Saturday, February 09, 2008

Give 'Em Hell, Hillary!

Following the posting of my “Women On Top” campaign video for Hillary Clinton, my husband (who reads the internet and various blogs much more than I) remarked to me that he was shocked at some of the vitriolic and outright sexist comments directed towards Hillary Clinton. “Since when is it acceptable to call a woman a ‘cunt’ just because you disagree with her politics?” he asked. “Doesn’t the fact that the mainstream media can pretty much call Hillary a ‘bitch’ on prime time television belie the notion that we are a post-feminist society?” I guess I’m used to it, because none of this misogyny surprises me, but what really gets to me is that it goes unchecked.

When I wrote “Women On Top” a few years ago, I had in mind that I was trying to reach younger females who hadn’t grown up during the struggle for equal rights, as I did. I realized that there was a whole generation of women who took it for granted that they had the right to vote, the right to control over their own bodies (Roe v. Wade, 1973 – I was born in 1958), the right to work outside of the home and earn as much a male…well, we’re still fighting that one, aren’t we? The point I’m trying to make is that yes, we’ve come a long way, but there is still much further to go. And this year, we’ve seen what happens when a strong, intelligent and brave female dares to challenge the male dominated political hierarchy. In Pakistan, they just assassinate you outright. In the USA, we assassinate your character in the media.

Don’t get me wrong - I expect character assassination from the right; it’s one of their standard operating procedures. So when a McCain supporter refers to Hillary as “the bitch” or Rush Limbaugh calls her the “original Femi-Nazi,” I understand it. Republicans like to play hardball and they have never pretended to be the party of equal rights for women. But when bloggers on the so-called liberal site Daily Kos refer to Hillary Clinton as “Billary” or Obama supporters write in comments on YouTube stating that Hillary Clinton is a “whore” or a “cunt,” or when MSNBC anchor David Shuster states that the Clinton campaign “seems to be pimping out Chelsea” because she has chosen to support her mother’s candidacy by making public appearances (no one dared accuse W of pimping out his daughters when they did the same thing in 2004), I have to speak up. People (many of them claiming to be liberals and progressives) are taking a lot of liberty throwing around words like “cunt,” “bitch,” “whore” and speaking of pimping out one’s daughters, without anyone crying foul. Would we overlook racist, derogatory terms if they were becoming part of the political discussion? I don’t think so, but for some reason, we’ve decided it’s ok to use misogynistic words to describe women and particularly Hillary Clinton. I see this as part of a bigger problem we seem to have with how we define feminism and what images of femininity we are comfortable with.

One of the complaints about Hillary is that she is “too comfortable” in the male dominated arena of national politics (try to frame that as a disadvantage in a male context – bear in mind that Ms. Clinton has been a U.S. Senator for less than 8 years whereas the Republican frontrunner, John McCain has been a national representative for over 25 years – and if you don’t think McCain will play his experience for all its worth against Obama’s lack thereof, you have a hard lesson coming.) I found this commentary by Susan J. Douglas, professor of Communications at the University of Michigan, particularly telling: “Hillary, by contrast, seems to want to be more like a man in her demeanor and politics, makes few concessions to the social demands of femininity, and yet seems to be only a partial feminist. She seems above us, exempting herself from compromises women have to make every day, while, at the same time, leaving some of the basic tenets of feminism in the dust. We are sold out on both counts. In other words, she seems like patriarchy in sheep’s clothing.” By that logic, pioneering female aviator Amelia Earhart would have kept her feet firmly on the ground and early suffragette and abolitionist Lucy Stone would have just shut up and sat down. No truly great women have ever stopped to worry about “making concessions to the social demands of femininity,” let alone the “basic tenets of feminism” which, in my opinion can be boiled down to the maxim that women are the equals of men. By my standards, Hillary Clinton has never betrayed her femininity or feminism.

The Republicans and the Fox News clones have done such a great hatchet job since the whole Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky scandal broke that many people now regard the entire Clinton administration as a dark age for our country, when nothing could be further from the truth. Younger voters may not remember that Bill Clinton turned the largest federal debt in history into the largest budget surplus in history during his two terms in office and presided over the longest peace-time period of economic expansion in American history. When he left office, he had the highest voter approval rating for an outgoing President since FDR: 65%. This, despite being impeached by a Republican controlled House of Representatives. So when someone tells you, “eight years of one Clinton was enough,” remember that those were eight relatively great years for this country.

It’s important for me to note that I have no animosity towards Barack Obama, who seems to be a very decent and earnest individual. It’s just that I much prefer Hillary Clinton for a number of reasons, chief of which is that Hillary is a fighter and has been battle tested. She’s hated by the Republicans for a reason - she is not afraid to take them on and fight them in hand to hand combat. If anyone still believes that the neo-conservative stranglehold on this country can be wished away by pretty speeches and a lot of people holding “HOPE” signs, I say it’s time to think again. I for one am absolutely fed up with the Republican party and what they have done to our country, our economy and our rights over the past eight years and I am not in the mood to “unite” with most of them. I am fairly certain that the feeling is mutual, so I don’t buy the unification slogan. I want a President who can kick some ass in D.C. and get things done, the Democratic way. I want Dirty Harriett – no, make that Dirty Hillary!

Give ‘em hell, Hillary!


Jenny Lens said...

Wow, I wish this whole entry would be picked up by the blogshere and MSM (mainstream media). You are such an eloquent writer, deftly balancing intelligence, passion and facts.

But a slight typo: W and his daughters were in 1994, not 1984. I do the same thing, argue about dates of my pix, then mistype a date that gets all over the net.

We're only human, after all.

Due to this post, I will re-think my stand on Hillary. I agree we need someone really strong and assertive.

Hillary is showing the world she's one tough dame, and I mean that as the highest compliment! After all, in England, when the Queen anoints a woman to be a Dame, that's just about the highest honor for a civilian (not royalty).

Thank you both for this extremely timely post. I can barely watch the news nor read the news because it's so negative. I am well aware of what's gong on, but am glad you stated the obvious, which is too difficult for me to even discuss.

I am just too disgusted. And totally addicted to alternative TV and websites. I'm back into raw foods, and the things I read about the government and big businesses' continued attempts to poison our food supply, including organic produce, is really heart-breaking.

I would love ONE candidate to deal with REAL domestic issues such as food safety, the impact of meat eating and transporting food rather than supporting small, local farmers and its HUGE financial and environmental impact. That's a candidate who would get more support than any of them realize!

The REAL issue in America is our quality of life and how the government, BOTH parties, and big business, who throw money into politician's pockets, are literally destroying the earth and its flora and fauna, all in the name of "progress" and greed, while suppressing this info so the public don't even know what's going on, while our taxes pay for us to be slowly destroyed via food, overprescribed drugs (many legally forced on children and others). That's quite a run-on statement, but it's just the tip of the iceberg.

As a long time feminist artist (merely being a woman who refuses to follow the pack and insists on doing things my way), I've had my own battles to deal with other feminists, as well as men and women who would never describe themselves as feminists.

It's the major reason I don't align myself with any one group in anything I do (I don't go to meetings, I don't join clubs, etc). Competition is rampant.

Who the hell is that woman to define Hillary's take on being a woman or a feminist? Has that woman ever done anything of note? Inspired people like Hillary?

It's rather ironic that women attack other women and yet call themselves feminists.

Ok, enough of being a downer. I got my book, "Punk Pioneers" from Rizzoli/Universe yesterday!!! It's so amazingly beautiful.

I am still in shock. The press and exhibit interest is starting to respond in a big way. Even the Rizzoli publicist is surprised at the major interest in my photos/book.

So I can't get too involved in the depressing political situation, or I won't be able to function.

ALICE HAS A WHOLE PAGE and the biggest write-up of anyone in my book. Plus of course my live Bags shot, and there's interest in that image for a major project (who knew, I thought the image was crap and now it's becoming THE iconic color live Bags shot -- life continues to surprise me all the time), plus Alice and Pleasant; Alice, Pat Bag and Glen Matlock and those infamous fashion shots she wrote about when one was in the LA Times last June and . . . More of that in my site, when I get around to it.

AND I wrote about Alice's writing as well. Gotta balance all this negative shit with love and acknowledgment of those of us who don't sit back. We're not "some people [who] can be content playing bingo and playing rent." (Ok, so I'm listening to Bernadette Peters sings "Some People" by Sondheim.")

And I just read one of MY stories on another LA photographer's blog. In the past, I was hurt. Now I laugh, cos the situation she described is of a photo in MY book.

So go ahead, everyone, take MY stories and spread them around. I don't need the credit. I just need the stories spread around. Cos it's like fertilizer: if not spread around, it just stinks. But used correctly, it keeps these stories alive.

Oh, and if anyone thinks I'm "all that" for writing about my book, well, this is about women's continual struggles and women on top.

My book was hellacious to create (and working on my archive is painful in so many ways). But great art or any accomplishment takes more from us than most people are willing or able to give. And those of us who do fulfill our dreams, whether becoming a US Senator and then President (or however it turns out, but she's giving the boys a run for their money!), or a gorgeous solo photo book from one of the world's most respected art publishers, have earned the right to share the joy.

I have the right to say if we can do it, you can do more in your lives. Let Hillary be an inspiration: seeing this resilient and powerful woman in action. Name men who could do what she is doing! That's also why they pick on her: she is so threatening to their ideas of womanhood. That crosses political boundaries, and into the human condition.

And that's what being a feminist or just being a woman is about: we're teachers, role models, dreamers, movers and shakers. I discuss that in my book, next to my photo of Barbra Streisand and the Germs. I basically said she is attacked because she is so independent and talented (abbreviating the text).

As I wrote in my book, "we were the punk Ginger Rogers: she did everything Fred Astaire did, but backwards and in heels. Before hardcore."

Alice Bag said...

Jenny, thanks for the catch on my typo, it was actually 2004 when the Bush daughters campaigned for their Dad, my mistake!

Thank you as always for your kind words and congratulations on your book, I can't wait to see it in the stores!

Jenny Lens said...

Oy vey! 1984, 1994 vs 2004, well you can see, as I said, I am not that focused on politics. Yikes, Bush was still in Texas or Conn or whatever (and don't we wish he stayed there!).

I've put together a more aggressive/complete press list in the past 4 days than Rizzoli has in the 2.5 years since they signed me! I'm getting such great feedback from so many of our press pals who have long championed what we did. They also partied with us in many cases.

Rest assured, you will get a copy!

TO ALICE's READERS: Alice and her husband were early supporters of my work several years ago, when I re-emerged to delve into my archive. They ALWAYS encouraged me to do a book.

Equally important, they constantly reminded me of my own self-worth, and that of my photos, when I was at a very low point in my life (right after a devastating divorce and many years of great suffering).

Alice and her husband always told me to never allow anyone or anything to hold me back, whether it had to do with my work or my life.

I am blessed that Alice and I have a friendship going back many years, as evidenced by the many lovely shots I have of her from 1976 til about 1980. Our friendship has only gotten stronger -- what a blessing!

I've submitted about 50 press names, all committed to promoting the book. It's now up to the writers to work with editors and their designs/content for mags. Plus I've got a huge list of magazines I just researched today that I need to submit. Who better than I knows my marketplace and audience?

Best of all, these are MAJOR writers, artists and others eager to spread the word, not just a name in a magazine who quite often falls in love with my photos, but doesn't have the history and emotional investment these 50 people have.

What a nice thought, after all the people who have given me such a hard time, for so long, about my work. How wonderful that people are eager to help me!

It's far more complicated to get a feature or major review than people realize, but the Red Sea has already started to part.

Features are being offered, which blows the Rizzoli publicist's mind. Not just 2 paragraph book reviews, but features and interviews. I told him that would happen!

I believe it will be ongoing and steady to accompany traveling exhibits that are being offered to me and other projects. They expect a deluge, which is a typical hit and then forget press coverage of any release, be it a book or music or movie. I know it will be a constant stream, which is much better anyway.

(Ok, for you Gentiles/non-Jews out there, that "Red Sea parting" is a reference to a miracle which allowed the Jews to escape slavery from the Egyptians, aka the "Exodus" and our "Passover" holiday, aka the movie, "The Ten Commandments," which has NOTHING to do with Easter, no matter what lies ABC/Disney perpetuate).

It literally means a pathway is opened or direction given in response to pure intentions, focused work, and a loving heart and soul.

Freedom from slavery (which has more to do with our own slavery within and self-limitations), into the land of milk and honey. Self-determination and more struggles, but more fulfillment in the pursuit of our dreams to better ourselves, each other and Mother Earth.

I have so many press allies, whoopee!

Also helps that I have GIVEN so many of my photos, stories, time and HELP to writers for their projects and other projects, for little or no payment, lots of hard work and sacrifices.

But I planted the seeds of not only good will, but exposure to my archive.

We only have a limited amount of advance press books, which are the same as the final books. But when the book is released late April/early May, we can distribute to some in the book. Unfortunately I can't give them to everyone, but my good pals, fer sure!

That means I have yet another huge list to create: names and mailing addresses of people in the book. I wanted an index at the end, but we ran out of space and they nixed the idea anyway.

(I will post the names, but I am missing emails and snail mail addys from some people. So IF I ever photographed you, take a look at my blog, hopefully sometime in February (first I have to create the list!), to see if your name is on the list. Write me full contact info via contact links on my blog).

The work never ceases!

Well, what is life but to constantly push ourselves to go where few have gone before us? To go where we have not gone, to stretch our minds, bodies, hearts and souls. And to inspire others.

Why did I work so hard to take these photos and fight and struggle to keep them in the public's eyes for 32 years?

TO INSPIRE PEOPLE. To document history. To share the joy. It's that simple and direct. That was my intention, which I discuss in my book.

Certainly Hillary and Barack do that. THEY INSPIRE US.

They both share one thing in common: the first time a man of color and a woman are being taken seriously for the most powerful position in the United States, which is major in the world. NOT another stupid white man!

We can be inspired by both, now and forever, and for years to come.

From 1984 to 1994 to 2004, what the heck, 2008 is finally here and about time the tide changes. I pray it's not too little too late, but any move forward is good thing!

"Thank heaven for little girls, who grow up in the most delightful ways. For without them, what would little boys do?" Little boys, men and women who attack each other have to deal with us grown up women who won't back down! Whatta concept!

Give 'em hell, Hillary and Barack and all us 'uppity,' fierce, powerful, "never say die" women!