Thursday, February 08, 2007

How do you solve a problem like McEwan?

There was a lot of interest in the feminist blogosphere when Amanda Marcotte from Pandagon and Melissa McEwan of Shakespeare's Sister (I mean, of course, the blog rather than the early 90s band) were hired by John Edwards to blog for his campaign. Not any more.

They been accused of having an anti-Catholic bias for criticising the Vatican's stance on contraception and abortion, and at the time of going to press, it appears that the campaign manager has given in and fired them - for the time being, at least. Now, two things bother me about this. The first is that these views were not expressed in the context of the Edwards campaign, they were expressed on their blogs. The second is that these women are working for a Democratic candidate, so their pro-choice views shouldn't exactly come as a surprise. The Washington Post cites Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights But Only if They Look and Act Just Like Us as taking issue with the fact that "they criticized the pope and the church for its opposition to homosexuality, abortion and contraception, sometimes using profanity." They're left-wing feminist bloggers. Donohue doesn't really have a problem with the language, he doesn't really have a problem with the fact that these women are expressing their views in their own personal blogs, he has a problem with the fact that politicians take them - take us - seriously. And that scares the hell out of him.

Captain's Quarters suggests that this is a blow for all bloggers who want to be taken seriously in the public domain, whilst simultaneously taking the opportunity to bash Edwards - "The episode reveals the lack of vetting done by the Edwards campaign before hiring the two bloggers, and sets back the ability of bloggers to mainstream themselves into traditional political roles." I have numerous problems with this, not least that both Marcotte and McEwan have never made any bones about their pro-choice views or the fact that they use strong language to get their point across. Even the most casual vetting job would have revealed this, and whilst I have reservations about the management of Edwards' campaign so far, I don't think his staffers are stupid. The very fact that he hired M&M shows his committment to grassroots Democrats, to women's rights, and to what the GOP would sneerigly call 'the gay agenda'. That's the problem here, not the alleged blasphemy from his bloggers. Abortion and contraception are being put on the agenda, and they're being taken seriously. And if the Christian Right are prepared to fight dirty - and when have they ever done anything else, with their placard-waving protests outside abortion clinics? - well, so are their opposition.

And we are their opposition. I'm saying that, not as a Democrat or an Edwards supporter or as someone eligable to vote in the US, since I'm none of those things. I'm saying it as one of the voices that Donohoe and his cronies are trying to suppress. Despite what the blogger at Captain's Quarters might think, Marcotte & McEwan have mainstreamed themselves into traditional political roles, partly because the views they expressed may have been tough-talkin', but they weren't all that radical. Contentious, yes, but radical? The Democrats are a party of choice far more than the Republicans will ever be, and feminists have been demanding safe, legal abortion and accessible contraception for an entire century, if not longer.

This isn't an outcry over the bloggers Edwards hired, it's about the views he represents. And whilst I think that taking such an unequivocal stance will actually hurt him politically, I applaud the fact that he's done it. I sincerely hope that both bloggers - two good, principled writers - are reinstated, and that an apology is made to them for screwing them around. Because mainstream politics needs women like Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwan, and whatever their future on the Edwards campaign may be, they're sure as hell not going away.


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