On Voting: It’s Primary Day in PA

I’m sitting on my porch today fielding phone calls and being generally available to local voters.  One of my favorite jobs as Chairperson of a Democratic County Committee in Pennsylvania is being the here to make sure that our voters have all the information they need…and maybe a donut and a coffee into they bargain if they feel like stopping by.  Today, you see, is Pennsylvania’s Primary Election Day.  Here in Pennsylvania – as in many states – we have two elections every year: a primary and a general.  Some may call it an “off-year” election, but I think there is no such thing as an “off-year” election.  Be it a presidential year, a mid-term year, or a local election year; every election is important.

It’s true that the heavily gerrymandered nature of many districts may make it feel like your voice doesn’t matter, most

HRC is keeping me company on this fine Primary Election Day.
HRC is keeping me company on this fine Primary Election Day.

especially when you’re in the minority.  The actual fact is that your voice matters quite a lot.  Indeed in your local elections your voice matters the most of all.  It is a sad but true fact at this moment that non-national election years sport exceptionally low voter turnout. The upshot of such low turnout is that in smaller towns and boroughs elected officials may win their races by just tens of votes.  That’s tens, not tens of thousands or tens of hundreds…just tens.  Do you know ten people?  You could literally sway an election.  You could help a write-in candidate get on the ballot for the general election in November. You can make that difference.

Certainly, if you’ve got a job (or maybe two or three) and maybe a kid (or also maybe two or three of those) it can be tough to get to the polls but it’s also incredibly important.  Especially in areas where one party seems to dominate, often the primary is the race.  And let’s say you aren’t in the majority.  Maybe you’re the minority party and maybe your local candidate is running unopposed – they still need your vote!  It may seem silly, but they really do.  Every person that turns out helps the people working to elect that currently unopposed candidate to understand where their priorities need to be in the general election.  I spend not a small portion of my time wading through election data and I can never have too much data.

What about where there is a primary race though?  If you’re in Pennsylvania, even if you have no local candidates at all (and if you don’t…maybe you should consider running for something), there are still statewide judicial races that are very much contested in the primary as will they be in the general election in November.  This year Pennsylvanians have the privilege of electing three new PA Supreme Court justices.  Three at once!  That hasn’t happened in over 200 years. This is an extremely big deal.  In addition to the historical uniqueness of the event, it’s also important because the judges we elect this year will likely be a deciding factor in what our Congressional, State Senate, and State Assembly districts look like after the 2020 census.  Have you see what our districts currently look like?  Suffice it to say that the PA 4th Congressional district is in the top 10 most gerrymandered districts in the nation.   In 2010 when PA Republican legislators (who were and are in

Mike Turzai: Trying to Disenfranchise Voters Since Always
Mike Turzai: Trying to Disenfranchise Voters Since Always

the majority) presented their new district map the Republican majority Supreme Court ruled that the boundaries were illegal.  When the map was resubmitted they essentially said “here, this is less illegal” …and those are the lines we have today brought to you in part by the guy that admitted that the point of voter ID laws was to win Pennsylvania for Romney.

Good thing that law was struck down.  Who struck it down?  Why Judge Bernard McGinley, PA Commonwealth Court Judge, of course.  Remember how I said judicial elections were really important?  I wasn’t kidding.

I know I’m biased.  I’m as true-blue a Democrat as you’ll ever find, no two ways about it.  I strongly believe that it is our duty as citizens to vote.  People have argued that you choose to vote and that not voting makes as much of a statement as voting.  Personally, I think that argument is a very large pile of bologna.  Not voting when you are perfectly capable of doing so is not a statement, it’s a refusal to make a statement.

Most often, from people who choose not to vote, I hear a variation on two themes.  Here are the themes and my responses.

  • All politicians are crooks.
    • No, they aren’t.  Just for starters that’s statistically improbable.  It’s also a really tired and lazy excuse for not voting.  Will most politicians bend the truth during their tenure as whatever you elect them to do? Yeah, probably. Does that make them horrible people?  No.  Does it mean you should just stop voting because no one is perfect?  No.  Hey, if you think politicians are so awful maybe you should run for something.  I’m not being facetious, I’m being serious.  If you think you can do better then do it.  In the meantime, “all politicians are crooks” is a cop-out.
  • I don’t know anything about the candidates.
    • The internet.  If you want information on candidates Google them.  Read your local paper.  Watch the news.  Call your local Democratic (or Republican) Committee person and ask about the candidates.  No one is going to spoon feed you this information.  We don’t live in the matrix.  It will not magically download into your head.  You have to take the initiative and look it up.  “But I don’t know the issues.”  Again, look them up.  Do you feel you aren’t smart enough to understand the issues?  I get it.  Some election issues are legitimately really complicated. That’s why County Party Committees exist: to help you through the issues.  I know, it means a little research and maybe talking to someone, but the information is out there if you want it.  And if all else fails, find a voter guide that you can trust and just vote for the people they recommend.  There is absolutely no shame in that.  Political parties and interest groups exist – in part – to help you categorize candidates as desirable or undesirable based on your values.

Now, keep in mind that I understand that sometimes you literally can’t vote.  Pennsylvania is a closed primary state which means today is Democrats and Republicans only.  While your job is required to give you time off to go vote, that doesn’t mean they have to pay you for it and if you’re making in the vicinity of minimum wage you may not be able to afford the time off.  These are things I understand and things that need to change.

In the meantime, if you can vote you must vote.  Take the time and raise your voice.

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Marvel/Disney and Their Continuing Inability to Market Female Characters

I went to Target today, and of course that entailed a trip through the toy department.  You may know that there’s a new set of Simpson’s Lego minifigs and I thought I’d pick up two more.  Having been there the other day, I wanted to snag a picture of a Marvel Super Heroes play set that I’d seen the other day.  It was this one…

Excuse me Wolverine, you aren’t even allowed to appear in Marvel Cinematic Universe films…WTF are you doing there?

Hey, there’s something weird about that.  It’s the Avengers…except with Armored Spider-Man and Wolverine.  Dude, Wolverine can’t even appear in Marvel Cinematic Universe movies!  Spider-Man will be making his MCU debut in Captain America: Civil War so maybe sorta kinda okay fine.  You know who I think is a Titan Hero?  Black Widow.  Where the hell is Black Widow?!

Nope.  No Black Widows here.  No Black Widow anywhere in fact.  Okay.  Whatever.

I sigh, having expected this, and move on.  But then I notice a female superhero in a series of figures called Marvel Legends.  Each figure comes with a few pieces of Galactus.  Presumably you can collect them all and build Galactus, which is pretty cool.  There was Superior Spider-Man…

I’m not sure what makes him superior.  Maybe he’s kind of a d-bag. In any case, there he is.  And there’s also Captain America…

So captain-y.  And look!  There’s Galactus’ leg!  Right, but the important thing is that there’s actually a female character too.  Check her out…

Hey I love…wait…what’s her name?  “Fierce Fighters”?  That doesn’t seem like a name.  And Captain America and Spider-Man aren’t translated into three other languages.  Who is this woman?!

Oh, Hellcat.  Cool.  You know what would have been even more cool?  PUTTING HER NAME ON THE FRONT OF THE FUCKING BOX..  I’m sorry.  I don’t mean to yell, it’s just that I’m so sick and fucking tired of Marvel/Disney merchandising ignoring and/or devaluing women.

Is my money not as green as everyone else’s?  I don’t know, I never use cash, but my point still stands.  Women spend money.  That’s a cliche about women that we spend money.  We spend money on our daughters too.  I don’t actually have a daughter, though.  I have a son and he’s a budding feminist.  When a man on Agent Carter told her she was pretty good “for a girl” (admittedly a pointed statement), my son was disgusted.  He said “why can’t he just say she did a good job.  She did a good job for anyone.”  I’d love to be able to reinforce that awareness through the toys that we buy.  Happily for me, he’s really into Legos and the Lego toys from the Marvel Universe do feature the female characters.  What if your kid is an action figure kid though?  Yeah.  It’s a problem.

Sure, there are people who – when faced with the fact that female characters are not on much of the apparel – say “but Redbubble.”  Yeah, Redbubble.  That’s great.  I’m not spending $25 on a t-shirt for my kid though.  That’s the point.  I don’t want Black Widow on merchandise for me.  I want it for my son.  I want my son to see that women are just as valuable as men.  I want my friends with daughters not to have to explain to their daughters why it is that Marvel and Disney don’t think that boys will want to play with female action figures.  Yeah, because the idea that girls might want to play with those action figures has never entered anyone’s head over at the Disney/Marvel merchandising department.

Hellcat didn’t rate a name on the front of the box.  It’s really like they’re trolling us at this point.

Ritual Invalidation

Women – at least in the United States* – are socially engineered to belittle our houses as an extension of ourselves.  That’s a thing I told someone today.  The person I was emailing back and forth with is a guy and his fiancee felt that their house wasn’t “nice” enough to host a particular event.  He asked for my thoughts, and so I gave him some brief thoughts and then I kept thinking.

I mentioned to him that I’ve hardly ever had a visit to a woman’s home that didn’t involve a “sorry about the mess” even when there actually is no mess or if maybe the house just looks like people live in it.  Hilariously, a bit later I popped over to my amazing wonderful neighbor’s house and she said sorry about the mess, or something to that effect, and I let it slide although I usually don’t.  So that got me to thinking about how I respond when someone apologizes to me for the mess that is their home.  Usually it goes something like this:

Woman: Hi! Come in.  Sorry the house is such a mess.

Me: Are you kidding?  Your house looks fine/great/awesome, my house is a sty.  I’m so jealous.

As I was driving home from the store, continuing to think about this ritual that we go through – me and many, many other women with each other – it occurred to me how wonderfully well this little ritual keeps us in our patriarchally preferred place.

Let’s put me in the place of hostess this time.  Someone comes to my house.  I begin the ritual by belittling my ability to maintain a clean home (and what worth can I have as a woman if I can’t even do that?).  My nice well-meaning lady friend then tells me how wrong I am and in fact how clean my house is thereby letting me know that my observations and feelings are invalid and untrustworthy while reinforcing that validation must come from outside me.  Obviously, I don’t think I actively value myself based on the cleanliness of my house and she doesn’t intend to undermine my ability to trust my own observations but there we both are.  We’ve just completed the Ritual of Invalidation.  Of course I’ll be sure to invalidate my friend when I go to her house.  What kind of a friend would I be if I didn’t?

There are a number of other implications inside this ritual that we can unpack as well.  How about you putting the entire burden of the state of your home on yourself.  I mean, sure, if you live alone, but I certainly don’t.  My mom didn’t.  Her mom didn’t.  Many of the women in my life through the years that I have listened to apologize for their houses didn’t live alone.  There are often spouses and kids.  What about them?  Do they have no responsibility for maintaining their surroundings?  Obviously they do, but when your friends come calling suddenly the pile of newspapers next to your husband’s chair is all your fault? (That’s totally not a personal example at all…)

And how about the actual value of the labor that you put into keeping your house to whatever level of cleanliness you prefer?  The work that women do in the home is often devalued.  When you devalue the work that you do in your home for zero dollars, imagine the effect this mindset has on the dollar value of the work that domestic workers do in other people’s homes.

How do we turn this around? Even enlightened feminists like me (she says with a little wink) still do it.  It’s a reflex.  You walk in my house, I apologize for it not living up to the standards that I seem to think that you have.  This ritual is like your appendix.  There’s no point to it except sometimes it almost bursts and then you nearly die.  The good news is that you don’t need invasive surgery to get rid of this ritual.

Moving on though, I wouldn’t recommend quitting cold turkey.  Maybe try practicing with some of your better friends.  The next time one of your girlfriends comes over say hello and invite her in and then go about your business.  Don’t tell her how long it’s been since you vacuumed the stairs.  Honestly, she probably doesn’t care at all.  Just see how it feels . Let it sink in.

Now, let’s say you’ve mentioned this to your friends and you’ve started a modest trend of people not demeaning their houses every time you walk in a door.  There’s another step.  When you go over to a friend’s house and that friend has decided not to apologize for their home – independently compliment something.  Yes, external validation, I know but it never hurts to make someone feel nice and then your friend has gotten a compliment that they didn’t have to solicit by putting themselves down.

Let’s face it, ritual invalidation is pretty common among women.  We are taught to put ourselves down all the time.  Eventually all those on-the-surface insincere put-downs become extremely real.  So maybe we can try to reverse course on this one.  It doesn’t mean that we can’t value a good clean house.  After all, houses don’t clean themselves.  If you aren’t doing it yourself, you’re paying someone and either way the work is not easy even if you do like cleaning.

I’m not sure what the bottom line is except that this thing that we’ve been doing to ourselves over and over isn’t helping anyone except the patriarchy.

*And maybe not all the women in the United States, but certainly a sizable sector.

Oh, Jeremy Renner…

I didn’t want to pile onto Jeremy Renner.  Frankly, as pissed off as I was by his really crappy commentary on Black Widow, I just wanted to move on.  Chris Evans/Captain America made a reasonably sincere sounding apology.  Renner gave us the standard “I’m sorry if you were offended” non-apology.  It was bullshit and it was meaningless, but it wasn’t worth the effort.  Better that we focus on helping people understand why you shouldn’t call Black Widow a slut and what it really means when people like Jeremy Renner do just that.

Oh, but Jeremy Renner can’t quit and so when he was on Conan the other night the topic arose…

So, there are a few things that this made me want to address and the first thing is – can we just accept that when you say shitty things, the internet will know and will call you on it.  Please stop acting like it’s in any way surprising.  Please stop acting like “the internet” is some bizarre niche-culture.  It’s getting extremely old at this point.

The other thing that I would love people – and let’s be real, men – like Jeremy Renner to stop doing is to stop pretending that “slut” is a word that can be applied equally to women and men.  It isn’t.  Just saying that you could in theory call a man a slut doesn’t actually mean that you would or that you do or that even if you did it would mean the same thing.  Renner says that if he were linked to 4 different Avengers he’d be a slut too.  Of course, if we’re assuming that Renner is a straight man and he’s linked romantically to 4 Avengers then we live in a magical world where there are four female Avengers.  Renner wouldn’t be a slut, he’d be “the man” and the four female Avengers would all be sluts.  Well, probably one of them would be his “true love” and the other three would be the slutty bad friends that tried to lure him away.  Even if – as in the case of Black Widow – Renner’s character didn’t actually hook up with anyone the women would still bear the brunt of the bad reputation.

It’s not just that, though.  If Hawk Eye is banging chicks left and right, he’s a hero.  His biggest problem in life is that his hands hurt from all the high fives because – again – the word slut does not get applied to men.  The word slut originated as as a word designed to insult women, just women.  If you hear it used about a man it is almost always in jest.  Actual jest, not Jeremy-Renner-about-Black-Widow jest.  It’s hilarious, the very idea of a man being a slut.  That would mean that men sleeping around (or in fact even seeming interested in multiple women, or not being interested in a woman because that’s a thing that women have to deal with…being a slut because you’re not into a dude) was a bad thing, when in fact men sleeping around is just what we expect men to do.

Lastly though, and not least of all, I’m so fucking tired of the “I’m just so super real and I just say things that offend people but that’s just how I am” non-defense.  Hey, you know what that makes you?  An asshole.  No one – except other assholes – is honoring your super realness.  No one – except other assholes – finds your no-holds-barred approach to life in any way cool or refreshing.  I guess at least thanks for bringing it to our attention that you’re awful.