possibilities, if we will only band together and act as one. 

As the great Sojourner Truth said, “If women want any rights more than they’s got, why don’t they just take them, and not be talking about it.”

Truer words were never spoken.

Women first.

Originally posted at The New Agenda

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6 responses to “Women First

  1. Pingback: Women First « The Confluence

  2. The whole piece is right on target madamab but the paragraph below is the meat of it all. This is where you give us something that we can do. And in that knowledge is the power of our beliefs, our determination, our rage and our commitment to leaving this a better world for the women that come after us. Brava Sistuh, brava!

    I would like the New Agenda to gather with other like-minded groups to form a large voting bloc, made of women and men who understand that it is time for women to be first. I would like this voting bloc to demand of both Parties that at least 30% of the candidates put forth in 2010, and every election cycle going forward, be women. I would like this bloc to withhold its votes, time and money from both parties until this is done. I would also like this voting bloc to demand that the ERA be re-passed and ratified by 2012, and to withhold its votes, time and money from both parties until this is done. Other ways we can make her voices heard are boycotts of press outlets and companies that promote misogyny; demanding that history books include and honor the contributions of women; coordinate work stoppages in companies that practice sexism against their employees; and so on. There are so many possibilities, if we will only band together and act as one.

    I

  3. Excellent, excellent post!

    Only one teensy quibble. “Only then will it concede defeat and grant us the power we need and deserve.” I would say “acknoweldgej we’ve taken,” because “grant u” implies that power is still theirs to withhold or not, and the whole point is that we’re taking it, jack.

    Easy for such wording to slip into even a war manifesto, isn’t it?

  4. NationalAunthem

    I agree completely with Kenoshamarge. Problems in getting women to band together and act as one: look at the women in power and position who assisted Obama in his misogynist behavior against Hillary, and those who escalated the trashing of women via Sarah Palin. Many women use those enablers as their role models.

    In this world, OJ could still easily get a date.

    To tweak the comment from Tucker Carlson, he said when Hillary would appear he would find himself involuntarily crossing his legs. Tucker is gone. We need to know who the brilliant person was who made that decision and get them in a place of leadership.

    Women banding together is powerful, but much more powerful is to get men of position to help lead the effort. I was never much impressed with McCain on most issues, but I certainly was aware of how many women he had in top row positions in his campaign. The media could see it, which I believe was the driving force behind not just beating down Palin, but making every effort to destroy any credibility McCain might have in furthering the cause of women in positions of importance.

  5. garychapelhill

    powerful post madamab. I’m with you 100% where do I sign the manifesto?

  6. hi madamab: you know, some time women are just simply not friends to other women. sooner or later women eventually find out that no matter what they do to appease the straight male power structure, it doesn’t work. i wanted to post over here and say how much i loved it because i know that you’ll see it and it won’t get lost in the avalanche

    i’m so glad i met you and that I get to read the wonderful things you post!