My Nancy Pelosi Freak-Out

I can’t start this post without at least making an attempt to distract the folks who will use this against me in the coming years. Hold on just a second while I try to get rid of them.


Hey! Is that a naked lady carrying three semi automatic guns wearing a hat that says "Will fuck for ammo" walking down your street? My god, I think she’s being followed by a small group of concerned Christians who are praying and having some kind of delicious potluck. You’d better go check.


Okay, now, let’s talk about Nancy Pelosi.

As you may have noticed. I’ve not mentioned her. Mostly because it’s exceedingly difficult to blog with one hand covering your eyes to keep from having to see if things are as bad as you suspect they might be.

So, I’ll admit, I’ve been ignoring her.

And yet, mark r asks why he feel compelled to beat her with a bus, which has me thinking about why I recoil at the mention of her name.

I see Egalia’s enthusiasm for Pelosi, and I admit to being a little jealous. I would love to look at her and feel unabashedly proud.

There’s this feminist poem, which I can’t, for the life of me, find, but it’s about how life is a race and men and women set off on this race and the women are loaded down with children and beauty constraints and less pay for the same work and all this jazz and I think the last line of the poem is something like "She’s still running" or something, though, I may be confusing it with "And Still I Rise."

Anyway, when I look at Pelosi, that’s what I think of, the grandma who doesn’t look it; the woman with the brown hair and the smooth forehead and the wide, young eyes, and the slim body, and the suit, and the pearls.

She was determined to win the race, to have power, even if it meant doing to herself things required of no man.

Maybe this is where we see the gaps between the waves of contemporary feminism. For the NOW crowd, this is a clear-cut victory. There is a position of power; now it’s filled by a woman. Score one for us; let us celebrate in the streets. For the rad fems, I’m sure this is no real victory. So what if one woman can finally navigate a female-unfriendly system to get on top? The point is to tear down the systems.

I feel a middle way. I want to be proud, but I’m not sure what there is to be proud of. If how Nancy Pelosi is is how you have to be in order to be powerful, most of the rest of us just might as well forget it. We could never afford the surgeries necessary to get and maintain that look. It’s not just that, it’s that the look is even necessary to begin with. Pelosi was powerful when she was just a member of Congress, but not powerful enough to just have some wrinkles if they came, not powerful enough to say, "Fuck it, I’m a grandma. It’s fine if I look like a grandma."

But maybe this is how it has to be done. If women are going to achieve high positions of power, maybe they have to play by the rules in place.

But I don’t feel good about it.

I’m going to say something so bullshitty I hope you don’t hold it against me, but if she’s a feminist, why does she look that way?

Yes, America, this is the depth of my fucked-up-ness. I can look at one of the most powerful women in America and question her feminist credentials because of how she looks. Though, in all fairness to myself, I don’t think it’s just that I’m fucked up. I really do think it has to do with those gaps in ideology.

We have a million feminist factions, true, but we also have three generations (or more) of feminists alive as well. I think that, for feminists of the generation above me, this does look amazing. God, I’d like to share in that. So, explain it to me: is it enough for women to have power? Especially if she identifies herself as a feminist? Or do we hope for a woman who is not business as usual?

25 thoughts on “My Nancy Pelosi Freak-Out

  1. "…. question her feminist credentials because of how she looks".Some women like to look very polished, and expend lots of time and money to do so. Some women wear no makeup and shop in thrift stores. Some women are somewhere in the middle. Does that mean some are better feminists than others?Really, you’ve got me thinking about this! Thanks!

  2. See, and here’s my problem. When you put in that way, my immediate instinct is to say "No, it doesn’t matter at all and fuck anyone who says it does. It’s what you do that makes you a feminist, not how you look while doing it."But when it comes to Pelosi, I find myself sitting in the seat of a giant hypocrite, because, I think, I don’t know how to read her.Powerful woman=plus for womenPowerful woman Speaker of the House=plus for womenFelt it necessary to look that specific way, a way we feminists regularly identify as being an unreasonable beauty standard designed to keep real women down, in order to achieve power=?With ? being equal to the source of my discomfort.

  3. Well, you have to walk before you can run. Feminists have a foot in the door. The camel’s nose is under the tent…. <Insert cliche of choice about making progress here.>

  4. I get where your coming from, because it’s a hard truth that isn’t spoken by a lot of feminists because it feeds into the negative things Certain People say about feminists. (They’re feminists because they’re ugly/no man will have them/they hate the pretty girls etc. I’ve heard them all.) But there is an element of truth in the question. Is it feminist to get to a position of power in part through one’s looks? Personally I don’t think I think so.But in politics I’m less concerned about the rising-to-the-top via the ‘looks’ route. I don’t know one.single.person in upper level politics who hasn’t had to sacrifice important things like integrity and committment in order to get where they are. Admittedly I know very little about Pelosi, but I imagine she’s thrown over the same number of little people, clawed the same number of backs and whored out to the same number of special interests as any other political big-shot. And that to me is far less feminist than any face-lift. If feminism is about creating opportunities for women, do people like Pelosi and HClinton and CRice create opportunites for ALL women or just themselves?

  5. Exactly. And I think that remains to be seen. If this is just a matter of politicians now having tits (no Kennedy jokes, there Exador), I think feminists (and other women) are bound to be disappointed, because it won’t be about creating real opportunities for women and it especially won’t be about changing how things are done.I’m really torn. I’m happy to see a female Speaker of the House, but I just can’t give myself over to feeling like we’re on the cusp of some great social change.Maybe I’m wrong. I hope I’m wrong.But over at Pandagon, they’re talking about how this really sticks it to the folks who didn’t even want women to have the vote. But you know what? Ninety year old revenge doesn’t actually taste that sweet to me.I think it’s an important moment. How important remains to be seen, I guess.

  6. <cough, cough> I think you’re reasoning from a false premise here.

    [Pelosi] was determined to win the race, to have power, even if it meant doing to herself things required of no man.

    Dick Gephardt had his eyebrows dyed because they were so light. Evidently people told him they made him look like an anemic, powerless little kid. Ronald Reagan dyed his hair (and lied about it) so he would look more energetic. Etc., etc., etc.If you want to condemn an appearance-based political culture, go right ahead. I’ve got your back. But it isn’t only women who are (or feel) required to do things to themselves in order to look more youthful and/or powerful.As for Pelosi, I’m glad she’s Speaker, but I was completely unprepared for the way I started crying for joy while watching her installation.

  7. Exador, if all it took was tits to convince you to give me things and obey me, I’d be at home right now with you massaging my feet while Sarcastro baked us cookies in the kitchen, so don’t even give me that shit.

  8. NM, good point. I, myself, don’t scrutinize how men look as closely as a scrutinize women, so I tend not to notice how men modify their looks, or think much of it when they do.That’s for sure some internalized sexism on my part.

  9. My favorite pre-election, right wing scare comment about the possiblility of Nancy Pelosi becoming Speaker was, "She will bring her San Francisco hippy ways to the House."

  10. There is more than one game to play than feminism. Just this morning the camera panned across the new Democratic delegation and I said to the GF, "Look at all the dark suits and power ties. I wonder of they called each other." Even the women, sans ties, had on the dark suit. It has nothing to do with feminism and everything to do with the homoginized focus-group oriented political game played in DC.

  11. All I care about are her politics…I don’t care about her looks, I don’t think I’ve ever spoken to anyone who does. Maybe that’s partly because I’m from the Bay Area, and I remember her coming to speak at my college before she was elected to Congress…I like so much of what she has to offer. I hope that she is able to maintain a lot of her more progressive views, and still manage to get things done.

  12. Sommar, I loved Hillary while Bill was in the White House, was not in love with her whole "declare a state I know will elect me my home so that I can be senator" ploy (though certainly, she’s not the only one to do this). Am not in love with her at the moment by any means.I don’t think she should be the Democratic candidate for president, but if she is, I’ll vote for her with glee. I will probably break out into a spontaneous dance of joy at the ballot box, if I can vote for Clinton for President.So, yeah, I have really, really mixed feelings about her.

  13. I don’t know how this anecdote relates but I’ll share it anyway. Over the holiday, my mother-in-law related to us of how a coworker (superior) was told (by whom or how, she did not say) that her long hair was inappropriate to someone of her age (50+) and position. So, the woman cut her hair. Not really short, but apparently significantly shorter than it had previously been. For some reason that just really got a rise out of me. It irked me to no end that 1) the length of a woman’s hair was important enough to be discussed and ultimately a "risk" to her position and 2) that she would conform to the standard and "fix" the problem. I mean, if a 50+ woman wants to wear her hair long, then so be it! Apparently it would have been okay if she were a stay-at-home grandmother but it seems that more than it being innappropriate to her age, it was inappropriate to her position in the business world. My only thought was that she was being asked to look more like a man in order to be taken seriously. And that’s just wrong.Sorry, that may be totally the opposite of the direction your post was taking but it reminded me of this!

  14. Like that scene in <I>Working Girl</I>:"If you want to be taken seriously you have to have serious hair." That has ALWAYS bothered me. Especially since the Bible says in 1 Cor. 11:15 "But if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her"I’ve always felt that forced hair-cutting is a way to subjugate women.

  15. I’m still thinking …… Maybe Pelosi looks/dresses the way she does because she wants to look/dress that way, not because she feels like she has to.

  16. RockyCat, good point. I’ve been thinking more about this, too, why it bothers me so much. I cannot discount that a lot of it is mired in internalized sexism. I can’t.But I’ve been looking at pictures of her all day and I realized that a prominent reason I just cannot accept that she chooses to look that way is because when I see pictures of her from the opening of Congress (like this one over at Bitch PhD.) I interpret that face as the face of someone in pain.Intellectually, I realize it’s probably just oddly frozen from the Botox, but my immediate visceral reaction to her face is that of someone in pain. And I can’t understand why someone would choose to be in pain.Now that I can articulate that to myself, I can say that she might not be in pain at all–shoot, she probably isn’t in any pain–but that’s clearly affecting my understanding of her.Malia, it’s a deep stream that runs both ways. Your story probably serves either point.

  17. Re the idea that she looks like she’s in pain – It seems to me that a lot of woman politicians have this look – I have never seen Laura Bush pictured with a genuine smile on her face. Maybe not Hillary Clinton, either, now that I think about it (OMG, I’m still thinking!) Maybe it’s some kind of woman politician "power smile?" But I can’t think of a lot of man politicians with genuine smiles, either. Maybe politicians get photographed so much that they have a "stock smile" for these situations? Just some thoughts …….. Sorry for getting waaay off track.

  18. I think that first comes the woman playing the man’s game, with all the polish and not-looking-like-a-grandma, then come a couple more, then come the women who look however the hell they want dammit. I present the UK as an example. Margaret Thatcher wasn’t exactly a beauty, but she was extremely well polished, well dressed in a feminine manner, and slender. I grew up seeing mostly power-suited hairsprayed women in politics (when I saw women in politics at all), but now a fair number of female MPs definitely do not fit that type. The most famous one being Ann Widdecombe, who is pretty darn plain, and weears crazy outfits.

  19. Yeah, that’s the stock smile smile she’s smiling in that picture. It comes from the American insistence that if you’re not smiling, something must be wrong. My father used to take pictures of us all the time. And I always got the "how come you’re not smiling" stuff all the time ("because I’ve got a camera stuck in my face that I wish would go away, damn it"). So I learned the fake half-circle smile, and every picture of me for about 15 years has me looking like that.

  20. Difficult thing to ask here,….but how is it that you KNOW she has had some surgery? I mean, she has some Italian genes, I thought. Like other olive or dark skinned people, perhaps she is simply aging well. Hell, I’m a grandfather, twice over, and I still get carded buying cigarettes. Ok, not really, but I expect to look relatively young when I am her age, and my mother was beautiful well into her 70’s. (Not to say that she wasn’t always beautiful to me)

  21. Oh Aunt B.I think it’s more complicated than that.(Wow, is anyone surprised I said that?)This set of equations is pretty illustrative:

    Powerful woman=plus for womenPowerful woman Speaker of the House=plus for womenFelt it necessary to look that specific way, a way we feminists regularly identify as being an unreasonable beauty standard designed to keep real women down, in order to achieve power=?With ? being equal to the source of my discomfort.

    For me, there are a lot of things going on around the area of that question mark.Politicians, in general, have a lot of pressure on them to look a certain way. Kerry’s botox. That guy’s eyebrow dying. Condi’s wardrobe. The wardrobe, cookie baking, and gender performance of every single First Wife out there.I even remember reading a children’s biography of Colin Powell, (which I can’t, for the life of me, find) with a mention of the pressures on him to look and speak a certain way.And there’s always the pervasive (albeit generally tongue in cheek) better hair myth.Beyond that, there’s the fact that obviously, there are standards of decorum to which politicians are expected to hew. While you won’t see any of the men in the latest Seacrest approved fashions, you don’t see them ungroomed, either. Yes, there is a huge difference between "groomed" for a man and "groomed" for a woman, but…. oh, talk about fizzle. It’s several hours later, and I still haven’t been able to finish that sentence.Anyway, I think it’s a sensical worry, but not necessarily … well aimed? Maybe one day I’ll even be able to clarify that thought.

  22. the true victory will be when the fact that the [speaker, governor, president, etc] is a woman won’t even be an issue.but we have to get a few in those kinds of position long before that will happen.

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