Sunday, September 14, 2008

Gloria Stienem Discredited Palin: LA Times Reader Commentary

The article you are probably looking for: 

*Gloria Steinem Decries Palin: Palin shares nothing but a chromosome with Clinton*

Read below for different viewpoint in reaction to Gloria Stienem's article on Palin (link above)


Where are the pro-Palin feminists?

Amanda Marcotte says it's impossible to be both socially conservative and feminist. Katherine Mangu-Ward offers herself as an example of a feminist who supports McCain's running mate.
September 9, 2008

Published in the Los Angeles Times

Today's question: Could a socially conservative female candidate ever appeal to feminists? Previously, Marcotte and Mangu-Ward discussed Gloria Steinem's comments on Sarah Palin.

Social conservatism harms women
Point: Amanda Marcotte

It's almost embarrassing to answer the question of whether or not a socially conservative woman could appeal to feminists, because the answer is a tautology. The two categories -- social conservative and feminist -- are fundamentally opposed on the basic issues of gender roles and women's rights. The libertarian strain of movement conservatism isn't necessarily opposed to women's rights, but the whole point of social conservatism is to roll back the social gains made by various groups, especially women and gay people. Social conservatives may pretty up their views with language about "life" and "family," but at the end of the day, we're seeing a struggle between feminists and anti-feminists.

The media blitz around Hillary Clinton's campaign left the impression that "feminism" is a movement solely oriented toward electing middle-aged white women into high office. This would lend one to thinking that "feminists" would want to elect Sarah Palin vice president, no matter how bad her policies would be for ordinary women. But that's not what feminism is about. Different feminists have different ideas about feminism, but the core ideas are pretty standard: Women should have equal access to education and career opportunities as men. Women should have the freedom to marry and date who they want and control their fertility. Women should have the same rights as men to live free from harassment and discrimination. Domestic violence and rape are part of a system of violence that contributes to the oppression of women. I've met feminists of every stripe and every description, but they can in good faith call themselves feminists because they believe these things.

The simple measure of one's social conservatism is how much he or she resists feminism and the gay rights movement. Palin rates high on the anti-feminist scale. She opposes not only abortion rights, she is also against giving women the tools they need so they don't have to get an abortion, as evidenced by her support for abstinence-only programs in schools, which discourage students from using contraception. She's extremely hostile to same-sex marriage and domestic partner benefits. There's no reason to think Palin is against violence prevention, but as I said yesterday, she most likely agrees with John McCain that women don't have a right to equal pay for equal work.

The only case in which I can see feminists offering even tepid support to a socially conservative female politician is in the extremely unlikely circumstances that her opponent is just as or nearly as conservative as she is, or if she offers an entire slate of Christianity-inspired social justice programs that would benefit women as a whole. Feminists are not incapable of holding their noses and voting for anti-abortion politicians who are firmly behind education and welfare programs to support families, anti-discrimination legislation and access to comprehensive sex education and contraception. But someone who believes in offering social support, much less offering women so many tools to empower themselves, is not really a social conservative at all. So again, we're at square one. It's categorically impossible to be both feminist and socially conservative.

Amanda Marcotte is the executive editor and writer for the blog Her first book, "It's a Jungle Out There: The Feminist Survival Guide to Politically Inhospitable Environment," is published by Seal Press.

The search continues for the elusive pro-Palin feminist
Counterpoint: Katherine Mangu-Ward

Ah ha! A point of agreement between us! I knew we could find more common ground than just non-ironic consumption of cheap beer. 

You're quite right, Amanda. There's probably no such thing as a socially conservative female candidate who will win the hearts and minds of modern American feminists.

Your list of requirements for "good faith" feminism seems fine, and I personally find little to disagree with. And by that definition, it's hard to see where a truly socially conservative gal with a standard pro-life, anti-gay marriage, anti-affirmative action slate might find purchase in the feminist heart for her pointy-toed pumps.

But what I learned at the knee of my 1970s feminist, name-hyphenating, here-honey-why-don't-you-put-down-that-doll-and-play-with-this-truck mother was that feminism is about seeing female humans as more than just uterus-bearing beings. And that's the kind of feminist I have become. Maybe that's why I find all the feminist hysteria around the uteri of the Palin women so confusing. And that's why I don't think abortion should be the alpha and omega of female political discourse.

To me, this means that the kind of powerful woman who inspires a (hilarious) website like Sarah Palin Facts should have some claim to respect from feminists both for her joke accomplishments -- "Little known fact: Jesus has a bracelet that says, 'WWSPD?' " She's a role model! "Sarah Palin can divide by zero." She's good at math! "Sarah Palin's image already appears on the newer nickels." She's on U.S. legal tender! -- and for her real ones.

Truth be told, I haven't been tracking feminist hermeneutics too closely. I'm sure you'd agree, Amanda, that encouraging strong female role models is an important part of feminism. But in a world where mainstream feminists almost unanimously backed Bill Clinton during the Paula Jones scandal and now excoriate McCain for choosing Palin, I'm not totally clear on what feminism entails -- if not simply support for the Democratic Party.

So is a pro-Palin feminist a contradiction in terms? Where might we find such an elusive creature? The Mariana Trench? The Bermuda Triangle? Kicking it with Amelia Earhart and Dick Cheney in an undisclosed location? Oh wait, we have one handy right here: me.

I happen to think Palin's position on abortion stinks. But abortion and your list of other feminist concerns don't come close to capturing all of the issues I care about most -- not by a long shot.

So here's one answer for how a feminist might wind up supporting a socially conservative candidate: Her feminism isn't the most important thing about her political views. If a candidate came to me and said, "I will cut taxes across the board by 50%, privatize Social Security, dramatically reduce regulations on businesses and push for school choice nationwide," I'd vote for her in a heartbeat even if she were a crappy feminist. Palin falls short of this libertarian dream, of course, but you get my point.

Maybe claiming myself as part of the feminist sisterhood complicates things too much. Since you, Gloria Steinem and company have more at stake in holding on to the label "feminist" than I do, and you don't seem to want me in your club, I'll cheerfully relinquish the title for the duration of our Dust-Up.

But if I'm to be drummed out of the sisterhood, then the last, best hope for a socially conservative woman like Palin to win over anyone who calls herself a feminist goes with me. Perhaps you say good riddance to bad rubbish?

Katherine Mangu-Ward is an associate editor at Reason magazine.

Palin feminists
Discuss the second installment of this week's Dust-Up.

Comments will close after one week.

1. If a woman chosen for cynical reasons, who lacks the appropriate experience and know-how, is VP to the Leader of the Free World, the rest of the world will look and and say - "she's only there because she's a woman", not "she's there because she's the best" - and the misogynists will cheer. They will say - "we were right, women are so blind and stupid that they will vote for one 'of their own', regardless of the issues." There WILL be a woman in the White House one day, but Palin is not the figurehead and spokesperson we are looking for.
Submitted by: beatrice
2:39 AM PDT, September 12, 2008

2. I'm actually shocked at how anyone could call themselves a feminist and approve of Sarah's handling. I'm surprised at my own elected official that has agree to be part of a "truth squad". Honestly, while some will say "we've turned a corner". I think there is MUCH, MUCH more to say. Regrettably, we have a long way to go in terms of discourse. I think there's A LOT to talk about, but some of those issues are so "hot" one dare not touch them. If I do talk about certain issues, I'll be labled XX. What I most resent, is MEN handing out the rules of what we can do, say and think.
Submitted by: mavsreader
6:07 AM PDT, September 11, 2008

3. 45. Lauren wrote :45. Could you please stop writing that Sarah Palin is against sex-education. She supports it as Governor and has funded it." Governor Sarah Palin supports abstinence as the only form of sex education (source). She does not promote nor has she funded sex ed programs that discuss contraception.
Submitted by: elizabeth
8:49 PM PDT, September 10, 2008

4. The world according to Sarah Palin: If you are raped or molested by a family member, you must have the baby. Abortion is not an option. If childbirth threathens your life, you must have the baby. Abortion is not an option. Explain to me again how Palin is a "feminist"?
Submitted by: Elizabeth
8:39 PM PDT, September 10, 2008

5. These people are the same idiots that voted for GWB
Submitted by: hottopics
4:58 PM PDT, September 10, 2008

6. I do not like Palin ,in particular because of her lack of knowledge on enviornmental issues,Her disrespect of animal life (unless it is human). Her very sneaky secretive self. Who is she really? She needs to speak the truth now. Unfortunately I will not buy what she says there is alot to read between the lines that I do not think she will ever reveal. Just an observation. By the way Palin- wolves have families that you want to destroy. Double standards do not cut it with me.
Submitted by: Terri
3:29 PM PDT, September 10, 2008

7. Katherine, How can you say you are a feminist and not be in favor of equal rights and equal pay?!? Being a feminist is not just about reproductive rights, that is true, but Palin has self-promoted herself as a baby making machine. And while she's out there preaching about abstinence she needed to be giving condoms to her daughter because she obviously does not care enough about her family unless they win snow machine races or join the army. I heard her opening speech where she praised her son and husband and barely mentioned her daughters names. What's that about? Palin IS NO Hillary!! Palin is the anti-Hillary.
Submitted by: Not for equal rights and equal pay??
2:24 PM PDT, September 10, 2008

8. Katherine, your lack of support for reproductive rights trumps everything. If a woman can't control her own body and we turn the clock back 35 years, she is done, done, done. But I doubt if you remember those days, or if you can relate to a pregnant 16 year old, who had to go to Tijuana for an abortion? In 1961, that girl was me, so I know. If or when Roe v Wade is overturned, remember this: No matter what you do, there will always be an unwanted pregnancy leading to a back alley and/or a coathanger, or for rich women, a flight to Sweden.
Submitted by: Bonnie Ann Baker
12:51 PM PDT, September 10, 2008

9. i'm voting for mccain/palin because i'm sick of obama's double standard and pretending that hillary was on his 'short list' for VP only to see he didn't even vet her. Why isn't gloria steinem, NOW, and Emiliy's list OUTRAGED at the democratic party for by-passing the BEST woman candidate in history? They chose the unqualified, inexperienced male over the woman and then didn't even put the woman on the ticket!!! WHERE are the outraged feminists on this one?
Submitted by: hillary supporter 4 palin
12:37 PM PDT, September 10, 2008

10. My take on Sarah Palin is that she is a female George Bush. A kind of "My Way or the Highway" mentality. And we all know where that kind of leadership took us. We don't need another pitbull whose religious viewpoints affect her judgment. I think she believes that "God is on her side and not yours because I have this divine connection and you don't, because you might be a jew, muslim, athiest or other more liberal christian;" consequently justifying her decision making. I do not sense a lot of "heart" in her presentations just an ordinate need to win at all costs. Personally, I think she is dangerous.
Submitted by: ab
11:54 AM PDT, September 10, 2008

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