Using a slightly vulgar oral sex metaphor, Linda Hirshman takes to Salon today - the National Day of Action against Stupak-Pitts - to rage against female complacency when it comes to using a pocketbook veto on the Democratic Party.
After referring to the (relative) success of those in the gay-rights movement who directly link their political dollars to political action, Hirshman seethes over the fact that while Stupak passed,
we do not hear that Denise Abrams, Anne Abramson, Elizabeth Alter or Amy Stan — just to take the first names on the list — have threatened to withhold further $28,500 maximum contributions until the representatives stop the barefoot-and-pregnant campaign.
Why won't women take a lesson from the bold voices of the gay movement? It cannot be that women think their contributions aren't large enough to pose a credible threat. Not only did women number heavily among the max givers to the DCCC, but they also accounted for 42 percent of the donations to the presidential campaign, a whopping $145 million. By contrast (although statistics for the heterosexuality of donors are not kept and strategic gay donors are clearly giving in ways that do not show up on surveys) we do know that during the primary, Barack Obama raised about $1.7 million, or about 3 percent of his contributions to date, from the gayest ZIP codes in the country. But that didn't stop the gay activists from raising the ante on him when they thought he was screwing them over.
Hirshman's piece reminds me an argument I hate when people who try to make a connection about other groups and organizing: no coalition is perfect, and it can take years of dedicated organizing (along with continued slights from the majority) to galvanize enough people to take action. There is an idea that I have heard pushed in feminist circles that "the blacks," "the gays" and other minority groups seem to have some inner organizing/hellraising gene that women do not possess. "This would never happen to black people!" they huff, "they wouldn't get away with it!"
But, like all notions of a movement from the outside, things are different from how they appear. There are breaks, protests, and counter-protests within any minority group, and it can take a long, long time to get enough people to agree there is even a problem that needs a solution. Linda Hirschman stumbles by using a blanket analysis - she rails at women voters, and assumes they all have the same goals. But which women is she talking about? Pro-life women who vote democratically? Women who are not feminists who vote dem? Women who, like many women columnists and pundits, feel that this hit is worth taking in order to get health care reform?
While I agree with the overall thrust of Hirshman's piece - that women joining a coalition need to constantly evaluate whether this coalition values them as participants or just happily pockets their money and votes - her cause and effect based analysis leaves me cold. To solve such issues, activists need to figure out why more people do not demand more of their political representatives in the first place, and what motivates donors and voters before assuming they'll automatically lean one way or another based on their gender.
Don't Just Swallow It [Salon]