Kathy G

One of the best wonkish reads on economics and women’s issues you’ll find anywhere on the internet is Kathy G. You can read her stuff daily at The G Spot, but for the first installment of what I hope to make a semi-regular feature in which I interview various bloggers from around the internets, I dished gender, politics, and Kirchick with one of the best:

BJ: What I’m most interested in is your take on the “project your gender based on your browsing history” webtool’s apparrent implication that the traffic of mainstream news sources and prominent political blogs is disproportionately made up of males, overwhelmingly so at times, and that even Jezebel, as Ezra discovered, has a slight male quotient? How does that apparent discrepancy fit into the premise behind your recent post on the lack of female bloggers at the “big” puplications?

KG: Hmmm . . . I’m not sure what to make of that “project your gender based on your browsing history” site. I try to bust the reigning gender paradigms as much as the next feminist, yet according to that site, I am — wait for it — 100% female! And 0% male! Yikes!

I confess that those results deeply, deeply disappointed me. Apparently I like clothes, travel, my pets, and walmart.com too much
(though visits to the latter, I’ll have you know, were for serious research purposes only! — I have never in my life bought anything
from Wal-Mart, and I hardly plan to start now).

Even my frequent visits to the Drudge Report — rated 2.01 male to 1.0 female — and to thepiratebay.org, 2.13 male to 1.0 female — didn’t
count so much. Apparently.

But what about the fact that I am a down-the-line economics geek? And the fact that my ridiculously hard-core cinephilia exceeds that of all but one male that I have ever known in my life?

I suspect that less-trafficked sites – like http://www.nber.org/ or  http://economistsview.typepad.com/economistsview/  or http://www.sensesofcinema.com/ — are not kept track of by this program. Whereas — yeah — the big clothing retailers and fashion sites are.

On the other hand, just about every media or political site that came up for me when I tried that program, such as The Atlantic, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Yorker, Daily Kos, The Huffington Post, etc. — scored as “male.” I have to assume that is because the folks who write for those sites are overwhelmingly male.

The Jezebel results are weird, but then again even though I’m a feminist who’s not averse to gossip and pop culture, I don’t visit that site. Maybe it’s because my impression of it is that it’s not actually all that feminist — but it poses as being feminist, in the sort of not-really-feminist-yet-highly-sexualized manner that appeals to many young straight dudes, but not so many real feminists. Though I must emphasize — I don’t really read the site. Maybe that’s because my impression of the site is based on things like this. 

Re: Jezebel — I guess, when it comes down to it, I expect  just about every  site on the internets to be pretty thoroughly sexist and anti-feminist.  The only ones I expect to be truly  feminist are self-proclaimed, feminist sites (like feministing, feministe, pandagon, echidne, i blame the patriarchy, etc. — which indeed are feminist).  Yet  when  there’s evidence that even a  so-called feminist  site  are actually anti-feminist (and the Pandagon post gives plenty of evidence that that is the case about Jezebel, as do other posts I’ve read about the particular incident referenced there)  —  I will go out of my way to avoid that. I don’t need that crap in my life.

BJ: Moving into a more nuts-and-bolts political realm, I have to confess that I’ve been sort of morbidly intrigued by the Nikki Tinker campaign since EMILY’s List endorsed her over Steve Cohen, as I always got the sense something notable was going to come of it one way or the other. I blogged my thoughts about the politics of what’s gone down in the race from EMILY’s List standpoint, and basically I don’t think it’s politically smart for groups concerned with progressive causes to be mounting primary challenges against incumbents with records as strongly progressive as Cohen’s. Granted this particular district may be so solidly Democratic that it doesn’t matter at the end of the day, but accepting fully that we need more females in public office, or at least that it would be a good thing (if need is too strong of a framing), do you think it’s a good idea for groups like EMILY’s List to oppose solidly progresive incumbents?

KG: Hmmm . . . I’ve heard about the Cohen/Tinker race, but I haven’t really been following it. In principle, I don’t oppose running primary challenges, even when the incumbent is progressive, because I think the extremely low level of female elected officials in America is a scandal (if you read the article by Echidne I linked to yesterday, she says the U.S. ranked 68th in the world in terms of the proportion of women in our national legislature). And I’m at a loss as to how we change that, especially if we take primary challenges off the table.

On the other hand, we need all the progressives we can get, and I’m not sure it’s the best use of resources to target an incumbent who’s good on the issues.

Primary challenges to conservative “Blue Dog” type incumbents, however, are probably a good idea. Even if the challenger loses, just the threat of a primary challenge might have the beneficial effect of causing the incumbent to move to the left.

But as to primary challenges to progressives, again, I’m ambivalent. Depends on who the incumbent is, and who the challenger is, I guess. But even with a less-than-ideal incumbent and a great challenger, it still might not be a good idea.

BJ: To put it another way, do you think it would be a good idea to support female challengers over more progressive male incumbents?

KG: Well, phrased that way — no. I struggled with that question somewhat during the presidential primary. Though my preference is to vote for women and nonwhites, in the end I decided to support Edwards rather than Hillary or Obama, because I thought his policies were the most progressive. I felt a bit guilty about supporting the white guy rather either of the two historic candidates, but I thought that if he became president, he’d end up helping more people, and especially more women and nonwhites, than the other two. So for me, his progressive politics mattered more than my desire to see the first woman or first African-American president.

Ultimately, though, Edwards dropped out before the primary in my state and I ended up voting for Obama.

BJ: How much of a role do you think sexism played in Hillary Clinton’s defeat? Not in the media, but amongst the electorate.

KG: Well, I think you can’t really separate the sexism in the media and the sexism in the electorate, because the sexism in the media both encouraged sexism among voters, and also provoked a backlash among voters. Certainly the media’s sexism made me and many other women feel sympathetic towards Hillary in a way many of us hadn’t before, and it probably won her some votes. But sexism cost her votes, too, and I’m not sure which effect was more powerful.

Hillary’s complicated relationship to the media, and the protective feelings media attacks against her inspired in many of her supporters, has often reminded me of Richard Nixon, which I wrote about here.

Ultimately, I think it’s hard to argue that sexism played a decisive role in Hillary’s defeat. First of all, the sexism also produced a pro-Hillary backlash. And secondly, there were other important reasons why she lost — such as her refusal to apologize for supporting the war, and her dependence on advisers (like Mark Penn and Patty Solis Doyle) who did not serve her well, and who failed to plan beyond Super Tuesday. I think sexism was one of several factors which led to her defeat, but it’s hard to say it — or any other single factor — was decisive.

BJ: Does it bother you that Patti Solis Doyle has taken the weight of the criticism for Clinton’s campaign failures, considering we now seem to know that Mark Penn wasn’t even familiar with the rules of the primary?

KG: I wasn’t under the impression that Solis Doyle took the brunt of the criticism — in the post-mortems I’ve read, both seemed to be blame more or less equally. They both seemed to have screwed up massively, and I’m not sure which one was worse.

BJ: I’m sorry, I meant from the campaign, not from media analysis. At least to me, it seems that, with the possible exception of Ickes and Grunwald, “Hillaryland” has made Solis Doyle the scapegoat.

KG: Oh, I wasn’t aware of that. From what I’ve read, it doesn’t seem fair for her to be the primary scapegoat, since Penn was better known, apparently much better paid, and seems to have screwed up as much as she did.

Though of course ultimately, Hillary is to blame — she’s the one who hired these people, listened to their bad advice, and didn’t fire them until it was too late. That raised red flags for me about her management skills, and it’s one of the reasons I’m glad she didn’t get the nomination. Obama’s people seem more competent, and that at least in part is likely to be a reflection of his management skills. It makes me think Barack is more likely to win the general election than Hillary would have been, and might govern more competently as president, as well.

BJ: One thing I like about predominately political blogs is that various bloggers tend to have different issues they care about and therefore different politicians they read/learn about, and reading enough blogs you can learn a lot about smaller profile politicians that play a big policy role. So which less visibile politicians, state officials, representatives, and so on, have caught your eye, either in terms of effects on policy or as prospects for higher public profile?

KG: I’m not as tuned in to local politics as I should be, but here are a few politicians who’ve caught my eye:

Jan Schakowsky is a wonderful, progressive Congresswoman who, it’s been said, is interested in taking over Barack Obama’s senate seat, if Obama is elected president. She’d be terrific!

My friend Daniel Biss is running for state representative. The incumbent is a moderate Republican, and a woman, but it’s a Democratic district and Daniel has done a great job raising his public profile and raising money. He’s supported by ActBlue and much of the netroots. His background is unusual — he has a Ph.D. in mathematics from MIT, and he teaches at the University of Chicago. He’s smart and energetic, and has some great ideas on education and health care. I haven’t written about him yet on my blog, but I will — I think he’s great!

There’s one other race I’m keeping an eye on, and that I’ve written about a few times. In the New Jersey Congressional district where I grow up, there’s a very interesting race between the ultra-conservative Republican incumbent Scott Garrett, who’s much further to the right than the district is, and the challenger, a Democart named Dennis Shulman. What I love about this race is that Shulman is a total underdog — he’s a blind rabbi, and with no political experience, yet! Nevertheless some observers think he’s got a shot at winning, because Bush and the Republicans are so unpopular in the district, and because Shulman is proving to be a surprisingly effective and impressive candidate. This race is definitely one to watch.

BJ: Are the PUMA’s legitimate, on the whole, and how largely are they represented by actual Democratic women who are talking of defecting, as opposed to rat fuckers?

KG:  I think they’re full of shit. They’re whiners who can’t get a grip and admit their candidate lost.

On the other hand, though, there are actually very few of them. While there are certainly some (though probably not many) former Hillary supporters who will end up voting for McCain, I’m convinced the number of *feminist* former Hillary supporters who will pull the lever for McCain as opposed to Obama is vanishingly small. McCain is just horrible on women’s issues, while Obama is pretty decent — about as good as recent Democratic candidates and presidents like Kerry, Gore, and Clinton.

And yes, I do believe it’s more a Republican-orchestrated ratfucking thing than an actual grassroots movement.  The assroots, not the grassroots, if you will. Which doesn’t mean there are no female Hillary supporters who dislike and distrust Obama and are angry at the party — there are. But the point with the ratfucking was always to exacerbate tensions that were already there — not to create something out of nothing.

BJ: Last question, what’s a guy got to do in these parts to get Jamie Kirchick to lie about him?

KG: Well, I think you have to be a medium- to high-profile male Jewish political writer who has opinions on Israel and the Mideast that are to the left of his.

If you’re not Jewish or don’t disagree with him about Israel, though, I’m not sure he’d notice. 

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A big thanks goes out to Kathy for taking the time to swap emails with me, and again, if you don’t read Kathy regularly, start now.