Thursday, September 04, 2008

Sarah Palin And Feminists: Where Echidne Puts Her Snake Tail In Her Mouth

This will not end well, I swear, because I'm going to go down some scary and dark alleyways in this post while throwing out half-digested thoughts. But some posts need to be written and this is one of them.

Without further ado, let us begin by noting what Rudy Giuliani said about the treatment Sarah Palin has gotten from the media:

One final point.

How dare they question whether Sarah Palin has enough time with her family and to be Vice-President. How dare they do that?

When did they ever ask a man that question?

I never thought I'd live to see the day when Rudy Giuliani becomes a member of the National Organization for Women (so very recently as today called "the National Organization of Whores" by a right-wing pundit), and I'm naturally overjoyed and very happy and all ready to vote Republican forevermore (except that goddesses can't vote). But. I somehow sense that Giuliani might not in fact have seen the sudden and piercing light of feminism at all. He might just be using Republican political tactics here. Especially given that "the National Organization of Whores" is more like what I usually hear from the wingnuts.

Maybe Rudy has been reading my blog where I often muse about such gender reversals as the one he proposes? Nah. Rudy is playing political games here.

How do I know that? First, the Republican Party has always consistently opposed every single thing that would give mothers more space to have both children and jobs or careers. Every single thing, from trying to stop them from having parental leave to fighting against any kind of childcare in programs intended to get people out of poverty.

Second, the Republican Party has always consistently opposed every single thing that would make the labor markets a more even playing ground for women, starting from the Equal Pay Act of 1963, continuing with the Civil Rights Act which bans discrimination in hiring and promotions (Title VII) and extending to the Civil Rights Act which banned sex discrimination in educational institutions (Title IX). All these things the Republicans have opposed and still fervently oppose.

Third, the Republican base consists of two largish groups of people who do not believe in women's equality at all. The first group is the fundamentalist right-wing Christians, the people beautifully represented by the Southern Baptist Convention which in 2000 stated these principles about the role of women:

The husband and wife are of equal worth before God, since both are created in God's image. The marriage relationship models the way God relates to his people. A husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church. He has the God-given responsibility to provide for, to protect, and to lead his family. A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ. She, being in the image of God as is her husband and thus equal to him, has the God-given responsibility to respect her husband and to serve as his helper in managing the household and nurturing the next generation.

While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.

The bolds are mine, to make it easier for you to see how some Republicans are not that eager to see women have the rights to work outside the home. In general the theocratic part of the Republican base is not only anti-abortion, it is also very much against women's equality in general.

Let us take a small break here and remember that when Rudy was telling people to do a gender reversal about Palin, he was speaking in a room with lots of right-wing theocrats. Kinda funny, in a dark and twisted way. Or it would be if I didn't let myself get angry about it all.

The second part of the Republican base is not that socially conservative in the usual sense of the term, true, but many of them just love the facile explanations of the trumped-up type of evolutionary psychology (the one I usually call Evolutionary Psychology to distinguish it from real research) which tells them that women's inferiority is not God-given but acquired in those long-gone times of prehistory, causing today's women to be really good at coyness and shopping and really bad at most everything else, including driving, map-reading and careers.

Whether we look at the Dominionist Christian base or the Evo-Psycho base of the Republican Party, we come up with the same conclusions: Don't do anything at all to help women lead better lives. Either God doesn't want that or our genes don't want that. It is important to keep all this in mind when evaluating Giuliani's comment, because he gave the speech as a representative of those groups.

For all these reasons I'm not that hyped up by Rudy's sudden turning into a feminist. I don't trust him and I don't trust his party. The old saying about walking the walk and not just talking the talk applies here. (And no, a few Republican token working women is not the same as freedom and equality for all women, especially if those same women have a platform of nothing but anti-women measures and plans.)

Still, many in the media and on the blogs (even progressive ones) have picked up that still-blood-caked cudgel that was used on Hillary Clinton's noggin, the one which is all about "naked political ambition" (only a problem for women), about the bitch from hell (naturally also only a problem for women) and about the Cunt (some mythical walking vagina with fangs which threaten all honest men and women). That Clinton and Palin are two very different women seems to go unnoticed by those who use these insults, and it is this fact which makes their use sexist in my mind. They are being whipped with the same whip even though their political ideals are almost total opposites. This suggests that they are being whipped for the crime of being women in politics.

I have some sympathy for people who try to find creative and nonsexist ways of swearing at Sarah Palin because she sure does deserve some strong criticism. But it would be very nice if the rest of us uppity wimminfolk were not attacked whenever either Clinton or Palin or some other assertive woman is attacked. It is even a good political strategy not to anger a large group of voting women.
Now read Gloria Steinem on Palin and feminism.