Clinton, Palin & Feminism

Lydia Sargeant at Z Magazine on Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin, sexism and feminism in the 2008 Presidential campaign:

The whole bait and switch from Clinton to Palin seemed so schizophrenic in a way. On one level, it was yet another act by the evangelical right to reduce any progressive feminist inspiration Clinton’s candidacy may have generated and to take back their power to define women—how they look and behave and what role they should play in their idea of the proper “order of things.” That is, the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is head of the church (Ephesians 5:22-24). To Falwell and the whole Moral Majority gang, and their future followers, the women’s movement was “a satanic attack on the home” (Falwell), “a philosophy of death” (Schafly).

This trend was made even more horrifying because it was on a national scale, aimed at the power of the White House, and it used a redefined feminism as a way to continue trying to move towards what the right wing’s Family Protection Act had tried (and failed to do) since it was introduced in Congress in 1981. Its proposals included: eliminate federal funding laws supporting equal education; require marriage and motherhood to be taught as proper careers for girls; deny federal funding to schools using textbooks portraying women in nontraditional roles; repeal all federal laws protecting battered wives from their husbands; ban federally funded legal aid for women seeking abortion counseling or a divorce; offer tax incentives to induce married women to have babies and stay home; a complete ban on abortion, even if it meant the woman’s death; censor all birth control information until marriage; revoke the Equal Pay Act and other equal employment laws; defeat the Equal Rights Amendment.

Ironically, this attempt may backfire a little. They must have panicked, these reactionary evangelicals, when a TV news program interviewed two evangelical youth. The young man quoted the Bible to support the view that women shouldn’t run for public office. The young woman, when asked why she supported Palin, given this biblical prohibition, smiled and said, “Well, I’m a sinner.” It would be redemption indeed if masses of young evangelical women started demanding equal participation—perhaps an overthrow of the Church gender hierarchy and sexist teachings—even at the expense of “sinning.”

On another level, the Palin candidacy served to reveal how much mainstream feminism has become a benign politics of difference, rather than a revolution to overthrow a system of patriarchy embedded in and perpetuated by the Church, the family, the workplace, and so on. The politics of Men are from Mars, Women from Venus posits the problem between the genders as one of communication between beings from different planets, a difference solved by better communication and understanding of what each gender wants. Like the right-wing gender agenda, it too claims the right to define each gender’s looks, brain functions, and behavior. Hillary Clinton did not fit the Venus profile, Palin did. She seemed part of the “I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, and never let you forget you’re a man” so-called feminism. Perhaps her lipstick came from Revlon, whose one-time commercial promoted “a revolutionary make up. We’re changing the world one face at a time.”

Read the whole thing here

The entire December issue of Z Magazine is available online here

Note especially “Neoliberalism and Bottom-Line Morality: Notes on Greenspan, Rubin and the Party of Davos” by Edward S. Herman

and “Obama’s Economics: Which Will Emerge? Obamanomics 1 or Obamanomics 2?” by Jack Rasmus

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