Friday, May 25, 2007

How Monica Goodling played the "girl" card

By Emily Bazelon and Dahlia Lithwick - Slate Magazine:

Let's pretend for a moment that the world divides into two types of women: the soft, shy, girly kind who live to serve and the brash, aggressive feminists who live to emasculate. Not our paradigm, but one that's more alive than dead.

When she was White House liaison in Alberto Gonzales' Justice Department, Monica Goodling, 33, had the power to hire and fire seasoned government lawyers who had taken the bar when she was still carrying around a plastic Hello Kitty purse. Goodling, in fact, described herself as a 'type-A woman' who blocked the promotion of another type-A woman basically because the office couldn't tolerate infighting between two strong women. ('I'm not just partisan! I'm sexist, too!') That move sounds pretty grown-up and steely. Yet in her testimony this week before the House judiciary committee, Goodling turned herself back into a little girl, and it's worth pointing out that the tactic worked brilliantly."...

What really shot Goodling into the stratosphere of baby-doll girls were her own whispered words: "At heart," she testified, "I am a fairly quiet girl, who tries to do the right thing and tries to treat people kindly along the way." The idea, of course, was to scrub away her past image as ruthless, power-mad, and zealously Christian....And at the heart of Goodling's ingénue performance? The astonishing claim that while she broke the law, she "didn't mean to." This is the stuff of preschoolers, not cum laude graduates of law school....

But heed the lesson, girlfriends. It works. Republicans on the House judiciary committee had only gentle words and lavish praise for this girlish Monica. Even as she testified to repeatedly breaking the law, these genial uncles lauded her "class" and her courage, falling over themselves to observe how hard testifying must have been for her. Kyle Sampson must be wondering where all this sympathy was when he was on the stand. For the most part, even the Democrats were too bamboozled to be effective. It's no accident that some of the day's most brutal questioning came from Reps. Linda Sanchez, D-Calif.; Maxine Waters, D-Calif.; and Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas; who may well have been as annoyed by Goodling's Girl Secretary performance as they were by the underlying conduct....

What will happen to Goodling? She'll lay low for a while. She'll leave Washington, maybe. And then she'll re-emerge in another position of power; power that she will cast as reflected glow from greater men. Because to help yourself by playing helpless is the stuff of real smarts and savvy. Goodling's day in the spotlight wasn't exactly a good day for feminism. But in the end, maybe she's bamboozled us, too, because if we ever have to testify before Congress, hand us the pigtails and lollipop.

If this doesn't elicit some comment, I'm not sure what will.

No comments: