Standing up for the Sissy

If Hillary's candidacy runs its course, feminists and Hillary supporters must continue battling misogyny, despite their former loyalties, by rallying to defend Obama's cause.

Those still in denial about the pervasive presence of sexism and misogyny in the 2008 primary will find Amanda Fortini's "Feminist Reawakening" in New York Magazine an illuminating read. Even if Hillary loses the nomination, argues Fortini persuasively, she "leaves behind a legacy of reawakened feminism--the fourth wave, if you will." The lingering question for feminists, ponders Fortini, is what comes next?

Fortunately or not, Hillary is again showing us the way--though not as we feminists had expected.

Hillary, poster-child of feminist revival, is shaping the misogynistic conditions for its next battle. Hillary is the feminist poster-child gone postal. Hillary is a victim, but she has turned victimizer. Once the oppressed object of the right-wing hate machine, she has internalized the posture of patriarchy and become the victimizing bully. Joining the chorus of media pundits and politicians, Hillary has embraced the emasculating rhetoric that vilifies Obama as feminine and as yet another milksop Democrat. It has been noted by many that Hillary attacks Obama using strategies straight out of the Republican playbook; it has not been noted that these attacks reaffirm the very misogyny Hillary's campaign has been attempting to transcend.

Slandered as both a sissy and a pusillanimous pussyfooter, Obama also bowls like a girl (or like Hillary on Ellen) and has gay-tendencies . He failed the commander-in-chief test and his wimpiness and wordiness conjures memories of AdeLADY Stevenson. Some even argue (with a positive spin) that Obama has a feminine management style and that he is our true first female candidate. After all, Obama appeals to "female virtues" while McLame appeals to "male virtues." And, of course, the Obama-effete narrative is the linchpin around which Hillary's favorite liberal (i.e. "girlie man"), elitist, un-patriotic, Marxist, decadent-San Francisco-loving (i.e. gay Mecca loving), and Ivy-snob narratives rotate.

The Obama-effete strategy like the Hillary-hating phenomenon thrives because misogyny is alive and well in America. At the heart of these caricatures lays the assumption that acting like a woman is shameful. There is nothing more abhorrent to many Americans than seeing a man acting like a woman because there is nothing more abhorrent than being a woman. There is no greater American cultural sin than the sin of femininity.

If he wins the nomination, Obama must take the first step in directly and honestly confronting this inexorable cultural tradition as he did in his speech on race. A critical and forthright examination of cultural misogyny--including a direct recognition and examination of his own effeminate caricatures--will not only protect his candidacy but begin to create the cultural conditions in which liberalism can thrive, strengthening Democratic prospects for years to come. But as with our national discourse on race, Obama and Obam-acolytes cannot change our cultural climate alone.

Hillary supporters must join the Obama campaign in this fight. If we don't confront the misogynist culture in which such characterizations have import than not only will woman and men that act like woman continue to suffer, but Democratic candidates will continue to fall prey to these distracting and destructive tactics (tragically promoted by some of its very own victims) and Democrats will continue to lose.

Hillary's candidacy engendered a feminist reawakening, but Obama's candidacy must awaken the rest of the Democratic Party to finally confront this shameful cultural tradition before it is too late.