Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Sarah Palin and Feminism

Seriously, go read this essay by Harvard's Harvey Mansfield.
Sarah Palin was appealing and accomplished, with the force of a man and the grace of a woman. But while reaching another, higher first for women, she expressed no gratitude to the women's movement. She has had good words for women politicians like Geraldine Ferraro and Hillary Clinton, but she showed none of the features that betray the feminist in action. On the contrary: She spoke proudly of "my guy," grateful to the man who was hers--implying that she needed him, and that any woman needs a guy of her own. She introduced her children, especially little Trig, the one with Down's syndrome. She was displaying a mother's unconditional love, as opposed to the conditional love that insists on a "wanted" child. She did these things unapologetically, quite unafraid of seeming to be a normal, healthy sexist female: one who knows what it is to be a woman and enjoys it.

All Sarah Palin did was to claim her equal opportunity to a job once held exclusively by men. This sort of equality--the opportunity to take on public careers outside the home--is something liberals and conservatives agree on. That conservatives accept it is proven by the rapturous reception she received from Republicans, who greeted her as a political savior.

This she may or may not be, but she seems to have had the effect of enthusing the base, in part because of her sex.

Now, why could the women's movement not have taken advantage of this bipartisan agreement from the beginning? What impelled it to adopt a radical feminism hostile to both liberals and conservatives? Was this feminism necessary to attack male domination and to stir up the status quo?

An obvious difference between the women's movement and the civil rights movement is the ease with which the former triumphed. Of course there was male chauvinism at the start, but it was complacent, passive and ineffective. No man could look a woman in the eye and say "you are not equal to me" once the issue was put. There was nothing like the "massive resistance" to racial desegregation in the South; instead, there was a massive movement of women into jobs and careers.
Here is the interesting thing, while Palin may have benefited from the women's movement of the 50's and 60's I see her rise as simply the latest step in a society in which women are both the social and political equals of men. No Palin does not thank the women's movement, but she is a result of their efforts, their bipartisan efforts, rather than a result of the radical brand of feminism we as a society think of when we hear the term "feminist."

Sarah Palin is a woman, of that there is no doubt. She is a smart, successful, attractive woman. Thirty years ago that was an acceptable description of someone who most likely would never have risen to the heights Palin now has achieved.

Feminists want very much to be considered the equal of men in all things (as if there were possible). But the radical feminist movement has corrupted that notion. The women's movement of the 50's and 60's would have embraced the success of Sarah Palin--a woman who had succeeded on her own terms, in her own way, indeed in a manner that suggests feminity while at the same time displaying a strenght that is to be admired, not pilloried.

But Radical Feminism is more about rejecting the femine in favor of something more masculine. Radical feminism reminds of the seen in Working Girl, where at a bar, Harrison Ford's charachter remarks to Melanie Girffiths's femme appearence, "you are the first woman I have seen at these things that actually dresses like a woman rather than like a woman things a man would dress if he were a woman" or something to that effect.

Feminist success has been built upon the notion that women can do anything a man can do, a notion which is not only ludicrous for its biological impossibility (right now a woman cannot get another woman pregnant, for example) but also for the ludirous belief that there are no differences between men and women (and what a boring world that would be).

Yes, in terms of intellectual and business pursuits there are no differences. Any dolt who thinks so is a relic of the past. However, just because a woman deserves to be treated equally in the eyes of employers or the law does not mean that there are not differences between the two sexes.

Interestingly, radical feminism is premised on the notion as well, that a woman can be as tough as a man, a truism in every sense of the word and probably more so. But oddly enough, when Sarah Palin acts tough and feminine, that is somehow an affront to feminism.

So far in our history only two women have been nominated to be Vice President. Democrat Geraldine Ferraro and Republican Sarah Palin. Ferraro had the misfortune to be paired with Walter Mondale against Ronald Reagan, a match up doomed to failure for the Democrats. Now in a open seat, the woman with the possibility of being the first woman elected to the executive branch is a woman who is every bit the result of the women's movement, but not the heir to feminism.

1 comment:

Chus said...

This is what I think: Sarah Palin's E-Mail Hacked