Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Arnie Arnesen and her regular woman problem

photo © 2008
Talk Radio News Service

Arnie Arnesen interviews Elizabeth Kucinich on the Talk Radio News Service radio row.

MANCHESTER, N.H. -- Deborah "Arnie" Arnesen is a lot of things: attorney, television producer, radio talk show host. Recently named by The Nation magazine as one of the country's Most Valuable Progressives, Arnesen was also the first woman to run for governor in the state of New Hampshire. In 1992, while facing off against Republican Steve Merrill, to whom she lost by a hair, Arnesen also helped shepherd a young presidential candidate around the state. His name was Bill Clinton.

Arensen has been broadcasting her radio show, Political Chowder (WCCM 1110 AM in Southern New Hampshire), this week from the Talk Radio News Service radio row in Manchester, and I had the good fortune to get Arnie to sit down for an interview on primary night, in between interviews she was giving to media outlets as far flung as
Australian TV and Al Jazeera.

One of Arnesen's great concerns is that, when challenging people to transcend their prejudices, it is done strategically. To make her point, she told me this story:

[As the] first woman to run for governor of my state, I never talked about being a girl. I never did, because I said -- you know why? They notice. I walk into a room, and they see two breasts. So I don't ever have to explain to them who I am. What they have to do is process whether I'm a leader...

About a year into my campaign, it was 1992; I hadn't won the primary yet. So, I had just given a speech on the economy and what we needed to do to dealt with some of the economic issues facing our state. It was at a Rotary Club, so it was predominately male. A guy comes up to me and says, "That was the most economically sophisticated speech I have ever heard." He said, "I am absolutely blown away by you." And I'm thinking to myself, I'm not that good.

And then he looks at me and says, "But it's too bad that I can't vote for you." And I said, "Excuse me? Why?"

And then he gets a little red in the face and he says, "Well, it's because of that woman problem." And I just said, "What?"

And now he's getting really red in the face, and says, "Well you know -- that regular woman problem."

So I looked at him and I said, "How did you describe my speech again?" And he said, "You are obviously very bright, you obviously know your policy issues, and you are very funny and very smart."

And I said, "Let me tell you something. You know that regular woman problem? Well, I'm having it right now." And I said, "If I'm so good at this time of the month, imagine me during the rest of the month." And that was 1992.

Do you know how excited I am that we have a woman [running for president] who is never asked a question about her period? But I was.

You know, I told that story over and over on the campaign trail. Because I knew that for that one person who asked me, there were a lot of other people thinking the same thing. That guy gave me a gift. I used that story over and over...I used it to educate all the men in the room.

--Adele M. Stan

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