In the wake of a flood of gender-politicking around the election and the attribution of Hillary’s New Hampshire win to her “emotional outburst,” especially by the likes of Maureen Dowd, who manages to not only misread and misinterpret Gloria Steinem‘s Op-Ed piece in the Times but also to evince that she is, in fact, as screeching harpy who has no greater insights to offer than a bad parody of Chris Matthews, I started to feel, with no little exasperation, sick of the whole misogynistic, jeering refrain about Hillary’s gender, because what it really indicates is that we so readily accept the notion that being male is normative and being female is being sub-normal (despite genetic/evolutionary evidence to the contrary) that we accord male voters a respect we wouldn’t dream of giving women, who are clearly always led by the estrogen coursing through their veins. A charming little post at Bitch, Ph.d expressed my sentiments exactly: “pundits and other commentators insist on acting as if we’ve just admitted people with vaginas to the electorate, and it’s just so crazy because how will this affect the election?!…But no, we never talk about how men will vote, because it’s just not as interesting. Or scary. Men have been voting for years! They are the average voter! They don’t vote based on little things like crying episodes or whether someone is black. They vote the issues. (…) From now on, I will be presenting analysis of the man vote. Will they vote with their penises? Are they indignant? Do they want to see a man in the White House?”

Do they, indeed. Who can’t answer that? And where is the cause for the grotesque Hillary-focused rubbernecking and prurient desire for questionable motives and/or failure? Well, according to Bob Herbert, it’s simple: we are a society that delights in dehumanizing women, in causing them pain, in observing their sufferings with dispassionate fascination. And although his piece makes some pretty big leaps of logic, it’s pretty obvious he’s not wrong — just as it’s pretty obvious that a lot of the men out there whip out their Johnsons to mark up those ballots.

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Earlier this week, I was going to write a post about how Obama’s victory in Iowa cast a whole new light on the primary, and, in fact, how it gave me hope where previously I had had none: not hope that America would see its first African American president, per se, but hope that America’s social politics had evolved to such a point where that would be possible.

You see, I am a Gen X person of color, and as such (both of such!) I’m cynical. Not only am I cynical, but I’ve had my cynicism honed to a surgical-quality blade by the many instances of casual racism I witness and experience every day. The effect of having this experience — of experiencing racism primarily as a victim or potential victim, rather than as a perpetrator — is a constant state of watchful pragmatism, a mentality of survival and of hoping for likelihoods rather than possibilities, the avoidance of false hope for fairness, or an equal opportunity in favor of an attachment to the notion that unequal opportunity will have to do (and while I thought Obama’s whole “false hope” rebuttal was great campaign strategy, even he must acknowledge that the social realities for the community he is cast as representing are such that avoiding false hope is crucial to survival). I recently heard a theory that part of the reason for the African American community’s higher rates of heart disease and stroke is that members of the community are in a constant state of stress causes by de facto racism everywhere they go, and this theory makes perfect sense to me. The connections between stress and heart disease are known, and it doesn’t take a big leap to understand that the tension of maintaining a reasonable level of self-protective vigilance, which is a condition of the lives of people of color and women in America, might well put undue strain on the system.

So my constant state of vigilance didn’t allow for the hope that America was ready for an African American president, a fact which many of the economically and socio-racially secure white Baby Boomers I know failed to understand in their rampant, privileged idealism; they were like, “Hey! How ’bout that Obama!” and I was quelling them with the Voice of Pessimism and Despair. And when Obama won Iowa, I felt the relief that comes when you realize that your world is a little more open, and little roomier, and little brighter than you had thought. And I wasn’t the only one. Just the other day, I dragged the family to IKEA to buy the sister-in-law a bed; as we went down the escalators discussing Obama’s “You’re the wave, and I’m riding it!” comment, and how that was simultaneously charming and corny as hell, an IKEA employee (demographics: young, white, chubby), interjected, “Yeah!” and we simulated surfing. Now, I’m not a big fan of the Midwest (sorry), primarily because whenever I go there, I feel overwhelmed by large blond persons who overflow into my bus seat and prefer to stock their restaurants with Beck’s and brats rather than Tsing Tao and har gow, and I hate brats, and then there was the time I drove from New York to Chicago on the 80 and passed innumerable “Meat: It’s What’s for Dinner” signs, which made me crave wheat germ and seitan. So Iowa really surprised me. It’s a wonderful feeling to think that the people of the Middle West have progressed so much farther than I’d thought. Maybe the next time I visit I can even find some food that involves neither pig intestines nor melted Velveeta.

Of course, I’m not the only cynic out there. Mihow expressed exactly the views I feared would dominate in a January 4 post. Here’s a quote: “I really believe that if it comes down to a white guy like Huckabee and a white woman or a black man, the knee jerk reaction, Democrat, Independent or Republican, will be to vote for the white guy. I agree with many that Obama is great, I may even vote for him. But is he electable? Put your personal feelings aside and really ask yourself that.” The gist of her post is that Huckabee must be stopped, and Edwards is a white guy, so everyone should vote for him because he’s electable and we all know, if we “put our personal feelings aside and really ask ourselves that,” that black men and women are not.

That’s the fear talking. And Mihow later amended a bit (maybe she, too, was influenced by the wave of optimism that Obama was riding). But fear is a powerful thing. Fear makes people ask for what they think they can get rather than what they really want. So when my well-fed white Baby Boomer colleague said, “I’m just so in love with Obama!” and I scoffed, that was the fear talking, my attempt at bringing his crashing idealism and naiveté back down to the bitter reality of my experience. And I was wrong, at least a little, because I never thought Obama would win Iowa, and while I view Hillary as a much less threatening (racially; she ain’t gonna start stealing all the white women!) and more establishment (Bill! Come on; Bill Clinton is everything we love about America: brash, big, expansive, idealistic, energetic; he’s also smart, even if he does, like America, have incredibly poor impulse control). So maybe I should listen more closely to the crashing naiveté of the Baby Boomers, because I’m really not in favor of acting on the fear that drives posts like the one above, and I’m underwhelmed by Edwards.

In fact, even Hillary’s New Hampshire win today has put me in a good mood (there is always the possibility that I took one of K’s happy pills instead of my multi this morning). And now that we’re seeing the softer side of Sears on that front, maybe she’ll even get elected, if she can tread that fine line between bitch and wimp. A dear friend of mine refers to her as “Cruella,” and I’m not sure where that comes from, except that I can’t dismiss the obvious explanation of it having to do with the fact that he is a white male probably at this very moment eating at the Country Buffet in rural P.A., maybe followed by some deer hunting or a belching contest, and therefore thinks that all women trying to ascend to power are castrating bitches. Probably the explanation is more complex than that, but if it isn’t, all I can say is I hope someone sics that castrating bitch on the Republican frontrunners on her way to the Oval Office. Because Bishop Romney, Mike “I Heart Medieval-style Patriarchy” Huckabee, and Big “We are a Christian Nation” Mac’s politics are so far on the flip side of the social progress that both Obama and Clinton’s leads evince that I wonder just how schizophrenic our nation has become — and when it’s going to get that lobotomy.