Feminist Utopia Podcast Transcript for Episode 12
Benita: Welcome to Feminist Utopia, a community dedicated to envisioning and creating a more just society for all.
Welcome to Feminist Utopia. Today we’re imagining a world where patriotism is defined by the democratic ideals of fairness, equality, freedom, and justice that applies to all people regardless of color, gender, or economic status.
Debby: Since Reagan was president, the right has perpetuated this myth that anybody that disagrees with them, but especially liberals, are not “patriotic.” And I’m using patriotic in invisible quotes there. It’s not uncommon to see members of the GOP or people on facebook posting right-wing memes that repeatedly say “Americans who disagree with them; they should leave the U.S.” Or anyone who disagrees with X position must be “un-American.”
The fact is that patriotism isn’t defined as only nationalism, and we can talk a little bit about the difference. Nationalism is about worshipping your own country, believing things like American exceptionalism (you might have heard that phrase before) above all others. Whereas patriotism is about you loving your country. You don’t worry about what Mexico’s doing, you worry about how America is doing. And I’m tired of the GOP trying to claim some moral high ground, the moral high ground, the patriotic moral high ground on this.
Benita: Yup. The GOP I think believes in the patriotism definition that means you know, it’s my country right or wrong, love it or leave it. To Trump and his followers, patriotism means “America first” which includes deporting undocumented immigrants and caging their children in detention centers, restricting visitors from Muslim countries, withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord and other international agreements.
But to others, patriotism means a loyalty to a set of principles and requires dissent and criticism when those in power violate those standards. Their motto is more of the “Love it and Fix it” idea. Believing that America stands for basic democratic values like economic and social equality, mass participation in politics, free speech and civil liberties, and the elimination of the second-class citizenship of women and racial minorities and welcoming the world’s oppressed people.
Debby: This has been an ongoing debate in America since its founding. People criticized Alexander Hamilton being a member of George Washington’s cabinet because Alexander Hamilton hadn’t been born in the American colonies. He was “a foreigner.” He didn’t really understand American values and stuff because he had been raised on a Caribbean island. This debate is nothing new. I think we’re used to hearing it. In the 1930s, “America First” was
a whole movement (Charles Lindbergh supported it) and the most patriotic thing you could do was believe in American exceptionalism. Let’s be honest Charles Lindbergh was a racist, an anti-Semite, misogynist, who thought that Hitler was just some poor misunderstood dude. And then we’ve got stuff as recently as Trump. George W. Bush questioned the patriotism of anybody who questioned Iraq for example. I remember that clearly!
Benita: And then on the other hand, you have President Obama who said “What greater form of patriotism is there than the belief that America is not yet finished. That we’re strong enough to be self-critical. That each successive generation can look upon our imperfections and decide that it is within our power to remake this nation to more closely align with our most highest ideals.” So he was definitely in the “love it and fix it” camp.
Debby: And what’s interesting is that you’re seeing even younger conservatives now falling more into the “love it or fix it” camp. And the reason Benita and I are so obsessed with this right now is because of what’s happened with the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team, but… I want to quote a man named Jeff Groom. He wrote an essay that was published on the American Conservative website. But it called for a change in view within conservative circles about dissent or even basic disagreement. He had served in the Marines overseas, multiple tours. He’s now a popular talking head in conservative circles. He wrote, “I car the course of my service that patriotism might sometimes mean condemning your country, not because you hate your home but because you love it.” And so, I’m sure there’s plenty don’t agree with Mr. Groom on, I guarantee it! But on this? This basic, core value? I think we can find common ground.
Benita: Yes, I agree. I wholeheartedly agree, and I would go so far as to say that dissent is patriotic. Since we were founded and declared that all men were created equal and that we all have basic rights… We’re the first country to guarantee in writing the right to dissent! And as Americans we take that right seriously and have developed a long history of using that right to dissent to push the envelope and create change. You look at the Tea Party. What was that?
Debby: Funded by the Koch brothers! I’m sorry.
Benita: I meant the other Tea Party.
Debby: Oh, the original one. It’s interesting. I love the Tea Party as an example when people get all spun up about Black Lives Matter activists blocking a bridge or something. And I’m like what do you think the Tea Party was? And they’re like well, that was taxation without representation! I’m like, no, this was a bunch of white dudes dressed up as Native
Americans, framing Native Americans, going onto private boats and destroying private property! That’s a lot more disruptive than blocking a bridge during rush hour.
Debby: I love the whole Tea Party thing. Sam Adams was one of the people who instigated that. Up until fairly close to the actual signing of the Declaration of Independence, his cousin John Adams was strongly in favor of finding a peaceful solution to the problems with Great Britain and George III. So thank you Sam Adams for pushing your status quo cousin to do the right thing.
Benita: Yeah we do have a long history… when you think about Harriet Tubman. She walked hundreds of slaves to freedom. And Sojourner Truth with her speech, “Ain’t I a Woman?” If you haven’t read that, we’re going to link it to the show notes. It’s definitely worth a read.
Debby: And here’s something to keep in mind though when you do read it. The actual speech itself was probably different. What we read now was an interpretation at the time, by a fellow abolitionist (male). And so he Southernized her speech a bit even though she had grown up in upstate New York. Sorry, I’m a fount of useless knowledge on stuff like this!
Benita: No, I think that’s pretty useful. I mean we can’t even have a woman write the “Ain’t I a Woman” speech! It had to be redone by a man!
Debby: And I’m sure he was sitting there with his quill and his ink going, “Well, actually…”
Benita: Oh, yeah!
Debby: And then we have more recent ones like Diane Nash who doesn’t get a lot of traction in stories about Civil Rights. But she was right there alongside the men, like Martin Luther King Jr. and so on. And she’s still with us, and I got the privilege of hearing her speak once. And like John Lewis, she’s a firm believer in the concept of “good trouble.” But it’s not always welcomed when you’re a dissenter. Sometimes people get in trouble, like Chelsea Manning….
Debby: …who released that information to WikiLeaks. And there’s still a lot of debate about whether or not that was a “correct” form of dissent. But she had moral issues with what was happening. And there are dissenters who are absolutely beloved like Angela Davis. Well,
she isn’t beloved by the right. But I love her!
Angela Davis was very involved with the Black Panther Party during the Civil Rights movement. She is a professor at the University of California… I want to say Santa Cruz? And she was involved with the Communist Party. A lot of people on the right, blanket hate her. And she skirts pretty close to anti-Semitism sometimes. But she was very involved in the
70s reaching out behind the Iron Curtain, trying to get justice for people… women, black women, black people. She reminds me a lot of bell hooks. She wrote a book that was really popular called Women, Race, and Class. So I’ll put a link to that too. It’s one of those books you read in your Feminist Studies intro course.
Benita: I’ll have to put it on my list!
Debby: Put it on your list! That’s Angela Davis, who’s another national treasure who a lot of people hate. A lot of dissenters become beloved once their gone, Like Malcolm X or Martin Luther King Jr. or Susan B. Anthony who were despised in their lifetimes.
Benita: I think that brings us up to date… to the women’s soccer team.
Benita: We’ll get a bonus and talk about something exciting and good that’s happening. The U.S. Women’s Soccer Team has been defined as an example of civic patriotism, which is a more expansive cosmopolitan expression of affection for the nation. It’s expressed by having pride in our public properties, facilities, and services… and working to keep them first class. And that’s definitely how I would define our women’s soccer team. World Champions!
Debby: You can call it Scandinavian patriotism. Every person from Denmark or Norway has always said, well we have this shining school system… We have that. It was so foreign to me to… why would you brag about that? I hadn’t experienced that kind of stuff because that isn’t… We certainly don’t brag about our bridges.
Benita: We don’t have anything to brag about right now!
Debby: Well, there’s that.
Benita: Our bridges are not in good shape! You know, we used to be able to claim American exceptionalism, but I don’t think that we’ve lived up to that. But it is something exciting to
to have a team that we can take pride in. And I think that they’re.. the women’s soccer team is the best of American ethos. It’s that promise of ever expanding equality, the individuality on the team’s roster: different backgrounds, different sexual orientations. But they all relate to one another like a family. It’s just exciting to have them to cheer for.
Debby: And it’s nice that it’s on an international stage. So many American sports are American! There is the World Series (in spite of its name) doesn’t have teams from Japan or
Cuba or other places… the Dominican Republic… that really love baseball. So we have this diverse group of women representing the best of who we are right now. I really like that.
Benita: And the other thing I like is the thumbing the nose at Donald Trump. That was uh… delivered by Rapinoe. She’s very much in that “love it or fix it” camp. And she stands up to Donald Trump’s attacks on her patriotism and says rightly that she’s very deeply American because she believes we live in a great country that should always strive to be better!
Debby: And evidently that has just set people berzerkers. I will call them the nationalist folk. I don’t even want to say their patriotism is my country, right or wrong because that implies that what they’re feeling is patriotism and not nationalism. I find that the attacks on her… in spite of the fact that they wrap themselves literally in the flag after wins. So they’re doing everything that the right does…. all the congress people wearing their little flag pins and all those things. But this idea that if you don’t just say, “Well, we’re just so star-spangled awesome!” that somehow that’s un-American and unpatriotic and you’re a bad person. And I love that she just basically said yeah, I’m not going to the White House and… Sorry! No. And yes I’m a patriot. It’s taking it back in a way that many people in the Democratic Party should take a look at. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is the same way. There’s a make it better… Instead of trying to chase what the GOP wants, let’s make it better.
Benita: Right, she also said she stands for honesty and truth and wanting to have the conversations. So she’s open to saying, “You can disagree with me; let’s have that discussion.” Debby: Yes. But again, I think that a women’s soccer team (unlike if it were the men’s soccer team) have a unique perspective on the problems that America has with people that aren’t straight, white, Christian males. And their fight for pay equity is a large example of that.
Benita: Yeah, I mean. It was just amazing that the whole stadium erupted in chants of “Equal Pay” following their victory!
Debby: Well, I remember when the women’s soccer team filed the lawsuit originally, I think it was last year. The claims especially in the sports news and stuff was all… Well, the women don’t make as much money. And then the Wall Street Journal (who can not be accused of being a left-wing propaganda machine… believe me, the Wall Street Journal is not “lefty”) found that between 2016 and the end of 2018, the U.S. Women’s Soccer team actually made more money for the U.S. Soccer Federation than the men’s team, by almost 2 million dollars!
Benita: Yeah and then last year they come out and say, oh we’re going to double the prize money for this year’s Women’s World Cup! And they did. They went from $15 million to $30 million. But that same year, they added $40 million to the prize money for men! The men’s team has $440 million dollars of prize money.
Debby: To be fair, FIFA is a corrupt international organization. The next Men’s Cup is going to be in Qatar (in spite of the gross human rights violations and the fact that it’s going to be 120 degrees and there’s no real way to figure out how people are going to play soccer in that kind of heat), because Qatar bribed the right people. There’s a whole great episode on John Oliver on how corrupt FIFA is… But the U.S. Soccer Federation uses this FIFA money as an example of how the women don’t earn as much. Ignoring the gate take in the United States in the sales of jerseys. The United States is different than other countries in that regard in that we prefer our women’s soccer team. Probably because they win!
Benita: Yeah, and I just read that the U.S.A. Women’s home jersey is now the number one soccer jersey, either men or women’s, ever sold on Nike in one season. So they’re outselling every other jersey.
Debby: And it’s clear that the U.S. Soccer Federation pays them incredibly less… not just out of FIFA money, but in general out of their own money. Interesting response, the U.S. Soccer Federation keep saying, “But we promote women in soccer! Look at us, we’re great!” And we’re like hmmm…. It’s like guys saying, “Well you can’t be mad at me. I’m a feminist!”
Benita: Right. I was doing some research, and I came across a quote by Billie Jean King. She said at one time that, “Everyone thinks women should be thrilled when we get crumbs. I want women to have the cake, the icing, and the cherry on top, too!” I love that quote! || want that for the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team! I want them to have the damn cake, the icing, and the cherry on top! They deserve it.
Debby: And if they feel like it, they can throw some crumbs to the men’s soccer team.
Benita: Uh… maybe when they start winning!
Debby: What’s interesting is that now that the women’s team has won their fourth World Cup Title is that Americans notice them. And more than 50 U.S. lawmakers have signed a letter wanting the U.S. Soccer Federation to explain why even now, especially with this study done by the Wall Street Journal and so on. Why does it pay its female players so much less than male players. I’m not just talking like $50 bucks. It’s multiples less!
Benita: Right. When we started doing the research for this episode, and I wanted to look at other sports and other women’s sports. I wanted to be able to say that, well the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team’s fight for pay equity is going to bring everybody else up with it…
Debby: Isn’t that patriotic?
Benita: But yeah, it doesn’t happen though. It seems like every single sport that women participate in has had to have their own fight for pay equity or even just to compete! I mean
it was 1967, and women weren’t allowed to enter the Boston Marathon. And then famously Kathrine Switzer entered that year using her initials only.
Debby: Yep, K.B.
Benita: So, she got in…. K.B. Switzer. And for years, health experts claimed that distance running was damaging to women’s health. And it took one woman running, and it took another couple of years… but we were finally allowed to enter the race in 1972 and actually joined the Olympics in 1984.
Debby: And tennis! Women’s tennis. I mean, there isn’t as much money in running. I mean there’s Nike and so on. Women’s tennis? There’s huge money in that, and still Billie Jean King in spite of being one of the best tennis players on all time… As recently as 2007, women were fighting for pay equity at Wimbledon!
Debby: The premier tennis tournament of the world! This isn’t something that happened fifty years ago. This is something recent! Venus made a failed plea the night before she won the title in 2005. And so in 2006 she went public with the fact that she wanted women tennis players to receive equal prize money to the men.
Debby: The fact that that is controversial is infuriating!
Benita: It is. And finally… I mean Venus did get awarded $1.4 million for her fourth Wimbledon victory (the same amount as the men’s champion Roger Federer.) But it took a hell of a lot of work and fighting. It’s just frustrating. And we’ve seen the same problems in hockey in 2017! The national women’s hockey team announced that it was boycotting the world championship if they didn’t increase women’s wages. They put their careers on the line, but the risk paid off and they reached a four year deal. It wasn’t pay equity. But they did get a $2,000 training stipend, and they get the same travel and insurance provisions that the men’s national team does, and they split a pool of prize money. It’s frustrating to me that these separate fights have to be fought in every single sport.
Debby: And then we wonder why athletes get political. Oh they’re being unpatriotic if they’re not standing there wrapped in a flag, sobbing and singing, and with their hand on their heart with the national anthem. And how dare these women be political. Well, because they are trying to fix something!
Benita: Right! Because they’re being wronged!
Benita: They’re violating state civil rights law in the case of surfing. Just last July, the committee for equity in women’s surfing sent letters to the California Coastal Commission arguing that by treating women unequally, the World’s Surf League was in violation of state civil rights law. These women are risking their lives and fighting for equal pay!
Debby: Yes, and that is not unpatriotic. That is the most patriotic thing you can do is fight for equality.
Benita: Yeah, and it happens in basketball, too.
Debby: Oh, the WNBA. Yes.
Benita: Pay disparities are insane. The minimum starting salary for men is about 8 x what the average WNBA players make. 2018 A’ja Wilson was the star rookie, and she earned about $53,000. And the top NBA draft pick Diondre Ayton earned $6.8 million compared to $53,000!
Debby: The NBA can argue that well, we aren’t getting the same ticket sales. We aren’t getting the same thing. But if you don’t invest in the women’s leagues, they’re not ever going to be as popular! That is part of it. By investing in the league… the advertising and the promotions and the mainstreaming which the NBA is effectively in charge of!
Benita: And it’s not just that. It’s the media coverage, too!
Benita: In the 30 year since Title IX legislation granted women equal playing time, the world of sports journalism has yet to catch up with the law. Coverage of women’s sports lag far behind men’s. And when they do, they focus on the athlete’s femininity and sexuality over their achievements.
Debby: Well, and on that cheery note… We have action items, yay!
Benita: One of the best things that you can do is just support your local women’s teams. Houston has a women’s soccer team, The Dash, that I have been to games at and continue to support. And there are softball teams, women’s hockey teams… Find out what’s happening in your community and support those teams.
Debby: And doesn’t mean you actually have to go to a game. Just follow them on Twitter. Follow them on Instagram. Follow them on Facebook. Those likes and follows, the number of those… influence companies like Nike. They influence the media to see the team’s importance.
Benita: Right. Ultraviolet has a petition right now that you can sign that demands equal pay for soccer players and we’ll have that link to the show notes. I’m not sure how long that’s gonna be available so… you might want to get right on that. But that’s a quick and easy thing you can do, too.
Debby: Thank you so much for joining us today at Feminist Utopia. If you like our work, please give us a review on Itunes, Stitcher, or wherever you access our podcast so others can find it as well. You may also become a Feminist Utopia patron at Patreon.com to show your appreciation. Remember, patrons get perks!
Benita: And check out our blog and other resources at our website: FeministUtopia.net Email us your idea of what a feminist utopia would look like or any questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org
We appreciate you taking the time to listen and grow with us.
Feminist Utopia is created by Debby Williams and Benita Malone.