Brian Leiter Reports….on Clinton

Leiter’s less than insightful remarks on Clinton: She is the weakest contender, presumably in part because:

Hillary Clinton suffers from being a Clinton, as well as having one of the most unappealing public personae of a national politician in recent memory. Dick Cheney is creepier and scarier, to be sure, but “fake” is the only word that captures the impression Ms. Clinton makes every time she opens her mouth.

I’m always fascinated by the natural ability some have to assume their own reactions are fairly universally shared. What’s more depressing is that his observation seems in no way tempered by the slightest realization that there are contradictory pressures on her that may have led to what he could have seen as an overly controlled persona. Many of us thus work in a profession so thoroughly sexist that many of the power-holders have not acquired any habit of self-critical monitoring of their own negative reactions to women.  Equally, they seem untouched by the knowledge that might inform their self-monitoring,

Or  do I exaggerate?

And note that, as Jender and I have both said, it isn’t that either of us wants  to promote Clinton as the very best candidate; rather, our concern is with the sexism that her candidacy is revealing.

Totally blatant racism in US politics

A lot of people (including me in comments here) have speculated that it seems open expressions of racism are less acceptable in US politics than open expressions of sexism.  Some, like Gloria Steinem, have made the poorly argued and, frankly, offensive claim that sexism is obviously a bigger force than racism.  Well, it seems even advocates of the milder claim about open expressions of racism are wrong (via Pam Spaulding at Pandagon).  

During an appearance yesterday on talk radio — at almost the same time as Obama co-chair Jesse Jackson Jr. questioned Hillary’s tears — New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo used some words with a very troublesome racial history, apparently in reference to Barack Obama.“It’s not a TV crazed race. Frankly you can’t buy your way into it,” Cuomo said, according to Albany Times Union reporter Rick Karlin. He then added, “You can’t shuck and jive* at a press conference. All those moves you can make with the press don’t work when you’re in someone’s living room.”  

So, next time you want to make some big generalisations about the relative force of racism and sexism in US politics based on one case, it might be a good idea to think twice. (At least I put a big ‘so far’ into my comment, but I still shouldn’t have speculated that way.) And Gloria Steinem, you should already have been deeply embarrassed by what you said, but even more so now.  New theory:  folks will use whatever hateful ideology they’ve got against someone they take to be serious competition. 

*For those unfamiliar with “shuck and jive” (from Pandagon):

“To shuck and jive” originally referred to the intentionally misleading words and actions that African-Americans would employ in order to deceive racist Euro-Americans in power, both during the period of slavery and afterwards. The expression was documented as being in wide usage in the 1920s, but may have originated much earlier. “Shucking and jiving” was a tactic of both survival and resistance. A slave, for instance, could say eagerly, “Oh, yes, Master,” and have no real intention to obey. Or an African-American man could pretend to be working hard at a task he was ordered to do, but might put up this pretense only when under observation. Both would be instances of “doin’ the old shuck ‘n jive.”

This is very much *not* an expression in ordinary, benign usage today in America, and it immediately conjures up racist connotations.

Women in the boardroom

This story from the BBC is interesting. A few years ago, Norway, which already had a reasonably high number of women holding top executive jobs, introduced a law which said listed companies would be closed if they didn’t have women making up 40% of their executive boards. They were given until January 1st 2008 to comply. Well, that deadline has passed and it seems very nearly all have managed to comply. Of course, 40% is still not enough, but I’m impressed.As the article shows, there are complaints about this from the companies – “we should be able to choose on c.v.s not gender”, ” executive teams must be very carefully balanced, and worrying about gender just makes teams unbalanced and puts business at risk” – but there are counters made to these complaints in the article too. Looking at the c.v.s of the women recruited suggests that the government may have done these businesses a serious favour.There are still worries though. For instance, there has been a brain drain to the private sector meaning there are now fewer women at the executive level in the public sector. I guess the obvious solution is to introduce legislation giving the public sector five years to recruit women to its top level posts.Any thoughts on this? Some problems aside, legislation seems to have been effective for Norway. What do people think of it as a solution?

Belated Birthday

Simone de Beauvoir’s 100th birthday was 9 January.  Julie Ward has posted a list of events commemorating the events on SWIP-L, and I thought I’d pass it on.

Colloque Simone de Beauvoir. Under the direction of Julia Kristeva, this colloquium is to be held in Paris from 9-11 January, and will coincide with Beauvoir’s actual birthday. A range of international speakers will address Beauvoir’s contributions to feminism, philosophy, and literature. For more information contact:

The Legacies of Simone de Beauvoir. Organised by the International Simone de Beauvoir Society, this conference will be held in the North of England, in Newcastle, in June. For more information contact:

International Association for Philosophy and Literature. A special session will be devoted to the work of Beauvoir at the association’s meeting in Melbourne, Australia, in July. For more information contact: Gail Weiss at

Association for Existential and Phenomenological Theory and Culture (EPTC). A session on Beauvoir will be held in Vancouver, Canada, in June, in conjunction with the annual meeting of the Canadian Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences. For more information contact: Christine.DaigleATBrocku.CA

North American Sartre Society. A session on Beauvoir will be held at the society’s biennial meeting Fredericksburg, Virginia, USA in April. For more information contact: Christine.DaigleATBrocku.CA

Age/Aging. On Simone de Beauvoir’s “The Coming of Age”. International Expert Meeting at the University of Vienna, February 22-23, 2008. Organized by Silvia Stoller. Simone de Beauvoir’s philosophical study on “The Coming of Age” (originally published in French as “La vieillesse” 1970), will be the subject of this meeting. Contact:

American Philosophical Association. “The Philosophical Feminism of Simone de Beauvoir, Invited Symposium,” at the APA Central Division Meeting, April 17-20, 2008, Chicago IL. Speakers: Nancy Bauer, Sara Heinamaa, Karen Vintges; Session Chair: Margaret Simons. Organized by Julie K. Ward, email:

Or you could read a discussion of the way (naked, from the rear) she’s been depicted in the French mag Nouvel Observateur, in their birthday commemoration.