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Monday, May 24, 2010

Rice and Beans

That would be former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and documentary filmmaker, Randy Bean.

Reportedly, the two co-own a home in Palo Alto, CA, and share a line of credit.

They've been friends for twenty-five years.

But, they're not lesbians. Reportedly.

Oh, the rumors about Condi Rice have been swirling for years, but no one has really paid any attention to them. Mostly, the cognescenti "inside the Beltway" say she's "bisexual".

Yeah. Whatever.

She is or she isn't. It's really her business, isn't it?

Or, is it?

"Coming out" is a very personal thing. No one can do it for you. I'm not a big proponent of "outing" anyone. However, when one is in the public eye - indeed, when one wields political power which can make a difference in the lives of others - I begin to equivocate.

As Secretary of State, Rice faced attacks from liberals in the gay community over the State Department's silence to rebuke Iran for the hanging of gay teenagers.

The Human Rights Campaign called on Rice in 2005 to condemn Iran's human rights abuses after the hanging of two gay teenagers, and to express indignation over other "horrific human rights abuses against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people across the globe".

Rice did not.

The former Secretary has, to date, also remained silent on whether gays should be allowed to serve in the military and has not commented on the permanent partners immigration act.

And, we all know that silence, more often than not, equals consent.

The rumors about Ms. Rice's sexual orientation intensified in early 2007 when people began to wonder why-oh-why in heaven's name, did John McCain choose Sarah Palin as his VEEP rather than Condi Rice.

For example, in mid-May, 2007, about 146,000 online surfers evinced a great interest in the private life of Ms. Rice, The Sunday Times reported. Folks were searching for the adequate information using only two words – ‘Condoleezza’ and ‘lesbian.’

Of course, being called a lesbian shouldn't be any big deal, but the reality is that for women (particularly single women) in public positions of power, these kinds of rumors can be very damaging.

Rumors of lesbianism have dogged women like Janet Reno, Donna Shalala, and Hillary Clinton (to name a few of the most recent women in power) for years, regardless of their veracity.

Much ado has been made about Eleanor Roosevelt's supposed lesbian affairs. Now, rumors are swirling around about Solicitor General and Supreme Court Nominee Elena Kagan.

But whether Rice or any of the political figures gossiped about actually are lesbians is not the point. It's the use of lesbianism as a slur that is so disturbing to me.

It's based not only on the assumption that a strong, confidant woman must not be a "real" (read: heterosexual) woman, but that only women in heterosexual relationships are "real" women. By implication, lesbians and unmarried straight women are always somehow "less than."

If this is what passes for "vetting" someone's qualifications for a particular job, no wonder there are so few women in power.

Except, of course, for women like Sarah Palin, who is suddenly everywhere on the news, with the audacity to criticize everything from the present administration's foreign policy to the oil spill in the Gulf.

She who can see Russia from her house and chants "Drill, baby, drill" when she doesn't know what else to say - which is often.

But, you see, she's 'normal'. I mean, just look at her family!  Why, they are just as American as apple pie and Chevrolet.

I guess it's all in the eye of the beholder.  In my view, they are a stellar example of the old adage that a little bit of power in the wrong hands can do great damage.

The worst of it is that, because of the rumor and innuendo swirling around Condi Rice she was passed up for - or, perhaps declined the possibility of - the VEEP position.

That would have made a Very Strong ticket against Obama-Biden - especially among those Democrats who were angry at the Obama Team's apparent snub of Hillary Clinton for VEEP.

Add the race card to the gender mix and you've got a pretty potent political stew - one, I'm personally relieved, was never made.  It just might have changed the course of history.

However, someone in the Republican Party determined that, even though Rice was more of a hawk than McCain, the issue of sexual orientation would be too much to overcome.

Or, perhaps, Ms. Rice decided she had had enough and would return to her Palo Alto home and her position at Stanford as soon as Bush stepped down - which she apparently has done.

Enter Sarah Palin and the making of an American millionairess.

The only thing presidential about this woman - what she really seems to be all about - is The Benjamins.

And, like a true American 'success' story, she has very humble origins.

Like, Rice and Beans.


Jim said...

If, and I certainly do not know, the lady is a lesbian or is bi-sexual, why in the world does it matter? She was not being considered for 'vice-wife!' If that is how the country was gifted with Ms. Palin and her family, it is a tragedy of stupid thinking.


IT said...

One of the great benefits of coming out of the closet is spiking the presumed insult of being called a lesbian when speaking out. The sneers and attitude of men towards powerful or vocal women, particularly in male-dominated professions, are completely eradicated when it is the truth. It's not an insult to me to be called a lesbian. I long for a world in which it is not an insult or a slur, to anyone.

Is Condi in a "Boston Marriage"? I don't know. I don't believe in outing, either, unless people are actively working against the community (Roy Ashburn, George Rekers, Larry Craig).

But I do know that I think there's a special responsibility for those in influential positions to be out and honest. In Condi's case, she has nothing to lose if she were to come out (were she gay). Stanford is a GLBT-friendly environment (she helped make it so, in her well known support of trans faculty who transitioned when she was provost). I know the Log Cabin Republicans and GOProud would be delighted to welcome her into their ranks, if that's how it was.

Meanwhile, the only way to challenge the coy "is she or isn't she?" comments is for women at every level to come out. Don't let the closet be a prison imposed upon us. Defeat the power for the word to hurt. And make it safe for all lesbians, from boi to butch to femme to earth mother, and even more for all WOMEN, to be who they are.

Grandmère Mimi said...

Brilliant headline, Elizabeth.

[McCain-Rice] would have made a Very Strong ticket against Obama-Biden - especially among those Democrats who were angry at the Obama Team's apparent snub of Hillary Clinton for VEEP.

Maybe so, but not for this Democrat. Whatever Condi Rice's sexual orientation, there's no way I could have voted for her for any office, unless perhaps if Godzilla was the alternative.

the Reverend boy said...

The one thing that disturbs me about Elena Kagan's nomination is how the administration seem to jump just a little too quickly to say "no, she's not a lesbian," almost as if ... almost, mind you ... they were saying "move right along, there's nothing to see."

I could be wrong, of course, but that's how I took it.

Still, on balance, coming out or remaining in the closet is a personal choice. A most personal choice.

The fact that someone in the 21st Century would have to make that choice tells me we still have a long way to go.

Separately, I today posted on an article from Politico (of all places!) about how the LGBT Congressional Staffers are being more focused on coming out and being public about their orientation as opposed to being a support group for those in the closet.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Hey, Jim - the point is that her sexual orientation doesn't matter. It's that it's being used as a hammer. As Forrest Gump says, "Stupid is as stupid does."

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

IT - my dear, I couldn't have said it any better. The absolute antidote to the oppression of the closet is to open the closet door. Wide. And, keep it open.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Mimi - I know. I know. At the end of the day, I think things worked out for the best, but at the time I was pretty pissed about the way Hillary was treated.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

ReverendBoy - Thanks for the headsup on that article. I'll go over and read it later tonight.

Laurie and Mary said...

There's a great article by Maureen Dowd called All the Single Ladies. I'm just exhausted by the fact that many people perceive a woman who is unmarried as somehow less than, even by our blessed church. And I do agree, that those in positions of power do have a responsibility to be transparent and honest. But why does a person's dating/marriage status matter at all?

IT said...

Along these lines, did you see this story from Religion Dispatches, on lesbian panic?

Anonymous said...

Ok Elizabeth, the other day I asserted that Kagen's romantic relationship was not relevant to the position she is seeking to hold on the Supreme Court. I note that after I offered this opinion several other people jumped in to say that plaid shirts plus short hair do not always equal a lesbian. My point is that even in this group of progressive readers there is still an urge to distance onesself from anything perceived in our society in a negative light. Questioning a person's sexuality sends the public down a spiraling staircase and at the bottom is an abyss. This isn't relevant to the job description. Remaining silent regarding human atrocities is wrong and should be questioned by any person regardless of their sexual orientation. But why would you hold a gay or lesbian person to a higher standrard of morality in questioning human atrocities to other gays and lesbians? Do gays and lesbians have a higher duty to other gays and lesbians? Am I not my brothers keeper whether he is gay or straight? Shouldn't all people speak out against any indignity done against another person? I am not trying to be disrespectful to you. Asking questions helps me think through issues.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

"Anonymous" - I would really appreciate your signing your note. Make up a name. Just let me think I'm talking to real person.

If an LGBT person is being persecuted or oppressed, and another LGBT person is in a position of power or political influence to improve that person's life, I think it's reasonable to expect that the LGBT person in power would try to help another LGBT person. Not a higher standard. Empathy.

Substitute any "target" group for LGBT in the above paragraph.

African American. Woman.

Does that help?

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thanks Laurie and Mary. I love that article by Mo. Dowd. She's brilliant.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

IT - I read that article a few days ago. It's great.

MarkBrunson said...

Whatever Condi Rice's sexual orientation, there's no way I could have voted for her for any office, unless perhaps if Godzilla was the alternative.

At which point I would remind you of Godzilla's previous commitment to child welfare and the national security (after an admittedly shaky start), and his status as a living symbol against nuclear proliferation, not to mention his influence on Monster Island.

Grandmère Mimi said...

True, Mark. I forgot about all the good deeds. Perhaps I would have thrown my vote Godzilla's way after all.

Hiram said...

A picky point: It was Tina Fey, while playing Palin in a SNL skit, who said, "I can see Russia from my house."

I am not a great fan of Sarah Palin. She is something of a "knee-jerk conservative," not a thoughtful one.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Palin actual quote was: "They're our next-door neighbors and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska."

Hiram said...

That's true - if you look at a globe, Alaska and Russia are not at all that far apart, and there are several islands in US territory from which you can see either a Russian island or the Russian mainland.

While Alaskans can't see Moscow and all its inner workings any more than we in "the lower 48" can, they are more aware of Russia than we are, especially those who are old enough to remember the cold war.

As for Ms Rice and Ms Bean - who knows what their relationship is? Perhaps they are very good friends who helped one another out in the early days of their professional lives and have found that mutual help useful - without there being any sexual involvement or emotional entanglement. If is is a full-scale but hidden lesbian relationship, I agree with you - they should be honest about it. If it were such, their silence does not help those with same-sex attractions, it does not help conservatives or liberals, and it certainly does not help them as individuals.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Anonymous (have the courage of your convictions and sign your name and I'll publish your post).

Sarah Palin? Beautiful? Physically, perhaps. Not if the source of beauty is on the inside.

Me? Jealous? Of Sarah Palin? Only if my standards got exceedingly lower.

L C Goodman said...

I totally agree.
I think her policies were terrible.

L C Goodman said...

I liked this artical very much and found it inlighting on, not one, but on several points that I did not know. Very interesting.