S1: This is the waves.
S2: This is the way, this is the way. This is the way. This is the way. This is the waves.
S1: Hello and welcome to The Waves, Slate’s podcast about gender Feminism and the senator with the wacky wigs. Every episode you get a new pair of women to talk about the thing we can’t get off our minds. And today you’ve got me. I’m Christina Cauterucci, a senior writer at Slate and host of Outward Slate’s podcast about queer culture and politics.
S2: And I’m Julia Craven, a reporter here at Slate, where I cover a whole bunch of fun stuff.
S1: This week we are talking about Kyrsten Sinema, the senator from Arizona, who holds the fate of the Democratic agenda and maybe American democracy in her hands. I wanted the waves to talk about Sinema because she is a total enigma to me and to a lot of other people, both personally and politically. I started writing about her a few years ago, mostly in the context of her wardrobe, which is very unconventional for a senator. It’s actually only gotten weirder since she got elected to the Senate in twenty eighteen during covid. You might have seen she’s been wearing these like neon colored wigs since she wasn’t able to go to a salon. She said it was to help remind people to continue social distancing during covid. So I think, you know, for people who had no need to pay much attention to her before the Democrats took power in the Senate and before she started holding up her own party’s agenda, her fashion sense, which is totally crazy, and also the fact that she’s a woman and the first openly bisexual member of Congress, it all made her seem a lot more progressive than she actually is. But, you know, if you pay attention, you know, she bills herself as a moderate. Obviously, right now she is working against her own party in many ways, but her politics are pretty inscrutable, too. I mean, it’s not clear whether she actually has any deeply held beliefs and if so, what they are because she’s changed her mind and her political orientation so many different times. Julia, why did you want to talk about Sinema?
S2: Well, I can’t stop thinking about her because even though she might not be as well known as Elizabeth Warren or Mitch McConnell, she does play a very pivotal role in politics right now, mainly is her support for the filibuster, which is effectively shelving the passing of any voting rights legislation and for the foreseeable future. And the nation compared her most recent positioning on that to Barry Goldwater, which is striking, to say the least, up front. So considering this in the way she handles very serious issues flippantly, I think she’s somebody who’s just worth getting into.
S1: We’ll get into both of those issues, her bizarre demeanor and self presentation and how she is using her disproportionate power in the Senate right now after the break. Let’s start off by establishing who Kyrsten Sinema used to be, Julia, what was she like when she entered politics in Arizona in the 2000s
S2: when she first got into politics? She was actually a member of Arizona’s Green Party. So she sat a little bit further left than she does currently. And so she switched over from the Green Party to the Democrats. And that’s when she ran and was elected to the Arizona House and then the Arizona Senate and then the US House in the US Senate. So she’s had a very linear trajectory in politics thus far. But the same progressivism that she ran on when she was in lower houses of politics is not where she’s sitting currently. And a lot of people who worked to get her elected to the Senate actually feel as though she kind of betrayed them. So now she’s fighting her party on key priorities versus, you know, fighting two in the filibuster to increase minimum wage, et cetera, et cetera.
S1: The fact that she went so far as to join the Blue Dog Democrats, I think says a lot about where she’s at politically, considering she started as an anti-war activist and a member of the Green Party, as you said. And a lot of people who’ve worked for her political observers in Arizona who’ve watched her rise, have commented that she seems very adept at sort of following the political winds and in order to, you know, in order to achieve that sort of linear trajectory you talked about, she has had to modify her own politics. She’ll say that, well, I’m really good at changing my mind or I’m always open to listening to other people’s viewpoints. But it’s hard not to look at how far she’s moved and think, you know, this is somebody who is more concerned with getting elected to the next highest rank than following any sort of political ideology that she might have come upon honestly.
S2: Right. And as we’ve seen before, that flakiness gets less and less effective as the office that you’re seeking is bigger. That was one of the issues that we saw during the twenty 20 campaign with Vice President Kamala Harris candidacy. A lot of the criticism surrounding her was, frankly, racist and sexist. But within that, the criticism that was valid was just her flakiness and the fact that she, no one really understood what she stood for or what her core beliefs were. And so when you can’t pin yourself to an issue deftly, it just doesn’t play out well in bigger elections. So I don’t know what cinema’s bigger aspirations are, but I don’t think that this is going to serve her on a larger stage. Truthfully, though, this is another example of why people shouldn’t stand politicians. I think that the stand culture around fallible political figures is interesting and not sustainable in itself. But Christina, what is your take on Sinema considering that you’ve been covering her for a couple of years?
S1: I mean, I used to really appreciate her honestly for the visual interest that she brought to Congress. I won’t say that I loved her, that I wanted her clothes for myself, but I appreciated that, you know, either she was trying to express herself through her wardrobe in ways that most other members of Congress weren’t or that she thought, you know, this is a way for me to stand out from the crowd. And she was right about that. It was basically the only reason to talk about her because Democrats weren’t in power. You know, they didn’t have much sway over the national agenda, especially when Trump was president. And her politics themselves didn’t really attract that much scrutiny. You know, you could say, oh, you know, I wish she would vote this way or she abandoned her commitment to blah. But she wasn’t she didn’t have the kind of power she has now where she’s really standing in the way of her own party, achieving what they set out to achieve. And it’s worth mentioning and a lot of people in the recent reporting around her have raised this. You know, her party is in the majority for the first time in her career. And so she has more power than ever. Her party actually stands to do something in the legislature she’s a part of. And as that’s been happening, her style and her personal demeanor have gotten increasingly bizarre to the point where it’s hard not to talk about her politics without talking about the reasons why she’s been in the news for non-political reasons lately. For instance, when she voted against raising the minimum wage to. Dollars an hour as part of the coronavirus relief bill, she walked up to the floor of the Senate, gave a thumbs down gesture and sort of pop turned knee a little bit or popped her head. That kind of looked like she was curtseying or like doing a little sassy pose. A lot of people looked at that, especially, you know, economic justice advocates and said this is incredibly disrespectful, especially when you are voting against you’re basically voting to consign people to poverty wages in the US and you’re doing it in such a way that is attracting a lot of attention and seemingly flippant.
S2: It should be noted that oftentimes on the floor, senators will vote by giving a thumbs up or thumbs down. So it isn’t the thumbs down itself so much as it is the thumbs down in conjunction with the courtesy.
S1: Yeah, that’s a good point. Meanwhile, her press secretary told Huff Post that it was sexist to criticize Kyrsten Sinema for doing that. And that commentary about a female senators, body language, clothing or physical demeanor does not belong in a serious media outlet. I don’t believe that somebody who is conspicuously dresses outside the norm doesn’t believe that a person’s wardrobe and self presentation sends a message worthy of analyzing in political media. I don’t know. Did you think that was sexist? I know some people did. Some people who weren’t even her own press secretary.
S2: So I don’t think that the bulk of criticisms around the curtsy were sexist. I think that on an issue as serious as raising the minimum wage, you know, there are people in this country who can’t afford their rent, they can’t afford food, they can’t afford basic necessities that they need to live and raising the minimum wage. And we can have a separate show where we talk about whether or not 15 is enough, but raising the minimum wage from what it is now would help people be able to do more of that. And so I’m sorry you don’t get to come up and curtsy and then do a thumbs down on such a serious issue and then say that the response to that is sexist when it isn’t.
S1: Hmm. I mean, so the 19th reported that, according to some sources in the Senate, what she was doing was responding to a group of staffers, nonpartisan staffers, who had read the whole six hundred twenty eight page bill aloud because a Republican senator asked them to. She had brought them a cake. They were thanking her, I guess maybe nonverbally or in a way that we couldn’t perceive from the video. And she was acknowledging their thanks by sort of doing a little flip of her hip. Whether or not that’s true, I think the the fact that she wasn’t able to internalize or decided not to internalize the fact that this was a very important vote that had important material consequences for people such that maybe this isn’t the time to make a funny gesture while you’re voting. It doesn’t say a lot of good things about her intentions. And it certainly it doesn’t do much to convince me that she, you know, is earnestly devoted to, as she said, raising the minimum wage to some lower amount in a different process outside of the covid relief bill. Case in point, not too long after the curtsy, she wore a ring in a photo that she then posted to social media. The ring said, fuck off. She was sipping a glass of sangria when she posted it to me. This had real Madison Cawthorn vibes like, Oh, cry more Leyb again. It’s it’s unclear like to whom it’s referring. I’m I’m guessing she wanted it to say something because otherwise, if you are a senator, you don’t wear something with words on it in a social media post unless you are trying to send a message. But it’s baffling to me because she’s not a bad politician. She has won some tough races. She’s very image conscious, maybe even more so than most politicians. But this seems like a bad move for a politician to make because really, like the least her constituents could ask of her is that she pretends to empathize with them and not react so dismissively toward their concerns. But I read a quote from a former Sinema staffer in the Atlantic who said that Sinema was more about creating an image than actually making policy. And the staffer contrasted her with Joe Manchin, the conservative Democrat from West Virginia, and said she’s not actually conservative on certain issues the way that he is, but she wants to be seen as different. So considering that she is very image conscious and maybe to the exclusion of substance, like actual policies that she might be concerned about, what kind of image is she trying to create here? You have to imagine that she believes, maybe correctly, that what Arizonans want is a senator who is, you know, not politically correct, doesn’t care what people think, whereas a fuck off ring, you know, like is sort of like triggering for lack of a better word. And maybe she’s reading the room and recognizing in the Trump era that a lot less capable people have gone a lot further than she has on a lot less substance than she has. And maybe all of these little like mini scandals are deliberate, a deliberate strategy. What do you think?
S2: Oh, no.
S1: Maybe I’m giving her too much credit.
S2: I don’t know if it’s giving her too much credit so much as it is. To me, that that whole situation around the fuck offering was regardless of its intent or if it had intent or not, or even if she wasn’t thinking about it, the thing about that situation that really stood out to me was just the lack of reading the room. And if you’re a politician, you have to be able to read the room. Now, you might read the room and not give a fuck what the room is saying, but you still have to be able to read the room and kind of understand, which was, to your point, the point that you made a little bit later. You still have to understand what your constituents want. And just the kind of loop back to that CNN article interviewing organizers who felt betrayed by the stances that she’s making now. I mean, these are the people who work to get you elected and organizers elect people who they think will carry forward the greater good for constituents and Amy. Things like this don’t really foster good faith amongst your constituents, especially on something as serious as raising the minimum wage at. It just kind of baffles me that that someone would handle such a serious. Moment during a pandemic and during a global economic crisis, just so flippantly,
S1: I agree with you that politicians have to have to read the room. I think maybe the room she’s reading is different from the one a lot of these organizers think she should be reading. So she thinks her room is, you know, the people who sometimes vote Republican who actually voted for her and not like the Latino voters whose massive turnout rates in twenty eighteen actually elected her to the Senate. And this is sort of a tale as old as time in politics, especially actually almost exclusively in progressive politics, where Democrats sort of forget their base and forget the people who or ignore the people who actually got them elected in favor of, like courting some imaginary middle of the road voter, whereas conservatives do the exact opposite. They’re like way more conservative than their constituents are in most cases.
S2: Yeah, that’s a good point. The Democrats do often forget about who exactly elected them to office. So it’s a good point. I can’t necessarily push back on that in good faith.
S1: Well, then I’m going to quit while I’m ahead and we’re going to take a break here. But if you like what you’re hearing and want to hear more from Manjula on another topic, make sure to stay tuned for our Slate Plus segment, Gateway Feminism, where today Julie and I talk about one thing that helped make us feminists. I will be talking about my time on a coed soccer team and middle school and a protest T-shirt I made. And Julia, we’ll be talking about her great grandmother. Here’s a clip from that.
S2: Just having her tell me, like, ingrain that belief in me that I can do it even when I hit walls. I’m just like I just I go back to that even when I hit walls. And I understand glass ceilings and systemic oppression, obviously, but it’s still just nice to be able to go back to that whenever those moments of being barred from something because you’re black pop up.
S1: I want to get into the main reason why Sinema has been attracting more attention and scrutiny now than she ever has before, and that’s the filibuster. So with a 50 50 divided Senate and Kamala Harris as the tiebreaker, the Democrats need to get 10 Republicans on board with any non budgetary legislation they want to pass while the filibuster is in place. So in other words, the Democrats will not get anything done while they’re in power unless they cast the filibuster. Goodbye. And Sinema and Joe Manchin have been really the only staunch holdouts on filibuster reform. Some of the other senators have sort of said, I don’t think it’s a great idea, but like they could be convinced, you know, they’re just sort of saying that. But if it actually came down to it, they would they would vote to reform the filibuster or get rid of it. But Sinema has gone even further than Manchin on this. And she says she wants to expand the filibuster to include presidential nominations as well. Here’s a clip of her defending the filibuster in a video that was tweeted by Sahil Kapur,
S3: as well as folks in Arizona. I know I’ve long been a supporter of the filibuster because it is a tool that protects the democracy of our nation rather than allowing our country to ricochet wildly every two to four years back and forth between policies. The idea of the filibuster was created by those who came before us, the United States Senate, to create comity and to encourage senators to find bipartisanship and work together. And while there are some who don’t believe that bipartisanship is possible, I think that I’m a daily example that bipartisanship is possible, not just this trip today and tomorrow that John and I are doing, but the work that John and I and I and many other of my colleagues in both parties do on a regular basis. So to those who say we must make a choice between the filibuster and X, I say this is a false choice. The reality is, is that when you have a system that’s not working effectively and I would think that most would agree that the Senate’s not particularly well oiled machine. Right. The way to fix that is to change your behavior, not to eliminate the rules or change the rules, but to change your behavior. So I’m going to continue to go to work every day aggressively seeking bipartisanship in a cheerful and happy warrior way, as I always do, and showing that when we work together, we can get things done.
S1: So none of what she said is true. The filibuster was not created by the founding fathers. It was sort of a loophole in the Senate rules. It was not intentionally created at all, certainly not by the founding fathers, which who cares what they thought. But for the sake of arguing on cinema’s terms, it does matter that the founding fathers did not want to require a supermajority for passing legislation. It was not a deliberate way to, as she said, create comedy and encourage bipartisanship. It was kind of a random a random interpretation of the rules that has been largely in the past used to oppose civil rights legislation. Julia, how have you been thinking about this?
S2: That actually leads me directly into what I mentioned earlier, which was the comparison to Barry Goldwater, which would, again, just make me immediately reconsider whatever it was that I was doing. So Joan Walsh, who writes for The Nation, connected this to Barry Goldwater, who is a former senator from Arizona, alluding that the way to end racism was to change hearts and minds and not laws. Yes, that’s where that mainstream narrative comes from. And so that is just the hit that I again, personally, I would not want to take a hit like that. I would not want to be compared to Barry Goldwater ever in my life.
S1: And I don’t I doubt you will be. I think you’re living your life on the right track as far as that’s concerned.
S2: Thank God. But that aside, the filibuster was used, as you said, during the 50s and 60s to block civil rights legislation. And now Sinema imagine holding out on reform is slowing down the passage of the For the People Act, which would expand voting rights, stop voters from being purged from the rolls, and mandate that independent commissions handle congressional redistricting to prevent what happened in North Carolina from happening elsewhere. Just as one state example
S1: for as far as gerrymandering
S2: goes. Yes, yeah. Where black voters were targeted with, quote, surgical precision. And Sinema also co-sponsored this bill when she was in the House.
S1: So and now she is she is saying, you know, because I’m so committed to bipartisanship, I’m more committed to bipartisanship or like the myth of bipartisanship than I am to passing this legislation that I co-sponsored.
S2: Yes, I think that’s a good read of it.
S1: So it’s, let’s say, interesting to me that the set of bills that she is holding up by supporting the filibuster are refusing to consider filibuster reform includes a voting rights bill named for John Lewis, which is essential to the future of democracy, voting rights as we know them, and probably cinema’s future career. Because in 2015, at the start of that Congress, as there is at the start of any Congress, there’s an election to determine who will lead each party. At the time, almost everybody, almost every Democrat voted for Nancy Pelosi, not Kirsten Sinema. She said she wanted to elect John Lewis to lead the party. And she said, you know, he’s my hero. Well, the fact that she calls him a hero publicly embraces him as a civil rights icon and now is working against the substance of what he stood for is, to me, like the peak peak toxic white lady energy, where, again, as we talked about in the first segment, it’s all about image for her. The idea of John Lewis is great. What he actually stood for, among other things, voting rights for black people in the US is, you know, we throw that aside when it doesn’t fit what we want for ourselves.
S2: I mean, I think that’s that’s more than fair. And that’s one of the bigger issues with politics, is that so much of it can become performative and can become about how individual politicians feel. And in certain situations like this one, you have one or two individuals holding up legislation that could fundamentally change lives for broader swaths of America. And that in itself is. I mean, frankly, it’s just really annoying, like it’s really frustrating to see that a small number of people can really hold up massive changes in life for millions of people.
S1: What did you make of her? All her talk about bipartisanship? And that’s that’s sort of her argument for defending the filibuster.
S2: So her her hope that saving the filibuster will foster bipartisanship. I mean, I just think that that’s a lost cause. It doesn’t really make any sense, especially after the past. What year is a twenty, twenty one after the past five or six years? I just don’t understand where anyone who has been paying attention to politics or someone who is a politician where they get that idea from and maybe it’s a pipe dream, it kind of has to be because does anyone really think that Mitch McConnell, Cindy Hyde Smith or Tom Cotton are going to, like, cave on their positions on voting rights? I mean, it’s just I guess it’s
S1: also like I’m just trying to put myself in her shoes, in part because I really love her over the knee boots that she loves to wear, but also because I’m trying to understand how somebody could work alongside the people you just mentioned and watch them work against something as fundamental to democracy as voting rights and something like the commission to investigate January six like these. These aren’t a group of people who are making reasonable and good faith arguments about, you know, a policy that all manner of people can have fine positions on, like we’re talking about really like bread and butter issues for the future of the country as we know it and fairness in politics and elections. So when she talks about bipartisanship, I mean, I don’t think she’s naive. I think she knows exactly who these people are. But she loves the idea of herself as somebody who can please both sides. She knows that that image has been essential to her political success, considering she has basically no actual legislative accomplishments. So in in this climate where the Republicans you mentioned and much more have demonstrated absolutely no desire to compromise and work with Democrats, I don’t think they could find 10 Republicans willing to compromise in good faith with the Democrats. I think bipartisanship talk can be best read as an electioneering tactic and end sort of a campaign talking point and not as an actual philosophy of lawmaking. I mean, even when you look at people like Susan Collins, who is another person who talks a lot about how bipartisan she is, that’s how she keeps getting elected in Maine, which is an extremely Democratic state. If you look at the bills they’ve actually worked on with members of other parties, they’re usually not that far reaching or controversial and, you know, sometimes important, sometimes less important. There are things like the bipartisan bills that she got credit for and all of these bipartisan rankings, a lot of them just die in committee or the ones that do make it to a vote are sort of bipartisan by nature and not actually any, like, huge feat of dealmaking and compromising. So, like, I don’t think bipartisanship is really a thing anymore. If it ever was. We have just a little bit of time left. But I want to ask you, Julia Kyrsten Sinema has been attracting a lot of criticism for exactly what we’ve been talking about, the fact that she is maybe the only person, maybe one of two people really holding up the Democratic agenda. But she’s also been attracting some bad faith criticism for all of the sexist reasons why you might expect her wigs, her clothes, her boots, people saying, you know, this isn’t appropriate for a senator. I can’t take her seriously when she’s wearing a pink sweater that says dangerous creature. Do you think she’s using that mean spirited criticism as an excuse for her to ignore all criticism?
S2: So I. I honestly don’t think me or anyone else can speak to whether or not she’s using the sexist critiques that she does get and using those as a shield just for general behavior that is worthy of criticizing. But what I do think is that criticizing behavior that should be criticized is not necessarily sexist. Just salute back to the to the curtsy that we were talking about earlier. The criticism around the courtesy wasn’t about a woman doing a curtsy. It was about someone doing a curtsy during a vote on minimum wage. It was about flippant behavior during a very serious moment. And so while I won’t pretend to know the inner workings of their policy decisions, what I will say is that there are times when the response from her office does write off a valid critique as sexist. And it’s that’s not always the case. But people talking about her wigs and her sweaters, like, yeah, that’s like that’s not the point here.
S1: Yeah. I’ve even had people tell me that I’m sexist for writing approvingly about her clothing, but. You know, I tend to think that politicians know that their image matters and that whatever clothes they choose are chosen deliberately to create an image for themselves. So it’s I don’t think it’s inappropriate to analyze what that message might be,
S2: especially since historically fashion choices have been used to convey messages like that’s part of the reason why fashion is Sasha.
S1: All right, on that note, which can be applied to all episodes of the waves, past, present and future, we want to give you some recommendations before we leave. Julia, what are you loving right now?
S2: So it was very hard for me to choose one thing, but right now I am loving finishing books. I finished my first book in like a year yesterday. And I don’t care if people judge me about that because at the end of the day, I pay my rent. So it doesn’t really matter how you feel about me not reading that often. What book? Well, it was the vanishing half. So this was a book? Yeah, a book that I literally started about a year ago and I finally finished it. So I recommend finishing books.
S1: That was a really good book. I read it not too long ago too, and that was by Brit Bennett. I am recommending something for Pride Month. So if you’re queer, I hope you are partying this month in whatever way feels right for you and whoever you are. Pride Month is a good excuse to learn something new about Queer Politics. To that end, I’m recommending a conversation between the political analyst Amy Walter and Sasha Issenberg. It was hosted by Politics and Prose. You can find it on YouTube. And it’s about Eisenberg’s new book, The Engagement about the Movement for Equal Marriage. You can read the whole book, but it’s almost a thousand pages. So if you don’t want to do that, watch this conversation. It’s a really good primer on parts of the history of that movement that can sort of be hard to hear with all of the extremely loud corporations this month telling us that love wins and love is love. Most interestingly to me is the reminder that there has always been a rift among LGBTQ activists who wanted to focus on marriage rights and those who wanted to prioritize other issues that were more closely entwined with survival, health care, economic justice, that kind of stuff. Because the movement is not a monolith, marriage really didn’t become a major focus until the religious right made it one. You know, they started passing all these laws saying you can’t get married. So gays were like, well, guess we’re going to fight this. So they kind of got baited into a more conservative movement priority by the backlash to increasing acceptance of queer people in public life. So it’s a good reminder, you know, as people make their yearly fuss about how anti cop and anti corporate activism at Pride is too divisive and is tearing the community apart, that the community has never really agreed on anything. And there’s always been tension between assimilationist and liberationist branches of the movement. So, again, this conversation that I watch and you should watch is between Amy Walter and Sasha Issenberg hosted by Politics and Prose on YouTube. That’s our show for the Week. The Waves is produced by Sheena Roth.
S2: Susan Matthews is our editorial director with June Thomas providing oversight and moral support. And we have additional production help from Rosemary Bellson.
S1: If you like the show, please subscribe, read it and review it wherever you get your podcasts and consider supporting the show by joining Slate. Plus, members get benefits like zero ads on any Slate podcast and bonus content of shows like this one. It’s only one dollar for the first month. To learn more, go to Slate Dotcom, slash the waves.
S2: Plus, we’d also love to hear from you. So email us at the waves at Slate dot com.
S1: The waves will be back next week. Different hosts, different topic, same time and place for. All right, it’s time for our Slate Plus segment, Gateway Feminism. In this segment, we talk about the things that made us feminists. Julia, take it away.
S2: I would have to say that my earliest example of feminism was my great grandmother. I didn’t recognize her as a feminist when I was a child, obviously, because I didn’t know what feminism was. But after going to college and learning about feminism, particularly black feminism, I began to saw that that was her she embodied. Just everything about being not only pro woman and pro black, but just being pro black women and supporting us and uplifting us while also on a lot of ways just like bucking traditionalism, like one thing that she did. And I’m sure that this happened in many, many other families. So I’m just speaking specifically on what I saw. But one thing that she did was like she taught all of her children how to cook, even her boys. And she had her children during a time frame where mainstream it was like the late forties, early fifties. So this was a time where mainstream culture would have you believing that women didn’t teach their boys how to cook. And I remember asking her about that. And she was just like. Why wouldn’t I teach them how to cook and clean? So she grew up on a sharecropping farm and so it wasn’t. Unusual to see everyone doing something, including light men cooking and cleaning, they may not have been the primary thing done, but everyone knew how to do everything because that was the nature of such an incredibly predatory situation. And so she took that with her.
S1: I think a lot of the conversations about raising kids in in a way that promotes gender equity is focused on how do you empower girls and less on how do you make boys grow up to be people who can do things like cook and clean and don’t see it as the woman’s job and don’t like not know where the vacuum is located in their house or who like go and just sit in the living room after a big family meal and let the women clean up in the kitchen.
S2: Right. And I also should probably throw out there that I didn’t really know a lot of men who didn’t cook or clean. And again, I think that was just like the nature of. The black community that my family was a part of, I, I just never remember. I remember seeing men on TV who late in these traditional nuclear family structures and like the men didn’t cook, they didn’t clean, they didn’t really contribute to the household. And that was just so radically different from what I saw. And even though I would say that my family in my home was very matriarchal, it was not a situation where like it was I might leave it to Beaver, you know, like it was never like that. So my my favorite memory of well, not my favorite, but one of my favorite memories of my great grandmother that I think really routes into the theme of empowering women and girls, especially like young black girls, is just the fact that any time I told her that I wanted to do something with my life, she always was just like, yeah, you can do it. All you have to do is just like set your mind to it and you can do it. Like there was nothing that I could have said that she didn’t fully believe that I could do or she said she believed I could do it. Now, whether or not she actually believed it. Oh, no, but that’s not my problem. I remember one time I was just I want to be president. And she was just like, OK, you can do it. You just, you know, set your mind to it. You can do it. And then I was like, I want to do that. I want to be a doctor. I want to be a lawyer, you know, like all of these all of the traditional careers that children want to do. And so I know about lawyer.
S1: That’s like that’s next level for kids, I think.
S2: I mean, I had, like, little doctor sets and I heard people talking about lawyers for whatever reason. And I was like, I could do that. I don’t even know what a lawyer was. But any time I brought a new career path to her, she was always just like, yeah, she was like, yeah, you got it, you got it. All you have to do is just like stay in school and be smart, of course. Oh but yeah. So that all to me just like put a bow on that, that all to me was. Feminist because she always. Propelled me as far as she felt like I could go and just ingraining in a black child that they should believe in themselves because the world is always going to tell black children that they can’t do anything. And so just having her tell me, like, ingrained that belief in me that I can do it even when I hit walls. I’m just like I just I go back to that even when I hit walls. And I understand glass ceilings and systemic oppression, obviously, but it’s still just nice to be able to go back to that whenever those. Moments of being barred from something because you’re black pop up,
S1: that’s really sweet. Wow, my gateway Feminism is sort of an opposite situation where. I took away from the situation that I couldn’t do something, so I was on a coed soccer team in fourth grade in New Hampshire, my family had just moved to New Hampshire a couple of months before I was nine years old. And I was one of, I think, two or three girls on this coed soccer team. The rest were boys and it was, you know, a wreck team. So we were sponsored by a local business. That business happened to be like a dentist. And so I don’t know if it was the dentist or our coach decided it would be cute to name our team and put on the front of our jerseys. The Molar men like Molar your teeth and men because I don’t know, we weren’t all men. And when I got my shirt, I was like, hi, I’m not a man here yet. I am on this team. And I was like basically asked my parents, like, can I deface this shirt so that it says Molar women. All I had to do was write a W and O in front of the men. And my parents were like, sure, you know, I found some white out and wrote it was Molar women on my shirt and no one on the team. Nobody else did that. None of the other girls did that. The coaches kind of didn’t care. Like I’m sure they thought it was weird or funny or whatever, but like that was sort of the end of that situation. Certainly my memory of it. I was MVP that year because I scored the most goals because I was a total ball hog. I’m sure I was a bad team player. But when I think back on that, my parents sort of repeat the story as something very cute. She’s always been like a social justice minded individual and she was so headstrong. And but when I think back on it now, it actually makes me really mad. I look at a picture of myself wearing that shirt, this like young girl who has already been told, like, you’re an outsider here. You don’t you don’t really belong here. And we’re not going to make any efforts to make you feel like you belong. It really upsets me. And I wrote a piece about it a couple of years ago. It prompted me to do a little research into studies that have been done on coed sports and talked to some women in sports advocates who say, you know, girls should be allowed to play in coed leagues and, you know, maybe they should have a choice between a single gender league or a coed league. But they advise that coed sports are actually good for girls up until they hit puberty. And that’s when athletic ability is start to diverge. But all the arguments about why it’s good for girls actually center the well-being of boys. They say, you know, boys learn to respect women if they play on a team with them and girls learn how to deal with boys, which they’re going to have to do in the real world. Neither of those things center the well-being and growth of girls on the team. They’re all about, you know, boys becoming better people, which I would love to see if any of the boys on my team turned into better people because they had to play with me. But for me, that moment was really the first time I saw something that was wrong and the first moment that I can really remember being treated differently based on my gender and knowing it was wrong and doing something about it. And you really can’t ask for a more empowering experience for a kid than to be than to have them recognize something is wrong and doing something about it. So even though nothing changed, the fact that I was able to do something about it, you know, it’s a memory that has stuck with me and I think was the first time I really felt like when I recognized that something is wrong, I don’t have to just accept it,
S2: which is a very powerful lesson for children to learn.
S1: Yeah, yeah, definitely, I do wonder I hope those coaches felt so embarrassed and I hope they still I hope they think back on it now and just regret that that they named the team the Molar men. They should be ashamed of themselves, maybe their listeners of this podcast.
S2: It’s also just the ugly team name.
S1: It is. It makes no sense. Like, I don’t know, it lacks creativity.
S2: It is not gender inclusive. I, I just don’t like it off the strength that is ugly. And then you add the sexism into it and it’s like, yeah, yikes. It’s ugly and sexy. Defensible. Yeah. Indefensible. Zero out of ten.
S1: This has been Gateway Feminism, Thank you, Slate plus members, for your membership, which is essential to this show.