Analysis Politics

What the Women For (and Against) Herman Cain Revealed

Amy McCarthy

Herman Cain's campaign went beyond traditional sexism in politics and political reporting, and  beyond traditional victim-blaming and skepticism, in part because the campaign enrolled women to attack other women. Cain might be out of the race, but the Women For Herman Cain are not. Their votes are as much in play as ever, and I don't know that there's much that progressives can do to change their minds.

Prior to hearing that GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain was ‘suspending’ his campaign, a friend pointed me in the direction of the newest section of Cain’s website, Women For Herman Cain. On this site, you could drop off your words of support for the flailing candidate.

If you’re looking for a reason to be really aggravated or confused, I suggest you check it out. On this page, Cain’s campaign staff created a place for women to express their support (and justifications of that support) for Cain as he bumbled his way toward the White House.

Just for context, a few examples of these testimonials: 

“Mrs Cain, I just want to say that you are an amazing woman to have to survive this liberal lynching of your husband. I and many other woman are standing by your man because he shows integrity, faithfulness, and inspiration. But we are also standing by you. I am praying for you to get through this one day at a time. The enemy may set doubts, but the Lord will clear your path. God bless you Mrs. Cain, soon to be First Lady( and you certainly own that title). Lisa Watkins”
“Dear Mrs. Cain Don’t pay attention to these pathetic husbandless women who are jealous of women like you in happy long-term marriages. These vindictive women can’t find a husband or keep one. They are like stalkers who try to latch on to any man who shows a bit of kindness or attention to them. When these unstable women come out of the woodwork to make accusations about Herman just say, “Honey, get a life, I believe my husband.” We want you to be our First Lady Mrs. Cain!”
“Mr. Cain (aka The Hermanator)–It’s very upsetting to witness your campaign and personal life subjected to this American ‘impact of reality television’. It’s pathetic and shameful women are so desperate for their five minutes of fame that they would position themselves against the greatest potential president Americans could be blessed enough to have. I am a proud supporter of you and you should never let these despondent attempts of sabotaging your campaign affect you. The caucus and primary system is entirely extra-constitutional thus has become an exhausting and vexing process, however you must stay strong!! You have so much to offer and America needs you! Please continue as hopeful and know that college age women will never stop supporting the Cain Train! 9-9-9 is perfection, let’s make it a reality.– Your steadfast supporter, Margaux “

Never mind the spelling, grammar, and the grandiose assumptions about Herman Cain’s leadership and political aptitude – these women have very clearly aligned themselves with an agenda (and a man) that obviously doesn’t respect their sexual boundaries, their contributions, and the issues that matter to them.

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What’s worse, I think, are the slurs lobbed at Ginger White (the woman who alleges a 13-year sexual affair with Herman Cain) and the women who have accused him of sexual harrassment. Facing criticism from the GOP presidential field (see Jon Hunstman’s “bimbo eruption’’ remark), being called ‘pathetic’ and ‘stalkers’ by the Women For Herman Cain, and accused of being a gold digger by the candidate himself – who is listening to what they have to say?

This is beyond the traditional sexism in politics and political reporting. This is beyond traditional victim-blaming and skepticism. The Women For Herman Cain have drawn a line in the sand – Herman Cain’s presidential aspirations mean more than the mental health, dignity, and rights of the women who are ‘against’ him.

According to the campaign, if you’re against Herman Cain, you’re against his wife. The Cain campaign is casting Cain’s wife Gloria as a supportive stand-by-your-man type.  A tweet sent by the staff last week says ‘Now women can stand with Mr. Cain’s wife, Gloria, to support Herman Cain!” 

Gloria Cain looks like a sweet lady, but that doesn’t mean that she hasn’t been completely duped by this man, or that she’s not putting on a smiling face for the cameras and the candidacy–she’s standing with Herman and she wants you to stand against Ginger White, Sharon Bialek, and Cain’s other 3 sexual harassment victims. Apparently, her call worked.  Some women felt compelled to drop off their sometimes mean-spirited and mostly uninformed opinions about the women who are ‘against’ Herman Cain.

And so we’re back to the same battle lines as ever–women who are willing to stand up for things that they feel are wrong, and women who are willing to stand by the men who can do nothing wrong. As someone firmly on the other side of the aisle, I have no idea how the Women for Herman Cain can defend a man who is described at best as a ‘skirt-chaser’ and at worse a sexual harasser. I think a lot of feminists feel like they are trying to empty out the ocean with a bucket. In this case, though, there are other women who are actively tossing the water back in. The facts don’t matter, and the personal appeals from Cain’s accusers are irrelevant. What does matter, apparently, is providing a space for some good old fashioned women-bashing. 

The Women For Herman Cain page isn’t a discussion of the finer points of policy, it’s a place where Herman Cain can look to and say “See! Women don’t think I am a sexual harasser and adulterer!”

…except for those of us that do.

Luckily for women, common sense, and the truth, Cain has ‘suspended’ his campaign. We all know what that means –  it’s over, and these allegations took him out. While that is a victory for Cain’s accusers and victims everywhere, it still leaves us with way too many women who will be jumping on the next frontrunner’s bandwagon, and all signs point to Newt Gingrich.

Gingrich’s track record with women in his personal life and as a policymaker is well known. He’s no more pro-woman than Cain, and the Women for Herman Cain will line up to give them their money and support. Unfortunately for them, there is no “Women For Newt” page on Gingrich’s website for them to pour on the praise. I don’t think we’ll be seeing one until it becomes politically advantageous for him to, you know, consider the opinions of the majority of the voting age population.

The GOP is using women as pawns in their sick little anti-woman game, and I think they’re winning. They are clearly doing a better job of convincing thousands or millions of women that they have better plans for their health and well being than the Democrats who are consistently passing pro-choice and pro-woman legislation.

Herman Cain might be out of the race, but the Women For Herman Cain are not. Their votes are as much in play as ever, and I don’t know that there’s much that progressives can do to change their minds.

Culture & Conversation Human Rights

Let’s Stop Conflating Self-Care and Actual Care

Katie Klabusich

It's time for a shift in the use of “self-care” that creates space for actual care apart from the extra kindnesses and important, small indulgences that may be part of our self-care rituals, depending on our ability to access such activities.

As a chronically ill, chronically poor person, I have feelings about when, why, and how the phrase “self-care” is invoked. When International Self-Care Day came to my attention, I realized that while I laud the effort to prevent some of the 16 million people the World Health Organization reports die prematurely every year from noncommunicable diseases, the American notion of self-care—ironically—needs some work.

I propose a shift in the use of “self-care” that creates space for actual care apart from the extra kindnesses and important, small indulgences that may be part of our self-care rituals, depending on our ability to access such activities. How we think about what constitutes vital versus optional care affects whether/when we do those things we should for our health and well-being. Some of what we have come to designate as self-care—getting sufficient sleep, treating chronic illness, allowing ourselves needed sick days—shouldn’t be seen as optional; our culture should prioritize these things rather than praising us when we scrape by without them.

International Self-Care Day began in China, and it has spread over the past few years to include other countries and an effort seeking official recognition at the United Nations of July 24 (get it? 7/24: 24 hours a day, 7 days a week) as an important advocacy day. The online academic journal SelfCare calls its namesake “a very broad concept” that by definition varies from person to person.

“Self-care means different things to different people: to the person with a headache it might mean a buying a tablet, but to the person with a chronic illness it can mean every element of self-management that takes place outside the doctor’s office,” according to SelfCare. “[I]n the broadest sense of the term, self-care is a philosophy that transcends national boundaries and the healthcare systems which they contain.”

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In short, self-care was never intended to be the health version of duct tape—a way to patch ourselves up when we’re in pieces from the outrageous demands of our work-centric society. It’s supposed to be part of our preventive care plan alongside working out, eating right, getting enough sleep, and/or other activities that are important for our personalized needs.

The notion of self-care has gotten a recent visibility boost as those of us who work in human rights and/or are activists encourage each other publicly to recharge. Most of the people I know who remind themselves and those in our movements to take time off do so to combat the productivity anxiety embedded in our work. We’re underpaid and overworked, but still feel guilty taking a break or, worse, spending money on ourselves when it could go to something movement- or bill-related.

The guilt is intensified by our capitalist system having infected the self-care philosophy, much as it seems to have infected everything else. Our bootstrap, do-it-yourself culture demands we work to the point of exhaustion—some of us because it’s the only way to almost make ends meet and others because putting work/career first is expected and applauded. Our previous president called it “uniquely American” that someone at his Omaha, Nebraska, event promoting “reform” of (aka cuts to) Social Security worked three jobs.

“Uniquely American, isn’t it?” he said. “I mean, that is fantastic that you’re doing that. (Applause.) Get any sleep? (Laughter.)”

The audience was applauding working hours that are disastrous for health and well-being, laughing at sleep as though our bodies don’t require it to function properly. Bush actually nailed it: Throughout our country, we hold Who Worked the Most Hours This Week competitions and attempt to one-up the people at the coffee shop, bar, gym, or book club with what we accomplished. We have reached a point where we consider getting more than five or six hours of sleep a night to be “self-care” even though it should simply be part of regular care.

Most of us know intuitively that, in general, we don’t take good enough care of ourselves on a day-to-day basis. This isn’t something that just happened; it’s a function of our work culture. Don’t let the statistic that we work on average 34.4 hours per week fool you—that includes people working part time by choice or necessity, which distorts the reality for those of us who work full time. (Full time is defined by the Internal Revenue Service as 30 or more hours per week.) Gallup’s annual Work and Education Survey conducted in 2014 found that 39 percent of us work 50 or more hours per week. Only 8 percent of us on average work less than 40 hours per week. Millennials are projected to enjoy a lifetime of multiple jobs or a full-time job with one or more side hustles via the “gig economy.”

Despite worker productivity skyrocketing during the past 40 years, we don’t work fewer hours or make more money once cost of living is factored in. As Gillian White outlined at the Atlantic last year, despite politicians and “job creators” blaming financial crises for wage stagnation, it’s more about priorities:

Though productivity (defined as the output of goods and services per hours worked) grew by about 74 percent between 1973 and 2013, compensation for workers grew at a much slower rate of only 9 percent during the same time period, according to data from the Economic Policy Institute.

It’s no wonder we don’t sleep. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been sounding the alarm for some time. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society recommend people between 18 and 60 years old get seven or more hours sleep each night “to promote optimal health and well-being.” The CDC website has an entire section under the heading “Insufficient Sleep Is a Public Health Problem,” outlining statistics and negative outcomes from our inability to find time to tend to this most basic need.

We also don’t get to the doctor when we should for preventive care. Roughly half of us, according to the CDC, never visit a primary care or family physician for an annual check-up. We go in when we are sick, but not to have screenings and discuss a basic wellness plan. And rarely do those of us who do go tell our doctors about all of our symptoms.

I recently had my first really wonderful check-up with a new primary care physician who made a point of asking about all the “little things” leading her to encourage me to consider further diagnosis for fibromyalgia. I started crying in her office, relieved that someone had finally listened and at the idea that my headaches, difficulty sleeping, recovering from illness, exhaustion, and pain might have an actual source.

Considering our deeply-ingrained priority problems, it’s no wonder that when I post on social media that I’ve taken a sick day—a concept I’ve struggled with after 20 years of working multiple jobs, often more than 80 hours a week trying to make ends meet—people applaud me for “doing self-care.” Calling my sick day “self-care” tells me that the commenter sees my post-traumatic stress disorder or depression as something I could work through if I so chose, amplifying the stigma I’m pushing back on by owning that a mental illness is an appropriate reason to take off work. And it’s not the commenter’s fault; the notion that working constantly is a virtue is so pervasive, it affects all of us.

Things in addition to sick days and sleep that I’ve had to learn are not engaging in self-care: going to the doctor, eating, taking my meds, going to therapy, turning off my computer after a 12-hour day, drinking enough water, writing, and traveling for work. Because it’s so important, I’m going to say it separately: Preventive health care—Pap smears, check-ups, cancer screenings, follow-ups—is not self-care. We do extras and nice things for ourselves to prevent burnout, not as bandaids to put ourselves back together when we break down. You can’t bandaid over skipping doctors appointments, not sleeping, and working your body until it’s a breath away from collapsing. If you’re already at that point, you need straight-up care.

Plenty of activities are self-care! My absolutely not comprehensive personal list includes: brunch with friends, adult coloring (especially the swear word books and glitter pens), soy wax with essential oils, painting my toenails, reading a book that’s not for review, a glass of wine with dinner, ice cream, spending time outside, last-minute dinner with my boyfriend, the puzzle app on my iPad, Netflix, participating in Caturday, and alone time.

My someday self-care wish list includes things like vacation, concerts, the theater, regular massages, visiting my nieces, decent wine, the occasional dinner out, and so very, very many books. A lot of what constitutes self-care is rather expensive (think weekly pedicures, spa days, and hobbies with gear and/or outfit requirements)—which leads to the privilege of getting to call any part of one’s routine self-care in the first place.

It would serve us well to consciously add an intersectional view to our enthusiasm for self-care when encouraging others to engage in activities that may be out of reach financially, may disregard disability, or may not be right for them for a variety of other reasons, including compounded oppression and violence, which affects women of color differently.

Over the past year I’ve noticed a spike in articles on how much of the emotional labor burden women carry—at the Toast, the Atlantic, Slate, the Guardian, and the Huffington Post. This category of labor disproportionately affects women of color. As Minaa B described at the Huffington Post last month:

I hear the term self-care a lot and often it is defined as practicing yoga, journaling, speaking positive affirmations and meditation. I agree that those are successful and inspiring forms of self-care, but what we often don’t hear people talking about is self-care at the intersection of race and trauma, social justice and most importantly, the unawareness of repressed emotional issues that make us victims of our past.

The often-quoted Audre Lorde wrote in A Burst of Light: “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”

While her words ring true for me, they are certainly more weighted and applicable for those who don’t share my white and cisgender privilege. As covered at Ravishly, the Feminist Wire, Blavity, the Root, and the Crunk Feminist Collective recently, self-care for Black women will always have different expressions and roots than for white women.

But as we continue to talk about self-care, we need to be clear about the difference between self-care and actual care and work to bring the necessities of life within reach for everyone. Actual care should not have to be optional. It should be a priority in our culture so that it can be a priority in all our lives.

News Politics

Clinton Campaign Announces Tim Kaine as Pick for Vice President

Ally Boguhn

The prospect of Kaine’s selection has been criticized by some progressives due to his stances on issues including abortion as well as bank and trade regulation.

The Clinton campaign announced Friday that Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) has been selected to join Hillary Clinton’s ticket as her vice presidential candidate.

“I’m thrilled to announce my running mate, @TimKaine, a man who’s devoted his life to fighting for others,” said Clinton in a tweet.

“.@TimKaine is a relentless optimist who believes no problem is unsolvable if you put in the work to solve it,” she added.

The prospect of Kaine’s selection has been criticized by some progressives due to his stances on issues including abortion as well as bank and trade regulation.

Kaine signed two letters this week calling for the regulations on banks to be eased, according to a Wednesday report published by the Huffington Post, thereby ”setting himself up as a figure willing to do battle with the progressive wing of the party.”

Charles Chamberlain, executive director of the progressive political action committee Democracy for America, told the New York Times that Kaine’s selection “could be disastrous for our efforts to defeat Donald Trump in the fall” given the senator’s apparent support of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Just before Clinton’s campaign made the official announcement that Kaine had been selected, the senator praised the TPP during an interview with the Intercept, though he signaled he had ultimately not decided how he would vote on the matter.

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Kaine’s record on reproductive rights has also generated controversy as news began to circulate that he was being considered to join Clinton’s ticket. Though Kaine recently argued in favor of providing Planned Parenthood with access to funding to fight the Zika virus and signed on as a co-sponsor of the Women’s Health Protection Act—which would prohibit states and the federal government from enacting restrictions on abortion that aren’t applied to comparable medical services—he has also been vocal about his personal opposition to abortion.

In a June interview on NBC’s Meet the Press, Kaine told host Chuck Todd he was “personally” opposed to abortion. He went on, however, to affirm that he still believed “not just as a matter of politics, but even as a matter of morality, that matters about reproduction and intimacy and relationships and contraception are in the personal realm. They’re moral decisions for individuals to make for themselves. And the last thing we need is government intruding into those personal decisions.”

As Rewire has previously reported, though Kaine may have a 100 percent rating for his time in the Senate from Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the campaign website for his 2005 run for governor of Virginia promised he would “work in good faith to reduce abortions” by enforcing Virginia’s “restrictions on abortion and passing an enforceable ban on partial birth abortion that protects the life and health of the mother.”

As governor, Kaine did support some existing restrictions on abortion, including Virginia’s parental consent law and a so-called informed consent law. He also signed a 2009 measure that created “Choose Life” license plates in the state, and gave a percentage of the proceeds to a crisis pregnancy network.

Regardless of Clinton’s vice president pick, the “center of gravity in the Democratic Party has shifted in a bold, populist, progressive direction,” said Stephanie Taylor, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, in an emailed statement. “It’s now more important than ever that Hillary Clinton run an aggressive campaign on core economic ideas like expanding Social Security, debt-free college, Wall Street reform, and yes, stopping the TPP. It’s the best way to unite the Democratic Party, and stop Republicans from winning over swing voters on bread-and-butter issues.”

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article included a typo that misidentified Sen. Tim Kaine as a Republican. We regret this error.