All this week, people — my mother, my friends — have been asking me “what are we going to do about Sarah Palin? Aren’t you worried about Sarah Palin?” I’m not sure why they ask me in particular, except that they’re looking for comfort, and they’ve probably learned that I’m an old hand at comforting the afflicted.

I found myself afflicted this morning by this NYT article about Obama campaign donations coming in below expectations.

My comforting things about Palin usually focus on how she’s a distraction of exactly the sort that the Obama campaign has been warning us against for months. Presidential campaigns are about the presidential candidates, and no one ever said “What are we going to do about Cheney [in his capacity as a VP candidate]” or “Woohoo he picked Bentsen, now we’re home free!” Palin is a military-grade distraction bomb, detonated at just the right time to demoralize and instill doubt. But she is not the end of the story. She is a polarizing flashpoint, a crusader who is only effective at converting the already-faithful; she will surely help the evangelical turnout, but no one who supported Hillary Clinton’s because of her lifetime of public service and real support of women’s rights — sorry, make that “human rights” — will consider Palin to be a reasonable surrogate.

Remember that the Obama campaign is doing a huge, historic voter-registration drive in all 50 states, something no one has ever tried in my short, GOP-dominated lifetime; Republican operatives, on the other hand, are well known for dirty-trick campaigns to suppress voter turnout.

Obama needs our support, needs everyone who donated in the primary to donate again, and then some. I think I gave something like $20 in the primary, and money is tight for me right now. But I decided to meet McCain’s recklessness in an unvetted VP pick by being reckless with my personal finances, and maxed out a credit card with a donation today. I’ll gladly pay 17-30% interest for years if it means that Obama will be president.

I remember the endlessly unfolding horror of the 2000 election, when the inconceivable, idiot candidate got inaugurated for no compelling reason. I remember the glimmer of hope of the 2004 election, and the bitter sense of doom that we were in for another four years of the idiot, who was proving to be idiotic like a fox: a reckless, arrogant fox, one who has been unrelenting at reversing our country’s proud social progress in the 20th century. And I think the concern about Palin comes from that place, the specter of another night staying up late in November, another election-watching party that turns into a dejected walk home and another night of troubled sleep, worrying and dreaming about just how bad it could be under the new horrible candidate, or how much worse it could be if that maybe-still-a-little-bit-reasonable candidate were to die and leave his #2 in the office.

I cannot face that again. We cannot face that again. Money is tight for everyone right now, but I beg you to do whatever it takes to give whatever you can; my $20 would have been just as good in this round as in the last one, but I do feel a little more hopeful than I did yesterday, having given more this time. I could have spent the money (plus interest) on any number of other things that I really do need, like pants that don’t have holes in the crotch. I still don’t feel that I can say “I did my part” — I want to find other ways to fight to make sure I don’t have another sleepless November. I do rather wish, after reading that article, that Obama had gone with the public financing so that he could concentrate on campaigning and not spend so much human resource on fundraising right now. But as the template for this message said, “We’re transforming the political process by bringing together millions of ordinary Americans in a campaign that’s owned by no one but the people.” And that is, in the end, an exciting opportunity in its own right.

Please give what you can, then add a little bit more, until you feel at least as awful about giving up the money as you felt about losing the country in the last two elections. Think about how you felt in 2000 and 2004. Think about all the recklessness of the last 8 years of Bush, and the recklessness that McCain has shown in his only executive decision so far, the choice of Palin. Think about how great it would be to have a woman pumping her breast milk in the Oval Office — then think about all that this particular woman would do to take away rights and opportunities for women, men, gays, straights, polar bears, library books, climate science. Think about the Bush brand of “fiscal conservatism” that leads to skyrocketing deficits, and google up the Anne Kilkenny email about how Mayor Palin practiced exactly the same kind of insolvent, burn-the-candle-at-both-ends pseudoconservatism that Bush has given us, over and over again, and that McCain promises to continue.

Look at me, getting distracted by the Palin distraction-bomb. McCain is the candidate we need to beat; Palin is a flashpoint and is even more of a Bush clone than McCain is. We need to turn that to our advantage. Your vote will help Obama, but he’s had your vote since 2000, since 2004. There are people out there who are undecided, uncertain, or swayable, and may be even more distracted by Palin than you are. Your money will help Obama get to them. Your credit card interest will help Obama get to them, too.

Please do all you can to get Barack Hussein Obama into office, and consider taking on a little bit of debt to help him just that little bit more. And when you stay up all night this November, let it be in breathless, frenzied excitement that the movement that you funded will finally get the country back on track.



Misdefining misogyny

I looked up misogyny on onelook after seeing what I considered an inadequate definition somewhere. I found a glut of inadequate definitions. I think misogyny, and in fact all miso- and -phobia words, need more attentive corpus analysis in order to reflect the full spectrum of their use.


OED: Hatred or dislike of, or prejudice against women.

Encarta: hatred of women: a hatred of women, as a sexually defined group

COED: hatred of women.

M-W: a hatred of women

CALD:the hatred of women [misogynist: a man who hates women or believes that men are much better than women]

Wiktionary 1. The hatred of, or pathological aversion to women 2. Discrimination against women

Wordsmyth: intense dislike of women

AHD: Hatred of women: “Every organized patriarchal religion works overtime to contribute its own brand of misogyny” (Robin Morgan).

RH: hatred, dislike, or mistrust of women. Cf. misandry.

CDAE: [-ist] someone, usually a man, who hates women or believes that men are much better than women. [-y example: There’s a disturbing misogyny in his films.]

1913 Webster: Hatred of women Johnson

I think the A++++ WOULD CONSULT AGAIN here has to go to AHD just for the illustrative quotation. Just to make sure I wasn’t confused about “hatred” I looked that up, too, but it hasn’t really evolved to mean anything about systematic societal oppression or ideologically enforced inequality. So take misogyny in the OEC: (the first column of numbers is a count of co-occurrences; the second is a measure of salience that I believe Sketch Engine bases on several measures.)
misogyny - oec - sketchengine

Some of the corpus collocations are clearly hate-based: vicious, extreme, violent, bigotry, antisemitism, rape. But many of them are clearly things on a larger scale: institutionalize, rampant, casual, usual; materialism. And some of them are more individual in nature, but not essentially hateful: objectification, machismo. It is these latter two categories that are largely unaddressed by the dictionaries that are easy to cut and paste.

misogyny - oec - collocations

I don’t mean to argue that misogyny is not hatred, nor that most people who speak of misogyny don’t believe that it’s hatred. But “misogyny” spends time in the company of words that are not really covered by weirdness like “pathological aversion” and “intense dislike”. The connection with “objectification” shows it fairly well, as does “inequity”. Xenophobia, homophobia, — these words are not really suggestive of “intense dislike” or “irrational fear”, but with learned behaviors, nation-scale phenomena, What’s Wrong With This Country. “Materialism” is not intense or irrational; “misanthropic” is closely associated with “genius”, “intelligent”, “comic”, “muse” — not really qualities of a “person who dislikes humankind and avoids human society”. It looks like a good many of these miso-/-phobia words are often defined very skimpily, every dictionary’s essential ‘evidence’ being nothing more than the etymology.

I’m not saying it’s necessarily appropriate for every dictionary to define misogyny as an epidemic, sometimes unconscious ideology that oppresses or subordinates women to men; but compare with the nuanced definition of “slavery” in NOAD:

the state of being a slave [sc. a person who is the legal property of another and is forced to obey them].
• the practice or system of owning slaves. • a condition compared to that of a slave in respect of labor or restricted freedom. • excessive dependence on or devotion to something.

This is a reasonable starting point for better definitions of “misogyny”, “homophobia”, etc.: in the language there are all sorts of ways to be a slave or a misogynist beyond being the legal property of someone, or having any explicit/conscious hatred, aversion or dislike. Simplistic definitions lead only to oversimplistic misunderstanding.