Once the ridiculous spin and lies of the election are put to rest and after the dust settles, the women of America have a lot of explaining to do. The first things we need do is redefine what feminism is. Falling in lock step behind a woman who is unqualified for the office she seeks is not being a feminist. It is just female chauvinism. And it is an insult to women everywhere to equate questioning a woman’s fitness for a job because of her lack of qualifications with being a sexist.
During this election, there have been so many distortions of what Sarah Palin’s nomination meant in terms of women and feminism. There was this preposterous idea floated by the Republicans that being like a frontierswoman is somehow the same as being a feminist. But the basis of feminism is not being like a man, it is being for women and the issues that make our lives better. Frontierwomen accepted that they could not own land, could not compete on a level field with the men around them, were second class citizens. Sure they were tough, but that is not feminism.
And the way that women on the right were falling in behind Palin and that it was being portrayed as anything akin to women’s rights or feminism was disconcerting and dishonest. There have been women in high places before, but as a British woman who I interviewed years ago noted, when asked about Margaret Thatcher and what she did for women,” There are two kinds of women who make it to the top of the ladder. One of them reaches down and helps the next woman up. The other looks down and pulls up the ladder.” If you are going to call yourself a champion of women’s rights (as Palin did apparently) you need to actually put women’s rights and issues on your agenda. Just saying it doesn’t make it so.
Today at the polls, there were women who were voting for McCain just because of Palin. “I just love her,” one of the women said, actually suggesting that if she could split her presidential ticket she would vote Obama/Palin. What is it about her that appeals to these women? Can it simply be that they see their fantasy in her? A tough mom who rises to the top like in a fairy tale. As if by magic. No need for any knowledge base, education, depth, curiosity, or understanding of the office necessary. Sure she’s pretty and folksy, but do they really think she would be a good president? I don’t think these women would actually ever claim that they are feminists. It was probably just something projected onto them by the McCain machine hoping to grab a few disgruntled Hillary backers. In fact, feminism is probably somewhere near liberalism in their world.
Post Hillary and Sarah, we need to get back to the job for women’s rights. I think a lot of things have been trivialized during this election. Cries of sexism when none was there, then ignoring the objectivization by the Republican party of their own candidate, an election devoid of any discussion of women’s issues. We have lots of work to do to get the feminist movement moving again and maybe it is a different direction, but we have plenty of things to talk about now.