Politics — September 16, 2008 at 1:21 pm

McCain Sexism


I was raised by a single mother and an ardent feminist. She dragged my brother and I to Equal Rights Amendment rallies and to hear prominent feminist women speak. Our house was papered with posters which said things like “Women are Not Chicks” and “Men of Quality are Not Threatened by Women for Equality”. I even sported a button that read “Male Feminist” for a time. Until she died several years ago, she remained active in the feminist movement.

I think she would be appalled by what’s happening in politics today. She would have been thrilled, of course, by Senator Clinton’s ascension to a run for the presidency. But she would have wept to see the Republican Party co-opt the feminist message, pervert it for their own gain, and set it back decades in time.

As I’ve already blogged about, yesterday, former Hewlett-Packard CEO, Carly Fiorina, commented on Saturday Night Live’s skit this past weekend that had Palin and Clinton giving a joint press conference. Fiorina had this to say about it:

[It] was very dismissive of the substance of Sarah Palin, and so, in that sense, they were defining Hillary Clinton as very substantive and Sarah Palin as totally superficial,” Fiorina argued. “I think that continues the line of argument that is disrespectful in the extreme and yes, I would say, sexist, in the sense that just because Sarah Palin has different views than Hillary Clinton does not mean that she lacks substance.”

Translation: any negative portrayal of a REPUBLICAN woman is sexist.

This is true irony considering the sexist attacks by the Republicans on Senator Clinton over the past two decades, attacks that apparently (and amazingly) weren’t sexist enough to stir Ms. Fiorina’s indignation. But beyond irony, this line of attack is simply a perversion of feminism and a distortion of the whole concept of “sexism”.

Here’s a bit of truthiness on the subject: John McCain’s pick of Governor Palin is the height of sexism. It is a cynical step backward and a finger-in-the-eye of all the achievements the feminist movement has made in the past few decades.

What my mother and her sisters in the movement fought for all these years was parity. They wanted to be taken seriously in all aspects of society and given an equal place at the table whether it was social concerns, the workplace or politics. They were not looking for special treatment or some kind of affirmative action. They were looking for equal treatment.

The choice of Sarah Palin is nothing if not a sexist choice; she was chosen BECAUSE she is a woman, not because she is the best person for the job. Whether or not there were other, more-qualified women he could have chosen isn’t the issue. The issue is whether or not there were more qualified men OR women, people better-suited for leading our country. There clearly are so Ms. Palin is, in essence, an affirmative action choice. And that is sexist.

Make no mistake, there is plenty of sexist garbage being thrown around with regard to her candidacy. For example, it is certainly sexist to ask Ms. Palin whether it’s appropriate for a mother of five to run for vice-president. Nobody would dare to ask a man this question. But questioning her authenticity, her knowledge, her background, experience or “substance” are most certainly NOT sexist. To hide Ms. Palin behind shouts of “SEXIST!” and to protect her from the hard questions that would and should be asked of any candidate for the presidency or vice-presidency is sexism to an extreme. One one hand she is promoted as a strong woman, a “pitbull” that has earned her position. On the other hand she is shielded from the harshness of the campaign by a nearly paternal shield, as if she’s a delicate blossom to be coddled and protected.

Although Sarah Palin’s political views run counter to those of most feminists, choosing an anti-choice conservative woman isn’t sexist. Equal opportunity in politics SHOULD involve a conservative party choosing a conservative woman if she’s the most qualified person.

No, McCain Sexism is choosing an under-qualified woman ONLY because she’s a conservative woman and then treating her as if she needs to be protected from the realities of a presidential campaign. No male candidate would be treated that way, something nobody can deny.

I miss my very inspiring mother and wish she were still with us. But when I see what’s being done to co-opt and pervert the feminist movement its message by the Republican Party, there are times when I’m glad she didn’t have to see it.

I’m just sayin’…