With all this talk about Sarah Palin redefining feminism and people who don't support her candidacy being sexist, I think we could use a little clarification.
Women's progress at work and in government is critically important. We are not, after all, living in the Dark Ages. But, and this is a VERY IMPORTANT BUT, consider the following scenario.
You're about to board a plane and a flight attendant says, "Today as part of our responsiveness to customers program you may choose Mr. Jones here as co-pilot. He will fly the airplane should something go wrong with the pilot, who isn't at his best today. Mr. Jones has been a pilot for twenty years and has an impeccable record. He is, however, a man. Because you support the advancement of women in the workplace, we also have a woman here who is willing to fly your plane. She is not a pilot but she didn't blink when asked to do this and for the past week a team of experts has been talking to her a lot about how to fly."
Who would you choose? If you chose Pilot Jones, would that be sexist? Or would you simply not be a complete idiot?
From Gloria Steinem's Op-Ed piece in the LA Times:
This isn't the first time a boss has picked an unqualified woman just because she agrees with him and opposes everything most other women want and need. Feminism has never been about getting a job for one woman. It's about making life more fair for women everywhere. It's not about a piece of the existing pie; there are too many of us for that. It's about baking a new pie.
Selecting Sarah Palin, who was touted all summer by Rush Limbaugh, is no way to attract most women, including die-hard Clinton supporters. Palin shares nothing but a chromosome with Clinton. Her down-home, divisive and deceptive speech did nothing to cosmeticize a Republican convention that has more than twice as many male delegates as female, a presidential candidate who is owned and operated by the right wing and a platform that opposes pretty much everything Clinton's candidacy stood for -- and that Barack Obama's still does. To vote in protest for McCain/Palin would be like saying, "Somebody stole my shoes, so I'll amputate my legs."
This is not to beat up on Palin. I defend her right to be wrong, even on issues that matter most to me. I regret that people say she can't do the job because she has children in need of care, especially if they wouldn't say the same about a father. I get no pleasure from imagining her in the spotlight on national and foreign policy issues about which she has zero background, with one month to learn to compete with Sen. Joe Biden's 37 years' experience. . . .
So let's be clear: The culprit is John McCain. He may have chosen Palin out of change-envy, or a belief that women can't tell the difference between form and content, but the main motive was to please right-wing ideologues; the same ones who nixed anyone who is now or ever has been a supporter of reproductive freedom. If that were not the case, McCain could have chosen a woman who knows what a vice president does and who has thought about Iraq; someone like Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison or Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine. McCain could have taken a baby step away from right-wing patriarchs who determine his actions, right down to opposing the Violence Against Women Act.
Palin's value to those patriarchs is clear: She opposes just about every issue that women support by a majority or plurality. She believes that creationism should be taught in public schools but disbelieves global warming; she opposes gun control but supports government control of women's wombs; she opposes stem cell research but approves "abstinence-only" programs, which increase unwanted births, sexually transmitted diseases and abortions; she tried to use taxpayers' millions for a state program to shoot wolves from the air but didn't spend enough money to fix a state school system with the lowest high-school graduation rate in the nation; she runs with a candidate who opposes the Fair Pay Act but supports $500 million in subsidies for a natural gas pipeline across Alaska; she supports drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve, though even McCain has opted for the lesser evil of offshore drilling. She is Phyllis Schlafly, only younger.
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Did you watch the Charlie Gibson interview with Palin? I know everyone's all agog that she couldn't define the Bush Doctrine, that she called this war "God's plan" in her church, that she can't define her international experience beyond being able to see Russia from an Alaskan island.
Here's the quote that gets me, though:
GIBSON: But, Governor, we've threatened greater sanctions against Iran for a long time. It hasn't done any good. It hasn't stemmed their nuclear program.
PALIN: We need to pursue those and we need to implement those. We cannot back off. We cannot just concede that, oh, gee, maybe they're going to have nuclear weapons, what can we do about it. No way, not Americans. We do not have to stand for that.
It's exactly that patriarchal, Father Knows Best approach to international relations that frightens me. What are they going to do, ground Iran? Maybe not let it go to the prom, although it's already reserved this really rad party limo? "We do not have to stand for that"?
Don't misunderstand me - it scares the crap out of me that nuclear weapons are an option for so many countries and factions. I worry about my kids' safety, and am shocked about how quickly my perception of our safety has changed. During the Clinton era, I felt like we were generally OK. Now, I feel like the USA is the sandbox bully that the rest of the kids are planning against.
The nuclear argument smacks of hypocrisy, since we have a shit ton of nuclear arms. We were the first, we have the second highest quantity, and we remain the only country to have actually used them.
I firmly believe that most Heads of State are reasonable people who feel tremendous patriotism towards their country. Yes, there are despots. Yes, there are people who abuse their power (I'm looking at you, W). They are sometimes misguided and almost always fallible. The USA is not their parent or even their babysitter - we are their neighbor. We need to take some lessons in what it means to be a good neighbor.
I define myself as a radical feminist. I believe that Obama will defend the issues that affect women staunchly and without apology. In Glamour*, he states that insurance coverage for birth control is a "no-brainer." He supports education, gun control, health care, equal pay for equal work. I believe that he is thoughtful and introspective. He WILL blink before making big decisions. (Can I tell you how disturbed I am that Sarah Palin defines her readiness to be Vice President by her ability to make big decisions without pausing to blink? Have you ever been in disaster preparedness training? One of the biggest things you'll learn is to CALM THE FUCK DOWN and make deliberate decisions. Argh! Not blinking is NOT a good thing!)
I believe that defending all the social justice issues, including reproductive choice, accessible health care, equal pay and gun control are super important. However, I believe that the most important task the new President will have is to redefine our international image and start to repair our relationships with other countries. We've acted like loud, obnoxious idiots for the past seven years. (Aside: remember those innocent pre-9/11 days when our biggest complaint against Bush was that he was on vacation more than he was at work?)
*Yes. That Glamour. Let's face it: more people are going to read Glamour and People articles than the Huffington Post. It's important to read what the candidates are saying to people who don't consider themselves politicos. And to find out Fall trends in eyeliner. I am nothing if not shallow. Although let me go on record: I am OPPOSED to the new "brights". Teal eyeliner is not okay unless you're in a cabaret. Repeat this to yourself often.