On this episode of the Agony Column, Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri discusses her new memoir Plenty Ladylike. She honed her political skills in high school and used the same smarts to achieve re-election when it was predicted that she would certainly lose.
Plus, William MacAskill — no relation — discusses his book Doing Good Better and his work in Effective Altruism, which uses statistics to measure just what helps the most people achieve the best outcomes.
Internalizing Determination to Overcome Sexism
Claire McCaskill wastes no time getting to the point in ‘Plenty Ladylike.’ In the opening passage, we meet a young woman seeking office for the first time, knocking on 11,432 doors. One potential constituent, a man (it matters), looks her up and down and then says, “You’re too young. Your hair is too long. You’re a girl. No way are you tough enough for politics. Those politicians in Jeff City’d eat you alive. Go find yourself a husband.”
Suffice it to say she didn’t follow his advice and instead turned it into energy and determination to help her maintain her drive. ‘Plenty Ladylike’ is a top-notch memoir that moves like lightning and keeps it’s focus. Having set scene, McCaskill introduces us to her very deeply American family, men and women who all found the time to involve themselves in civic matters. From high school on, McCaskill learned that getting to know voters and their needs and desires was the best way to earn their votes.
But ‘Plenty Ladylike’ has a rather dark side as well. In her journeys through politics, most in the South (I think this matters), McCaskill encountered a steady stream of overt sexism. She was given very un-ladylike appellations by men who should have known better. While we are currently being slapped in the face by the visions of our incipient racism, we’re clearly not past sexism either, not by a long shot. McCaskill’s experiences are disturbingly eye-opening. Apparently we are not better than this.
All of this makes for a toe-tapping, tense read. even as she campaigned for the Senate as recently as 2012, McCaskill found herself in a battle where she her deep, smart knowledge of the political process to outwit her ultra-sexist opponents. We all know what he said. Finding out what she thought is a joyful revelation. Claire McCaskill reveals herself to be ‘Plenty Ladylike,’ and redefines the term at the same time. In her world, in our world, “ladylike” means smart, determined, unwavering, pragmatic and honorable. These are exactly the qualities I want to see in any politician, regardless of sex or party. There are plenty of scenes in this book that will make your hair stand on end. How you handle the styling afterward is up to you.