Feminism S&F Online Scholar and Feminist Online, published by the Barnard Center for Research on Women
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Volume 5, Number 2, Spring 2007 Gwendolyn Beetham and Jessica Valenti, Guest Editors
Blogging Feminism:
(Web)Sites of Resistance
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Blogging Was Just the Beginning:
Women's Voices are Louder Online

Chris Nolan

Consider the role of women in American politics. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton is running for the presidency. My very own congresswoman, Nancy Pelosi, runs the U.S. House of Representatives. My state, California, is represented by two women, Senators Diane Feinstein and Barbara Boxer. Another woman, Condoleezza Rice, is secretary of state. Here in San Francisco where I live, we have female fire and police chiefs and a female district attorney.

In other words, the idea of women being active, involved, and committed to political life—as candidates and appointees—isn't novel or even newsworthy. It's a fact. But it's a fact that keeps getting ignored. Or, as in the case of Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential aspirations, a fact that's used as a distraction: "Will Americans vote for a female president?" the pundits demand.

That's not the least of it, of course. And as the campaign wears on we'll hear more and more of this nonsense. But Clinton is not the first to suffer from sexist distraction.

One of the more striking debates about Howard Dean's 2004 presidential bid was the way his wife's career—and her status as the family's main breadwinner—was dismissed by the political press corps as less important than what anyone with even a small amount of political sense would have seen as a quixotic attempt to claim the White House. Dean, the governor of a small New England state with almost no national profile, politically or otherwise, ran an antiwar campaign that was vibrant but poorly organized and not as well funded as those of his opponents. Meanwhile Dr. Judy Steinberg Dean had taken over the family medical practice she and her husband ran together in Burlington, Vermont. Yet she was criticized for not leaving her job and her two children—one in college and the other preparing to attend—to join her spouse on the campaign trail. The Dean marriage was in trouble, said the pundits—male and female—because Judy Dean didn't stand by her husband in Iowa.

The Deans aren't poor, of course. But if I had Judy Dean's bills to pay—try uttering the phrase "two kids in college" without gasping for air—I'd spend my time making sure my family had a way to make ends meet just in case this White House thing the husband had his heart set on didn't work out. And a medical practice without any doctors on staff wasn't going to cover those bases very well.

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