In Which Politics Get Our Heroine Going

25 January 2004

Now the newspaper is saying that the snow isn't supposed to start until later tonight, and might not be more than six inches in our area. Ah well. We are ready to batten down the hatches and get snowed in; we are ready for the snow. And since it's supposed to keep snowing until Wednesday at least, it's probably good to be ready.

We ran a bunch of errands yesterday so we could be all comfy tucked in here. The only major errand failure was in attempting to buy Grandpa's birthday present at the local B&N. I'll have to head up to the City this week. Uncle Edgar's won't fail me. (Of course, I'll have to walk through Uncle Hugo's to get there, and heaven knows what book-related debauchery will tempt me there. Ah well. Life, my high school physics teacher used to say, is a series of choices, and we are judged by the choices we make. And if I am judged because of snatching up a Robin McKinley book and shouting, "Yeah, baby!", well, so be it.)

I now have binders. Binders and binders and binders. I don't have printed out manuscripts of most of my books. This is a problem because they're not paper-backed-up (although my folks keep an offsite electronic backup for me, so lots of things would have to go wrong all at once for me to lose everything), and because people sometimes want to read or reread them, and because I sometimes want to consult them myself. This means lots of printing. Lots and lots and lots. It'll be worthwhile, but -- lots.

I've been reading the editorials my folks send from the Omaha paper, and...well, at least my blood pressure is at normal-person levels now, which is way up for me. Once again I find myself just hating other women. There's Maureen Dowd, in her little Patty Duke flip and her string of pearls, sniping at Judy Steinberg (Dean) for being "a crunchy Vermont hippie, blithely uncoiffed, unadorned, unstyled, and unconcerned about not being at her husband's side." "Judith Steinberg," Dowd tells us, "has shunned the role of helpmeet." (This column was written before Dr. Steinberg did her TV interview.)

The blood, it boils.

So yes, it's true that no one is going to stagger back in awe of Dr. Steinberg's jaw-dropping beauty. She is not particularly ornamental. (I'd still rather look at her than the smirky retro faux-demure Dowd, but never mind that.) Has she ever claimed that her purpose on earth is decorative? You will note, it's not a man spending a whole column sneering here. It's a woman. For as much as people like to blame men for women's problems with their own looks, women are much more active and skilled at using appearance to control and belittle each other. If Dr. Steinberg had gone to have a makeover, deep down she would still be a woman who had bigger concerns than her handbag could contain, much less symbolize. And lipsticked piranhas like Dowd would be taking potshots at that, too. She hasn't had Botox like some candidates' wives. Her hair isn't styled into a bulletproof campaign appearance helmet. Who. Freakin'. Cares?

And why on earth should Steinberg be expected to be a Barbie doll? She's a doctor. If she had ditched her practice to cling to Dean's arm and smile adoringly, she'd have been raked over the coals for that, too. She'd have been called a hypocrite and worse, by her husband's best supporters -- and they'd have been right.

Maybe I'm biased because I see Steinberg as one of "us" somehow, a bright, educated woman who isn't obsessed with fashion, who has interests that sometimes overlap with her husband's and sometimes don't. I can identify with that. I can honor that. I agree that spouses should be supportive of each other's careers, but I don't think that should ever mean becoming something one really isn't -- or giving up everything else important in one's life.

The news media's reporting on "the American people's" reaction to a lot of things in this campaign makes me ill. I started reading the transcript of the Diane Sawyer interview with Dean and Steinberg, and I stopped a few pages in so that I didn't attempt to leap through the monitor and strangle Sawyer. She kept saying things like, "I can hear the viewers out there saying...." Uh, no, I call bullshit, Diane. My cousin may have thought that the kids they showed on Sesame Street could also see her through her TV, but she grew out of that when she turned four. You don't have the superpower of being able to read the viewers' minds. You do have the distinctly unsuper power of being able to tell them that's what they were "really" thinking deep down. You can put seeds of doubt in people's minds when they didn't have any before. But you are not so deeply attuned to the viewers that the issues you have manufactured are the issues they "really" wanted to see all along.

If we really had a liberal media or a conservative media, it might be better than what we've got. (And no, I'm not saying that none of the news outlets have any slant at all.) What we've got is a controversy-oriented news media. They want to report on sports even when they're reporting on something else. They want it to always be about someone doing something shocking, or winning, or losing, and they want to always be in control of what any of that is. Over and over again, I've heard people on one side of the spectrum or the other complain that if it had been the other guy who had said what their guy said, you wouldn't have heard a word of it; or if their guy had done what the other guy did, he'd never have been able to live it down. And they might be right, on both sides: it all depends on what the media thinks they can make into a clever sound bite and a nifty graphic at the time. (Which is what I love about the Daily Show. Well, one of the things.)

Bleh. For the record, I'm not a Dean supporter right now, though if he gets the nomination, that's that for me this year. (And there would be worse things than having a man in the White House who had demonstrated he didn't automatically view women as an extension of their husbands.) I'm not sure if I'll break my grandmother's heart and my own major party avoidance streak to register to caucus Democrat (not sure if I'd tell her if I did). If I did, I'm not sure who I'd caucus for, and I'd reregister soon after. But I found Dowd and Sawyer's behavior reprehensible.

And speaking of reprehensible, we watched "Pirates of the Caribbean" last night and had fun with it despite a few moments of, "Huh? But then why did the -- wait!" It swashed. It buckled. Its reprehensible characters were truly eeeeeevil, except for the ones who weren't. I'll probably go see the sequel.

And I've kept reading The Belly of the Bow and A Frozen Hell. The latter is a dangerous book -- it's making me think fairly clearly and thoroughly about some aspects of the Not The Moose, and I know it'll be useful for The Winter War whenever I get to that. But it keeps giving me ideas. In fact, it gave me a lovely crazy book idea last night, in the same universe as all the rest of this mess.

It's the thinking that's the problem. If I could avoid thinking from here on out and just write, I might have some chance of not falling further behind on the ideas rattling around in here. But noooo, I just keep thinking and thinking, and sure as eggs is eggs...well, there's not really anything to be done about it now, except to scribble down the notes on whatever new thing and turn back, resolutely, to the Not The Moose.

It doesn't even take that much resolution at this point, frankly. It's just what I do these days. So I'm going to do it.

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