Politics To Bitch or Not to Bitch
posted by October 19 at 15:59 PMon
Our on-line endorsement for Seattle School Board in District 2 (north of the Montlake cut around Greenlake) reads like this:
…the incumbents—the two who chose to run again, anyway—are likely to get massacred this November. That’s a lucky break for one challenger, Sherry Carr, who the SECB thinks is an overrated PTSA mom who stumbled on our basic questions about high-profile issues like intelligent design and student free speech. Incumbent Darlene Flynn is kind of a bruiser, but that’s exactly why we think she needs to stay on the board. Flynn is a stickler with budgets and hyper about racial disparities and most importantly she’s willing to bring a necessary brusqueness to the board’s retarded bimonthly meetings. We want change on the board too, but we also think the board would benefit from an anchor like Flynn. Vote Flynn.
I’m highlighting this endorsement for two reasons.
1) Of all the races for school board, this one is paramount. The board must retain Flynn. There’s a throw-the-bums-out mood when it comes to school board right now (thanks to the no-win school closure situation). But Flynn doesn’t deserve to be booted (and by the way, her opponent, Sherry Carr, stands by the closures, just as Flynn does.)
Meanwhile, Flynn is largely responsible for some key successes in recent years: Shoring up the once-shaky-budget ($30 million deficit to a $20 million reserve); hiring a focused district Academic Chief, Carla Santorno; and getting rid of Raj Manhas and hiring a new super, Maria Goodloe-Johnson.
Flynn has helped set the board right, and voters would jeopardize the momentum of reform and undermine the board’s ability to keep a sharp focus on fixing racial disparities in the district if they recklessly booted her.
2. The print endorsement reads like this:
…the incumbents—the two who chose to run again, anyway—are likely to get massacred this November. That’s a lucky break for one challenger, Sherry Carr, who the SECB thinks is an overrated PTSA mom who stumbled on our basic questions about high-profile issues like intelligent design and student free speech. Incumbent Darlene Flynn is kind of a bitch, but that’s exactly why we think she needs to stay on the board. Flynn is a stickler with budgets and hyper about racial disparities and most importantly she’s willing to bring a necessary brusqueness to the board’s retarded bimonthly meetings. We want change on the board too, but we also think the board would benefit from an anchor like Flynn. Vote Flynn.
I got several outraged e-mails and calls (from Flynn supporters over that original endorsement.)
Here’s a sample:
I just finished reading your endorsement of School Board Director Darlene Flynn with dismay and outrage! With friends like this, who needs enemies? How is it possible, in this day and age, that grown folks who identify themselves as progressives would think that it is okay (or funny?) to call a highly accomplished, articulate, professional, and duly elected public official a ‘bitch’? What’s next? ‘Nappy headed ho?’ Director Flynn is a black woman who has worked hard for the last 29 years serving this city and her community. The value of Darlene’s vocal advocacy for women’s rights, access to educational opportunity, strong neighborhoods and civil liberties was trivialized and diminished with your use of one word ‘bitch’. I am sad, that as much progress as women have made, strong, focused, intelligent and vocal women are still plastered with this label. If words didn’t matter, there would be no reason to publish your newspaper. And, careless words hurt much more than a stick ever would. Calling a woman a bitch is designed to put uppity women back in their place and has a chilling effect on women’s voices. When I was growing up, to be called a bitch was ‘fightin’ words.’ To women of my generation it is not funny or cute to be called a bitch. It is deeply insulting. And, I don’t want the women of the next generation to be trained that this is the norm. You need to print an apology — not just to Darlene but to all of the women in this community!
So, I decided to change it on-line from “bitch” to “bruiser.”
The SECB intended the word “bitch” in that “you bet she is you bastards” kind of way. Flynn stands up for what’s right and gets it done. Not to get all fancy, but it’s a Third Wave feminist reclamation thing—with its roots going all the way back to the Patti Smith 1970s and emerging full blown in the Riot Grrl ’90s—that’s pretty standard. Heck, there’s a feminist magazine that’s been out for ten years now called Bitch.
Additionally, as opposed to other thorny “reclamation” terms like “faggot” and “nigger,” “bitch” is actually a descriptive term. That is, we were saying Flynn is a bad ass. “Faggot” and “nigger” are simply derogatory nouns that don’t come with any sort of descriptive judgment other than pure hatred (in the literal sense) or pure irony (in the reclamation sense.) Bitch actually assigns some intelligible info. In a good way.
So, why change it to “bruiser?”
Because it means the same thing really, without wading into the convoluted sexist and racist minefield that paralyzes politics in this city. In short, I want Flynn to win. The “bitch” reference could have helped her opponents (who are playing the “bitch” card in a literal way on the campaign trail); and ultimately, as I said, it was an easy fix.
Moreover, I’m a white news editor at what’s perceived to be an elitist white paper. And while I’d like to stand by a brand of politics that’s okay calling a tough-as-nails female politician a “bitch,” I understand that it was an insensitive call to a lot people who support Flynn.
I support Flynn as well. And the bottom line is: You should vote for her.