"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Generic Women

Garance Franke-Ruta has written an interesting article in The Atlantic (5.7.13) on generic women candidates for President.  That is, there is overwhelming support for a woman – any woman – who might run for the highest office in the land.

"While voters believe that it is harder for a woman to be elected president than it is for a man, 75% also believe that a woman president would be a good thing for this country," the group found. "On nearly every issue tested, a female president is perceived to be as capable or more capable than a male president." (Emily’s List)

Franke-Ruta does not explain why Americans feel that a woman would be better than a man in the job; but one can guess.  A woman would not get us into so many wars.  Deep down most women believe that testosterone fuels most of what is bad for society – guns, rape, killing animals, the NFL, road rage, and infidelity – and that a caring, concerned, and compassionate woman with just the opposite physio-genetic makeup could be much better at world affairs where skillful negotiation and compromise would override bellicose sabre-rattling and Errol Flynn war epics. 

Those polled admitted what all but the most hard-bitten feminists know in their hearts.  Women are different from men because they have no testosterone, not all of those Y chromosomes complicating life, and a more sane if not saintly worldview.  Women are mothers, after all, and what mother would willingly send her son into battle.  Of course there are the likes of Volumnia, Coriolanus’s harpy, ambitious mother who happily sent her son into battle and reveled in his wounds; but they are the exceptions.

While all this generic support is interesting, and illustrates more than anything the final death-knell of gender-neutral thinking; generalized support for a generic woman will soon erode when a real woman declares her candidacy.  While for now Hilary Clinton looks like a generic woman, voters will run away from her in droves when the conservative press show clips of her at her most shrill, match her with the man-killer Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada, cobble a 15 second video of all her hairstyles, and show her standing by her man after Bill’s peccadilloes in the Oval Office. It will take a lot of ‘progressive’ spin to remake Hilary into a generic woman.

But then there’s the anti-Hilary, anti-generic Kamala Harris, Democratic Attorney General from California.  Of mixed American Indian and African American heritage, and a total knockout, she can give the Party their ur-candidate.  Diverse, attractive, dynamic, and public office-holder.


She can’t possibly lose unless – which of course will happen – Rush Limbaugh digs into her public and private lives and finds creeping socialism, illegal gardeners, or back taxes owed.

A truly generic woman would be Simone in the Al Pacino movie of the same name.  Simone is a truly virtual woman created by Hollywood admen and huckster producers. The do their Big Data thing, and design the perfect Hollywood film star:


If only the studio can keep her onscreen and in recorded virtual interviews, it will see hundreds of millions of dollars in profits.  This, of course is not possible – at least not in 2002 when the film was produced; but the last decade has transformed the concept of virtual reality.  We now can imagine, without having to suspend our disbelief, that there could be truly virtual movie stars, presidential candidates, and pastors.  Most of us feel that a virtual Congressman would be far better than 99 percent of all the turkeys who are taking up space now; and with the new sophisticated data collection and IT tools, perfect generic representatives can be created.  These avatars will be programmed to react according to up-to-the-minute data generated from click Monkey surveys, will always please.  Politicians – there will always be real, money-grubbing people in back rooms – will figure out a way to jigger campaign finance so that the money will keep pouring in, but at least we can transform the Capitol into something useful and send home the good ol’ boys back to Arkansas and beyond.

The problem is that women are real.  It is nice that a majority of the electorate feels that it is time for a female president, but most of us will run the other way if the candidate is like, well, you know who:

Despite all this generic support for women candidates, Sara Palin did more to harm women’s chances than anything.  She was, after all, both a ditz and a few heartbeats away from the presidency.  How scary is that?  She may be a nurturing mother, and a caring wife, but she was a disaster as Governor and a total wreck as VP candidate. 

My perfect generic candidate will look like this:

Finally, a female candidate that everyone can love – a feminist dream who will be judged by her thoughts and words alone.

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