Upon Being the Feminist Bitch

I know there has been some unease, shall we say?, already about this post. Some of it humorous and some of it “Betsy’s a big dyke” (see comment 3, though I did find the screen name, considering the comment, hilarious).

But let me be clear. I don’t think this is a “men, go home,” situation. It’s three days. If you can’t have all those dudes talk AND have a bunch of women also talk, you’re just not scheduling well. I don’t expect any men to not participate. That seems stupid and unlikely to make the Democrats suddenly more women-inclusive. I don’t even think that Democrats are intentionally “eh, women, what can you do?”

But it is a problem.

Here’s what I’d like. And it’s just something to think about. When the door of opportunity opens for you and you are standing in the doorway and you see that opportunity is full of dudes or full of white people or full of rich people or whatever. You look in and you see that the opportunity you’re about to have is homogenous in some way, don’t decline it. Put your foot in the door, reach out, and pull someone who’s not there in with you.

Political access is not a finite resource.

And I know, I know it makes me seem like an enormous bitch to bring it up. I already see the “Betsy loves cooter” comment at Pith. I get that there is NO way for me to say “Hey, this is fucked up,” without bringing that shit on me and, especially, sounding like my problem is merely that I want a seat at the table.

But listen, even if I am a bitchy, self-absorbed, cooter-licker, and far be it from me to worry about convincing you otherwise, especially since being a bitchy, self-absorbed cooter-licker is a fun way to spend one’s time, this is not right.

If making it about me is the first step in getting it rectified, then fine, make it about me. But get it fixed.

19 thoughts on “Upon Being the Feminist Bitch

  1. I suggest that the Democrats are more tied to their traditional male-dominated structure because in Tennessee the vast majority of non-native people are Republicans. As such, they are more likely to opt for less traditional leaders.

    And we could not love you more if you became a warm and fuzzy hetero-Episcopalian. Or maybe an Episcopagan.

  2. in Tennessee the vast majority of non-native people are Republicans

    Ya figure? That hasn’t been my experience, among the folks I’ve met. Do you have any actual numbers on the political affiliations of incomers to TN?

  3. NM,

    What I should have said is that the vast majority of non-native Tennesseans prefer conservative candidates and this causes them to vote heavily Republican.

    Look at Middle Tennessee, the ground zero for population growth in the state. Twenty years ago the collar counties were heavily Democratic. You can hardly find a Republican state representative or senator in those counties much less elected county officials.

    Today almost every state representative and senator in those counties and in Middle TN is a Republican. At the county level more and more offices are in Republican hands. In Rutherford and Williamson, the two fastest growing counties, there are no major offices in Democratic hands.

    Even in Davidson, still a Democratic bastion, you can see the impact of the influx of new people by a simple test. Pull the list of registered voters from any of the higher growth precincts or council districts in the county. Pull up the list on a computer by name and date of voter registration. Start with the longest registered voters and move forward. You will find virtually no people who vote in Republican primaries among the older voters. As you move into the 70s and 80s, the number of voters in Republican primaries increases. By the mid to late 90s, the Republicans have a decided advantage in new voters who vote in Republican primaries.

    Of course. these do not represent enough votes to overcome the Democratic advantages in Davidson. Some 20% of county residents are over 65, a solid Democratic constituency. The African-American population is another 20% or so, although there is an overlap with the over 65 voters. Then there are state employees and college-related voters.

    The Republican impact in Davidson is better seen in local non-partisan elections where Republican support was the difference for Howard Dean against Chris Ferrell for Vice Mayor and in Dean beating Clement. If you look at a map of that race, high-growth areas went heavily for Dean or saw lower margins of victory for Clement than Boner got against Bredesen in 1987.

    My apologies for the length of the reply but you asked a fair question and I wanted to give a thorough answer.

  4. Mark, maybe I’m missing something here, but all this seems to say is that young white voters in Davidson county sometimes vote Republican. How do you draw the line from “we have an influx of non-Tennesseans into Nashville” to “younger white voters are willing to vote Republican” to “those younger white voters must be non-Tennesseans”?

    As for Dean v. Ferrell, I think any race in which one person’s children are getting death threats is not one in which we can draw a lot of conclusions about meaningful vote tracking.

    Anyway, it will be interesting to see if this continues to be the trend. I imagine it will be for a while, since I don’t see the Democrats getting their acts together any time soon, but one never knows.

  5. B,

    In the future, whenever you go to an event where you are handed a nametag – I want it to read:

    “Betsy Phillips, Feminist Bitch”

  6. Aunt B.,

    The simple test is when someone registers to vote. People who grow up in Nashville and register to vote at 18 are more likely to be Democrats. People who register in the same year but who are 40 are more likely to have moved here and vote Republican.

    It is harder to be specific in Davidson because there are so few primaries for Republican candidates at the local level. On a state level, the fact that Democrats have not had a contested primary since 1994 means looking at specific state legislative races.

    My only point about the Ferrel vs Gentry race was that it was one time when organized Republican efforts really shaped a Metro election.

    My larger point, that new people vote heavily Republican, actually supports your position on the nature of the Democrats.

  7. Mark, I ask again where you are finding this information? For instance, where do you find the information that leads you to say that it is incomers to the collar counties from outside of TN that has turned them Republican, rather than saying that it is (for example) Republicans moving from Nashville to Williamson County that is responsible for Williamson County’s population growth and increasing Republicanism? Or where could I find these voter lists by precinct, and how could I tell whether new names on the rolls are people who have moved here from out of state or locals who have just turned 18? Please understand that I’m not arguing with you — I don’t have enough information to argue or agree. I am asking for data, and you’re giving me interpretation. Do you have data?

  8. Hell, I’ll even make the business cards. Pro bono. but with the agreement that you have to pass them out. Everywhere.

  9. We have had a hard time recruiting women to run for the State House, and I have really tried. We had one of the most promising Candidate’s down in Lawrence County that had to step down at the last minute for health reasons, and Jenny Hunt down in Bedford County ran a good race against a well funded Republican in a bad year for Democrats, But as usual you are right on top of it, just a week ago thursday we met with the Party to discuss and plan how to recruit more women Candidate’s for the upcoming 2012 elections. Heaven knows to quote Don Williams we haven’t done so good lately with ” Good Old Boys Like Me “,

  10. NM,

    I understand your question. The problem is that Tennessee does not have ‘party registration’ so some of that sort of data is difficult to come by.

    Some of my position comes from experience with voters. I have been involved in campaigns across Tennessee for 20 years, especially in Middle TN. So some of this is personal observation.

    You are right that some of the voters who helped turn the collar counties Republican were formerly residents of Davidson County. But if you look deeper, most of them will be from somewhere else.

    Regarding the voter data, you can purchase a disc with the full Davidson County voter roll from the Metro Election Commission. Someone like Representative Turner could probably give you access to the TN Democrats’ on-line voter data for Davidson.

    You can distinguish between voters who just turned 18 and voters who moved here from outside Davidson County by looking at the date of birth. This isn’t a perfect marker but it is pretty accurate.

    The state keeps records of those moving into and out of the state. I found the figures for 1995 – 2000 and Tennessee’s net gain was the 7th highest at just over 28 new residents per 1,000 people. The net gain was something like 150,000 over five or six years. I will look for more data along this line.

    Over the 1990’s, that would this mean some 300.000 net new people. Assuming similar numbers in the 2010 census, that would mean some 600,000 new residents in 10 years.

    Here is a map of Tennessee population growth covering the last 10 years. http://2010.census.gov/news/pdf/cb11cn93_tn_perchange_2010map.pdf

    Note that there are 10 counties that grew by more than 20% in the decade. The seven counties in Middle TN in that group are all places where Republicans have been making gains for years and not just in the last couple of elections.

  11. Mike, do not be quoting Don Williams to me! That song always makes me cry. Ooo, maybe if y’all had Don Williams doing your reach-out to women candidates…

    Just a thought.

    Anyway, I hope you get that I’m not picking on you in particular. This is a problem much larger than “They’re not courting enough women candidates.”

    I hear from women at county levels that they’re subtly dissuaded from leadership positions, that things women are asked to volunteer to do, when men are asked to do the same damn thing, there’s a little money to throw at them, that when men are in leadership positions, a lot of the work still gets delegated to women, so we get all this experience, but it doesn’t mean shit because we don’t have the title to go with it.

    Now, let me be clear with my next point, I don’t want “pro-life” Democrats. I think anyone who thinks he or she has a right to make my medical decisions for me can take a long walk off of a short pier.

    But I am hearing that, at city and county levels, “pro-life” women are being told they’re not welcome in the Democratic party. You and I both know this is NOT a litmus test applied to men. I mean, the second time SJR 127 came up for a vote, you voted for it and no one came to your house and kicked you out of the party.

    We shouldn’t have different standards for what political positions male Democratic candidates can take and what political positions female Democratic candidates can take.

    And, while I have your ear, one last thing I’d like you to consider is that not all women follow politics as closely as I do. I know something’s not right with Ophelia Ford. I don’t know if it’s a drinking problem or an illness or just that she’s given up on living in the same world as the rest of us or some combination of the three.

    But when male Democrats refer to her as a crazy bitch or an insane bitch who doesn’t belong in office, most women who hear that aren’t thinking “Hmm, I wonder what the fuck is wrong with Ford and if she should maybe retire.” We hear “Wow, if we piss you off, we go from ‘person’ to ‘bitch’ real quick.”

    Or think of that hit piece Gail Kerr wrote about Emily Evans on behalf of Mayor Dean–basically calling her an unlikeable smarty-pants, as if a woman’s most important job is to be pleasant and non-threatening.

    When Democratic men are organizing these whisper campaigns against women that trade on this really bullshit sexist rhetoric, we other women hear about it.

    And when it’s time to run for office or to get more involved in the party? We have to take into consideration whether the bullshit is tolerable.

    I don’t blame women for deciding that it’s not.

    Just reminding your colleagues to switch from “bitch” to “asshole” would be a small, but significant change.

    And one that would still make for some excellent cussing.

  12. This is so SMART:

    “When the door of opportunity opens for you and you are standing in the doorway and you see that opportunity is full of dudes or full of white people or full of rich people or whatever. You look in and you see that the opportunity you’re about to have is homogenous in some way, don’t decline it. Put your foot in the door, reach out, and pull someone who’s not there in with you.
    Political access is not a finite resource.”

    What you are or are not–what you talk about or don’t talk about–should not matter as much as the brilliant correctness of that comment.

  13. Thanks, The College Professor. I’m sure that’s something I picked up in the feminist blogosphere over the years. I doubt it’s original to me, but I believe it.

  14. Aunt B.,

    “But I am hearing that, at city and county levels, “pro-life” women are being told they’re not welcome in the Democratic party.”

    I think the same problem exists for pro-choice women in the Republican Party but probably not to the same extent because many pro-life Republicans do not want to accept anyone who is pro-choice in the party.

    Could this alienation of pro-life women relate to the argument of some pro-choice Democrats that this is a women’s issue? In that context, would pro-life male Democrats’ opinions matter as much? Or are pro-life men in the Democratic Party less likely to speak up on the issue because they believe it is a women’s issue?

  15. Well, certainly pro-life male Democrats’ opinions matter because, as I’ve pointed out repeatedly, there are few Democratic women visible in the party. And those “pro-life” men sure do speak up. And vote.

    The fact that they believe it’s a women’s issue is exactly why they feel free to vote on it how they do–they both believe that they do have the right and power to make women do what they want and they’ve pretty effectively shut women out of power in the party.

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