Advice Goddess Blog
« Previous | Home | Next »

Vote Your Vagina
There's a truly stupid piece about French presidential candidate Ségolène Royal in the IHT, via The Boston Globe, which reminded me of how angry I get when people assume I'd be excited to vote for a woman for president.

Excuse me if I don't choose to vote for a candidate based on whether or not they have labia, but simply on whether they're the best person to lead. In looking to elect a symbol of feminism in France, MIT humanities prof Isabelle de Courtivron feels differently:

Indeed, if any woman is to reach the highest office, it should be Ségolène Royal, for she corresponds to a French national archetype of femininity. In a new book the writer Michele Sarde details how this young woman from the provinces represents a subtle mixture of traditional France and the rebellious modernity of Simone de Beauvoir. She is an educated woman who has always worked. With her partner, François Hollande, she has shared both private responsibilities (they have four children together) and political visions (he is the secretary of the Socialist Party).

Okay, so she's pretty, she's from the provinces, and she's got some spirit! Plus she's "educated," she's always worked, and she's got a peer marriage with her partner -- yet another deluded socialist paving the way to the total economic ruin of France. Gee whiz, where's the line to vote?!

Madame de Courtivron continues (and, as she does, her piece seems more and more like it must be a joke):

So where are the feminists who should be celebrating this historic occasion and protesting the sexist attacks on the first serious woman candidate for the French presidency? A petition entitled "1 million women have had enough!" - objecting to the way Royal has been treated - has gathered only 17,000 signatures. "Feminism" remains a taboo word in France.

Femininity and power are still incompatible in many parts of the world. I say this with a glance toward this side of the Atlantic, where the first serious woman candidate for president has endured petty, unfair criticism in areas ranging from her hair style to her marriage. So while women are gaining political power around the world , the bad news is that they still often find themselves blocked by unrealistic expectations and intractable gender stereotypes. Royal's experience may reflect not just a "French exception," but also a more global reality.

What I've read about Royal reflects that she's a rather dim bulb with few good ideas, a total lack of experience or sense in foreign policy, and a knowledge of economics (check out her minimum wage package, just for starters) that shows her to be the political equivalent of a ditsy housewife who has no idea how to balance her checkbook. Electing her would be an economic and political disaster for France...which already has just about all the enconomic and political disaster it needs, no?

What France really needs, of course, is not some kicky chick with a pretty face, nice legs, and a winning smile, but Margaret Thatcher. Okay, so Thatcher is a battle-ax who dresses just slightly more snappily than the queen, and she looks a bit like a man in drag. The lady has a command of politics, economics, and how to run a country -- and without answering every other question she's asked like Royal does by demurely saying she'll defer to her advisors.

And P.S., in suggesting Thatcher, it's only a coincidence that she happens to be a woman. Of course, the fact that she's British is a major stumbling block. But, if you can't get Thatcher, France, do try for the next best thing -- even if that person doesn't have a clitoris or legs that look all that comely in a short skirt and a little pair of heels.

Posted by aalkon at May 1, 2007 1:12 PM

Comments

I've never understood those who want to make feminism some affirmative-action thing. I'll never vote for someone merely because they have an innie instead of an outie. That's like voting for someone just because they're white, or have black hair, or are left-handed. Dumb.

Oh, and I'm pretty sure Margaret Thatcher is still alive.

Posted by: Kimberly at May 1, 2007 12:38 AM

For France: Sabine Herold, anyone? She's tiny, cute, and full of piss.

For Britain: Maggie Thatcher's not dead yet, she's just tired. She attended Reagan's funeral a couple years ago and addressed the assembly by audio recording.

Posted by: Crid at May 1, 2007 12:39 AM

British and dead - only 50% right. Here she is, unveiling a statue of herself, in February 2007.

Posted by: Norman at May 1, 2007 1:35 AM

Oh, jeez, that's embarrassing. I'm going to edit that. (It's the stuff you think you know and don't check that fucks you up.)

Posted by: Amy Alkon at May 1, 2007 4:02 AM

"For Britain: Maggie Thatcher's not dead yet, she's just tired."

Pretty much, Crid.

Someone who met her recently told me she had significant short-term memory loss. That she could still rummage well enough in the basement of her mind but seemed otherwise lost (which is why she is carefully and kindly shielded in her rare public appearances).

Posted by: Jody Tresidder at May 1, 2007 5:49 AM

As for whether France needs Thatcher - perhaps like a proverbial hole in the head. Thatcher is the reason the Conservative party is still out of power, 15 years or so after she left, and is likely to remain so for some time to come. At least until her memory has died out among the voters.


The problem with strong leaders (of whatever stripe) is that they create a sheltered environment which permits poor quality to survive and even flourish. When the strong leader goes, that poor quality is all that's left. Democratic politics seems to be an inherently unstable system.

Posted by: Norman at May 1, 2007 6:01 AM

Wait. If it is unacceptable to vote against someone on account of their genitalia, isn't it just as unacceptable to vote FOR them on that basis?

I mean, really. What intelligent person can justify voting for a socialist, just because said socialist happens to lack a Y chromosome? Do women make socialism any more appealing of a socio-political construct?

Posted by: brian at May 1, 2007 6:45 AM

Been reading about Ségo's and Sarkozy's efforts in FT (unless you get everything on the web, is just about the only paper in the US that covers the race in depth. On one hand I feel like Ségo has no shot whatsoever. She has pissed off a significant portion of the socialists and the numbers from les provinces poru Ségo sont terrible.

On the other hand, Sarkozy is a gaullist who pissed off a significant portion of the immigrant population with his comments about thugs during the riots last year.

I honestly cannot give an opinion on which way it will go. If I were a French citizen, I would be voting for Sarkozy. As an American, I am rooting for Ségo as such shall further weaken France's economic power, thus making american products and services more competitive angainst french products and services.

Norman...it is not because of Thatcher that the Tories are doing so poorly. It is bloody John Major...

Posted by: André-Tascha at May 1, 2007 7:44 AM

You can vote for whoever you want whyever you want. If femininity or masculinity is what you think is needed, it's your own beeswax.

> she is carefully and
> kindly shielded

A-T, I think we need a stronger France, one less inclined to corruption, rather than a weaker one. WHich doesn't necessarily mean they should be forgiven for the their nuke tests in the pacific.

She seems kind of like Ariel Sharon. Too aggressive to be felled by mere mortality.

Posted by: CRid at May 1, 2007 7:53 AM

"It is bloody John Major..."

The cardigan caretaker who screwed Edwina? Hardly, Andre!

(Though it's all so bloody long ago, she added mildly...)

Posted by: Jody Tresidder at May 1, 2007 7:54 AM

"The cardigan caretaker..."

I just love that.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at May 1, 2007 8:05 AM

Crid: I do concur with you to a certain extent, but speaking as an American with a strong French background, if France were more willing to be a partner (a la the British) than an adversary in venues such as the U.N. (although I recognize that we screwed the French when De Gaulle was President), I would be wholly supportive of a strong center-right leader such as Sarkozy, mais ce n'est pas possible parce que France est stupide!

Jody: Still blame it on John Major (of course Lady Thatcher is one of my political heros - that lady has balls!), but I too love the "cardigan caretaker" moniker.

Posted by: André-Tascha at May 1, 2007 8:19 AM

Thank you both!

Andre - Alan Hollinghurst may not be your cup of tea at all - but there's a scene in The Line of Beauty - where Thatcher is the guest of honor at a high Tory social gathering which is, I think, one of the most gorgeous politician-inserted-into-fiction flourishes I've read. Very funny, and not at all unaffectionate.

Posted by: Jody Tresidder at May 1, 2007 9:11 AM

I hate socialism. There have been many a day, stuck in a car when I have had to hear of the greatness of Hugo Chavez. If Royal wins, this means there will be many a day, someone somewhere will be stuck in a car, hearing of the greatness of Royal. At least Hugo has cult of personality---I cant see Royal ever having that kind of charm with her peeps.

Posted by: PurplePen at May 1, 2007 10:07 AM

The key to a Sarko victory will be the defection of certain members from François Bayrou's Union for French Democracy. Even before the first round elections, certain members of the UDF supported Sarkozy's candidacy. The remaining supporters of Bayrou cannot stand Royal (including her PAC mate) along with a sizeable wing of the moderate socialists.

Royal's choice of going negative may backfire and test Sarko's ability of being the real mature candidate. As long as he stays on message and let key members of the UMP do some back bench deals with anti-Royal factions among the center-left.

Posted by: Joe at May 1, 2007 10:23 AM

I honestly cannot see Bayrou getting behind Ségo, plus the UDF and the UMP are a hell of a lot closer in mindset. And if you look at the vote numbers from last week and compare them with the last few elections, the lefties support has dropped dramatically.

All I can say is that I will be watching the election returns with a great deal of interest (I really *am* a political junkie - gee whiz)

Posted by: André-Tascha at May 1, 2007 10:29 AM

This is a good day to make fun of Chavez, as he completes the takeover of the oil business today. This is inexplicable. Does anyone know the history of South America? Wasn't the future looking a lot brighter down there about 50 years ago?

McCain's making noises this morning about a new league of democracies, which would be great. Of course, one the first chairs would go to France! I could forward to reflexively hating them in this new forum, just as I loathe them in the UN today.

Posted by: Crid at May 1, 2007 10:31 AM

Crid,

You can learn a great deal about South America by dating a woman from the region or read Simon Bolivar's diaries.

The 2 realities of South America:

1. The ruling elite. (whether the descendents of the viceroys of New Spain or the Chavez and Evo Morales type)
2. Violence.

Posted by: Joe at May 1, 2007 10:43 AM

Joe -

> Royal's choice of going negative

Where? Can't find anything about this with Google news etc.

(I am a fucking Google idiot. I think about using Google more often than I dream of getting laid. Those people own my immortal soul, and they got it cheap. If Google opened a series of death camps, called Googletration Centers or something, with strings of barbed wire in bright, staccato colors over a plain white fence, I'd shave off my own hair, strip off my clothes and turn myself in under the gate sign: "Search is free"... They wouldn't even have to send a train for me.)

Posted by: Crid at May 1, 2007 10:51 AM

John Major illustrates my point about a sheltered environment. He would never have been PM without Thatcher protecting him.


Here in Scotland, it's the memory of the Thatcher years that keeps the Tories out. John Major doesn't help, but what did he actually do? Can anyone remember? According to recent radio commentary, the Tories are the only party ever to gain a popular majority in Scotland. Yet since Thatcher, Scotland has come within a whisker of being a Tory-free zone.

Posted by: Norman at May 1, 2007 10:53 AM

This is a good day to make fun of Chavez, as he completes the takeover of the oil business today. This is inexplicable. Does anyone know the history of South America? Wasn't the future looking a lot brighter down there about 50 years ago?

Yes and yes. It's quite ironic, of course because Latin America of that time was largely run by right-wing dictators (or near-dictators) like Vargas (in Brazil) or Batista (in Cuba). Brazil in the mid-20th century appeared to be on track to becoming a first-rate world power, but has spent a lot of the intervening years being a mess. The populist and socialist governments that were ushered in by the coups and revolutions of the 50s and 60s, while perhaps more accurately reflecting the will of the "people" have been just as corrupt as the dictatorships but much less skillful in running their countries.

One bright spot these days seems to be Costa Rica, which does a great job educating its people (literacy rates in young people are comparable to the U.S.), and they've figured out the economic value of their relatively unspoiled environment and act to take good care of it. Of all of the "developing world" that I've visited, it's one of the few places the adjective "developing" seems to be applied accurately. My father has been doing business in Nicaragua, too, and seems to think they're sincere about getting their stuff together. Too early to tell, though, IMO.

Posted by: justin case at May 1, 2007 10:54 AM

Posted by: Joe at May 1, 2007 10:55 AM

I'd shave off my own hair, strip off my clothes and turn myself in under the gate sign: "Search is free"...

Wouldn't it be more a more accurate historical reference if the sign were to say: "Search makes free"?

Posted by: justin case at May 1, 2007 10:56 AM

yes, but it wouldn't be as funny.

Posted by: Crid at May 1, 2007 11:01 AM

For those interested, either this week's or last week's New Yorker has a good piece on the dynamics of the French election. My short take: Sego has no idea of what she's doing; Sarko seems to have some ideas that might work to help France's stagnant economy (plus he doesn't seem to subscribe to the multi-culti wussery that has infected so much of Europe).

Posted by: justin case at May 1, 2007 11:01 AM

> Ms Royal, the left-wing candidate
> who is about four points behind
> the conservative Mr Sarkozy in
> polls, denounced her opponent
> for the “great violence” and
> “brutality” of a campaign that
> she maintained was frightening
> away voters.

In France, barflys have a T-Shirt: "Go wimpy early."

Posted by: Crid at May 1, 2007 11:03 AM

Norman, don't you have something like on 19 Tory reps in your new(ish) legislature/assembly? My recollection is that are in fourth place according to recent polls...

I can definitely see (from my limited american knowledge) why Scots have such a dim view of Thatcher/Tories. ALternatives? Lib Dems (ugh)? Labor (ugh)? SNP (can't decide is I love them or hate them)...

Posted by: André-Tascha at May 1, 2007 11:19 AM

André-


To be honest I'm not sure - we have a Scottish parliament in Holyrood and a UK parliament in Westminster. Two elections ago (approx) only one Tory was returned - but I can't remember to which parliament. I'd guess Westminster, as it's first-past-the-post voting, while Holyrood is PR.


I have to agree the alternatives are not very inspiring. We have an election in 2 days. What worries me is that many people won't vote at all, thus leaving the way open for the crazies. Which category I'd include the SNP in.

Posted by: Norman at May 1, 2007 11:30 AM

My recollection is that the 18 or 19 or 20 Tories are in Holyrood, not Westminster.

SNP: despite recent assurances that they will only push a referendum for independence from the rest of the UK, discussions about the value of North Sea oil make me concerned. Yes, at current price run-ups, oil revenues (even considering an "independent" Scotland would get almost of such) would enable Scotland to fend for itself, however if the price drops, then Scotland is screwed. The SNP strike me as being very similar to the Quebecois...

It is not all that often that I find myself agreeing with Labor MPs, but...

Posted by: André-Tascha at May 1, 2007 11:37 AM

Crid I'd rather remember Senna than make fun of Chavez. His crazy fanaticos in Brazil kinda used to annoy me with their idolatry for him but...they werent condescending to me. I think why so many people like Chavez, Royal etc have so many supporters is cuz people just plain hate America. I hate it at times too, but if I lived in another country I wouldnt be dumb enough to vote for those fools for that reason alone. I would say to myself "Yes I hate America but obviously they must be doing something right to be making all that money, to have all those immigrants not trying to kill the general peeps, etc."

Posted by: PurplePen at May 1, 2007 11:44 AM

OT ------ Sincere apologies.

Listen, I'm a fan, OK? I got my copy of the book autographed on Sunday, and was going to read this review anyway. But the title of this article is just golden:

http://preview.tinyurl.com/3ass25

Nothing gratifies the borderline-alcoholic taste for transgression like sarcasm.

Posted by: Crid at May 1, 2007 11:45 AM

Whoops.

http://tinyurl.com/3ass25

Pooched the punchline.

Posted by: Crid at May 1, 2007 11:50 AM

I love Hitch's take on Tenet's book over at Slate.com.

Posted by: Joe at May 1, 2007 12:37 PM

Love Hitch; love him like crazy.

Also, Fuck the spooks; fuck them with a stick.

Posted by: Crid at May 1, 2007 1:19 PM

"she's got a peer marriage with her partner"

This is a very, very, very tiny point, but...according to an article I read yesterday, they're not married, just living together and raising their four children. And yes, I know that the phenomenon of prominent-upper-class-unmarried-parental-pairs is much more common in Europe, especially in France, than in the U.S. Oh, and they both want to be the head of their political party. My nice, boring, middle-class childhood with married parents who didn't want to rule the world is looking REALLY good right now. I'm so bourgeoisie, aren't I?

Posted by: marion at May 1, 2007 1:43 PM

Another nickpick to enjoy with Marion's: A woman (or man) who's made a career in politics ought not be said to have "always worked."

Posted by: Crid at May 1, 2007 1:53 PM

Tenet isn't a spook. A wannabe. You should say fuck the analysts.

Compare two Georgetown University graduates from the class of 1976: George Tenet and Robert Baer. One wore a suit and tie to class every day. While the other was lucky to make it to class. One graduated top of his class, while the other was at the bottom. One spent a life revolving from Congress to the CIA with NO field experience. While the other was just 24 hours of removing Saddam Hussein from power with a Iraqi general backed by a Kurdish militia and a suit case full of money back in 1994.

One career was advanced and the other was placed under house arrest.

Who was the spook?

Posted by: Joe at May 1, 2007 1:53 PM

I had an economics professor who said government workers do not pay taxes.

Posted by: Joe at May 1, 2007 2:06 PM

While the other was just 24 hours of removing Saddam Hussein from power with a Iraqi general backed by a Kurdish militia and a suit case full of money back in 1994.

Man, we screwed the pooch with that failure.

Posted by: justin case at May 1, 2007 2:08 PM

In today's Rummy-hatin', war-fearin' public climes, it would be sufficient to note that Baer bungled it... The Agency (-cies?) on whom the United States has relied to make things go well with these techniques have proven almost uniformly incompetent to the task.

I go a little further, believing that it's morally wrong to manipulate foreign powers by assassination and skulduggery. Evil practices of that kind are not what we're about, which is one reason it always goes so badly. (Has anyone mentioned South America today?)

Also, if Baer had succeeded, what would have become of Uday and Qusay? (I like knowing that they're dead and dead, and that horrible morgue photos were their last gift to the world.) The shiny, honking brass of our invasion held much of its charm. Would assassination have re-flooded the marshlands, given a clear signal of our seriousness to Islam across the globe, and extracted the weapons program from Libya? I'm sure there was a plan to protect the Kurds wrapped up in there somehow, right?

But these are mere practicalities. Fuck the spooks.

Posted by: Crid at May 1, 2007 2:27 PM

André-


An economy based on selling a finite non-renewable resource which is expected to run out in a decade or so is not sensible. Nor does it do anything to foster a sense of independence or to promote self esteem, which is one of the things Scotland could do with improving. In fact it is not independence at all, it is oil-dependence.


However, all will be revealed in about 48 hours.

Posted by: Norman at May 1, 2007 3:05 PM

Crid,

I wasn't using the coup attempt to put down the current mess in Iraq. No one knows what would have happened in a post Hussein Iraq in 1994. I could guess, but in the end it would still be a guess. What I will do is give you some facts and how they would have been interpreted in Iraq.

First, Baer's Iraqi general and Army officers were Sunnis who have family relations with Shias. There are sub tribes between the 2 religious strains of Islam within Iraq that have multiple generations of inter marriages. It would have lessen the intensity of the blood feud. Yes, I would admit there would still be a blood feud between certain sections of Sunnis and Shias.

My guess it would be the Sunni-Tikritis (Hussein’s family-tribal affiliation) tribe that would receive the brunt of the revenge killings. Remember there were 2 job requirements to work for Hussein. In most cases you were a Sunni of some standing or a pet Shia:

1. You had to kill someone from your own tribe.
2. You had to kill another person from an opposing tribe.

That would mean there were plenty of blood feuds internally within the Sunni and Shia tribes. Hussein and the Tikritis would have taken all the blame for the fiascos of the Iran-Iraq War and Gulf I. Now the Sunnis could fulfill family-tribal honor by killing off the Tikritis. The Shias who collaborated with Hussein would receive the same fate from their vengeful brother tribesmen. A sick sort of balance would have been re-established.

What kind of blood feud would you like:

A. A blood feud between Shias and Sunnis in a post Hussein in 1994, without US soldiers stuck in the middle?
B. A blood feud between Shias and Sunnis in a post Hussein in 2003, with US soldiers stuck in the middle?

Also, Clinton would never send in US forces in a post Hussein Iraq in 1994. He was smarting over the Somalia fiasco of 1993 and was always a bit gun shy.

But this is still a guess, but based on my personal knowledge of the region, religion, language, culture and personal interactions with the local populations within the M.E.

Assassinations are much cheaper than sending in standing armies into a region. When an Arab assassinates a fellow Arab leader (nation or city neighborhood)... they will kill all the sons of the particular family. In some cases they will imprison and torture the male heads of the tribe-extended family too.

Posted by: Joe at May 1, 2007 4:16 PM

Sorry for going off topic.

Posted by: Joe at May 1, 2007 4:26 PM

Norman: I must not have been too clear. I was attempting to make the same case that you made (just with poor sarcasm).

Posted by: André-Tascha at May 1, 2007 4:51 PM

Amy's patient with OffTopic stuff; I don't know why and don't care, as long as it all makes to the Google archives. Just hit the tipjar on your way out and think warm thoughts about Paris. France, I mean, not Hilton.

Krauthammer is the one who convinced me that we did everything right in Somalia: We fought for interests of a beleaguered party (not ourselves or any crony) until our blood started to flow. Then we retired. What else could be asked of us? Did the Danes go that far? Did the Indonesians?

I think we were going to be in the middle of this one (Iraq) no matter what. I think America is the proudest, most responsible steward of civilizing impulse in the known Universe: We were always, always going to have an interest in what happens there. Remember: We only get 15% of our oil from the Middle East. And by that time ('90), our behavior (coddling of tyrants, CIA support of fascists) had certainly brought us a responsibility for the outcome as well.

Assassinations may be cheaper than other steps, but frugality won't gitcha into Heaven. When I was in college there was this song about a man who "values nothing but value." It was a weak tune on a strong album.

> They will imprison and
> torture

Lefties can convincingly argue that we shouldn't be too mouthy about this.

A better point is this: I'm getting old, but not willing to spend the rest of my years learning how honor and responsibility gets passed around in that culture. These people are history's losers. They're poised for the greatest wealth and success in human history, but their traditions are for shit. I see no need to learn their particulars. It would be much better for everyone involved if they came to consider our patterns more thoughtfully.

Posted by: Crid at May 1, 2007 7:39 PM

Amy's patient with OffTopic stuff; I don't know why and don't care, as long as it all makes to the Google archives. Just hit the tipjar on your way out and think warm thoughts about Paris. France, I mean, not Hilton.

Not just patient, I usually enjoy it. In fact, I love when I post one thing and the discussion veers off in some unexpected direction. Of course, I'm lucky -- most people who comment here are smart, not yahoos.

Been on deadline all day, trying to improve people's sex lives -- and then responding to a letter to the editor about my column accusing me of not getting my facts straight. Now, if there's one thing I'm all about, it's getting my facts straight. I just hate having to prove it post-mortem.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at May 1, 2007 8:54 PM

They're poised for the greatest wealth and success in human history, but their traditions are for shit. I see no need to learn their particulars. It would be much better for everyone involved if they came to consider our patterns more thoughtfully.

Hear, hear.

Posted by: Norman at May 2, 2007 12:00 AM

"Been on deadline all day...and then responding to a letter to the editor about my column accusing me of not getting my facts straight. Now, if there's one thing I'm all about, it's getting my facts straight."

So wait, is Maggie Thatcher dead or not? ;)

Posted by: Sarah at May 2, 2007 2:20 AM

Oh Sarah....that's mean!

Posted by: André-Tascha at May 2, 2007 5:14 AM

Yeah, yeah, rub it in.

(It's the stuff you think you know and don't check that fucks you up.)

Posted by: Amy Alkon at May 2, 2007 6:27 AM

"It's the stuff you think you know and don't check that fucks you up."

If your mother says she loves you...

Posted by: marion at May 2, 2007 10:26 AM

Hmmm...let's not get into the family angle!

Posted by: Amy Alkon at May 2, 2007 10:36 AM

Heh. Well, I doubt anyone's reading this thread any more, but an article on Drudge provided yet another reason not to vote for Royal in this election - as per Reuters, she's alleging that "France risks violence and brutality if right-winger Nicolas Sarkozy wins Sunday's presidential election." You know, riots and the like. Click on my name to read the article. She must REALLY be desperate.

Posted by: marion at May 5, 2007 12:48 PM

Heard that last night on NPR. Totally pathetic. I hope, for France's sake, she's put out to pasture soon.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at May 5, 2007 12:54 PM

PS It's as if she's advocating violence should Sarko win.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at May 5, 2007 12:54 PM

Amy, I agree with your last statement if you remove the "It's as if" part. :)

Posted by: marion at May 5, 2007 10:07 PM

Leave a comment